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FINANCIAL SERVICES | Krisana Gallezo-Estaura, Hong Kong
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Hong Kong's 20 largest MBA programmes in 2016

An MBA is still advantage, but maybe not as much as it used to be.

For Hong Kong professionals planning to get an MBA in the hopes that it will fast-track their fledgling career, their investment may yield underwhelming returns. Recruitment experts reckon an MBA is becoming a commodity in the territory, and that employers are putting more emphasis on work experience than a shiny master’s degree in business administration, eroding the bargaining power of MBA graduates unless they came from top schools with strong alumni networks or have developed expertise in mainland China.

“As more higher institutions offer MBA programmes and more professionals hold such qualifications, an MBA is no longer a guarantee for a big jump in salaries or managerial positions,” says Matthew Bennett, managing director – Greater China at Robert Walters.

“In Hong Kong, hiring managers generally value work experience more than someone who holds an MBA degree. An MBA degree is seldom a pre-requisite for positions across middle management and below,” he adds.

Bennett also explains that an MBA does not immediately guarantee a pot of salary gold, especially in Hong Kong where experience is very highly prized.

Jack Lee, president of the Hong Kong MBA Toastmasters Club, reckons in recruiting senior level managers earning at least HK$100,000 a month, an MBA is viewed merely as a nice-to-have that complements the far more critical employee asset: Industry experience.

When evaluating candidates, Hong Kong employers seem to consider previous and current employers, regional exposure and team size as far more important than an MBA. But for employers that do hire MBA graduates, the perceived prestige of the school comes into play, so a graduate looking to raise his hiring prospects will want to enroll in more esteemed institutions instead of just any MBA school.

“Branding of the schools is very critical to the point that the interviewers would associate the profiles of the graduates from that school with the interviewees,” says Lee. But then again, there is increasing hesitation to enroll in such expensive prestigious programmes as sectors that have traditionally clamored for MBA graduates face headwinds, says Richard Hanson, co-founder and CEO of Jobable.

“The financial services and consulting industries have tended to be the biggest hirers of MBA graduates in Hong Kong and also been some of the biggest and most consistent payers of high salaries and total compensation,” says Hanson.

Hanson observes a shift in the opportunities available to MBA graduates from the financial services sector to other industries such as technology.

Who made it to HKB’s list?

Hong Kong Business’ annual list of HK’s largest MBA programmes based on total number of current students enrolled in the course is now on its third year. Data compiled from MBA providers show the basic information that potential students should know including the programme’s minimum cost, duration and number of intakes per year. The list welcomes 4 new entries - HKUST EMBA for Chinese Executives, HKUST MBA for Professionals, KelloggHKUST Executive MBA Program, and The University of Hong Kong EMBA-Global Asia.
 

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