As a major regional finance hub, Hong Kong has an ongoing demand for skilled and knowledgeable business professionals.
Two part-time programmes popular with students of finance are the Master of Science (MSc) in Investment Management (IM) and the MSc in Financial Analysis (FA) offered by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST).
"We received more than 500 applications for our last intake, but were only able to admit around 100 students," says Rebecca Chow, executive officer, Department of Finance, School of Business and Management, HKUST.
The minimum requirement for students applying for the MSc programmes is a recognised bachelor's degree. Successful applicants averaged nine years of work experience, more than half in finance or accounting, with a growing percentage in information technology.
"We are keen to enrol students from diverse professional backgrounds," Ms Chow notes. "Over the past couple of years we have had a number of students from legal backgrounds who deal with complex documents related to venture capital or mergers and acquisitions."
One distinctive feature of the two programmes is the "free transfer" mechanism that allows students to move freely between the two programmes during the first year of study while they complete the six common core courses in accounting, corporate finance, derivatives, economics, investment and financial analysis.
"Students may register for the MScIM and then switch to the MScFA, or vice versa. This enables them to get a deeper insight into the two programmes before they make a final decision on the area they want to focus on," Ms Chow explains.
The MScIM focuses on asset and risk management, while the MScFA concentrates on corporate finance and security analysis. Students can opt to concentrate on either of the two options, or they may choose both as their areas of speciality, says Angel Li, who is also an executive officer of the Department of Finance.
Every year, the university awards scholarships to the school's top five academic achievers. While students may complete the programme in a minimum of 18 months, they need to complete at least 30 credits to fulfil the degree requirement within five years.
The curricula of the two programmes also assist the 10 to 20 per cent of students who plan to take the Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA) examinations, Ms Li points out. She adds that there are five additional CFA scholarships available for outstanding students preparing for the exams.
"As a CFA education partner, we schedule the courses to accommodate students who are taking the exams so that they are free from classes in May. We also arrange revision courses to gear them up for success," Ms Li notes.
Classes for both programmes are scheduled for weekday evenings and Saturdays. Additional work includes case studies, group projects and presentations. Students are required to attend seven hours of classes every week and are assessed on examination results as well as class participation.
To keep abreast of change in the business world, the two programmes are subject to ongoing review and Ms Li stresses that new courses may be added in future in response to industry demand.
Students have access to resources such as a financial trading laboratory which provides up-to-date market data and analysis. "Our library offers students access to a strong database of journals and reference books," says Ms Chow. Students also form study groups for mutual support.
Course lecturers comprise a mix of local finance experts and acclaimed academics from as far afield as the US, UK and Europe.
An HKUST FA/IM Alumni Association was formed last year for both current students and graduates to network.
"The two programmes with their challenging curricula have been well received by prospective employers who are in essence impressed by the professionalism of the successful graduates," Ms Chow concludes.