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Asia's MBA schools rise up the FT's ranks

A record-high 11 programs in the region crack the annual list's top-100

CEIBS campus (Courtesy of CEIBS)

TOKYO Asia has become the key driver of the world economy, and with this has come the need for top-tier management talent. The region is better positioned than ever meet that demand, as shown in the latest Financial Times' MBA ranking published Jan. 29.

Sixteen business schools in Asia made the top 100, the most since the rankings began. Seven are in China and Hong Kong, four each are in India and Singapore, including Franco-Singaporean Insead, and one is in South Korea.

The FT global ranking of MBA courses annually rates business school programs based on criteria such as job placement and graduate salaries.

Although Insead fell out of the top spot for the first time in three years, dropping to second place, half the 16 Asian schools climbed in the ranking. The most notable improvement was the entry into the top 10 of the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai, or Ceibs.

Rising from 11th place last year, Ceibs ranks eighth in 2018, holding on to the top spot for a business school founded in Asia. It is the second time for Ceibs to make the top 10; it also was eighth in 2009. Ceibs was co-founded by the Chinese government and the European Union in 1994. Over 60% of its faculty come from abroad. Recently the school announced the hiring of former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin as a distinguished professor, who starting in the spring will lecture on diplomacy and global economic competition.

Ceibs specializes in China. Its case studies and consulting projects with companies in the country offer students a deeper understanding of a unique and rapidly emerging market with a very different business culture from that of the West. "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.

Such specialization delivers a premium for graduates, and a big selling point for MBA programs is the average salary of alumni. The FT weights it heavily: 40% of the overall ranking comes from the average salary of alumni three years after graduation, based on the dollar equivalent at purchasing power parity.

Students in the Kellogg-HKUST e-MBA program listen to a lecture. (Photo courtesy of HKUST)

Ceibs graduates' average salaries are the lowest among the top 10 schools, worth about 24% less than the average for top-earning Stanford alumni. But the boost to their salaries that Ceibs MBA graduates receive, at 168%, is far higher than other schools in the top 10. The No. 2 school based on that criterion is the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. The sixth-ranked school overall delivers an average pay increase of 118%.

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

The high salary premium for MBA graduates is a common characteristic of business schools founded in mainland China. As Chinese companies grow more sophisticated, demand for MBA holders is rising, pushing up the value of a degree. Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Antai College of Economics and Management delivered a 182% average pay increase for MBA graduates, topping the list of 100 business schools in the ranking.

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Business School secured the 14th spot in the global ranking, third in Asia, second among Asia-founded schools. "Located at the doorstep to the mainland China market, with a culture of East meets West, HKUST MBA program delivers unique learning experiences with both international and Asian perspectives," a school spokesman said. "Our alumni can benefit from lifelong learning through alumni audits on electives that hit the market trends such as fintech and entrepreneurship."

Renmin University of China School of Business, Fudan University School of Management, and Singapore Management University Lee Kong Chian School of Business all made the ranking for the first time this year.

Globally, Stanford Graduate School of Business regained the No. 1 spot after a six-year absence. The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School came in third, followed by London Business School and Harvard Business School.

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