The capital of knowledge
Driven by rapid economic development and a shift of major businesses to Asia, Hong Kong has become a major postgraduate education hub providing executive education students with unique insights into local and international trends. While a master of business administration (MBA) degree can open up a wealth of opportunities, with so many programmes to choose from, evaluating the value proposition can be a daunting challenge.
In general, MBA programmes can be divided into four groups: full-time MBA, executive MBA, part-time MBA and distance learning MBA.
As a pioneer of MBA education in the city through offering programmes since the mid-1960s, the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) provides a combination of East and West programmes that offer insights into the workings of mainland business.
'Our programmes meet the requirements of international MBA quality assurance schemes by offering traditional education, but also delve deeper into Asian business concepts,' says Lawrence Chan, administrative director of MBA programmes at the CUHK.
Eunice Ng, director at Avanza Consulting (Pacific), says an MBA can be useful for those looking to advance their career within an organisation or even for those eyeing a career shift.
'The important thing to realise is there is no 'best' or 'worst' MBA. Each prospective MBA student has to decide which style of MBA programme fits with his or her own vision of his or her career development,' says Ng.
Similarly, Martin Cerullo, managing director for development with recruitment firm Alexander Mann Solutions, suggests that prospective students select the programme that suits their particular needs.
'Business students should identify a good match between their career goals and the business programmes on offer,' says Cerullo. 'In addition to reputation and class mix, students should make sure the programme structure, delivery mode and curriculum exactly meet what they are looking for to assist their career development.'
Professor Steven DeKrey, senior associate dean and MBA programme director at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) Business School, says most HKUST full-time MBAs are looking for a career switch in location, job function or industry.
'With Hong Kong's strong financial background, the financial industry remains the most popular industry for career switch,' says DeKrey, adding that students are moving into consulting, too.
He says another emerging trend is the number of students that would also like to gain the necessary skills and network through an MBA to set up their own businesses.
Hence, DeKrey says, entrepreneurship electives have been introduced, along with entrepreneurship competitions, conferences and talks. Students have also set up entrepreneurship clubs among themselves to facilitate relevant networking.
DeKrey says that, among part-time students, most of them expect to gain necessary business knowledge and soft skills to advance in their current careers.
He adds that to meet new students' needs, the HKUST Business School has started to roll out more career services, including career-coaching, soft-skills training and self-assessment tools to part-time students that used to be only for their full-time counterparts.
Professor Richard Petty, associate dean (international) and professor in management (accounting and finance) at the Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM), says an MBA provides an opportunity to switch careers - particularly if a certain specialisation has been followed.
'Organisations today are seeking executives who are flexible and who possess superior knowledge and the ability to lead and manage effectively,' says Petty. 'There is an even greater need for high-level management education during times of crisis in business.'
Petty says that programmes such as the ones MGSM offers will help to develop managers who can face the financial and other challenges that currently confront many businesses.
MGSM student numbers have increased over the past 12 months as more managers understand that holding a world-class postgraduate qualification is key to succeeding in the top tiers of business and the professions, says Petty.
'Hong Kong is a very important market for MGSM,' he adds.