Partnerships help local students gain globally recognised degrees and build business networks HONG KONG MIGHT be a relatively small city, but many world famous universities are offering courses here. There is a growing local demand for MBA programmes offered by these universities because they are recognised globally and they help students build up an international network to further their business ambitions. The programmes adhere to world standards but at the same time are modified to suit Hong Kong's business environment. Paring local institutions with overseas colleges is one of the ways of organising MBA programmes in Hong Kong. The University of Newcastle, Australia, in partnership with the Hong Kong Management Association has been offering MBA courses since 2004 and the number of students has been increasing steadily. 'One of the major strengths of the programme is our partnership with HKMA, an organisation of high standards and important links with Hong Kong businesses and professions,' said Stephen Nicholas, pro-vice-chancellor, School of Business and Law at the University of Newcastle. 'Business is global and competitive, especially in Hong Kong. Our programmes prepare our graduates to make a difference in their capacity in leading organisations, enhancing their professional competencies and their ability to improve the economic and social development of Hong Kong and China,' he said. According to Professor Nicholas, there is constant dialogue between Newcastle academics and Hong Kong students through electronic Blackboard sites, chat rooms and e-mail, which especially suits Hong Kong students who work full time and are often overseas. Some schools, however, like the Manchester Business School, have offices in Hong Kong and other countries to organise the programmes. Bernard Wu Tak-ling, an MBA graduate of the school in 1999, said the Hong Kong office helped a lot in communicating with the school and teaching staff. Mr Wu is a director of Wallbanck Brothers Securities. He is a member of various professional associations in Hong Kong and Britain. He is also vice-president of the Taxation Institute of Hong Kong and an examination assessor of taxation subjects run by the institute. Mr Wu said the MBA course was a remarkable experience and helped him tremendously in his work. 'The knowledge I gained from the MBA was like finding hidden treasure,' he said. 'You might not use all you learnt right away, but over time you find it more useful and valuable.' Mr Wu said the knowledge he gained was not only from books, but also from interaction with the professors and classmates. 'If you only want to learn about theories, you can always find it in a book,' Mr Wu said. 'In a class it's much more than that. It is a typical one-plus-one-greater-than-two case. 'After discussions, we often came up with solutions that were better than the model answers. It was even better when in a group of people with working experience in different fields, backgrounds and nationalities.' Mr Wu said the soft skills developed through the MBA course were very important. Mark Garwood, marketing and development director of Dairy Farm who is studying for an MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management in Hong Kong, said the degree became more relevant once you had reached a senior level in an organisation because you got the opportunity to immediately apply the learning. 'Between highly knowledgeable lecturers and peer discussions in class it is amazing how many opportunities arise to get third-party input on business issues that may be troubling you or your company,' he said. 'One very interesting benefit that I had not counted on is that if you are smart with the application of assignments and class question time, you can benefit from free consultancy on key business problems your company may be experiencing.' Macy Leung Wai-ka, who went to the same Manchester school as Mr Wu, said the course allowed her to network with other students - not only those at her school but in other countries too, as the Manchester Business School has alumni associations around the world. Ms Leung is the director of corporation communication of Sa Sa International Holdings. She is also the vice-president of the Hong Kong Manchester Business School Alumni Association. Ms Leung said when she travelled to other countries, she always tried to participate in alumni activities taking place there. Through the Hong Kong alumni association, she has built up a worldwide network of people. Ms Leung recalled how an alumni member and her family greeted her warmly when she was visiting England. 'I wasn't able to attend the UK graduation ceremony because of work. I visited later. As I was not familiar with many of the places, I got in touch with a member through the alumni association,' she said. 'She, her husband and son picked me up at the train station. They showed me around the campus and took pictures with me. Then we had dinner and shared our MBA experiences. 'It's one of my most wonderful memories. We met for the first time, but because we graduated from the same school, we felt so close right from the start.'