Finnish national Markus Vanharanta chose to study in Hong Kong for an MSc degree (pathway: Finance) taught and conferred by University College Dublin (UCD) for a good reason. For the same reason, he subsequently joined UCD in Hong Kong as an assistant professor in marketing, passing on the torch while giving back to the university.
A globe trekker in his own right, Markus had studied in England, USA, Japan, Sweden, Russia and Finland. So, why Hong Kong?
“Asia has always been my dream home and I’ve set foot in many Asian countries until love brought me here,” the assistant professor concedes. “My wife was my UCD classmate so I settled down after marriage.” That was 17 years ago in 1999.
Markus was a businessman big on investments, business strategy and finance among other related disciplines. He did not choose UCD’s MSc programme (pathway: Finance) out of the blue. “As a European, I had planned to pursue further studies within the continent so I wanted to enrol in a European university” he reveals. An online search on European universities left him impressed by the UCD MSc in finance programme’s heritage, top world rankings and quality certification, in addition to the university’s culture of teaching excellence. “I sent in my application without hesitation,” he notes.
Earning the CFA qualification
Markus, who has had his roots firmly planted in Hong Kong then, speaks in praise of UCD’s class schedules. “As a business owner, I often found myself juggling study and work. UCD’s class schedule suited my needs, he recalls. During his studies, Markus says, the biggest reward was passing all three CFA exams. “The financial knowledge I gained in the classroom helped me to pass the CFA towards the professional qualification.” He emphasises that UCD courses are delivered by professors who fly over from Ireland for the sole purpose. “This is an excellent arrangement because an international learning atmosphere throughout the course of learning is instrumental and indispensable for Hong Kong students,” he adds.
After graduation, Markus left for a PhD in marketing programme at Lancaster University in the UK, where he later on became a member of the faculty. After return to Hong Kong, Markus joined the UCD’s overseas team as an Assistant professor lecturing in Hong Kong, Singapore, Ireland, and Sri Lanka.
Markus is a keen learner with a penchant for research work. A university teaching job seems the right fit for someone who undertakes doctoral studies. “I’ve learnt to draw pleasure from teaching, bringing my experience into the confines of the classroom for my students to develop insights into corporate operations,” he notes. “Interestingly, often it is the teacher who learns the most during process.” This also explains his career shift from the corporate world to academia.
Ample international experience
Regardless of the student composition, Markus has never shied away from sharing his international experience. “I learn from my students’ experience too,” he stresses. “This is how mutual growth is achieved.” Previous teaching stints at UCD’s Ireland, Singapore, and Sri Lanka campuses have taught him that Hong Kong students are hardworking and dedicated. “They can be perceived as introvert at times so I have found it necessary to encourage them to speak their minds, let their voices be heard and challenge the status quo.”
An alumnus and teacher at UCD, Markus sees manifold perspectives in his dual identity: “Teaching at the institution I graduated from allows me to put myself in my students’ shoes.” The benefits of this dual identity do not stop at an experience-sharing level. “It also affords me proprietary insights into programme enhancement, helping to take the programme onto another dimension as a means of giving back to the university.”
Markus is happy to see UCD students achieve personal growth and build confidence from their first days with the programme to graduation and subsequently become alumni. “To be a witness to this gives me great joy and a sense of purpose,” he concludes.
Senior Teaching Staff
Master of Counselling | 2010 Graduate
As a professional counsellor, we are only convincing in our role if we change ourselves before we help others change themselves.
Further studies for self-understanding
Adding value to help oneself and others
Listening is the key to effective communication. An educator of 15 years, Hamorn once struggled with the lack of listening skills which hindered her communication with parents as well as her building close relationships with her family. Some years ago she decided to enrol in the Master of Counselling programme offered by Monash University. Through her studies, she did not only acquire comprehensive counselling skills but also put her knowledge into practice. She also gained new insights on how to get along with her family, which is an invaluable treasure that goes beyond academic qualifications.
Hamorn received her university education in Australia. After graduation she returned to Hong Kong and worked as a teacher at an international school. “Although I obtained a Master of Education later on, I still didn’t have enough confidence in my teaching. In particular, I lacked the soft skills of communicating with students and parents, especially counselling skills.” She contends that listening was her weak point. “While the parents are concerned with students’ coursework, they’re also in need of listeners. They often talk to teachers in the hope of getting someone to understand what they are thinking and feeling.” As Hamorn recalls, she realised at the time that she lacked these soft skills and resolved to pursue further studies.
After careful review and consideration, she decided to enrol in the Master of Counselling programme offered by Monash University. “Back when I was studying in Melbourne, Australia, I was already aware of Monash University’s reputation as a university that provides quality education. I was particularly impressed with the fact that this programme is 100% taught by Monash University professors who come to Hong Kong to conduct the classes.” Hamorn believes this programme is on par with the one being offered by the university in Australia in terms of academic faculty, programme content and resources.
