Course opens door to those with an interest in international relations A postgraduate master's degree in international public affairs at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) is proving a draw for members of Hong Kong's disciplinary services keen to take the next step on the career ladder. The Commissioner of Police, Tang King-shing, is a graduate of the programme. The international public affairs master's programme is the only one of its kind in Hong Kong, according to programme director James Tang and was first offered in 2000. It is intended for people in mid-career and is available either full time over one academic year, or part time over two. Over the past eight years, students from more than 20 nations have entered the programme with a growing trend of overseas applicants. 'We always have students from different backgrounds in terms of their professional and academic backgrounds and also nationalities,' Professor Tang said. 'But the pool of international applicants seems to have grown in recent years. 'The international relations degree is particularly relevant for police working in or aspiring to work in areas with international dimensions. Some might have been posted to Interpol and returned knowing that it is an area they want to pursue.' HKU's master's of international public affairs is a professional programme, which means that it is open to those who don't have related undergraduate degrees in disciplines such as politics or economics. One student ran the regional public affairs programme for a multinational corporation. In that job she came into contact with non-governmental organisations and ended up helping one such US-based organisation to build its China and Hong Kong operations. Another graduate, a banker who had trained as an accountant, was interested in international issues but was never exposed to them during his daily work. When he began to interact more with senior people in his bank internationally he wanted to become more comfortable discussing major global issues with his peers. Professor Tang said that with the exception of its emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region, the HKU master's programme was similar to some international relations programmes offered in Britain and the United States with core courses in international relations theory, international organisations, foreign policy, international political economies, and ethics in public and international affairs. An additional skills-based component in the coming semester will comprise teaching on political forecasting and risk analysis, which are more relevant to people at work. 'We don't want to turn this into a programme for practitioners in terms of the practice of international relations or political analysis,' he said. 'But in schools overseas there are skills-based components included such as risk and political forecasts. We hope to develop the political risk and forecasting elements in our programme in the coming semester.'