Age is no barrier to learning
Only a few individuals in Hong Kong are willing to stop working for 18 months to two years to pursue an MBA full-time, so most people who enrol are from the mainland or overseas.
Most local postgraduates enrolling in full-time programmes also tend to be younger, with less professional experience than those signing-up for part-time programmes. Some are fresh out of university.
Students enrolling in executive MBAs (EMBAs) tend to be older still. While the average age for full-time MBA students at the Chinese University (CUHK) is 27, the average age for part-time students is 30. The average age of EMBA students, meanwhile, is 38 with about 14 years' professional experience.
'It's not the students who choose, it's the programme that chooses,' says Steven DeKrey, senior associate dean, master's programme director, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. 'Anyone [who] can get into an EMBA programme should do so.'
Tuition fees can vary substantially. A full-time MBA at CUHK can be completed in a year to 16 months and costs HK$372,600.
Part-time MBAs and EMBAs take two years to complete. But, while a part-time MBA costs HK$254,400, an EMBA is HK$443,520.
'We try to offer the best business education at the most affordable fees so that more people would be able to benefit from our programmes,' a CUHK spokesman says. 'When determining the fee for a programme, we look at elements such as services to be provided, scope of operations and programme content.'
Not satisfied with a master's degree, some return to the classroom later in life to pursue a doctorate.
Assuming they want one in business administration, there are two options: a doctor of business administration (DBA) or a PhD in business administration, or a related field.
While both degrees are research-based, the latter is for those wanting to pursue a career in academia.
Graduates of a PhD programme usually become professors of business administration at business schools.
'DBAs are for those who have already done an MBA or an EMBA, or another relevant master's degree,' says Professor Matthew Lee, associate dean, College of Business at the City University (CityU).
'They are a lot more experienced and seasoned professionals. Typically, they would have done an MBA or an EMBA five to 10 years earlier. They tend to be 45 to 55 years old.'
CityU's DBA is research-intensive. A part-time programme, it usually takes about four years to complete.
Participants attend classes on research methodology for the first year to 18 months. Classes run three days in a row, one weekend a month.
Participants spend the balance of the programme conducting research and writing a dissertation under the supervision of a supervisor, who is a senior professor.
They meet privately with their supervisors on a regular basis. Occasional research seminars are also conducted a few times a year.
'Most of our students at this stage of their careers don't need a degree,' Lee says.
'Many are company owners. Most already have at least one master's degree. Many have two or more. They want to do something at a higher level, and they want to do research that is relevant to their industry.'
While CityU's DBA has a five-year history, the Polytechnic University (PolyU) launched its DBA 12 years ago.
It added a doctor of management, taught in Beijing, a few years later.
Studied part-time, both programmes take three years to complete.
'There has been increasing demand for both degrees, especially the doctor of management on the mainland,' says Professor Judy Tsui, vice-president (international and executive education) and director of graduate school of business, PolyU.
'It is the only one approved to be run in Beijing by a non-local university.'