Get in line for leadership roles

by Libby Peacock

Andrew Chan, director
executive MBA programme
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Photo: Courtesy of CUHK

Managers must take initiatives to boost lagging business skills

In a global business atmosphere progressively more fraught with rivalry, a first degree and job experience may no longer be sufficient to fuel progress up the career track towards top executive positions.

Amid intense competition for the best talent, ambitious high-flyers are increasingly looking to further their prospects by embarking on postgraduate studies that will enhance their competence and competitiveness in the employment market.

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) recognised this need for advancement as far back as 1993, when it launched the city's first executive master's of business administration (EMBA) programme.

The programme has gone from strength to strength and was this year placed 10th in the London-based Financial Times' annual global survey of 100 EMBA programmes worldwide, its highest ranking since the launch of the review in 2001. It also came out tops of all independent programmes in Asia-Pacific.

"Our alumni's salaries are the fourth-highest in the world and their employers usually offer them substantial increases once they complete their EMBA studies," says Andrew Chan, director, executive MBA programme, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, adding that EMBA graduates this year received average wage increments of
64 per cent.

The Financial Times also scored the programme high in terms of internationalisation of the student body and advisory board and its percentage of women students, Professor Chan notes. The CUHK EMBA was furthermore ranked number one in Asia-Pacific by BusinessWeek in 2009.

"Not only does it have a uniquely Hong Kong character, but it's also the only EMBA in the top 10 where students are taught in two languages. All core courses are conducted in English, while a number of electives are instructed in Chinese," he says.

Cream of the crop

The academic schedule kicks off with a "residence week", designed to introduce students to each other through team-building, problem-solving and other creative activities.

Students come from various industry backgrounds, and the current batch has an average of 16 years' work experience. Applicants' skills, as well as their potential to rise through the ranks, are considered during the selection process.

Professor Chan stresses, "Only the best candidates are chosen, and they realise that the EMBA qualification offers them a great opportunity to enhance their career prospects."

Annually, about 40 to 50 students are admitted to the two-year, part-time EMBA programme. They are expected to continue working full-time, attending classes on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons.

The first year provides a solid foundation in all business functions and an introduction to changing economic environments, while the second focuses on strategy and policy, equipping students to eventually increase their own corporations' competitiveness.

The curriculum is highly relevant, considering Hong Kong's strategic position as the gateway to mainland China and Asia-Pacific, says Professor Chan, adding that subjects include elective courses on business law, mainland China business and innovation and entrepreneurship.

Instruction ranges from formal lectures and case analyses to simulation games and individual and group projects relating to actual management issues.

"The programme not only targets Hong Kong people, but aims to develop the professional skills of students across the entire region," says Professor Chan, explaining that the ultimate objective is to prepare students for top company roles such as chief executive.

Broad base

The EMBA programme covers current managerial theory, as well as traditional Chinese and Western management techniques. "This allows students to draw on the strengths of both China and the West, and traditional as well as modern practice, in order to maximise commercial possibilities in the region," says professor Chan. He emphasises that understanding the contemporary Chinese economic environment is crucial in the light of the mainland's rapid growth.

Students benefit from valuable opportunities for ideas exchange and networking, including conferences and seminars where they interact with other alumni and business leaders and hear them talk about their work experiences, management styles and challenges.

The syllabus includes a compulsory global business and management field study component that enables students to travel overseas to see first-hand how prominent companies in other parts of the world operate.

The current graduating class visited Geneva, Basel, Bern and Zurich in Switzerland in 2010. Previous ones have travelled to mainland China, London, New York, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Stockholm and other major global centres. Such interaction gives students a wider international perspective and helps them to incorporate global practices in their future business plans.

Applicants must have a bachelor's degree or equivalent, at least seven years' work experience including five leading a team, hold a senior management position and fulfil the programme's English-language proficiency requirement.

The university has an advisory panel consisting of leaders in commerce, experienced faculty staff and internationally renowned experts to keep the EMBA programme up to date and relevant, Professor Chan points out. In keeping with the institution's reputation, all lecturing personnel are dedicated to upholding the highest standards of educational excellence, he concludes.

Best in class

  • World's top EMBA programme admits only about 50 students per intake
  • Graduates last year received average wage increments of 64 per cent
  • Curriculum relevant to Hong Kong's strategic position as the gateway to mainland China and Asia-Pacific
  • Global interaction gives students a wider international perspective

Taken from Career Times 14 January 2011, A8

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