Nurturing talent for Asia and the world

by Grace Chan

Sachin Tipnis
executive director, MBA programmes
Faculty of Business and Economics
The University of Hong Kong
Photo: Edde Ngan
Leading Hong Kong business school produces executives with all-round skills

An MBA qualification is not a magic wand that guarantees career success. Aside from theoretical knowledge, business graduates must have the right attitude to their work, a broad perspective, good people skills and a strong network to make it to the top of their profession.

This is according to Sachin Tipnis, executive director, MBA programmes, Faculty of Business and Economics, The University of Hong Kong (HKU). "A quality MBA gives executives an advantage if they know how to use the knowledge and skills they learnt from the programme, match them with their professional objectives and develop them further. The value of an MBA extends throughout a person's entire career."

Today's recruiters tend to target well-rounded individuals with good interpersonal and leadership skills, in addition to functional business knowledge, Mr Tipnis adds.

The HKU MBA programme, ranked number one in Asia by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), incorporates four "success skills" modules, focusing on soft skills development and encompassing business communications, creativity and business innovation, leadership, and business law and ethics.

"We believe that by equipping our students with these skills, we set them apart from their competitors. Regulatory knowledge, in particular, is increasingly important," note Mr Tipnis.

The "success skills" modules complement the MBA's nine core knowledge modules, covering such practical business skills as accounting, finance, strategic marketing, decision and risk analysis, organisational behaviour and global economy, as well as a wide range of elective subjects, of which students must choose six, based on their personal interests and aspirations.

Fundamental expertise

The HKU MBA programme is supported by the university's Asia Case Research Centre, which develops case studies to keep students abreast of business practices in the region and facilitate class discussions and group projects.

"By the time they graduate, every students will have come cross more than 100 company cases across sectors and regions," says Mr Tipnis, explaining that the emphasis on practical examples, such as luxury brand Louis Vuitton's business strategy in Asia and the success of Asian company Lenovo in the global arena, helps to develop students' strategic-thinking and decision-making capabilities.

Full-time students can complete the programme in about 14 months, while part-time students, who have a choice of weekday evening classes in Admiralty or Saturday classes at the Hong Kong Cyberport, will need two to four years.

Multiple advantages

A key strength of the programme is that it integrates an international outlook with a strong focus on the dynamic and changing Asian business environment, and one of the objectives is to prepare students for future leadership positions.

"It's extremely important that business executives keep up with trends and issues in China, since the mainland is now one of the most important economies in the world," says Mr Tipnis. "It's equally important that they develop a global perspective, regardless of their professional fields and expertise."

The university therefore runs a four-week China immersion programme in Beijing to give its full-time MBA students a better understanding of business practices on the mainland before they start their learning in Hong Kong. This introduction also includes company visits, executive talks and an overview of the Chinese culture.

Close to 90 per cent of the full-time students in the programme, with an average age of about 28 and a median of five years' work experience, are from outside Hong Kong, Mr Tipnis points out. Most part-time participants are senior executives in their 30s, with an average of 10 years' work experience.

"Our partnerships with the London Business School and Columbia Business School in New York enable students to gain international and cultural exposure during four months of study at these two world-renowned institutions," Mr Tipnis notes. The HKU students have the valuable opportunity to study with their counterparts at the two business schools and to take advantage of all social and academic facilities.

One major benefit of the programme is that it offers students from diverse backgrounds the chance to network. With 100 years of history, the university has an outstanding alumni network in Asia and around the world.

"Students could meet up to 500 peers from different industries and nationalities through the programme. This helps them to expand their business networks and build relations with other top executives in the region. Every year, we have students with similar visions and business goals forming new ventures together," Mr Tipnis remarks.

Wide perspective

  • Executives must have all-round abilities
  • "Success skills" like business communication and leadership crucial
  • Case studies help develop strategic-thinking and decision-making capabilities

Taken from Career Times 14 January 2011, A12

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