Students with their sights set on a career in business know that “international outlook” is a prerequisite frequently cited by potential employers.
The rankings are out again. Three full-time MBA programmes run by Hong Kong universities have made it to the top global 100 MBA programmes in the latest Financial Times poll.
Leading the pack is the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, in 10th place, albeit down from last year’s 6th place. The Chinese University of Hong Kong is ranked 28th, and the University of Hong Kong in 37th place. A contributing factor to HKUST’s drop in position was a change in assessment criteria that no longer count mainland students and faculty as non-locals. But it remains the only Asian business school to have been among the top ten for three years in a row.
The results reflect the changing nature of local MBA programmes. They have switched to being more China-focused, with a reason overseas business executives opting to study here being Hong Kong’s proximity to and close ties with the mainland market. HKUST uses a number of China cases that was at the centre of international attention, such as the Cola wars, Google in China, and Samsung’s entry strategy of color TV.
It has also made Putonghua courses available to students, offered generous scholarships for non-Asians proficient in Putonghua or an Asian language.
Another attraction of the programme carrying a price tag of more than half a million Hong Kong dollars is the new purpose-built business school building in tranquil Clearwater Bay.
Over at CUHK Business School, it has a strategy of creating cutting edge research and knowledge in Chinese management. With more than 20,000 alumni in the region due to the long history of its MBA programme – it was launched in 1966 with just four students - it probably enjoys an edge in that area.
Another unstoppable trend is that of mainland executives seeking education in international business concepts and practices.
At HKUST, mainland students constitute 19 per cent of its current MBA class at the university, similar to the percentage for enrollees from North America or Europe.
Last year, mainland students made up 34 per cent and 30 per cent of the MBA class at CUHK and HKU respectively.
What the poll also shows is the positive returns from MBA education – particularly if taken in the right location. CUHK alumni made an average of US$100,408 annually upon graduation, a 160 percent increase in salary increment. This compares to the average salary of US$127,600 for HKUST alumni, a 144 percentage increase, and US$106,720 for HKU graduates, an increase of 121 per cent.
As exposures to China businesses and market practices become crucial for career advancements in the region, local MBA programmes will only intensify its China elements. Business schools see this as a big draw for global students. They are probably right in seeing this as a way also to sustain Hong Kong’s position as a regional education hub, but this should not come at the expense of internationalization, in curriculum, faculty and student make-up.