Many professionals in Hong Kong are now aware that continuing education is essential if they are to maximise their own potential and get the most out of their careers. This has led to a surge in interest in further study and a recognition that a qualification in law can open up new perspectives and opportunities in the business world.
"People in Hong Kong realise that one degree is not enough to last an entire career," says John Cribbin, school secretary and registrar at HKU SPACE. "For example, nearly two-thirds of the approximately 4,000 students in the external undergraduate law programme have existing degrees in another discipline."
James Busuttil, director of the University of London's Master of Laws programme for external students, emphasises the point. "Law plays an important part in every kind of business and people in Hong Kong realise that understanding law can really help their careers," he says. The programme is run in conjunction with HKU SPACE and has seen enrolment increase from 250 to 450 this year.
As a mark of distinction, the University of London's law school recently received a five-star rating from the UK government, putting it on the same level as Oxford and Cambridge. "Without a doubt, we are the most prestigious of the law schools currently offering an external Master of Laws in Hong Kong," Dr Busuttil says.
The intention is to offer a blended learning experience in which students receive course materials, examinations and evaluations from London, but get assistance from HKU SPACE with locally run tutorials, lectures and seminars.
"We bring over leading academics from London and also source teachers locally, so students have excellent ongoing support throughout the academic year," says Mr Cribbin. "Being able to ask questions and get immediate clarification really helps their progress."
Classes are held in the evening and at weekends to assist students who are working full-time, and most learning centres are centrally located. "We call this taking the university to the students," says Mr Cribbin. In addition, tuition fees for the external programmes are around half what they would cost someone studying in the UK, but the course content and quality is almost identical. HKU SPACE oversees registration and assesses minimum requirements for admission.
"From the beginning, it has always been a fundamental principle to have one degree with the same quality and prestige, whether you study it in London, Hong Kong or South Africa," says Dr Busuttil.
Besides law, Mr Cribbin notes that management, economics, business, IT and MBA programmes are the most popular with local students. "However, the University of London offers its entire suite of programmes for external studies, which is almost 100 in total," he concludes.