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Postgraduate Degrees

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SCMP Education

Embracing global opportunities

  • Apart from technology advancement and globalisation, academics are examining the outlook of the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ and its impact on the world
PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 December, 2018, 9:57am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 January, 2019, 12:34pm

As the business world continues to change rapidly in the face of technological development and globalisation, so too must the educational approach of business schools and educators.

Fortunately, Hong Kong is home to several of the most prestigious and modernly adapted executive business degrees not just in Asia, but the entire world.

The city offers great executive MBA and doctorate of business administration (DBA) degrees from its local universities, as well as from the top business schools across Asia, Europe and the United States.

Locally, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) DBA programme, now 22 years old, continues to grow in strength while adapting to the fast-changing business environment.

“Rapid advances and new forms of technology, such as AI, the internet of things, blockchain, and the ever-changing business environment and economic landscape, are the biggest challenges for global business leaders nowadays,” says PolyU DBA deputy programme director and professor of practice Petrus Choy. “The PolyU DBA nurtures senior executives to become scholar leaders – not followers – who adopt scientific approaches and critical thinking to conduct original research that can be applied to real-world problems.”

Choy says that a point of pride for the PolyU DBA is its willingness to change and adapt its curriculum to keep up to speed with these current issues. “The programme constantly updates and refines its curriculum and mode of study to keep abreast of the ever-changing developments of the business world,” he says. “The taught subjects and research inclinations of our DBA students cover the most contemporary topics.”

For example, PolyU places so much importance and focus on the “Belt and Road Initiative” that they have formed a task force on the topic. “This was done to build strong partnerships with universities worldwide for student exchange, and academic research collaborations,” says Choy, who notes that PolyU is the only Hong Kong university that offers a doctor of management programme on the mainland. “We have also established the faculty of business – Belt and Road Centre, where members carry out specific research on the movement and deal with practical issues.”

Some of PolyU’s prestigious learning partners include the Indian Meteorological Department and the London School of Economics. “These partnerships add an international dimension to the programme and open up new horizons for students,” says Choy.

PolyU is now accepting DBA applicants for the 2019/20 intake. The fees – which cover eight taught subjects and two thesis projects – total HK$851,700.

In terms of business school powerhouses, few names carry more weight than the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, which was ranked the top business school in the world by US News. Its executive MBA programme, also ranked number one in the world, has been available in Hong Kong for the past two years.

“What sets the Booth EMBA apart from the other programmes is the fact that it’s rooted in ‘The Chicago Approach’,” explains Richard Johnson, associate dean of the executive MBA programme, Hong Kong and London. “It’s characterised by our belief that transformational ideas start with rigorous inquiry. Students equipped with a diverse array of analytical and behavioural tools learn to evaluate problems and opportunities through fundamental disciplines that underline how organisations function, how markets work, and how people make decisions.”

The programme is also the world’s oldest executive MBA, having first been set up in 1943. Since then, the school has built state-of-the-art campuses in London and, more recently, Hong Kong, to make the degree even more global. The new facilities – the Hong Kong Jockey Club University of Chicago Academic Complex and The University of Chicago Francis and Rose Yuen Campus – are located in Mount Davis.

The Booth EMBA also boasts one of the most culturally diverse student bodies of any postgraduate programme. “Globally, our most recent student cohort has professionals from over 46 countries, representing over 23 industries and over 25 functions,” says Johnson. “We expect to see an increase in students from emerging and developing markets. We see an increased interest in entrepreneurship, and are supporting these students with courses relevant to entrepreneurship.”

Johnson says this global and diverse approach makes Booth the perfect programme for anyone hoping to become a true leader in the face of global phenomena such as the belt and road plan.

“Education, particularly business education, will be key to the success of the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’,” Johnson says. “With our campus in Hong Kong, we are well-positioned to give executives in the region the education and training needed to lead global initiatives like belt and road. Also we believe that our students come out of the EMBA programme as strong leaders and decision-makers, well-placed to take a data-driven approach to situations of uncertainty or opportunity.”

The school is accepting applicants for the June 2019 semester. The full fees for the 21-month programme are HK$1.355 million. Students from all three campuses will be given the chance to interact and work with one another.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s top-ranked business school – Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) – teamed up with the Kellogg School of Management in Northwestern University in the US to create one of the most renowned executive MBA degrees in the entire world, and one of the most powerful East and West business-school alliances to date.

“Our programme offers an East and West curriculum from renowned faculty in the US and China,” says HKUST associate dean Steven J. DeKrey. “We also have a network of partners globally which includes important economies such as China, the US and Germany. Students can study in seven locations, therefore expanding their network fourfold.”

The degree has unsurprisingly been a huge success, and has rapidly grown in size and diversity since its onset. Demand for the prestigious qualification has never been higher, to the point where the vast majority of students are funding their studies themselves without any corporate sponsorship.

