IT experts must constantly study and update skills to remain competitive
Keeping pace with information technology (IT) trends is not enough to compete in the fast-changing industry. One must also be capable of creating new IT systems and services tailor-made to meet people's many expectations, according to an academic.
Leung Ho-fung, professor of computer science and engineering at the Chinese University, said a senior computer programmer, or software designer, should acquire comprehensive knowledge of the scope of computer science.
'Those who have been working in the IT industry for a few years feel the urgent need to pursue further study,' Professor Leung said. 'What they learned during undergraduate study was far from enough to meet needs in their workplace today.'
The university's Master of Science in Computer Science aims at consolidating IT professionals' theoretical knowledge, practical design, and their ability in using advanced information systems. Eventually, graduates will see breakthroughs in their careers by applying advanced computer technologies into businesses more effectively and innovatively.
Launched in 1996, the master's programme has attracted more than 500 students. Most are middle-ranked IT professionals in the government or banking and finance industries. Its alumni association is well connected with the IT sector.
Chinese University was ranked 38th among the world's top 200 universities in the latest The Times higher education supplement. It also scored the highest in the category of computer science and IT among eight local universities in the research indices of the University Grants Committee's Research Assessment Exercise in 2006.
The courses featuring electronic business models were popular, said Professor Leung, also director of the programme. The master's programme covers the most up-to-date issues of computer system design, building, maintenance and performance evaluation for e-business.
'The use of advanced IT systems can accommodate customers and boost a company's sales performance,' he said. 'Many companies in Hong Kong are adopting e-business models, they need talent with the vision and technical ability to help them build up an advanced IT system, upgrade the system according to clients' needs and be responsible for its maintenance.'
In order to keep up-to-date with research results and global trends, teaching staff review the courses' content regularly and invite industry leaders to speak and share their experience in seminars.
Another highlight of the programme is 'computer games software production', which equips students with the skills to explore the enormous potential of Hong Kong's computer games industry.
The course emphasises programming and technological issues in computer games production, including online networking, artificial intelligence, game design and real time data processing. These elements are critical to enhance a computer game's attractiveness and smoothness.
Professor Leung noted that local computer-game developers lagged behind their US and European counterparts, but he explained that knowing the culture and expectations of local customers was the biggest advantage for local computer-game developers. For instance, recent online computer games, originating from Jin Jong's wuxia (martial arts) novels, are mainly designed by Hong Kong game-developers, and they are popular in the Chinese market.
In contrast, foreign game-developers are not capable of designing such games that fit the tastes of the Chinese market.
Professor Leung said local game-developers could fill this gap, which provided immense opportunity for local IT talent in the coming years. 'Computer games software production' is the programme's first course and is reimbursable under the government's Continuing Education Fund. More similar courses would be available for reimbursement in future.
The programme is now open for application to both locals and mainlanders. Professor Leung expected enrolment could facilitate more interaction among students and pave the way for better career prospects in the mainland market.