Take a step further in executive careers

by Grace Chan

Thomas Sun
programme leader
The University of Birmingham's Executive MBA programme
School of Professional Education and Executive Development
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Photo: Nolly Leung

Globally recognised business qualification equips professionals with advanced skills and knowledge

Considering the large number of business administration programmes available in Hong Kong, prospective students need to assess three aspects of a programme before embarking on their studies: a programme's international ranking, accreditation and mode of teaching.

This is according to Thomas Sun, programme leader, the University of Birmingham's Executive MBA programme, School of Professional Education and Executive Development (SPEED), the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU).

"Business professionals who find an MBA qualification a prerequisite for career advancement should ensure that they enrol for a globally recognised programme that encompasses all necessary industry skills and knowledge," he notes.

The part-time executive MBA programme offered by SPEED, in collaboration with the University of Birmingham in the UK is an excellent choice for Hong Kong candidates. "All lecturers are experienced Birmingham Business School faculty members who travel from the UK to teach our classes at the PolyU campus," says Dr Sun.

This internationally recognised, quality-assured programme is accredited by the reputable Association of MBAs (AMBA); and the Birmingham Business School is accredited by European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS). The Financial Times business publication placed the programme 13th in the UK in its Global MBA Rankings 2010, while The Economist ranked it 11th in the UK. Furthermore, the University of Birmingham is ranked 10th in the UK in the 2010 QS World University Rankings.

High applicability

People that spend time and money on executive education expect more than simply an academic qualification. The University of Birmingham's academic committee regularly reviews the curriculum to ensure that it addresses the changing business landscape, says Dr Sun.

Currently, the programme comprises eight modules, covering a comprehensive range of skills and knowledge. In particular, five of these deal with traditional business disciplines, with the remaining focusing on analysing the international business environment and implementing management strategies.

This year's programme will incorporate case studies from Hong Kong and mainland China to increase its relevance in the Asian business scenario and, apart from classroom teaching, SPEED also plans to host seminars and talks where prominent business figures will address students on pertinent local and international issues.

Although the executive MBA schedule is intensive, the teaching mode is flexible, with each module to be completed within 12 weeks. Each module consists of 45 hours of lectures over 11 consecutive day-period in the first two weeks. This is followed by assessments including assignments and examinations.

"Students have ample time to prepare for the exam, sitting it the day before they start a new module," Dr Sun explains, adding that students tend to complete about four modules a year. Busy executives find that this teaching mode suits their working schedules, as classes are held on weekday evenings and over weekends.

Once the students have completed all eight modules, they are required to work on a 10,000- to 12,500-word dissertation, supervised by a university professor. The research for their thesis helps to develop their ability to put an analytical framework into practice.

New heights

A distinctive characteristic of the programme is that the students are guided to do a literature review, applying their research methods to collect data and to draw conclusions. "This takes their academic training to a different level," says Dr Sun, revealing that a workshop is being scheduled for the coming academic year, with the aim of strengthening the students' basic research skills before they begin writing their thesis.

To facilitate learning, SPEED provides the students with plenty of administrative support, from arranging textbooks and learning materials to setting up videoconferences with lecturers between teaching modules. In addition to getting access to the University of Birmingham's online library, students may also use the PolyU's main library.

"Most applicants are senior managers aged over 30 with eight to 10 years' experience in finance, accounting, supply chain management and other disciplines," says Dr Sun. "To foster close interaction between the teaching staff and students, we keep the class size to about 25 to 30 students," he adds.

Short-listed candidates are interviewed on their current job responsibilities and asked to explain how the knowledge and skills they expect to gain from the master's degree will benefit their employers and career developments.

Since networking is an important aspect of business, the Birmingham Business School arranges an annual alumni dinner for past graduates from the UK and Hong Kong. "The graduates could further expand their business network on this occasion. We also invite renowned guest speakers to address the gathering on current issues and to share their market insights," Dr Sun says.

Getting an edge

  • MBA qualification supports career advancement
  • Globally accredited programme widely recognised
  • Flexible teaching mode fits busy schedules
  • Research training a key feature

Taken from Career Times 12 November 2010, A8

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