With China's economy booming there is much demand for expertise in the country's legal and financial systems. Since 2002, Hong Kong CyberU (HKCyberU), a subsidiary of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, has co-operated with East China Normal University to provide online master's programmes in mainland-related disciplines such as property and real estate, insurance, commercial bank management, securities and investment.
Montair Xu, honorary advisor and dean of the School of Business at East China Normal University, says these are the first online programmes of this kind in Hong Kong.
"In the past, many people in Hong Kong were wary of doing business in China," she says. "But with China joining the WTO in 2001, countless business opportunities existed that were too valuable to ignore, and Hong Kong people started to look into the enormous and virtually untapped markets."
When it comes to real estate and financial services, Hong Kong professionals are no novices. The challenge for them, Ms Xu says, lies in the fact that they are required to understand mainland policies thoroughly because the rules and regulations governing such issues can be very different from those in Hong Kong.
For this reason, many of the programmes examine China's political, legal, economic and financial systems. "If students learn more about the ideologies of our country, they will understand that people on the mainland sometimes do things differently from what they would in Hong Kong," Ms Xu says.
The programmes are intended for people with an undergraduate degree and an interest in the subjects. Since study materials can be obtained via the Internet, the programmes are particularly suited to those already based in China or travelling around the world. Today, about two-thirds of the students are working in related fields on the mainland by the time they enrol.
Upon graduation, students are awarded a degree certificate from East China Normal University. Extra benefits include better Mandarin language and Chinese writing skills, as students are required to present coursework in the country's official language.
As the mainland's development shows no sign of slowing down, more and more economic co-operation is expected between China and Hong Kong. Professionals with expertise in the business regulations, policies and customs of the mainland are sought after by companies in a range of industries, and the degree programmes at HKCyberU offer students the chance to extend their knowledge in these areas. More than that, Ms Xu says, "It is important for Hong Kong people to learn more about the mainland's culture. In fact, China is learning from Hong Kong, too. This is a two-way process."