To give business students a head start in their careers, the University of Hong Kong (HKU) places special emphasis on providing programmes that are diverse and challenging, and cultivate qualities needed in today's global environment.
As described by Dr Kevin Zhou, programme co-ordinator for the bachelor of business administration (BBA) in international business and global management (IBGM), two primary objectives guide decisions about course content, overseas exchanges, and opportunities for all-round development.
One is to enable students to understand the complexity of global business. It is not just about finance, strategy marketing and management, tallying the numbers and ensuring each part operates smoothly. These days, there are many extra dimensions, which require a better- than-passing knowledge of everything from international politics and economic systems to business law and social norms in other cultures.
The other key aim is to show how companies, whatever their size or sector, should recognise the need to contribute to the wider community. So, through a combination of coursework, projects and extra-curricular activities, the faculty is making sure students can adapt to a changing business environment and are ready to play a constructive role in society, as individuals.
"In response to the global financial crisis, we did a major redesign of the IBGM curriculum," Zhou says. "Starting from this year, we have introduced a double major, which allows students to take any other discipline - even sociology, politics or geographical science - depending on their interests and personal career objectives."
Also, on the principle that "learning by doing" is usually the fastest way to acquire new knowledge and skills, there is added emphasis on getting students out of the classroom and into the real world.
As examples, IBGM students are actively encouraged to take part in business case competitions. Financial support is available to attend international conferences or to cover basic expenses for volunteers on non-government organisation projects in rural China. Everyone taking the programme does one semester at a university overseas (there are 180 options to choose from). And students must do at least one summer internship, mainly to appreciate how things really happen in the workplace and get a clearer idea of their own career goals.
"It is important for all our students to have a global view and a taste of different cultures," Zhou says. "And next year, when the four-year programme starts, we are considering a second overseas exchange."
David Bishop, programme co-ordinator for the BBA in law, is overseeing another initiative. His basic task is to teach corporate law, business law and ethics. In so doing, he has seen the need - since the financial crisis - to spend more time on the ethical aspects of modern business, not just from a compliance standpoint, but also considering motivations, decision-making and moral psychology.
This has led to more focus in class on issues such as social entrepreneurship and what makes a good corporate citizen. And from there, the next logical step was to get more students directly involved in planning, running or advising not-for-profit organisations.
"The aim is to create opportunities at the local level to work with businesses geared to doing `good things'," Bishop says. "These are charitable and social ventures, and profits generated are used to keep the business alive."
Bishop cites one such initiative in Hong Kong in which the 20 students involved collect unused toiletries from hotels, and pass them on to poor communities across Asia.