University to tighten entry requirements as demand surges

by Ada Poon

Samuel Chan
associate professor
School of Accounting and Finance
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Photo: Nolly Leung

As alarms on compliance and risk management continue to ring, academia foresees substantial growth in the demand for post-graduate training on corporate governance

According to Samuel Chan, associate professor, school of accounting and finance, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the number of applications for the university's part-time master of corporate governance (MCG) programme has increased every year since its launch in 2004.

As the demand grows, the programme sees more and more students coming from middle and senior management. For example, the students of the 2007 intake had on average 10 years' work experience, and hold middle to senior management positions such as managing director, CEO, general manager, company secretary, HR manager, accounting manager, barrister, legal or compliance manager and finance manager in different business sectors, as well as from the government or quasi-government organisations.

"In most companies the compliance responsibility lies with the company chief, company secretary or the financial head," says Dr Chan.

It should also be remembered that corporate governance involves stakeholders across all areas, including the board of directors, management, investors, employees, the government and the regulatory authorities, Dr Chan notes.

"We aim to equip corporate administrators with the necessary knowledge in auditing, managerial accounting and controls, financial reporting, corporate and tax laws and strategic management, so that they can comply with the regulatory obligations in finance and accounting and manage their companies effectively for the best interest of their stakeholders," he adds.

Aside from effective policies, strategies and an efficient organisational structure, Dr Chan believes the quality of management is another critical success factor for good corporate governance. "First and foremost, the management must recognise the need for corporate governance and operate the business with high standards of integrity and ethics," he stresses.

International discourse

Recognising differences in business cultures and practices between Hong Kong and China, the MCG programme provides various comparative modules to help students acquire a better understanding of how business practices, trade policies, economics, law, and local practices vary.

A compulsory subject on "contemporary issues in corporate governance" will also be offered to address the dynamic nature of corporate sector reform in Hong Kong, China and the international market. Besides local lecturers, faculty staff from the UK and US will be invited to explore the subject, enabling students to broaden their horizons.

The MCG programme emphasises practicality and application in real situations. While students learn directly from lecturers with strong field experience and academic achievements, guest speakers are invited to deliver talks on specific topics to bring into focus different perspectives and professional practices. Students are also required to participate in tutorials for specific subjects to conduct in-depth discussions.

"The subjects cover a broad spectrum of disciplines that make up the interdisciplinary nature of corporate governance," Dr Chan notes. "Upon completion of the programme, we expect the students to have sound knowledge in all areas relating to corporate governance, analytical and decision-making skills, as well as the competencies demanded by professional bodies. We hope they can leverage the knowledge to effectively participate in the planning, implementation and monitoring of corporate financial policies and strategies."

Quality education

Originating as a post-graduate diploma programme in 1996, the programme was upgraded to a master's degree to meet the increased qualification requirements for members of the Hong Kong Institute of Chartered Secretaries (HKICS) and the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA).

Students are required to complete nine compulsory subjects and one elective subject in two years, or a maximum study period of four years. Graduates of the programme may be eligible for full exemptions from the examination requirements of the HKICS and the ICSA.

Survey results indicate that graduates found the programme useful. For instance, a senior auditor in a local bank became the bank's manager of legal and compliance after completing the studies.

Despite the rise in the number of applications, Dr Chan reveals that the school plans to reduce the size of the next intake. "We have 91 students in 2008 and will cut down our next intake by about 10 per cent. Quality is important in business administration, and we believe smaller classes will bring better benefits for our students," he explains. "We are mindful about the student combination throughout the selection process. It is important to admit students from diverse backgrounds and encourage them to interact and share ideas. We also provide numerous social opportunities for our alumni to mingle."

Applicants should posses at least a bachelor's degree in business or related disciplines from a recognised university, or other equivalent qualifications. They should also have studied basic accounting and law or business law at undergraduate level.

Key notes

  • Corporate governance involves stakeholders across all areas
  • Curriculum designed to help students to comply with regulatory obligations
  • Comparative studies investigates Hong Kong and mainland China systems
  • Student profile expected to facilitate idea exchange and effective learning

Taken from Career Times 16 January 2009, p. A9
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