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What Does The Hong Kong Protest Mean For MBA Students?

Protests have been going on in Hong Kong since June. But what does that mean for MBA students?

Fri Aug 23 2019

On Sunday August 18th over 1.7 million protesters flooded Hong Kong's Victoria Park.

The Hong Kong protest began almost two months ago, against a bill that would have allowed for extradition from Hong Kong to the mainland. However, more recently it has come to symbolise a wider pro-democracy movement against Chinese rule. 

Hong Kong is one of Asia's strongest financial hubs. With an overall value of over $3 trillion, the Hong Kong stockmarket is currently the world's fourth largest, behind only Japan, China, and the US. 

Businesses are now on edge, though. Alibaba, the Chinese tech giant, this week postponed its Hong Kong listing, citing the unrest. 

The region is also host to a number of business schools whose MBA graduates flood Asia's market. But what could the continued unrest mean for MBA students and graduates in the territory?

A strained relationship?

2019 is history repeating itself. In 2014, protesters demanded the right to elect their own leader in a series of demonstrations dubbed 'the umbrella movement'. 

The movement began with a student strike at Hong Kong University, and quickly spread. BusinessBecause contacted Hong Kong University's Faculty of Business and Economics, but they declined to comment.

Just five years later, today's protests show that Hong Kong's thirst for greater independence from China remains.

But the overall situation might be exaggerated or amplified by images in the mass media, thinks Dr Andrew Yuen, associate director of e-learning for MBA programmes at The Chinese University of Hong Kong Business School (CUHK).

"Hong Kong is so far generally stable, safe, and business as usual," he says.  

Andrew adds that there have been no special reactions from business school students. They're more interested in what is happening in the local community, he says. 

MBA students though, should know that the protests, alongside the US-China trade conflict, could have a negative impact on specific industries. Trading and logistics, banking and finance, says Andrew, could be at risk. 

"MBA students need to be equipped with all-rounded knowledge and skills. It will help them to be flexible enough and able to adapt from the short-term volatile economic situation in Hong Kong and overseas."

Career opportunities for MBA students in the region will remain strong, Andrew believes. 

Strong business ties between the mainland and Hong Kong are tantamount to the success of China's "go-out" national strategy, an initiative to encourage enterprises to invest overseas, alongside the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). 

"Industries like banking and finance, insurance, transportation and logistics, innovation and technology, and other professional services will be emphasized," says Andrew.

Have MBA applications been affected?

It's hard to say whether the unrest has had an impact or will have an impact on MBA application rates to business schools in Hong Kong. Andrew explains that their application cycle culminated in May, before the protests began. 

The region of China and Hong Kong has seen steady growth in application volumes in recent years though. 

A report by the Association of MBAs (AMBA) shows the average number of applications per school and program, respectively, at 1,230 and 432. That's a 5% increase in the average number of applications per school and a 6% increase in the number of applications per program compared to 2016.  

At Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), faculty are determined that programs should continue as usual.

"Campus safety has not been affected by recent incidents in Hong Kong," says a representative from HKUST's MBA office. 

"Our MBA students of the new intake have already arrived and started orientation activities," they report. 

There have been no drop-out or deferral requests either, the school adds, suggesting that incoming students have not been deterred by the protests. 

HKUST say that they endeavour to communicate with students and stakeholders, and will continue to monitor the situation closely.

It might not be until the next application cycle comes around that schools in the region see a dip in application volume. 

Long term impact

Despite the confidence expressed by local business schools, signs of an economic downturn are surfacing in the territory.

In recent months, Hong Kong's economic growth has slowed modestly. This quarter, the economy expanded by 0.5%, compared to 0.6% in the previous quarter.

The government's 2019 economic growth forecast has also been adjusted downwards from 2-3%, to 0-1%.

With disruption in the streets, Hong Kong's thriving tourism industry is one key area of concern. Accounting for 5% the territory's $454.9 billion GDP, a lack of visitors from the mainland could have a significant economic impact.

Mainland visitors make up 75% of Hong Kong's total tourists, and as Chinese forces amass near the border in Shenzhen, would-be tourists could be deterred.

For MBA students graduating this November, keeping a close eye on the situation will be essential. It is unclear whether the drop in Hong Kong's economic growth will prove temporary, or spiral into a recession that could significantly hinder job prospects in the area. 

However, for now at least, business schools in the territory are confident that the political unrest will not prevent them from running business as usual.

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.