HKUST MBA Deepdive with AdCom: Admissions, Academics, Careers & Insider insights

By Arvind Kumar

Established in 1991, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) is a leading university located in Hong Kong, the international center that is right at the doorstep of the world’s second largest economy, China. 

HKUST Business School is ranked No. 2 in Global Young Universities on the Times Higher Education (2023), and its MBA is ranked the 1st MBA Program in the Asia Pacific by Bloomberg Businessweek

The class size of the HKUST MBA 2023 cohort is over 200, which includes both part-time and full-time students. For the full-time MBA cohort, the average age is 29, with an average pre-MBA experience of 6 years (ranging from 2 to 11 years). Approximately 87% of the full-time cohort consists of non-local students, representing multiple nationalities from various parts of Asia, Europe, North America, and other regions. Women comprise 41% of the cohort.

While there is no official GMAT cutoff score, candidates can reference the average GMAT score for the HKUST full-time MBA class which is 660, and discuss their personal situation with a HKUST admissions advisor.

Mandy Lee from HKUST Business School
Mandy Lee, Acting Head, Marketing & Admissions

HKUST MBA’s global alumni network includes 6200+ members across 70 nationalities. The program’s rigorous academic approach, world-class faculty, emphasis on consulting, finance and entrepreneurship, and experiential learning opportunities make it a top choice for those seeking a global perspective in business education.

Arvind Kumar (Founder of admitStreet) interviewed Mandy Lee (Acting Head of Marketing & Admissions, HKUST Business School MBA Programs) to cover topics ranging from the HKUST MBA admissions process, to academics, careers, financing/ scholarships and other lesser-known aspects of the program. 

Q&A with Mandy Lee, Acting Head of Marketing & Admissions, HKUST MBA

Intro and Hong Kong

admitStreet: What are some of the interesting facts about the HKUST MBA program that you’d want applicants to know?

Mandy: At HKUST, we develop aspiring leaders to transform them into extraordinary realities. With a renowned faculty, cutting-edge resources, and a vibrant community, we prepare our students for a lifelong journey of achievement and contribution.

Here’s some of the highlights:

Thrilling Case Competitions: Immerse yourself in stimulating case competitions that go beyond the classroom. These challenges will test your problem-solving abilities, foster teamwork, and allow you to showcase your strategic thinking skills. It’s an exhilarating way to apply your knowledge in real-world scenarios.

Enhancing Professional Skills (EPS): Our flagship elective, EPS, is designed to equip our students with senior-level business presentation skills. You’ll develop the ability to communicate complex ideas effectively, captivate diverse audiences, and leave a lasting impact in professional settings.

Exchange Program: Broaden your horizons through our Exchange Program, which allows you to immerse yourself in diverse academic and cultural experiences at renowned partner universities worldwide. Expand your international perspective, build lasting connections, and gain a truly global MBA experience.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship: At HKUST, we value the transformative power of science, technology, and entrepreneurship. Our Entrepreneurship Center provides a dynamic ecosystem where aspiring entrepreneurs can nurture their ideas, access resources, and receive guidance from experienced mentors. It’s a hub for innovation and a catalyst for turning ideas into successful ventures.

admitStreet: Tell us about Hong Kong as a geography. How do internationals (at HKUST) adapt to the living experience e.g. do they live on-campus?

Mandy: HKUST is characterized by a blend of the East and the West. As an international business hub, Hong Kong offers excellent exposure to global business within an Asian context. 

Some of our MBA students enjoy living in neighboring areas around campus, like Tseung Kwan O, Hang Hau, Po Lam, and Sai Kung (10-15 minutes away from campus on public transportation). The proximity allows them to actively engage in social life with classmates on campus.

The price range for an apartment in these areas is HK$16,000-25,000 per month and students often find roommates with other MBA students to bring the cost down.

Some enjoy living in the downtown area, which provides easy access to dining and shopping as well as our downtown learning center in Central, where our weekday evening electives are held. The price range for a studio apartment/suite downtown is HK$15,000–35,000 per month.

HKUST MBA Admissions Process

Photo caption: HKUST MBA Campus Building

admitStreet: Could you decode the process of how HKUST MBA applications are evaluated. What are the steps involved from when an application is received to when a final decision is rendered?

Mandy: Our application process is similar to other top MBA programs. Candidates are required to complete an online application form, which includes sections for work experience, essay questions, references, prior education, and test results.

Once we receive a complete submission, our admissions team will notify shortlisted candidates about interview arrangements within two weeks. Application results will be released in three to four weeks following an interview through phone and email notifications. 

Our application deadlines are listed here

admitStreet: What advice do you have for applicants from competitive demographic pools (e.g. Indian Male) or a less conventional background (e.g. low GPA/ GMAT)? How can they make their application stand out?

