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Weighing the virtues of HK versus Shanghai

Published on Friday, 28 Sep 2012
Dr Luk Yim-fai

China's economy continues to grow and - despite predications that this year won't be as good as the last - there is still room for the economy to develop. This means there is still room for businesses to expand too.

But even if there is a downturn in the economy, as many people predict, an MBA is not just for the short term. There will always be demand for those with business training and expertise.

Are enough MBA students graduating from business schools on mainland China to meet demand? One indicator would be proof that MBA graduates are getting offers of decent jobs at decent salaries.

In our programme at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), we increase our tuition fees from time to time, and our competitors are doing the same. But we still get a lot of applications each year, admitting about 260 students.

Since students on this programme are studying part-time, most don't change jobs when they graduate. Instead, they remain with the same company but get promoted.

Another question is whether a foreign student wanting to pursue a career on the mainland should do an MBA there or in Hong Kong. It depends on how aggressive and flexible that person is. For someone from the West who has never been to Asia, Hong Kong might be the better option, as it is easier to adjust to and English is more widely spoken. The institutions here would also be more familiar.

Hong Kong's economy is based on finance and trade, and there is practically no industry. So for students interested in finance or trade, Hong Kong offers an edge over Shanghai.

If that person is both aggressive and adaptable, however, Shanghai might offer more opportunities. Its economy is based on a broader range of industries than Hong Kong's and there is both heavy industry and manufacturing.

For someone from Hong Kong wanting to pursue a career on the mainland, it would depend on whether they could afford to take a year off work to pursue an MBA full-time. If they do an MBA in Hong Kong, they can continue to work.

Unless their company is willing to relocate them to Shanghai, however, the cost of doing a full-time degree there would be high.

Dr Luk Yim-fai is associate dean of Special Projects and the International MBA (IMBA) at the University of Hong Kong (HKU). His first degree was in economics from the University of Chicago in the United States. He received a PhD in economics from Cornell University, also in the US.

As told to Michael Taylor

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