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For busy professionals who are required to juggle hectic schedules with the need to develop new skills to take them to their next career level, the flexibility of a part-time MBA programme can often provide the solution.
Nigel Banister, CEO at Manchester Business School (MBS), believes part-time MBA programmes are ideally suited for ambitious individuals who are time-poor, but still wish to advance their career.
He also believes part-time programmes are as academically rigorous, and achieve the same results, as their full-time cousins. "The lines have blurred between top-class part- and full-time MBA programmes," says Banister, adding that in Hong Kong as elsewhere in recent years, the part-time option has attracted a rising number of students.
While at all management levels staff need to continually develop skills, Banister says these days general competence in areas like finance and marketing is not enough. "The stakes have been raised. To progress up the management ladder, future leaders need ethical working understanding, sustainability and corporate innovation competencies."
They also need a global perspective and prove they can succeed in a multicultural work environment, he adds.
"The programme we offer is a tough course, and students who join us know they will not obtain a world-class qualification too easily," says Banister, pointing out that MBS has been offering MBA programmes in Hong Kong for 20 years.
He says that while full-time students are mostly in their mid-20s, part-timers tend to be in their 30s, are in secure employment and often have family and other commitments.
Top-flight part-time MBA programmes are also growing in popularity among employers who sponsor high-potential staff to motivate and retain top performers as part of their management-development strategies.
"Companies recognise that part-time courses at the top level are equivalent to a full-time programme, but also provide additional benefits," says Banister.
While MBS uses technology to support its part-time programmes, Banister says there are no plans to turn the MBA syllabus into an online format.
"Our professors fly into Hong Kong to deliver intensive three-day and weekend face-to-face teaching," says Banister.
He adds that students are also given the option to study two modules at MBS centres in Dubai, the UK, Miami, Rio de Janeiro, Shanghai and Singapore. "This offers a fantastic opportunity to build network contacts and embrace multicultural experiences."
Flexibility is also a key feature of the part-time MBA programme offered by the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM), a part of the Australian School of Business at the University of New South Wales. To help Hong Kong students balance their work, travel and study commitments, the part-time programme lets students complete their MBA in as little as 18 months or as much as seven years.
"Students are provided with a study menu so they can plan ahead," says Professor Mark Stewart, academic director of AGSM MBA programmes. "We offer a lot of latitude from start to finish, so students can arrange their studies around busy work schedules."
He says that as well as selecting an MBA programme that offers flexibility, it is important for students to enrol in one that provides the style and content to match experience and career goals in, for example, mode of delivery. To ensure a rich learning experience, the AGSM MBA is delivered face-to-face by internationally acclaimed local and fly-in faculty members.
"Most people only get one shot at studying for an MBA, so they should make sure their decision is the best one for them," says Stewart, adding that it is also important for students to structure their time management to include time away from work and studies.
"Our programme has exacting entry and programme standards, so it is important students can recharge their batteries and feel energised to benefit from the deeper learning experience," says Stewart.