Opening the gateway to China

by Grace Chan

Lu Hai-tian, assistant professor, School of Accounting and Finance
program director, MSc in China Business Studies
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Photo: Dickie Tam

Knowledge is power—especially for conducting business on the mainland

China's sturdy economic growth presents foreign enterprises a world of opportunity. However, without an understanding of the breadth and depth of mainland's business environment and practice, success may be out of reach.

To equip business executives and aspiring students with practical skills and knowledge, the Graduate School of Business of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) offers a master of science (MSc) degree programme in China Business Studies. The programme comprises four elective subjects in addition to six mandatory ones that cover aspects from the mainland's business environment to managerial economics, business strategy, government policy and the legal system. Additionally, they will learn to develop qualitative and quantitative research skills essential to analysing various factors that affect business operations on the mainland.

Through the range of electives, students are exposed to topics including financial institutions and markets, foreign direct investment, foreign trade, human resource management, marketing, taxation management as well as accounting theory and practice. Students may also choose an elective course offered by the Department of Management and Marketing, Department of Logistics and Maritime Studies under the Graduate School of Business, and the Institute of Textiles and Clothing.

Field knowledge

One significant feature of the programme is a six-day China study tour during which students meet with regional government officials and large local enterprises to see first-hand the true business environment on the mainland. "Essentially, students benefit from the connections built during the tour as soon as they return to the workplace," notes Dr Lu Hai-tian, assistant professor, School of Accounting and Finance, and program director, MSc in China Business Studies, PolyU.

In addition to a network of mainland specialists, students reap the rewards of lasting relations with their peers and alumni, who possess a diverse academic and professional backgrounds.

Every year, a theme reflecting the relationship between government policies and regional development from different perspectives will be designed for the study tour. Guided by the teaching faculty, students conduct a research project due at the end of the semester.

"Students seeking further research training can choose to complete a research project in China business studies or to spend one year writing a dissertation on a specific topic," says Dr Lu.

The majority of the programme's teaching staff comprises experienced professors from both sides of the border as well as professionals who have worked in their home country as well as abroad in the business sector.

Aside from regular lectures, adjunct professors including top professionals and specialists as well as government officials are invited to deliver guest speeches. "Via these arrangements, students are given the opportunity to learn more about China directly from these key speakers from different areas," Dr Lu remarks.

Popular choice

Since its inception in 1998, the programme has been well received by local business professionals, particularly from the banking and finance, manufacturing and trading sectors that have close business ties to the mainland. "The number of applications has been surging in recent years because of the evolving market demands for China experts," he says.

Every year, a maximum of 50 students are admitted to the programme, while the number of applicants grows into the hundreds. With limited space, applicants are subject to a strict selection process.

"In addition to their academic background, short-listed candidates are interviewed on their dedication to complete the programme given their time constraints and, ultimately, their career goals," Dr Lu remarks.

Interested candidates should be prepared for an intensive programme with all classes scheduled on weekday evenings. Students are graded on coursework, assignments, a mid-term test and final exam.

According to Dr Lu, previous candidates had around seven years of full time work experience on average, and the university also considers applications from fresh graduates with good academic results. "Although a bachelor's degree or relevant professional qualifications are part of the admission criteria, applicants without a university degree will also be considered as long as they have proven work experience in China business," he adds.

The programme has been structured to allow the greatest possible flexibility. Students can complete it within 2.5 years with six compulsory and four elective subjects, while the maximum time allowed to obtain the qualification is five years. Students who complete seven subjects will earn a postgraduate diploma whereas those who complete four will be awarded a postgraduate certificate.

Taken from Career Times 19 March 2010, A8

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