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AI Is Changing Global Leadership—This Hong Kong MBA Can Help You Adapt

From diplomatic decisions to customer experience optimization, AI is popping up everywhere. At CUHK Business School in Hong Kong, MBAs are learning how to master it


Fri May 17 2019

Last year, it was reported that the Chinese government had started using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to make diplomatic decisions.

To some, this might be a sign of a bleak future where real people are at the mercy of robots. To others, however, it is a sign of the increasingly important role that AI is playing in management—and an indication of its potential in creating change.

“People can see that it’s the future,” says Dr Toa Charm, a professor at CUHK Business School in Hong Kong. “No matter whether it’s in the government or the commercial world, people are getting more and more serious about AI, and that will mean we’ll see more AI leaders as investors and also in companies.”

Dr Charm knows what he’s talking about: he has been working in tech innovation in Asia for more than 30 years, with international companies like HSBC and Oracle, and has been a professor at CUHK for a few years.

His focus in recent years has been Hong Kong’s startup ecosystem; in particular, getting MBAs involved in the rapid growth that the region is experiencing and helping them create long-term success.

Key to this is an understanding of the potential of disruptive technologies like AI—whether that’s their decision-making capabilities, as evidenced in the case of the Chinese government, or other uses, such as cutting costs, or identifying the preferences of customers.

“You have to teach both sides of AI”

On the CUHK MBA, students have the opportunity to participate in a suite of technology-focused courses that explore these topics, such as the Digital Breakthrough Strategies which teaches students how to lead in industries that are being disrupted by technologies.

However, as Dr Charm explains, essential to all of these courses is an even-handed approach, and he cautions his MBAs against forgetting the potential repercussions of the innovations they pursue.

“Rather than just making business or making money, students can make use of technology like AI to make a social impact,” he points out, suggesting environmental protection and financial inclusion initiatives that allows poorer people to get access to financial services.

“And, of course, they have to understand the potentially negative side of AI, such as people losing their jobs, or ‘discrimination by algorithm.’”

Tech considerations are built-in to the business ethics course at CUHK Business School, and for Dr Charm, this holistic attitude offers a helping hand in his mission to stimulate his MBAs, as well as the corporate partners he works with, to be more responsible when they are leveraging AI.

“You have to teach both sides,” he says. “How you might displace some of the staff [with AI technology], but how you can deploy those staff to do other jobs—how you can retrain them, reskill them to become AI literate. It’s all important to be an organization of the future.”

“Students will understand more about the challenges we face

Hong Kong is certainly a good environment to be learning these lessons. Together with the nearby Shenzhen, the region’s innovation and technology sector was ranked the world’s second-largest in 2018’s Global Innovation Index.

Not only that, but the growth of the startup ecosystem has been accelerating in the last few years, with a 16% increase in the number of startups between 2016 and 2017, and a 21% increase in startup employees in the same period.

On the CUHK Business School MBA, Dr Charm helps students to penetrate and get the most from this environment.

“I’m a professor of practice,” he explains, “so from my past 30 years in the industry I have all of these connections, whether they’re business leaders or tech leaders. 

“I invite them [to CUHK] as guest speakers to share their experience in the real world. I also brought in internship opportunities for the students and enabled them to make use of their innovative ideas to solve enterprises’ pain points.”

This privileged access to industry experts is a core part of the preparation that CUHK Business School gives its MBAs to enter an AI-disrupted world, and in combination with the school’s equal academic offering, Dr Charm believes that MBAs are well-placed to succeed in any industry, even disrupted ones.

“That’s the beauty of CUHK,” he says. “We have the academic people who continue to discover knowledge, but on the other hand we have professors of practice, people who are not directly from the academic field and are mostly from industries.

“Students will understand how to research and seek out new knowledge, but they will also understand more about the real world, and what kind of challenges we face.”

Student Reviews






One of a kind

I studied Bioinformatics at CUHK last year. It was the only Master's degree in Hong Kong in this field. This program developed my analytical skills and equipped me to be a Bioinformatician in a very practical way. I enjoyed my year here and met classmates from different parts of the world. If you are thinking to enhance your profile, this degree program would be a good option.




