Everything you need to know about doing an MBA in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is an exciting, unique study destination at the forefront of business, innovation, and finance. We spoke to insiders at the top business schools in Hong Kong to learn more about post-MBA career opportunities in the city, the challenges students face if they want to do an MBA in Hong Kong, and how the 2019-2020 political protests affected student life.

In short

Why Hong Kong is an attractive study destination for MBA students

There are several reasons why students are attracted to doing their MBA in Hong Kong

First, Hong Kong is a business hub and one of the largest financial hubs in the world. Many multinational companies have regional offices or headquarters based in Hong Kong, such as IBM, Estée Lauder, and FedEx. “That means the kind of opportunities that [students] are going to get in Hong Kong [and] the kind of learning that we’ll look at in Hong Kong, it’s going to be tremendous because an MBA is truly a journey. It’s an experience, not just confined to what happens in the classroom…but beyond that, and that’s where Hong Kong as a destination comes in,” says Sachin Tipnis, Senior Executive Director at HKU Business School. (02:26)

Second, “Hong Kong has a very flexible and talent-friendly visa policy,” Usilaner Li explains. Usilaner is the Manager of Marketing & Admissions for MBA Programs at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). This means “for all non-local, full-time students, once they finish their studies, they can apply for a visa for up to 12 months without any conditions, but then they can work in Hong Kong.” (01:15)

Hong Kong’s work visa policy for students “showcases that Hong Kong is open for talent,” Sachin declares. “It also showcases we want to retain the talent we are training – and this is a very important consideration for MBA students.” (03:35)

Third, Hong Kong is a safe and expat-friendly city. In fact, the city’s expat percentage of the population is one of the highest in the world. It doesn’t hurt that both English and Chinese are the official languages used in Hong Kong, making it easy for expats to live and work in the city. In terms of safety, Usilaner adds, “[For] ladies like me, if I want to go out late at night, it is still fine…So I would say Hong Kong is a very safe city to live in.” (01:59)

Four pillar industries in Hong Kong

“In Hong Kong, we have four pillar industries that provide great opportunities for employment,” Grace Liang, Executive Director of MBA Programs at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Business School, explains. (04:01) These industries are:

  1. Financial services. Among the 100 largest global banks, 70 have an office in Hong Kong.
  2. Trading and logistics. Located at the heart of Asia, Hong Kong bridges East with West. The largest among the four main economic pillars in Hong Kong, trading and logistics accounted for 19.8% of the city’s GDP in 2019.
  3. Tourism. While tourism was badly hit during the coronavirus pandemic, it remains one of the major pillars of the economy in Hong Kong. In 2018, tourism accounted for around 6.6% of total employment.
  4. Professional services. Hong Kong boasts a variety of business and professional services in fields like HR Consulting, Legal Services, and Sustainability. In 2019, 89% of total employment was taken up by the professional services sector.

Beyond these pillar industries, Grace adds that Hong Kong’s Greater Bay Area is “the heart for entrepreneurship and…family business in Hong Kong.” (06:15)

Usilaner also notes technology as an up-and-coming industry in the city. For example, in HKUST’s MBA Class of 2019, “33% of students landed jobs in technology,” Usilaner says. “In the past when we could still fly, Facebook would have someone flying from the Singapore office to our Hong Kong campus to recruit our students.” (06:57)

High living costs in a fast-paced city: Challenges of pursuing an MBA in Hong Kong

The biggest challenge students might face if they want to study in Hong Kong is the high living costs. While daily expenses are similar to other big cities around the world, Hong Kong’s housing costs make it one of the most expensive cities for expats.

To attract the best and brightest students to their MBA programs despite the high living costs, business schools in Hong Kong provide a range of options to make living in the city more viable. Through solutions like affordable on-campus housing and scholarships that cover up to 100% of tuition fees, MBA students can still consider Hong Kong a top study destination.

Besides cost, students might also face the challenge of adapting to an extremely fast-paced city. Sachin advises, “You need to make sure that your personality and your career goals are aligned to this kind of work culture or the way that Hong Kong moves…You need to really understand the local culture, local beliefs, local values, and that sometimes could be challenging – but if you’re able to do that, Hong Kong could be a great destination.” (08:06)

Grace adds, “[Students] have to really prepare for very intensive learning,” as they’ll be exposed to lots of networking events and student activities alongside their studies. Therefore, Grace urges students to “really plan ahead in terms of how to balance study, networking events, activities, etc. in order to make the most out of the program.” (09:04)

How did the Hong Kong protests affect student life?

Between June 2019 and November 2020, Hong Kong saw several months of pro-democracy protests over plans that would have allowed extradition from Hong Kong to mainland China.

As the protests became global news, we wanted to know how the Hong Kong protests impacted student life.

“Even at the peak of these demonstrations, it was very localized,” Sachin tells us. “It never spread to the extent that disruptions happened in our MBA students’ studies or in classrooms on-campus.” (13:39)

Usilaner says, “During the protests, we suggested that our students just stay away from those protest areas…Basically, our students have their studies as usual or some of the classes were taught online, like now [during] COVID-19. But I would say, after all, Hong Kong is a very safe city.” (12:48)

In short, despite the unrest, schools in Hong Kong are dedicated to protecting their students and delivering a great, safe experience for everyone.

What you need to know before arriving in Hong Kong

Before you embark on an exciting MBA adventure in Hong Kong, Usilaner, Grace, and Sachin would like to leave you with a few things to keep in mind:

“Hong Kong is a very multinational city…[and] our MBA program is also very multinational, which means you have a lot of stimulation from different cultures or people from different backgrounds,” Usilaner says. “So I would suggest [students] stay very open-minded [and] to look for opportunities not only in your desired industry, but also in other industries or even other locations.” (20:45)

“It is going to be very intensive learning,” Grace explains. “I would suggest to prepare for a great deal of hard work mentally. You will have courses, lectures, but [also] a lot of networking events [and] student-organized activities. Everything will keep you busy. At the [same time], there are a lot of professional workshops, more interviews and internship opportunities…So it is going to be a very busy life in Hong Kong.” (21:17)

Finally, Sachin emphasizes the unique work visa for MBA graduates in Hong Kong. “Hong Kong is open for talent, and that’s why [you] get [your] student visa converted into a work visa without any issue,” he says. Because this work visa isn’t connected to an employer, “this also means that it’s easy to start an entrepreneurial venture in Hong Kong because you have the visa in your name.” (22:08)

To sum it up, Hong Kong is an enticing study destination at the heart of Asia. As a major business and financial hub, students will find plenty of career opportunities across industries post-MBA. Leading business schools also provide sophisticated, cutting-edge curricula to set students up for success for doing business in Asia.

Watch the video below to find out how HKU Business School, HKUST, and CUHK set their students up for success in a flourishing region.

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