Leading with international vision - Master of Arts in International Affairs
Lingnan University’s new taught MA programme provides postgraduates with an understanding of key subjects including international and comparative politics
Hong Kong is undeniably one of the world’s most dynamic cities in terms of trade, finance and general economic activity. And its status has certainly been enhanced by the rapid growth of globalisation and the fast pace of development in mainland China.
All this, though, has inevitably created demand for individuals with the international vision, regional expertise and in-depth knowledge to navigate their way – and lead others – through these changes.
Therefore, Lingnan University’s Department of Government and International Affairs (formerly Department of Political Science), has introduced a new taught Master of Arts in International Affairs (MAIA). It aims to provide postgraduates with an understanding of key subjects including international and comparative politics, developmental studies, international security, environmental politics, and Greater China plus issues like nationalism and political culture.
Suitable for all professionals
According to programme founding director Professor Chan Che-po, the Master of Arts in International Affairs is primarily designed for those with a first degree in politics-related disciplines, social sciences, the humanities, law, or journalism. But it is also suitable for professionals in business and communications who want to broaden their outlook and advance their career prospects.
“It is sometimes said that students in Hong Kong lack knowledge of international and regional affairs and the perspectives needed to make it to the top in different professions,” Professor Chan says. “That is not just a matter of knowing about political systems or public services. It is about understanding what causes change and seeing the implications for trade, investment, education, social organisations and much else.”
Therefore, as an example, the Master of Arts in International Affairs would also suit secondary school teachers of liberal studies, whose lessons are likely to range across a wide spectrum of international and current affairs.
The Master of Arts in International Affairs programme is a one-year full-time study. Students must complete four compulsory courses and four electives.
“They cover the theoretical underpinnings, as well as detailed analysis of important international and Asia-Pacific issues,” Professor Chan says. “On completing the programme, students will be able to apply what they have learned to explain the motives and actions of state and non-state actors in shaping contemporary domestic and foreign policies.”
In keeping with Lingnan’s mission, as one of Asia’s leading liberal arts universities, the Master of Arts in International Affairs also offers other aspects important to a whole-person education. “It will equip students with the necessary conceptual tools to comprehend rapidly changing global and regional forces that are shaping our world,” Professor Chan says. “the Master of Arts in International Affairs programme will strengthen their analytical abilities, help develop the capacity for original research, and bolster presentation, debating and writing skills.”
Upon graduation, students will also be better critical thinkers and in a position to exercise their rights and responsibilities as local, national and global citizens.
That’s because the programme doesn’t just look at issues which are explicitly international in context. It also examines, for instance, China’s Belt and Road initiative, considering the economic and strategic motivations and the possible impact on both China and the other countries and territories involved.
“By comparing the models for socio-economic and political development in various Western and Asian countries, students can also form their own analysis and evaluation of the ‘China model’,” Professor Chan says.
Most teachers for the Master of Arts in International Affairs are faculty members of Lingnan’s Department of Government and International Affairs. They hold PhDs from major universities in the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Their specialist areas of research range from the political economy of global inequality to China’s grand strategy, Sino-US security relations, global environmental governance, and the politics of democratisation and identities in Hong Kong.
“Our staff have conducted consultancy projects for public bodies including the Hong Kong’s Central Policy Unit, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund,” Professor Chan says.
Similar to other Lingnan postgraduate courses, the Master of Arts in International Affairs programme is expected to attract a mix of local, mainland and overseas students, ensuring a diversity of ideas and opinion in every class. “They will have many opportunities to attend academic conferences, workshops and public lectures on campus, organised by Lingnan’s various academic and research units,” Professor Chan says.
Most classes will take the form of three-hour seminar, combining a lecture, Q&A sessions, open discussions, and student presentations. This encourages interactive involvement and lively debate. “Students are expected to have responsible attitude towards preparation, group work and individual assignments,” Professor Chan says. “They need to do weekly required readings, give presentations in class, and contribute to discussions – that is a pedagogical norm. So is writing a research-based term paper for each course. In this way, the Master of Arts in International Affairs programme also provides a good foundation for further study towards a PhD.”