Asian Business Schools: Highest Pay, Placement, and Satisfaction

Large populations and diverse economies.

This is 21st century Asia: a wealth of natural resources and a booming middle class. The region is already the 2nd consumer market. In a 2020 study, the Brookings Institution projects that 1.2 billion Chinese will reach middle-class status in five years. Of the billion people expected to enter the consumer class this decade, Brookings writes, 4 in 10 will be from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh.

This means opportunities for business professionals – and a demand for higher business education.

From tech hubs in Beijing and Bangalore to shipping hubs in Shenzhen and Singapore, Asian MBAs embed best practices, drive growth, and make an impact. The question is, which Asian programs offer the best return and experience? This is exactly what the Financial Times MBA Ranking is designed to tell candidates and graduates. And let’s just say the results were quite inconsistent, as different Asian schools had different strengths – and none really stood out from the pack.

CEIBS MBA Class of 2024 celebrates Chinese New Year. Courtesy picture


In the 2023 ranking, you will find 16 Asian programs ranked in the Financial Times Top 100, up from 17 last year. This year, CEIBS ranks 20th among Asian programs, ahead of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (23rd) and National University of Singapore (25th). However, CEIBS and the National University of Singapore actually fell four places each this year. Additionally, four Chinese institutions fell from the FT 2023 rankings, including Tongji University, Tsinghua University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and Peking University’s Guanghau School of Management – all programs that fell. ranked 32nd to 65th last year.

How does this compare to other regions? Consider this: 46 American schools appear in the Financial Times ranking. This is almost three times more than the entire Asian continent. In total, Europe has 32 programs in the FT Top 100, including 10 in the UK and 7 in France. Rankings can be imprecise instruments, but they reflect the 3 Rs: reputation, resources and reach. In these areas, Asian MBA programs are still catching up.

Take the MBA salary. The Financial Times measures “weighted salary” – which it defines as “the average alumni salary three years after graduation in US dollars”. To this extent, the top ranked school is IIM Ahmedabad. Here, MBAs earn $186,420 within three years of graduation. That’s good for 18th place – and better than higher-ranked programs like IESE Business School and London Business School (which rank 3rd and 18th overall, respectively). Meanwhile, graduates from Shanghai University of Finance and Economics and CEIBS were clustered near IIM Ahmedabad, earning $181,274 and $177,132 respectively. Similarly, the National University of Singapore ($161,506) and the Indian School of Business ($161,331) also passed the $160,000 mark, putting them alongside US programs like the ‘Olin School at the University of Washington and the Simon School at the University of Rochester. In contrast, MBA graduates from six Asian full-time MBA programs earned an average of less than $140,000 within three years of graduation. The worst performers were Singapore Management University ($127,513) and the Chinese University of Hong Kong ($132,346).

That said, one figure stood out when comparing the 2023 salary to the figures reported in 2021. Shanghai University of Finance and Economics saw a significant salary increase in two years. It went from $105,648 to $181,274 during this period. Fudan University and Nanyang University graduates also saw improvements of $16,889 and $15,932 in base salary during this period. Yet several programs have also seen their salaries drop over the past two years, including IIM Bangalore (-$14,389) and IIM Indore (-$12,279).

If you consider Shanghai University of Finance and Economics’ epic salary hike an anomaly, Asia lags Western business schools in post-MBA pay within a three-year range. . Exhibit A: IIM Ahmedabad, which earned the highest paid Asian MBA at $186,420. Two years ago, their graduates received a base salary of $192,390, a decrease of $5,970. Compare these totals to IIM Ahmedabad’s closest 2023 and 2021 graduate bases: Michigan Ross ($186,829 vs. $167,336), Georgetown McDonough ($185,936 vs. $161,512), Rice Jones ($183,332 vs. $161,156) and London Business School ($182,254 vs. $177,234). Translation: Non-Asian MBA graduates typically see larger salary increases within three years of graduation.

The on-campus library of IIM-Ahmedabad — Photo courtesy of IIM


However, Asian graduates enjoy a significant placement advantage. 14 of 16 full-time Asian programs ranked by the Financial Times achieved a placement of 92% or higher within three months of graduation, a testament to the demand for MBAs to manage growth in the region. In fact, 7 of the 16 full-time MBA programs in Asia reported 100% placement. However, such figures should be met with some skepticism. After all, only 9 programs surveyed by the Financial Times have reached the 100% mark. More suspiciously, IIM Calcutta and the Indian School of Business have reported 100% placement for three consecutive years. Yet, you will find another 10 programs that achieved a 97%-99% placement in the 2023 rankings, making the number of Asian MBA placements possible.

Of course, salary and placement are just two data points measured by the Financial Times. The ranking also incorporates responses to alumni network surveys. Here, surveyed students rate their alumni’s effectiveness in areas such as “career opportunities, starting businesses, acquiring new ideas, recruiting staff, and providing information about events. (such as career discussions)”. In this dimension, 4 Asian MBA programs ranked among the top 15, led by Shanghai University of Finance and Economics and Indian School of Business. In fact, these schools have ranked their alumni higher than their counterparts at INSEAD, Harvard Business School, and even Columbia Business School (which ranked #1 overall in the Financial Times in 2023) .

That said, Asian programs rank lower in two areas: career services and research. When alumni were asked about the effectiveness of “career guidance, personal development, networking events, finding internships and recruiting, only Fudan University ranked among the top 15 – and 15th at that. In research – calculated by faculty publication in 50 leading academic journals from January 2020 to July 2022 – the top performers ranked 27th (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology) and 28th (National University of Singapore). In contrast, IIM Indore and IIM Calcutta tied for 98th for research, followed by IIM Lucknow at 100th.

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