“This year, we had to offer deferrals to highly qualified students because of space limitations,” explains DeKrey. “When we launched the programme we had just over 30 participants from perhaps 10 countries. This year in class 22 we will have close to 60 students from over 20 countries. The high level of positions our students hold remains a hallmark since class one, but the diversity and size has certainly changed in a positive way.

“Another change is the number of students paying for the programme themselves,” DeKrey continues. “While a certain percentage, less than 25 per cent, are fully sponsored by their companies, a majority of students are paying for the programme themselves. Because of the high level of our students, they have the resources to handle tuition, and often they see change ahead and want to be able to take advantage of future opportunities. In the first class, over 50 per cent had full tuition coverage from their companies.”

The Kellogg-HKUST Executive MBA is designed for busy executives, as it only requires students to be out of the office for 40 days. There are livein weeks at both campuses and global elective weeks in six partner school campuses around the world. The programme lasts for 18 months and fees are HK$1.377 million.

Another East-West business education alliance is that between the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) and the Hong Kong Management Association (HKMA), which partner to offer a top-notch DBA*.

“The University of Wales Trinity Saint David is proud to offer a range of courses that have a track record of successful contribution to the long-term sustainability of many business organisations,” says associate professor Antje Cockrill. “In cooperation with our partner, the Hong Kong Management Association, we deliver two postgraduate programmes in Hong Kong: a DBA and an MBA.”

The programme is a professional doctorate that focuses on policy and strategy. It is similar to a PhD in the sense that it is research-heavy, but is different in that it has a much heavier focus on management solutions.

“This is a growing programme with students being experienced managers from a wide range of business backgrounds – ranging from construction to retail, banking and education,” Cockrill says. “We welcome applications from managers who have the commitment and vision to want to increase their career chances with a doctorate, and at the same time to develop the skills to become innovative and creative organisational leaders for the future.”

According to Cockrill, one thing that sets the UWTSD-HKMA DBA apart is its heavy focus on technology. In addition, she says the course prepares business executives to thrive in the “Belt and Road Initiative”.

“We are living in a complex and rapidly changing environment,” Cockrill says. “Technology and digitalisation are moving faster than many businesses can keep up with, and there are skills shortages in these areas globally. Established economic structures are challenged by events such as Brexit and the belt and road plan. Our current business environment is global, dynamic and complex.”

UWTSD and HKMA faculty leaders believe that modern business leaders need specific skills to develop successful strategies for long-term sustainable business operations, in what Cockrill calls a “complex and volatile environment”.

“Higher education plays an important role in developing the skills and knowledge of business leaders; especially postgraduate business management courses, which provide current and future business leaders with the knowledge and skills they need to develop strategies that allow their business to thrive and be successful in the future,” she says.

The programme takes place over three years and has a flexible schedule designed to meet the needs of professionals working in business administration and management. The schools are now accepting applications, and full tuition costs HK$295,000.

Partnerships have also formed between top Asian business schools, including one between City University of Hong Kong (CityU) and Fudan University in Shanghai, which joined forces to create an international DBA (IDBA) back in 2010.

Programme director and CityU professor Haibin Yang says the IDBA is one of the few elite business degrees offered in Mandarin. “It truly is a Chinese programme,” Yang says. “We believe that language is only a medium for knowledge communication, and business executives in China will enjoy better communication with professors and students using their mother language.”

With so much of the future business landscape set to take place in the mainland, this gives students of the joint IDBA programme a distinct advantage. Yang says that CityU business school, with its stronger Western approach, gives pupils a great balance of Eastern and Western business philosophies.

“Our programme builds upon the joint expertise from both schools,” explains Yang. “While CityU professors have a wider exposure to Western practices and knowledge, Fudan professors have a better understanding of local Chinese practices and indigenous knowledge in China. Students will have chances to embrace different thoughts and perspectives on current challenges.”

He adds that while many modern business executives feel challenged or threatened by contemporary global issues such as the US-China trade war, the belt and road plan and Brexit, the CityU-Fudan IDBA teaches students to remain calm and stay grounded within a solid learning framework.

“No matter what issues are taking place globally, the basic business logistics and fundamentals still apply,” Yang says. “Although students are encouraged to conduct research on current global issues, in the long run, we try to help students navigate the changing landscapes with sound and rigorous theoretical training, and help them identify the fundamentals – the things that stay the same in this ever-changing business world.”

CityU is now accepting applicants for the September 2019 cohort. The programme is delivered through part-time study, and lasts from three to six years depending on the applicants’ schedule. Full tuition fees cost about HK$774,210. Business executives in Hong Kong need not worry about losing touch with trends, as there are plenty of amazing degrees available to help take their careers to the next level.

*Registration number is 252717. it is a matter of discretion for individual employers to recognise any qualification to which this course may lead.