Hong Kong is well on its way to becoming an international wine hub thanks to the government's decision to abolish duty on wine in 2008. This has created a huge demand for professionals in the wine trade. It prompted the University of Hong Kong's School of Professional and Continuing Education (HKU Space) to partner with the prestigious Bordeaux Management School (BeM) to introduce the Wine MBA programme.
The programme, which costs Euro19,500 (HK217,517), is the first of its kind in Asia-Pacific. It was initially introduced at BeM in 2001. It aims to equip wine managers with the management acumen, market insights and leadership skills necessary to handle the complexities of the wine trade.
Daniel Yan Ting-kwan, director of the programme, says: "To turn Hong Kong into a regional wine hub, waiving import duties of wine is not enough. The key is to develop competent human resources and a local wine culture, which is the goal of the course. I hope our graduates will be able to cultivate the wine culture in Hong Kong with their knowledge."
The course taught in Hong Kong is not identical to the one from France. Local features have been added to cater for students here.
"We have got professional advice from wine practitioners and experts from the mainland to add local flavour to the course," Yan says. "The course is delivered in English as opposed to being taught in French in Bordeaux. This has opened the door for students from Asia who do not necessarily know French."
Apart from adding local features, the delivery mode of the course has been altered to fit the busy schedule of Hongkongers. The programme in France consists of seven 15-day workshops in Bordeaux, Australia and the United States. This arrangement does not suit Hongkongers, who spend so much time at work.
For this reason, most of the Hong Kong classes will be held at the HKU Space campus on weekends and include two 10-day trips to Bordeaux.
The two visits to France will be valuable experience for students as they get to see what the wine industry is like. "In France the best chateaus only welcome wine academics and experts," Yan says. "Through the programme our students will be able to visit these chateaus. Moreover, students will get to know wine practitioners, who are an important network that they need to develop if they want to have a share in the wine industry."
Teaching staff include those from BeM, practitioners in the wine industry and MBA academics.
Yan says he is surprised by the diversity of the applicants for the programme. "Initially, I thought all the applicants would be from the wine industry but I have got medical doctors and people from the finance and hospitality sectors applying," he says. "There are also business people who hope to branch out into a new field by trading wine in their organisations. It is really a good mix. Students will be able to bring new insights to the wine industry from other fields, which is great."
Applicants should ideally have a bachelor's degree in a business-related discipline and at least five years of working experience, preferably in the wine sector. The entrance test will require applicants to answer questions about their passion and vision for the wine industry. "Applicants for the course must love wine," Yan says. "We hope to recruit people who are motivated in contributing to the wine industry.
"The wine business in Hong Kong may still be in the initial stages but is very promising with loads of potential. Developing [the] wine industry in Hong Kong is not merely about [raising] consumption." According to Yan, the cultivation of a wine culture is the key.
"Trading wine produced on the mainland to other places is a big business that is yet to be explored. There are plenty of opportunities for our graduates and the course is a platform for students to get into the industry."
The part-time programme, which takes 22 months to complete, begins later this month. The graduation ceremony will be at a chateau in Bordeaux.
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