Preparing for a new dispensation

by Isabella Lee

Mark Williams, associate head and professor of law
School of Accounting and Finance
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Photo: Courtesy of PolyU

Postgraduate qualification helps professionals come to grips with new competition legislation

The enactment of mainland China's first comprehensive competition law in mid 2008 and a proposed new policy in Hong Kong are expected to transform the business environment on both sides of the border.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has therefore launched a Master of Arts in Competition Law and Economics (MACLE) programme to equip legal practitioners and other professionals for the changes ahead.

The inaugural programme will provide a theoretical basis and provide insights into the economic, political and institutional consequences of the implementation of the legislation. The curriculum will also illustrate the principles behind competition law in developed jurisdictions, as well as its effectiveness in both developed and developing economies. MACLE graduates should be well equipped to advise private clients, employers and government agencies on relevant competition-related issues.

Lawyers, professional advisers and in-house legal practitioners involved with the mainland's anti-monopoly law and Hong Kong's proposed competition legislation will particularly gain from the programme, says Mark Williams, associate head and professor of law, School of Accounting and Finance, PolyU. "But we welcome individuals in all types of business and commerce," he adds.

Civil servants working for the new competition authority or regulatory bodies dealing with public services such as electricity provision and transportation will also benefit.

Bridging the gap

The MACLE programme is not a pure law degree, Professor Williams explains. It incorporates economics subjects, giving students with legal backgrounds the necessary insights into this field, while learners from other sectors get the opportunity to understand the impact of the new competition law on their business activities.

"It's a programme that combines both law and economics because competition law has an economic basis," he notes. "The discipline is common in the US, Europe and Australia, but not in Hong Kong, as there has up to now been no incentive to study it."

Following the recent legal changes, however, it has become important for people in Hong Kong and on the mainland to increase their skills and knowledge.

The programme is as yet unparalleled in Hong Kong and mainland China and comprises modules on competition policy, law, regulations and economics. Although it is conducted locally, the content and structure are on a par with the best international standards.

It aims to critically assess and utilise the accumulated knowledge and experience of established jurisdictions, putting this in the context of the mainland, Hong Kong and East-Asian environments that the majority of students are recruited from.

Expert academic guidance

Professor Williams says that the majority of MACLE students will comprise experienced professionals who need to manage a busy work schedule. Following detailed research, the university has therefore come up with a special teaching arrangement that prompts students to get the most out of their studies.

While most Hong Kong-based master's programmes require students to attend classes two evenings a week, the MACLE programme focuses on "block teaching", minimising the amount of time students are kept away from the office.

Half the programme consists of traditional face-to-face lectures, taking place over eight long weekends—five in the first year and three in the second. The remaining will be delivered via various online channels, such as podcasts and interactive discussion forums. Students are given easy access to the material regardless of their location.

"This teaching method will attract quality students from the mainland, Vietnam, Singapore and other countries in the region, who will be able to travel to Hong Kong for the face-to-face component. This aspect is also important for building camaraderie between classmates," Professor Williams points out.

The MACLE teaching team is made up of PolyU lecturers and experts from China, the US, Europe, Japan and Australia, as well as international academic partners of the Asian Competition Law and Economics Centre (ACLEC) led by Professor Williams who possess more than 15 years of experience in competition law.

The ACLEC, a unit of PolyU, was established to promote world-class teaching, research, training and consultancy related to competition policy, law and economics, collaborating with renowned partner institutions and experts around the world.

Each MACLE subject will be co-taught by an ACLEC partner and a PolyU lecturer, giving students access to a wide range of expertise. While in Hong Kong, ACLEC partners will also take the opportunity to conduct research projects.

There is no set quota for the number of students accepted to the MACLE programme and Professor Williams believes that its user-friendliness, mix of programme content and the strong team of international academic staff will attract a large number of quality applicants.

New order

  • New master's programme to provide insights into the consequences of new legislation
  • Graduates equipped to advise clients, employers and agencies on competition-related issues
  • Students hail from diverse business backgrounds
  • Strong academic team comprises local lecturers and international experts

Taken from Career Times 15 January 2010, A15

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