Some Hong Kong business schools say that despite their growing international reputation, multinational firms still favour hiring graduates from the big overseas universities. Both Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), whose Master of Business Administration courses are among the top-rated programmes in the Asia-Pacific region, hope to open up more job opportunities for their MBA graduates by establishing alumni networks and reaching out to multinational firms. Steve DeKrey, MBA programme director at the HKUST, said it was the business school's 'biggest headache' to convince multinationals to assess their graduates on the same footing as their counterparts from renowned overseas universities. 'It has a lot to do with corporate bureaucracy. Much of the firms' hiring is done through their connections with business schools or alumni groups in their home countries,' he said. James Harris, the country director for recruitment consultants HR Gardens China, said firms usually opted for graduates from the top universities 'to give themselves a better reputation'. However, he believes firms are becoming increasingly aware of the local pool of MBA talent. Opportunities for local MBA graduates to work for multinationals started to rise after the handover, but petered out amid the economic slump in recent years, said Vincent Lai Siu-king, director of the CUHK's MBA programmes. 'Many investment banks are not hiring people at all,' he said. But Professor Lai is optimistic the job market for locally trained MBA students will expand as the economy picks up.