A handful of next week's batch of graduates will receive MSc degrees, which they see as a means to enhance their career prospects More than 120 students will receive master's degrees from the University of Leicester at a lavish ceremony to be held next Wednesday at the Langham Place Hotel in Mong Kok. While most will receive MBAs, a handful will receive Master of Science (MSc) degrees in fields such as customer service management, finance, marketing and mass communications. Speakers will include Patricia Jackson, former executive director of programmes and head of administration, and now a consultant to the Management Centre at the University of Leicester; Peter Jackson, dean of the Faculty of Social Science at the University of Leicester; Steve Conway, director of distance learning at the Management Centre at the University of Leicester; and Danny Ho, centre manager of the Hartford Institute. Venus Ng, secretary, AGSA Asia and holder of a bachelor's business administration degree, has more than 10 years of administrative, sales and marketing experience at companies including multinationals. She has worked in Hong Kong and Canada in industries that include hospitality, retail, telecommunications, technology and international trade. She will receive a Master of Science in Marketing. Ms Ng wanted to return to the classroom to gain knowledge and enhance her career prospects. 'The University of Leicester is one of the highest-ranking master's degree providers in Britain,' Ms Ng said. 'Hartford arranges for tutors from Britain to come to Hong Kong for the seminars. There is tutorial support for each course.' Ms Ng said she benefited from the programme in several ways. 'I have gained professional knowledge in market research, strategic management, planning and implementation. I have also built an international network with my classmates in different industries. I have gained the support and friendship of peers.' One of the highlights of the experience was spending a summer at the university's home campus, where she had the chance to make new friends from around the world. 'We received a warm reception during our summer session in Britain. We also got lots of encouragement working on our dissertations,' she said. Shirley Kwong, who runs Classic Promo, a trading firm that sources items from the mainland, will also receive an MSc in marketing. She did not have a first degree before enrolling in the programme, having only completed a professional diploma in marketing management at the Hong Kong Management Association in 2002. However, with more than 15 years of working experience in sales and marketing, she decided to further her studies in that field. 'All of the companies that I had worked for were in the manufacturing industry - in particular, the gifts and stationery fields,' she said. 'My job duties ran from approaching potential customers to handling overseas accounts, executing exhibitions and managing advertising campaigns. I also shared relationship management responsibilities with the sales team in formulating marketing strategies.' During and after the course in marketing management Ms Kwong found that it was not enough - she needed more. A tutor at HKMA posed a question one day in class: 'Where do you see yourself in five years?' When she told him, he said: 'If that is the case you will have to start doing something today.' It really made her think. 'I said to myself, at least, I want to have a master's in marketing, the subject I am most interested in. This will also lay the foundation for me to start my own business in the future,' Ms Kwong said. Having completed the programme, Ms Kwong said that she had benefited from it in a variety of ways. 'The programme was not really hard, but we were able to learn in a concise fashion. In addition, the lecturers used different ways of demonstrating to us what marketing is all about. They exposed us to practical experience, theories, group sharing and examples of advertising. We came away with more than a few marketing tools. We also learned how to come up with lots of new ideas.' An unexpected benefit of doing the programme was learning how to achieve a work-life balance. 'I realised the importance of getting rest and taking part in leisure activities while doing assignments, studying for examinations and conducting research,' Ms Kwong said. 'Good health is important. It is also important to know when to sacrifice and how to select what you are going to do. It all gets down to finding balance in your life.' Michael Fung Tsz-ho, an analyst programmer at BestServe Financial, received his Bachelor of Science in Computing Studies (Information Systems) from Hong Kong Baptist University in 2000. With a few years of solid experience in the information technology field under his belt, he decided to pursue an MSc in finance. 'To be an IT expert in the financial industry you need to have more than strong IT skills,' he said. 'Financial knowledge is another critical success factor needed to excel at work.' Established in 1999, the Hartford Institute prepares students to be future business leaders by providing an education that is practical and relevant. Hartford offers programmes in conjunction with the University of Surrey in Britain and the University of Newcastle in Australia. Programmes are offered at graduate and undergraduate level.