Interactive mode of teaching
Encouraging exchange of views
“Monash University utilises a highly interactive programme delivery mode. The professor starts with explaining the theory, followed by role-play activities where students take turns to perform as patients, counsellors, and psychologists. Through role-play and group discussion, students exchange their views and develop their understanding of the case.” She praises the rigorous admissions process of the university, as many of her classmates were professionals. “We were tired after work during the week, and we still had to attend classes for the whole day on the weekends. Yet we would still come to class even at the times when we were sick, since the classes were interactive and fun and we didn’t want to miss them.”
She notes that the programme provides substantial training in listening, and one of the subjects covered is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. The training enhanced her understanding of individual thoughts and behaviour, and her ability to make changes and adjustments. “As a professional counsellor, we are only convincing in our role if we change ourselves before we help others change themselves.”
Hamorn adds that behaviour and thoughts are interlinked and affect each other. “For instance, when the coursework was heavy, I would also feel reluctant to do it. But if you push yourself to do something even when you’re unwilling to do it, you’ll get used to this mode of behaviour and keep doing it.” She elaborates, “Now I understand it’s normal to have negative feelings in certain situations. For example, when my children come across some difficulties, I’m able to guide them through it rather than give them orders on what to do as I did in the past. This has significantly improved my communication with my children, husband and even parents.” She states that the programme guided her towards greater self-understanding, which is a priceless gift that she gained from her studies. “Since I graduated from the programme, I’ve come to have more confidence in responding to parents’ questions on the Parents Day. I’m also able to ask thought-provoking questions to the parents after listening to them.”
Coaching children to become counsellors
Mutual sharing and support
As Hamorn remarks, teachers in Hong Kong have a particularly hectic schedule. “They have to devote a great deal of energy to teaching and may not have time to tend to every student’s emotional needs.” She has introduced social and emotional counselling into the school where she teaches. “Instead of letting children reach out for adults when they struggle with negative feelings, we can train these children as counsellors and teach them how to become listeners. For instance, when they talk with other children about things that upset them, how they can listen for certain key words and pay attention to the other’s mood and body language. This enables them to talk openly and listen to one another, and that has helped create a healthier atmosphere at school.” This has also earned her a promotion at work and enhanced her sense of satisfaction with her job.
Studying together for 18 months in the programme also cultivated genuine friendships among Hamorn and her classmates. “Since we graduated, we’ve stayed in touch and still get together for lunch and dinner. Every year when the professors come to Hong Kong to conduct classes, they get in touch with us and we all catch up over a meal.” Hamorn is currently studying for a doctorate degree in education. Her research with young children requires a great deal of counselling skills. “The professors are very eager to help. They even sent me their theses for reference as they had researched similar topics in the past. They often email me to check on my progress on my thesis or research. It’s been a source of motivation for me to work hard on my research and share it with the professors.”
Electronic Products Company
BA (Hons) Business Administration (Top-up) | 2015 Graduate
Continuing education has brought me opportunities for promotion, as well as many personal rewards, including enriched knowledge, broader horizons, expanded personal networks.
Electronic Products Company
BA (Hons) Business Administration (Top-up) | 2015 Graduate
Inspiring All-round Thinking
Practical Application in the Business World
“When my youngest son was born at the end of year 2002, I felt time wouldn’t wait for me anymore.” While the two protagonists in the Hollywood film La La Land pursue their dreams in the big cities, marketing manager Jacqueline Wong hoped to fulfil her university dream before her children were to start school a few years ago.
Jacqueline looked up information on academic programmes offered by different universities to search for the one that would suit her best. Finally, she enrolled in the one-year BA (Hons) Business Administration programme which was jointly offered by Kaplan Higher Education and Birmingham City University in the UK for the first time, and which was recommended to Jacqueline by a client of hers.
Critical Thinking for Lifelong Benefit
In retrospect, Jacqueline feels that both the instructors and the programme staff were highly devoted to the academic achievements of the inaugural cohort, even though there were only 16 students in the group. “We had to compete against the students in Singapore as well. It was a challenging endeavour, but what we learned from the programme will benefit us for life."
While her professional life has given her hands-on experience in the workplace, further studies have helped her expand her mindset. As Jacqueline remarks, she benefited a great deal from the course “Managing and Leading Strategic Change”. “From our strict yet humorous instructor Wilma Komala, I learnt how to analyse incidents and concepts from both the affirmative and negative sides, and to hone my critical thinking.”
“The instructors taught me how to analyse global events and put my analysis into practice, and compare them with what’s happening in present-day society,” she adds. Jacqueline contends that her studies inspired her to analyse things on different levels: “It’s an extremely useful tool in the business world!” She also notes that the programme offers a flexible learning schedule, while face-to-face instruction by the instructors makes it easier for students to grasp the key content of the programme. Therefore, she has recommended the programme to her colleagues.
