As the economies of Hong Kong and the mainland become even more integrated, a thorough understanding of the cross-border business environment may enhance a graduate's competitive edge in the employment market. To cater to hundreds of graduates wanting to know more about doing business on the mainland, the Polytechnic University (PolyU) launched a part-time master of science programme in China business studies in 1996. The programme makes it a point to equip students with the necessary understanding and knowledge of the mainland's changing business environment, and to tackle those changes at a professional level. 'This is a unique, economics-based and multidisciplinary programme that focuses on aspects of doing business on the mainland,' says Dr Lu Haitian, an assistant professor at the school of accounting and finance. 'We teach students the way of thinking in addition to knowledge.' The programme aims to help students gain in-depth knowledge and skills for doing business on the mainland by introducing six compulsory subjects that are all mainland-related, and nine electives. 'In addition, we help our students expand their business networks on the mainland,' Lu says. 'This is reflected in our extensive use of adjunct professors, guest speakers in the profession and a yearly study tour during which we will visit a Chinese province, have a dialogue with their government officials, large enterprises and business professionals and attend seminars at local universities.' In the past, students have visited first-tier cities such as Beijing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, in addition to booming second-tier cities including Hangzhou, Tianjin and Chengdu. Last year, students visited Nanjing and Shanghai, while this year, students will be able to visit Nanning and Baise, a city in Guangxi. The compulsory subjects cover various business-related areas and focus only on the mainland, including its legal system and economic laws, business environment, economy, managerial economics and business strategy, government policy and regional development, research methods and market research. Students are also able to choose from a range of electives all focused on mainland business, comprising theory and practice of accounting, taxation management in Hong Kong and on the mainland, China's financial sector in the global economy, foreign direct investment, foreign trade, political aspects of policy, a research project in China business studies, human resource management, and marketing. Moreover, students can choose a dissertation or non-dissertation option. Those choosing to submit a dissertation will be able to choose one of the nine electives, while those choosing to opt out from the dissertation will be able to take four electives. 'Students will be able to gain an independent and critical mind, and the necessary insider's knowledge in various aspects of China business, as well as a cross-industrial network that is conducive to carry out business on the mainland,' Lu says. In order to fulfil these goals, the department employs high-quality and experienced teaching staff, including professors who have doctor of philosophy degrees from overseas universities in relevant disciplines and adjunct professors who are experts and leaders of industry. To enhance the programme, the university invites guest speakers with expertise in industry to address seminars so that students may learn more from the industrialists' experience. Furthermore, the school is in the process of proposing a routine alumni gathering, aimed at helping students and graduates broaden their networks when doing business on the mainland. The basic entry requirement for the China business programme is a bachelor's degree in business or related areas, while working experience in relation to the mainland is a plus. 'The interview and admission process is conducted on a rolling and first-come, first-served basis,' Lu says. 'The places are limited and it is strongly advised that candidates apply for the programme earlier.' The school admits about 45 students to the programme every year. While the normal duration for studies is 30 months, students have the flexibility to complete the programme in two to five years.