MBA programmes in Asia rise in global rankings
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MBA programmes in Asia rise in global rankings

MBA programmes in Asia rise in global rankings

With the recent release of the Financial Times‘ Global MBA 2019 rankings, the industry is reflecting on changes in global education and how certain issues such as Brexit are affecting enrollment in graduate programmes.

Another hot topic related to the rankings is the rise of the Asian MBA, as the rankings also reflect an increase in popularity and reputation for several MBA programmes offered by universities in the East.

Sixteen business schools in Asia made the top 100, the most since the rankings began, according to the Nikkei Asian Review. Among these, seven are in China and Hong Kong.

CEIBS (China Europe International Business School) in Shanghai rose to number eight from 11th place last year, taking the top spot for an Asia-based business school.

“The CEIBS MBA is offered from our Shanghai campus, and the city itself, China’s economic capital, is an amazing classroom where students have a ringside seat from which to observe and experience how business is done in China,” said Professor Juan Fernandez, CEIBS Associate Dean and MBA Director.

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CEIBS is ranked as the top business school in Asia. Source: CEIBS

“Almost 95% of MBA students who graduated in 2017 accepted job offers received, with a salary increase of over 100%. Among them, 66.2% found jobs through the school’s resources and 78.1% of international students are working in the Asia-Pacific region.”

This high salary premium is a driving force behind the rising demand for an MBA in the country, as well as the growing sophistication and economy of Chinese companies, who are looking to gain stronger footholds in the global business landscape.

In a video by Financial Times, Business Education Correspondent Jonathan Moules shared his views on the rise of the Asian MBA.

He said, “The centre of gravity the MBA is moving from West to East. Applications declined at seven out of 10 US Business schools offering two-year degree qualifications in 2018. Even elite schools such as Harvard and Stanford were hit, and high-ranking Iowa’s Tippie College of Business closed their courses at a result.”

“But if you look East, particularly to China, demand is rising as fast as the overall economy. Dominance of the MBA market by business schools meant that the American losses cancelled out the growth in Asia and elsewhere. As a result, global application numbers were flat in 2018. But it could be said that the MBA market has been pausing to take breath before a new era of growth begins, driven by Chinese business schools.”

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The rising economy and growing sophistication of companies in China is leading to a higher demand for MBA graduates. Source: Shutterstock

Moules noted that universities in China have been investing significantly in improving their appeal to local and international students with a range of business education courses – including ones taught in English.

He said that the quality of their output is reflected in the Financial Times’ annual ranking of courses worldwide, and that the rise of China as an MBA superpower is not surprising given the size of the market.

However, an important distinction lies between Western and Eastern MBA programmes.

As Moules pointed out, “The leading Chinese MBA providers do not want to teach their students about strategy based on experiences of western companies. They are developing their own case studies looking at Asian businesses.”

“A new era of growth beckons for the MBA but it is likely to result in a qualification with more of an Asian flavour.”

China is not the only country in the continent to keep an eye on when it comes to MBAs.

The Indian School of Business (ISB) jumped four places to be ranked among the top 25 in the Financial Times Global MBA Rankings 2019, now standing at 24th position, while four Singaporean schools remained among the top 50.

These are the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School, Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Nanyang Business School, Singapore Management University’s (SMU) Lee Kong Chian School of Business, and Franco-Singaporean Insead.

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Business School was placed at 14th in the global ranking, and third in Asia overall.

A school spokesman said, “Located at the doorstep to the mainland China market, with a culture of East meets West, HKUST MBA…delivers unique learning experiences with both international and Asian perspectives. Our alumni can benefit from lifelong learning through alumni audits on electives that hit the market trends such as fintech and entrepreneurship.”

Even Japan, who was the exception to the rule for its absence of world-leading business schools until recently, is set to become a global player in the education game.

NUCB Business School, a privately-owned college located in the Tokai region of Japan, was the only Japanese school to make it on Financial Times‘ Top 25 Business Schools in Asia-Pacific in 2018, largely due to its executive MBA course offering.

David Hackett, Director of Canada’s McGill University MBA Japan, based in Tokyo, told the Financial Times that at the end of the 20th century, there was greater interest among Japanese companies in expanding internationally and positioning Tokyo as the headquarters for the Asian operations of multinationals.


Dean of Hitotsubashi University Business School in Tokyo, Professor Ichijo, is on the front line of efforts in the country to expand the provision of business education in order to train a new generation of managers at home and to attract more students from abroad.

“The Japanese market is shrinking. If we are focusing on the local mindset, we will lose out. If we are growing, we need to go international.”

Professor Shigeru Asaba, Dean of Waseda Business School in Tokyo, stressed the value of Japan’s international accreditation, partnerships with business schools abroad, and low fees of just a few thousand dollars a year, which could place them as serious contenders in the international student market.

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