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Overseas universities must bolster local ties

Published on Friday, 07 Sep 2012
Linda Yeung

I heard a refreshing remark at a recent luncheon. Professor Dame Joan Stringer, principal and vice-chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University, said of her institution’s provision of programmes in Hong Kong: “It is not an imperialist approach. We will only be successful if what we offer is what people want.”

With Hong Kong a growing education hub, there is no stopping the trend of transnational education – overseas institutions offering courses here independently or in collaboration with local partners. As competition among institutions increases, so does the need for them to offer tailor-made courses.

As one of the largest overseas education providers in Hong Kong with an annual enrolment of 3,000 students, Edinburgh Napier is stepping up its ties with employers and the local community to identify the right niches. One example is its executive-education courses aimed at honing leadership skills. Stringer also sees room for expansion for its consultancy expertise in executive education and efficient, effective business operations. The institution is in talks with two large corporations to develop leadership training programmes for middle management.

Practical training that deals with real-life issues is of much value in today’s business world. “We work with the private sector and businesses, and focus on trying to deliver practical outcomes to their challenges and problems,” Stringer said during a recent visit. “Until recently it has been about universities coming in and delivering programmes. Now, universities have got to be more embedded in the country they are operating in, understand more and exchange their expertise with local institutions, businesses and other organisations.”

Her institution is hoping to have a permanent physical presence here, she added, an indicator of the importance of the Hong Kong market.

Other institutions – either local or based overseas – will certainly not miss out on the rising demand for practical training in this region. This will prompt an increased provision of specialist MBAs – programmes that equip students with specialist knowledge such as accounting in addition to management. General knowledge alone may not be enough for tackling complex and often cross-boundary issues in future.

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s new one-year Master of Science in International Management is another example of a specialist course, one that equips fresh graduates with both practical experience and international exposure.

There can be numerous other offerings. A curriculum shaped by regular exchanges with employers is always important. It ensures that answers to the latest business issues are sought and class discussions are brought up to date with fresh insights. After all, education is an evolving business, and that applies not only to the business discipline.

Linda Yeung is the Post’s education editor, a veteran journalist who studied in Hong Kong and abroad.

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