Getting high marks from one's peers is an important acknowledgement that you are on the road to success. Recently, the School of Business and Management at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) was recognised for upholding the exacting standards expected of a top-rated business school. The prestigious United States-based scholastic society, Beta Gamma Sigma, established a chapter within HKUST's business school, one of only two institutions recognised by the society outside the US. Beta Gamma Sigma, comprising more than 400,000 members from 374 chapters, holds among its membership many top business academics and scholars and is regarded as a mark of excellence for students, alumni and the academic institutions which host member chapters. 'The Beta Gamma Sigma society has several intents. One is to recognise and acknowledge scholastic accomplishment of business students while at university. 'The idea is that if you perform very well you are invited to join the society. In a sense, it is a pat on the back,' says Gary Biddle, head and professor of HKUST's accounting department. Mr Biddle is a Beta Gamma Sigma member, having joined during his undergraduate studies at the University of Chicago. This year, about 10 per cent of business undergraduates and 20 per cent of master's business students at HKUST will be invited to join. Overall, 70 per cent of invited students at the Clear Water Bay campus accept the offer, an unusually high rate, which has led to HKUST being designated an 'exemplary chapter'. To be recognised as a chapter, the business school had to undergo a rigorous assessment process by a team of auditors and a peer review by a group of academics. The review and subsequent accreditation was carried out by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB), which measured the university's ability to meet high standards with respect to curricula, teaching staff, teaching loads, library and laboratory facilities. Beta Gamma Sigma restricts the setting up of new chapters to collegiate schools of business that are accredited members of AACSB. Mr Biddle admits it can be difficult understanding all the jargon behind the big names, but says at heart the society has some simple, well-intentioned goals. 'It encourages certain beneficial ideals. If you look at the title . . . beta stands for honour, gamma designates wisdom, and sigma designates earnestness. It serves in its own way to encourage moral leadership and good practice in business.' A group of commerce students at the University of Wisconsin founded the society in 1907. The stated aim was to encourage and reward scholarship and accomplishment in business studies among commerce students. Today, the society has an updated mission, focusing on improving professional development of alumni and students. As part of this focus, the society introduced business awards that recognises significant achievement in the corporate sector. In 2000, the society set up its first collegiate chapter outside North America at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Later that year, a chapter was established at HKUST. Mr Biddle says membership has a number of fringe benefits. Chief among them is recognition that members are among the upper crust of business scholars. This can pay dividends down the road when looking for a job, career advice, or introduction to a potential employer or business partner, he adds. 'Membership opens doors. Other members of the business community recognise this designation. They may be members themselves, and they say 'Okay, I know what this means'. Or they see it on your resume and they say 'Hey, I want you to join my firm'. It gives you that kind of an advantage.' Honorary members of the Beta Gamma Sigma HKUST Chapter include Ronnie Chan Chi-chung, chairman of the Hang Lung Group, Philip Chen Nan-lok, director and chief operating officer of Cathay Pacific Airways, and Lawrence Wong, chief executive, Hong Kong Jockey Club. 'They are pretty prominent people in the business community of Hong Kong. 'It allows us to connect with leaders of the business community who can serve as role models.' Mr Biddle says the number of honorees is fairly small in Hong Kong because the society is only in its third year. But the group is expected to grow fairly quickly, as each academic year another round of inductions take place, with HKUST expected to hold its third in a few months' time. Adding to its privileged pedigree, Mr Biddle points out Beta Gamma Sigma was brought to HKUST by the business school's former dean and now vice-president of academic affairs, Professor Chan Yuk-shee. Hosting a chapter of Beta Gamma Sigma can help build relations with the community, but it also creates opportunities for corporate sponsorship, says May Hung Fan-fong, director of communications and external affairs, school of business and management.