Mandy: We seek candidates who demonstrate exceptional potential and a commitment to pursuing excellence, aspiring to become visionary future business leaders with a lasting impact on the international stage. 

To cultivate a diverse and enriching learning environment within our cohort, we admit students with a wide range of cultural and professional backgrounds. Each application undergoes a holistic review, providing numerous areas for candidates to focus on.

Our program boasts a rigorous curriculum, necessitating certain academic standards in candidates to ensure the quality of learning and class experience. However, we also consider other aspects of a candidate’s application profile.

Achievements such as rapid career advancement or a compelling reference from a work supervisor serve as strong testimonials of a candidate’s professional capabilities.

Clearly articulating motivation and career goals is another essential aspect to help our students maximize the benefits of our MBA programs and achieve successful post-graduate outcomes.

We recommend that applicants reflect on their career journeys, preparing thoughtfully for essay questions and interviews to provide the admission committee with a comprehensive understanding of themselves.

admitStreet: Tell us about the interview process once a candidate is shortlisted. Who conducts the interviews, and what are the key aspects being evaluated? 

Mandy: The interviews are often conducted by members of the admissions committee, which can include faculty members, alumni, or admissions officers. These individuals are typically experienced in evaluating MBA candidates and have a good understanding of the program’s requirements and objectives.

During the interview, several key aspects are typically evaluated to assess the candidate’s suitability for the MBA program. These aspects may include:

  1. Communication and interpersonal skills: The interviewer will assess the candidate’s ability to articulate their thoughts clearly, listen actively, and engage in effective communication. Strong interpersonal skills are also important, as MBA programs emphasize teamwork and collaboration.
  2. Leadership potential: The interviewer may inquire about the candidate’s leadership experiences and evaluate their potential to become effective leaders. They may ask about past leadership roles, challenges faced, and the candidate’s approach to motivating and inspiring others.
  3. Motivation and goals: The interviewer will likely explore the candidate’s motivations for pursuing an MBA and their career goals. They may inquire about the candidate’s short-term and long-term aspirations, and how an MBA aligns with those objectives.
  4. Analytical and problem-solving abilities: MBA programs require strong analytical and problem-solving skills. The interviewer may present hypothetical business scenarios or case studies to assess the candidate’s ability to think critically, analyze information, and propose effective solutions.
  5. Fit with the program: The interviewer may assess the candidate’s fit with the MBA program and the school’s culture and how the candidate believes they can contribute to the program’s community.

It’s important for candidates to prepare for these interviews by researching the program, reflecting on their experiences, and practicing their responses to common interview questions. 

Additionally, candidates should be prepared to ask thoughtful questions about the program and demonstrate their enthusiasm for the MBA opportunity.

HKUST MBA Academics

HKUST Business School Campus
Photo caption: HKUST Campus View

admitStreet: There is an option to complete the program in 12 or 16 months. What are the key differences between the two variants, and what factors should candidates consider while choosing?

Mandy: Generally speaking, we encourage all full-time students to consider the 16-month mode over the 12-month option as it allows the maximum capacity for an individual to immerse oneself into the MBA learning journey.

The 16-month mode is designed for our career changers. It provides a chance to do an international exchange program i.e. you will have the opportunity to participate in an optional full-term or half-term overseas exchange at one of our partner schools worldwide, or continue your final semester in Hong Kong, with additional time for networking with our alumni, participating in student clubs, and engaging in a part-time internship, which are all critical to find jobs in Hong Kong or Asia. 

admitStreet: How is the curriculum structured to ensure rigor and relevance, despite the shorter duration (i.e. compared to the 2 year US-MBA)?

Mandy: Our program is a challenging one, but we also encourage a student culture that is very supportive and helps each other.

Your HKUST MBA journey begins with an immersion/ orientation program including career and leadership training workshops and online accelerator workshops such as Deep Learning in Python and Data Analysis etc.

The core curriculum provides cross-functional leadership insights. You can further tailor your study plan to align with your career aspirations and interests from a wide range of elective courses. Electives constitute around 60% of your total course credits.

The credit-bearing Career and Professional Training allows you to develop additional skills by interacting with industry veterans, mentors and coaches. The exposure you gain will complement the academic knowledge you acquire. 

admitStreet: For international exchange, which schools does HKUST MBA partner with? 

Mandy: Full-time MBA students enrolled in the 16-month MBA program can apply to study at over 30 partner schools located in various countries for one or half semester, either physically or virtually, depending upon availability.

Even if you decide to remain in Hong Kong throughout your study, you can still be a host for our exchange-in students from all over the world. 