A Positive Example for Her Children
Jacqueline stresses that her family were fully supportive of her pursuing further studies. "My husband and my mother helped take care of my children. Even my brother-in-law took the time to discuss with me the questions about my coursework, and helped me to analyse the topics from different perspectives. That was very helpful for my studies." The support from her family was a source of great encouragement for Jacqueline. In particular, her husband accompanied her to the graduation ceremony at Birmingham City University in the UK in January 2015. It is a memory for a lifetime for Jacqueline.
She emphasises that the programme has enhanced her grasp of globalisation. "Continuing education has brought me opportunities for promotion, as well as many personal rewards, including enriched knowledge, broader horizons, expanded personal networks. My learning attitude also has an impact on my son and my daughter, as it serves as a positive example for them." With her hard-earned academic achievements, Jacqueline puts her knowledge into practice in the company where she has been working for 12 years, and she also sets a good example for her children with her dedication to learning.
International Office Furniture Group
BA (Hons) Accounting | 2015 Graduate
It opened up a wider and more diverse range of options for me in my job search. I received more interviews and higher salary offers.
Fulfilling the university dream
Greater competitiveness in the job market
“It had always been my dream to get a university degree. Never in my wildest dreams did it occur to me that as someone who worked and studied part-time, I would attend my university graduation in the UK. That I would be dressed in my graduation gown in the company of my family and, in the grass field on university campus in the UK, celebrate my graduation with a hat toss. I was so excited and proud!” Kitty reminisces about the moment with delights.
After having entered the workforce for years and with the encouragement from her friends, Kitty decided to step out of her comfort zone and pursue part-time studies while working. She enrolled in the Bachelor of Accounting (Honours) programme offered by the University of Bedfordshire. Apart from fulfilling her university dream, the degree would also help to enhance her competitiveness in the job market and pave the way for career advancement.
Years ago after Kitty earned her accounting diploma, she joined the accounting industry and was employed by a medium-sized auditing firm where she started out as a junior auditor. During her time at the firm, she acquired comprehensive knowledge of accounting. Later on she made a job change and worked as a full set accountant for a trading company where she remained for years.
One day when she was chatting with a good friend, they talked about the importance of university qualifications for professional development. “My friend said a university degree was just a prerequisite to obtain a senior managerial position. At that moment I thought I should upgrade myself when I was still young. On top of that, I also liked studying. Although I knew working and studying part-time would be a hard time for myself, I resolved to make my best effort to obtain a university degree.”
Kitty mentions that when she chose to enroll on the programme offered by the University of Bedfordshire, besides the option of attending the graduation ceremony on the university campus in the UK, “the main reason was that Kaplan Higher Education’s programme, the co-organiser of the programme, has been a long-standing provider of professional examination preparation programmes for large accounting firms, and it’s highly regarded in the industry.”
During her studies, every teacher and professor she encountered in the programme not only possesses a high level of academic competence but also extensive teaching experience. Many of them have obtained the Certified Public Accountant qualification. Kitty remarks, “Their patient guidance was very important to those of us who worked and studied part-time, since we had very limited spare time outside of our work and family life. The teachers helped us to grasp the key content of the courses effectively, and we were able to handle every assignment and examination.”
Sufficient programme resources
Achieving more with less
Kitty commends the well thought-out arrangements of the programme. “Besides regular lectures for each unit, there were coaching courses taught by senior PhD lecturers on topics such as techniques of thesis writing. There were also pre-examination intensive courses where we reviewed past papers whilst the lecturers answered our questions in class, which helped consolidating what we had learnt.” In particular, she notes that Kaplan Higher Education provides sufficient study resources for students. “Students can log in to the website with the computer or mobile phone and search for study resources that are relevant to their programmes. I spent a lot of time doing past papers and studying the lecture notes, which was very helpful to my study for the examinations.”
In the programme she was happy to meet a group of like-minded people who shared mutual support and encouragement. “During my studies, I met a group of fellow young people who were striving for their future. We studied together and worked on completing our group reports together, so precious friendships have been built along the way. Since we graduated, we still keep in touch and get along together now and then!” Last but not least, she is particularly grateful for her husband’s support.
Kitty commends that the university degree gave her a confidence boost. “It opened up a wider and more diverse range of options for me in my job search. I received more interviews and higher salary offers.” She has advanced to the senior managerial level and is currently employed by a high-end office furniture international group. She manages and oversees all accounting, administration, logistics and human resources management as she is passionate about all-round jobs and happy with communicating with different kinds of people. “I love the design industry. I believe that I can apply the accounting knowledge I’ve learnt to help the company achieving effective budget control and increasing its profits.”