Part-Time MBA Programs in Hong Kong: Refreshing Careers in Asia

Flexible programs in the financial center appeal to working professionals in the city and beyond

One of the world's top financial centers, Hong Kong is growth-oriented and often frenetic. For working professionals in the city, this combination can make it hard for locals to take two years off to do a full-time MBA program.

“People in Hong Kong are concerned about the high opportunity costs of going to a full-time program,” says Lawrence Chan, the director of marketing and student recruiting for MBA programs at the Chinese University of Hong Kong's CUHK Business School. 

“Especially, you have to let go of two years' worth of salary.”

For those who do want to advance their careers but don't want to put their careers on hold, there are a few internationally-accredited part-time MBA programs in Hong Kong that are designed to mesh with busy schedules. In the part-time programs at both CUHK and the University of Hong Kong (HKU), students can opt for either weeknight or weekend classes. Similarly, students in HKUST's part-time program take classes all day on Saturdays.

Students generally finish these part-time MBA programs in two years, although this can be flexible. “Some students would maybe elect to extend their studies to between 2.5 and 3 years,” says CUHK's Chan, “because they sometimes find it quite high-pressure, and sometimes they might get a big project so they need to suspend their studies.”

The flexible course delivery options appeal to a variety of students. Participants in HKU's weeknight option are mainly students “working in Hong Kong,” says Sachin Tipnis, HKU's executive director of MBA programs. Participants in the program come from a range of industries, including the city's large financial sector as well as its luxury and retail operations.

However, in the weekend mode, “a majority of our students actually come from neighboring cities, like Shenzhen and Macau,” Tipnis says.

Indeed, weekend classes are appealing to students from all over the region, simply because many parts of southern China do not yet have MBA programs with the same quality and international reputation as those in the former British colony.

“There are some people who travel from Shenzhen to Hong Kong for the program,” says Pauline Cheung, HKUST's manager of marketing and admissions for MBA programs. “It's feasible because Shenzhen is quite close to Hong Kong.” (The two cities are connected by rail.)

And some students actually come a longer way for their MBA. “We have probably two or three students this year, they fly over to Hong Kong from Shanghai,” Cheung notes.

“But it's a very rare case and it's actually not encouraged,” she adds.

Not “MBA Lite”

The part-time MBA programs in Hong Kong are not lightweight versions of their full-time counterparts. In terms of curriculum, students in Hong Kong part-time options generally take the same courses as their full-time equivalents, adjusting for the specific needs of working professionals.

For these working professionals, an MBA program can be valuable because it exposes them to new concepts that they may have not encountered in their previous studies. This can be especially important for professionals who are working in the financial sector, which has been changing rapidly in Hong Kong and the rest of the region, due to China's economic reforms as well as the financial crisis. For instance, “risk management now is such a big thing in this part of the world,” says HKU's Sachin Tipnis, “which is probably something they didn't study in their undergraduate days, or even in their work as such.”

“So these new subject areas, this new knowledge is what they're getting.”

A part-time MBA can also help working professionals explore specific topics in detail. In CUHK's part-time MBA program, participants have the option of selecting one of four concentration areas: China Business, Entrepreneurship, Finance, or Marketing – the same options that are available to students in CUHK's full-time MBA.

The main difference between the full- and part-time MBA programs in the city tends to be in student expectations for extracurrculars and career support.

In HKUST's part-time program, “most of the core courses are similar to the full-time program,” says Pauline Cheung. The biggest difference, she says, “is that most of the full-time students will have lots of activities, like student clubs and enrichment talks and career services over the whole year.”

But part-time students, who are usually working while they study, don't really have the time for student clubs, and they have a relatively lower requirement for career service support.

Lower demand for career service support mainly reflects the career goals of part-time MBA participants. Rather than wanting to make drastic shifts in industry or functional roles, part-timers tend to advance from a narrower function into a more general-management role, usually in the same industry and sometimes even with the same company.

“Proportionally, you will see more part-time students remaining in their career track,” than full-time students (after graduation), says CUHK's Lawrence Chan.

“Of course, they'd be expecting promotions,” he adds.

Photo credits:

Central Hong Kong From a Boat - Hankt / Creative Commons

HK Central Pedder Street Crosswalk LV Citibank Bus Taxi - DDMLL / Creative Commons

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