While the US and most European countries are experiencing a prolonged hard time for their economies, the booming mainland economy has lured many multinational corporations east. They are looking for expansion in the mainland market, and this is driving the demand for talents with a good understanding of Chinese culture and the business environment.
The full-time MBA programme offered by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) focuses on the mainland market to help business leaders explore opportunities.
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"More European and American candidates are interested in an MBA in Hong Kong since it's close to the mainland market. They are looking for opportunities to know how businesses are run and deals are made on the mainland, in order to bridge corporations between the East and the West and gain an edge," says Chris Tsang, executive director for MBA and MSc programmes, HKUST Business School.
The school's teaching faculty has extensive management experience in the mainland market. "Professor Ron McEachern was the CEO of PepsiCo Asia and he teaches marketing in China to our MBA students. Professor Larry Franklin, a general manager at Hutchison Whampoa (China), teaches venture capital and private equity. The faculty has a lot of valuable insights about the mainland market to share through case studies and discussions in class," Tsang says.
To further enhance their knowledge of the mainland, students have established a "China Club" which serves as a platform to connect students with the mainland business community for cultural and knowledge exchanges.
The MBA curriculum is designed to offer students a strong foundation for management success, through rigorous study and an emphasis on creativity, analytical thinking and teamwork. "New students will go through the flagship core course known as 'Preparing to Lead'. This is a five-day residential programme, where students work in groups from diverse cultural and industry backgrounds. The course helps to build close bonds among MBA peers throughout the rest of the programme, and even after graduation," Tsang says.
The programme helps enhance candidates' knowledge of professional business and equips them with the necessary soft skills through various kinds of workshops, industry talks, executive meetings and networking activities. Practitioners in the region from various industries are invited as guest speakers to share their management philosophies.
Tsang advises prospective students to have a clear picture of what they want from doing an MBA before applying for the programme. "I recommend interested candidates to be more open-minded and focus on the long-term rewards and development opportunities. The interaction with classmates from different backgrounds and cultures, the new perspectives developed through the exchange of ideas, the potential network gained through various enrichment activities, as well as the training in both business knowledge and leadership development, will lead candidates to wider horizons that they might never have imagined before joining the programme," Tsang says.
"Candidates should also consider whether they are fully committed to contributing to the class and the MBA community. The takeaway from an MBA usually increases along with the level of contribution and participation by students. Mid-careerists who plan to do an MBA should make sure that they are ready and well-prepared for such a challenge," he adds.
The full-time MBA programme lasts 16 months. Applicants should possess a bachelor's degree, a good GMAT score and at least two years of post-bachelor's, full-time work experience.
Michael Han, who comes from the mainland, applied to the programme because he wants to pursue a career in finance.
"I graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration from Nanjing University and worked in fast-moving consumer goods for five years before deciding to move on to finance. HKUST has one of the top MBA programmes in the world, offering insights on the mainland market and excellent networking opportunities," he says.
Han was able to learn a lot about the mainland market from a new perspective. "Before taking the programme I was a sales manager. I knew very little about marketing and corporate operations, or about other industries. The programme made me look at business from a more diverse point of view," he says.
Han advises people who are planning to take the MBA to have an open mind and know what is best for them. "The programme provides excellent networking opportunities to meet many people from different backgrounds. I see those opportunities as a platform to obtain extra resources, such as job referrals and industry insights. I was able to learn more than what the curriculum offered," he says.
Han, who will graduate in a few months' time, already has a job offer from a US-based investment bank. He is now looking forward to a three-month exchange trip to the University of Chicago before graduating.
"It will be my first experience of living overseas. The University of Chicago is a great school, with many top economists. I think I will be able to benefit a lot," he says.