As prestigious academic qualifications play an increasingly central role in career and life choices, the European Union's (EU) leading centres of learning provide Hong Kong students with the opportunity to study at top-level universities and research establishments. The 27-member EU is home to universities and educational institutions that offer ground-breaking academic programmes. 'European universities have a strong reputation for offering design, technology and science programmes,' says Maria Castillo-Fernandez, head of the Office of the European Union to Hong Kong and Macau. 'They are also at the forefront of research, development and cutting environmental programmes,' she adds. With investment in green initiatives such as energy efficiency and 'clean-tech' innovation set to increase in Asia, Castillo says huge demand can be expected for specialist skills and knowledge in these areas. Castillo says that, as well as world-class academic programmes, studying in the EU provides students with chances to extend language skills, explore cultures, and start networks. 'There is plenty of evidence to suggest that studying abroad not only enriches students' lives in the academic and professional fields, it can also improve language learning, inter-cultural skills, self-reliance and self-awareness,' says Castillo. Last year, about 13,000 Hong Kong students chose to study in the EU. Castillo says concerns about different languages and diversity of education systems in Europe are no longer a hurdle to Hong Kong students, as a unified bachelor-master-PhD system has been introduced. The number of degrees taught in English has also significantly increased. She says the diversity of countries makes for a vibrant experience. Furthermore, mobility within Europe with a visa issued by any country, and the fact that it offers many concessional benefits, are powerful incentives to pursue higher education there. With the Hong Kong job market for university graduates becoming increasingly competitive across various industries, Castillo says students who study in Europe usually hold a competitive edge over their peers who had studied elsewhere. 'Through studying at universities in the EU, graduates demonstrate to employers they are curious, adaptable and open to new ideas and challenges,' she says, adding that employers value knowledge of business, consumer and contemporary developments. Castillo notes that the EU is Hong Kong's second-largest trading partner. She says the city is also home to one of the biggest European business communities in Asia, and that it continues to attract many Europeans to live and work. NOTE FROM THE EDITOR Welcome to the MBA Community - Classified Post's special weekly section on higher education aimed at guiding those planning to pursue post-graduate degrees here and abroad. Powered by Education Post, we give you the latest academic programmes, campus news, study tips and pointers from recruiters. Keep learning!