THE first master's degree programme in journalism is now available in Hongkong. Hongkong Shue Yan College has recently signed an agreement with the People's University of China in Beijing to offer the course in September. The programme will provide advance studies for both graduates of the subject and working journalists. Shue Yan College's own Diploma in Journalism course attracted some 400 applicants yearly but the college could accept only 20 per cent of them. Because of the absence of a higher level programme locally, graduates had to study at overseas institutions, said Shue Yan College registrar Khaw Sze-seng. The master's programme, which costs $14,000 in tuition annually, addresses such a need. Said Dr Chung Chi-yung, vice-president and principal of the college: ''Journalists in the field can now save hugh expenses incurred by overseas studies. They also do not have to give up their jobs.'' The People's University of China, besides Shanghai's Fudan University, enjoys the best reputation for its School of Journalism in the country. Of the two, the People's University has a more comprehensive programme that awards up to the doctorate level. In the new course, academics from the Chinese institute will lecture Hongkong students in Mandarin at Shue Yan College on 15 subjects. These would include contemporary Chinese history and culture, as well as a comparative study in journalistic philosophy between China and the West. ''Such a programme will prove to be extremely profitable as 1997 approaches. It can enhance our understanding of and communications with China. This helps to build mutual trust and a co-operative relationship for future administration,'' Dr Chung said. Representing the People's University at the signing ceremony was Mr Weng Xinqiao, senior engineer and department head of Education, Science and Technology at Hongkong's New China News Agency. ''Academic exchange between Hongkong and the mainland has been boosted since this year because of encouragement from China and Hongkong's demand for more postgraduate research students,'' said Mr Weng. ''The major tertiary institutions here have already taken in over 50 mainland postgraduates so far this year.'' The People's University will award a Master of Law with major in Journalism (an equivalent of a Master in Journalism) to students who complete their two-to three-year studies in this course. The qualification will be recognised by China's State Commission of Education. The programme accepts 40 to 50 students. Registration has started and ends on June 23. A preliminary examination is required. For more information, call Shue Yan College on 570-7110.