Now in its fourth year, the master of science in global finance (MSGF), jointly offered by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and New York University's Stern School of Business (NYU Stern) in New York City, has seen its class size grow by 50 per cent. 'Applications have skyrocketed and selectivity has increased,' says Mark Seasholes, associate professor of finance, and HKUST academic director of the HKUST/NYU Stern MSGF programme. A one-year programme, the MSGF is studied part-time. Seven modules are taught at HKUST, two at New York University and one at Tsinghua University in Beijing, with the latest insights from Wall Street to Asia put into a global context. Senior academics from HKUST and NYU teach through interactive lectures, real-life case studies and best practices. As a result, students will have a greater understanding of finance, from applied corporate finance and valuation, to asset markets, banking reform and corporate risk management in China, corporate finance, derivatives markets, foreign exchange markets and risk management in financial institutions, and topics in financial markets and innovation. Participants work on integrative group projects throughout the programme. 'We find that students are looking to sharpen their skills in the broad areas of finance,' Seasholes says. 'Rather than focus solely on sales and trading, professionals today need to understand the global financial system. Global portfolio management, banking reform and risk management are areas with particular interest.' The purpose of the programme is to cultivate high-performance finance professionals in such fields as corporate finance, sales and trading, project finance, loan syndications, asset management, risk management and private banking. Many students are either based in Asia-Pacific or have an interest in the region. Representing a global spread of nationalities, they are located in such far-flung places as Britain, the mainland, France, Hong Kong, South Korea, Nepal, Singapore, Taiwan and the United States. More than 80 per cent have bachelor's degrees and nearly 20 per cent already have at least one master's degree. They are usually required to have at least five years' working experience and those with less are considered on a case-by-case basis. Students are seasoned professionals or senior executives working in such sectors as banking, finance or other service industries. They range from CEOs and chief financial officers, to vice-presidents, senior directors, division or department heads, analysts, associates and executives. Women account for nearly one-third of the enrolment. Because of this dynamic mix, participants can learn from one another. Lectures are interactive, real-life case studies are used and integrated projects are assigned. Participants also learn best practices through case studies, speaker sessions and company visits. After graduation, they will have a degree jointly conferred by HKUST and NYU, and become alumni of both institutions. Their networking opportunities can therefore continue long after the end of the programme. Those wanting to advance their careers should carefully consider whether an MBA or a master's in a specific discipline, with a clear focus such as this one, is the best option. 'MBAs are targeted at business generalists,' Seasholes says. 'Students learn about all aspects of managing a business including marketing, operations and human resources. 'Our programme is 100 per cent focused on finance [broadly defined]. Students learn about equity markets, fixed income markets, portfolio management, derivatives, the role of CFOs, valuation, banking, bank reform, risk management and more.'