On Campus

general education courses, unique college system, large campus

The university facilitates multi-dimension and interdisciplinary learning. In social science faculty, we need to choose courses as our faculty package from other departments (architecture, psychology, sociology, etc.) to learn more than our major required courses. We are also required to finish general education courses, which aid our critical thinking and humanistic sensibilities. I do recommend the social science broad-based program, and the professors I met so far are all responsible and erudite.





The faculty of law is relatively new. You do not need to have a LLB to pursue a LLM, which is special. The taught programme is great for mature students who want to obtain legal knowledge. CUHK has good teaching staff too.




Amazing Campus and Great Educational Environment

Not only is CUHK's main campus breathtaking, it provides for a good educational environment for students. The university is well-equipped with modern and up-to-date facilities to help students with their study. We have 8 libraries in total around the campus; one for media, one for architectural studies, the medical library and the law library. The Professors are always helpful and are happy to talk to students when needed. Moreover, the college system within the university brings forth the uniqueness of CUHK. Each student belongs to a different college, and in that students are able to meet different peoples from different countries and students from different faculties. I think CUHK provides for a well-rounded university life for all students.





One of the most down to earth places in HK. A great opportunity to learn and embody the local culture. Also had one the most beautiful campus in Hong Kong up on the hillside. Glad to have graduated here.




Innovative and Supportive

My university provided me with all the support I needed, and encouraged me to be up to date with all the new developments in the world. They also provided me with the incentive to excel at what I do, and they take much pride in my achievements. I have had a very rewarding university experience.




Small, New But Friendly Law School

To being with, I think the campus of CUHK is the best and the biggest in Hong Kong, with fresh air and trees everywhere. I am an undergraduate Law student at CUHK and I think the teaching here is great, with very friendly and nice professors and the new Lee Shau Kee Building. In terms of the courses offered by CUHK, as one of the largest universities in Hong Kong, CUHK is an all-rounded university, offering a wide range of courses to students. Students may take the introductory courses of discipline other than their own major, or even declare a minor. For law electives, due to the small amount of intake, the variety of law electives are not that huge. However, the Faculty is offering some international programmes, which can be treated as law electives, but at the same time, provide us with an opportunity to travel and know more about the legal system of another country. The career support from the Faculty of Law is also amazing. The Faculty will organise CV Sessions and talks on how to get an internship from law firms or mini-pupillage from barrister's chambers. Each student will also have a Distinguished Professional Mentor, which is a current legal profession, providing us with practical advices and updates of the legal field. Finally, from my personal experience, I think the students in CUHK are friendly and genuine. As Law students, competition is inevitable for grades, GPAs, vacation schemes and training contract. However, I think the competition in CUHK Law School is a positive one, in a sense that help us grow together, instead of fighting with each other no matter what. That is the biggest reason why I am having a very good time here in CUHK Law School.




A place to explore your interests

As a law graduate from CUHK (both undergrad and post-grad), I realise that I had many opportunities to explore my areas of interests (legal and non-legal both). The faculty/university requires us to take a certain number of non-law electives, and offers a plethora of courses to choose from. Personally, I took 3 modules in Korean --I can't say it's made me highly proficient, but it's definitely given me a good foundation (I can walk into a Korean restaurant and confidently order food, at the very least). The fact that language courses are offered also provides students who are more financially constrained an opportunity to learn a language without having to shell out a premium for a decent language course. On top of that, we have a range of law electives as well. I know of classmates who have developed lasting interest in different areas of law because of the electives they took in school. The two electives that I would say have changed me is (i) mooting and (ii) family law. I think my experience in an international commercial arbitration moot competition has helped tremendously in formulating legal arguments and legal writing. On the other hand, taking a family law elective has made me very interested in the family law practice, especially in terms of child rights. For these experiences which I have gained, I'm grateful for the opportunities provided by the school. One main issue most students I know have is with the way our GPA is calculated and the lack of transparency in terms of how the honours system works. As our GPA is marked on a curve. it's highly unrepresentative of what we have achieved as individuals. Given that our GPA is the only criteria that is looked at when we apply for the compulsory post-graduate law course (mandatory should we want to practise law and/or be trainees in Hong Kong), it will put our own students at a distinct disadvantage when we compete for limited spaces with students from schools where GPA is not on a bell curve.




On Campus

Valuable time in CUHK

I like the learning environment and people at CUHK. Surrounded by hills and Tolo Harbour, CUHK provides a balance between nature and hustle. You can always escape from the busy study life and meet your friend around the big campus for different activities.