Some universities we partner with include Cornell, Duke, HEC Paris, IESE, London Business School, CEIBS, NUS amongst others. The complete list is here

Careers @ HKUST MBA

Photo caption: HKUST MBA Career services orientation for new cohort

admitStreet: How does the recruitment process work: do firms visit campus for internship and FT roles, or is it upto the candidates to network? How does the Career Services center help candidates through the process?

Mandy: Whether you are aiming for a career change, to progress in your current field, or to start your own business, our CPD Team is here to be your career partner. 

During the initial months of your MBA, our CPD initiatives will help you define your career strategies and prioritize your industry focus. You will have multiple meetings with our Career Coaches to refine your goals and perfect your resume, and be able to attend workshops on topics like network-building, professional branding on social media, etc. 

Once your career strategies and target industries have been identified, the team will work with you towards understanding more about these industries to further enhance your approach. We leverage our extensive corporate partner and alumni network to help you “sense-check” your strategies.

You will have the opportunity to attend Professional Workshops focused on positioning yourself for success in the global marketplace, Career Fairs, and a Live Job Board featuring MBA-level job openings. Additionally, Regional Career Talks will be held to explore opportunities in other cities around the region, such as Singapore and Shanghai.

We understand the criticality of networking, and our aim is to provide students with the skills necessary to excel in this area

admitStreet: Tell us about the part-time and full-time internship opportunities, and any example projects that candidates have worked on?

Mandy: Part-time interns typically contribute to ongoing projects, provide valuable insights, and offer a unique academic perspective that can enhance decision-making and problem-solving. 

Some projects that our MBA students have engaged in and added value: Internal Growth Project at leading tech firm, Project Management Intern at luxury goods holdings company, Route-to-market set-up and formula price structure review at MNC

Full-time interns can take on more significant responsibilities, work closely with teams, and contribute to strategic initiatives, making a tangible impact on the organization’s goals.

Additionally, full-time internships offer employers the advantage of evaluating interns as potential future employees, as they have the opportunity to observe their performance, work ethic, and alignment with the company’s values and goals.

admitStreet: Finance, Consulting, General Management and Operations make up the top-4 choices for HKUST MBA graduates. What are some of the companies that recruit for full-time roles?

Mandy: We have a wide range of companies recruiting. A partial list, along with our career report is here

Some recent companies that recruited HKUST MBA grads include Amazon, Apple Inc, Bain & Company, Bank of China, BASF, BlackRock Asset Management, Boston Consulting Group, Chevron, Deloitte Consulting, DHL Express, Foodpanda, Goldman Sachs, Google, Infosys, Japan Bank for International Cooperation, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Kraft Heinz, McKinsey & Company, Microsoft, Nissan, Nomura, PwC, Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong), Tencent, Uber among others.

admitStreet: Hong Kong (58%), Mainland China (25%) and Other Asia-Pacific (17%) are the top-3 regions of choice for HKUST MBA graduates. Is getting a work permit in HK difficult for international candidates? Which regions within Asia Pacific do candidates generally land roles in?

Mandy: The Hong Kong government has a highly flexible visa arrangement for non-local full-time graduates. Upon graduation, you can apply for a visa that allows you to stay and work in Hong Kong for up to 24 months.

The Immigration Arrangements for Non-Local Graduates (IANG) offers graduates great flexibility to take up or change employment in Hong Kong. Visa holders can also bring their spouse and unmarried dependent child under the age of 18 to Hong Kong, which is a great option for expats to live and work here. 

Within Asia Pacific (apart from HK), our MBA graduates typically land opportunities in Japan, Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Taiwan, Vietnam among other countries.

HKUST MBA Scholarships

admitStreet: What is the process to apply for scholarships, are there separate essays?

Mandy: Candidates will be considered automatically and the admission committee determines scholarship and award recipients based on the overall quality of submitted applications and profiles. 

Candidates do not need to indicate their interest or make separate applications for scholarships or awards. Students awarded more than one scholarship or award may retain only one and must forfeit the rest. 

Connect with AdCom 

admitStreet: Besides the online group webinars, how can applicants connect with the AdCom at a personal level, if they have any questions or clarifications?

Mandy: We highly recommend applicants book a virtual consultation session with us, where our MBA advisors will discuss career aspiration and professional journey with the applicant, so as to provide personalized advice on their program choices with us and walk them through the application process. 

Exciting admissions events like masterclass, campus tours, information sessions and alumni and student sharing panels are also available for registration through the event calendar on our website.

These are great ways for applications to learn more about our program from different perspectives.

admitStreet: Thank you for your time and input, Mandy. We hope this would give our readers a comprehensive overview of the HKUST MBA program. 

This article is part of bridgeStreet, an initiative by admitStreet to connect with the global B-school community.

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