HKU aims to help go-getters ensure that they can match it with the cream of the creative crop Given today's intense race to get ahead and stay ahead, more people in Hong Kong are opting for postgraduate studies, and universities are providing the options. The University of Hong Kong offers both Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and PhD degrees. These are divided into about 100 taught programmes, with 3,000 students. The emphasis of taught programmes is on the teaching of advanced knowledge, says Anthony Yeh Gar-on, the dean of the University of Hong Kong's Graduate School. The school focuses on research-orientated programmes that emphasise the creation of knowledge. Professor Yeh says a successful master's thesis should display originality and a strong understanding of the field of study, as well as appropriate research methods. A successful PhD thesis should be an original contribution to knowledge on a given field. Each department of the university offers its own MPhil and PhD programmes. For example, areas of research interest in the department of English include English language and linguistics and literary studies, while the major research areas in the Faculty of Dentistry might be conservative dentistry/endodontics and public dental health. The department of Biochemistry has major research areas in applied infomatics and functional genetics. The Faculty of Social Sciences has major research interests in cognitive studies and applied psychology. Programmes vary in length - a master's programme can take two years of full-time study, and a PhD, if the student has no MPhil degree, can take four years. 'Society is experiencing major changes and is now knowledge-based, whereas before it was industrial based,' Professor Yeh says. 'Now that we are in a post-industrial society, we must maintain competitiveness. We have created machines of a very advanced nature and functions, thus the movement towards a service-based economy.' With sophisticated machines designed to do the work, the need for innovation and creativity is imperative, Professor Yeh says. 'People must cultivate the ability to create knowledge ahead of competition,' he says. The work of academics and professors is to create synergy and nurture the student. Given the emphasis on getting ahead, there is a strong demand for programmes - for every available space for research postgraduate degrees there are eight applications. The programmes include compulsory coursework components that aim to help students prepare for their thesis and research work. These courses are designed to provide students with generic knowledge. All MPhil and four-year PhD students are required to complete two graduate school core courses and from three to eight faculty/departmental courses before they are allowed to submit their thesis. These courses include writing workshops, oral English, transferable skills, logic and critical thinking, publishing research, data analysis and the basic methods of quantitative research. Faculty/departmental courses could include linguistics, philosophy, computer science and information systems, earth sciences and zoology. Admission requirements to the programmes include a good honours degree and a score of 550 (paper) or above, or 213 or above (computer) in the TOEFL. Certain students who have difficulty supporting themselves may apply for financial assistance in the form of a scholarship to study full time for either the MPhil or PhD.