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Asian Business Schools: Pay, Satisfaction, and Diversity – Poets&Quants

Think back to 1989. Paula Abdul ruled the pop charts, while Batman movie merchandise racked up $750 million dollars in sales worldwide. That year, the Berlin Wall fell and the American troops invaded Panama. In business, Japanese firms represented 13 of the 20 largest market caps. In fact, the top four firms – all Japanese banks – accounted for a combined $310 billion dollars in market cap according to Berkshire Hathaway.

What a difference 30 years makes!

Today, Apple alone boasts a market cap over $2 trillion dollars alone – and Saudi Aramco and Microsoft aren’t trailing far behind. You won’t find any Japanese banks – or Japanese firms, for that matter – among the Top 20 caps.  And Asian firms make up just a fourth of these 20 largest firms, despite the general consensus that commerce is pivoting to the East.


Ironically, this trend is reversed in business school rankings. Take The Financial Times, the most reliable global MBA ranking. 20 years ago, Asian MBA programs featured just two full-time MBA programs among FT’s Top 100. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) ranked 48th, with the National University of Singapore finishing 89th. Fast forward to January, when the latest FT ranking included 17 Asian business schools from 4 countries – led by CEIBS (7th) and the National University of Singapore (14th).

That doesn’t even count INSEAD, the FT’s-ranked program which includes a campus in Singapore.

The arrow is pointing up – way up – in the region. By 2040, Asian nations are projected to constitute 50% of GDB and 40% of consumption globally according to a pre-pandemic study by McKinsey. This re-set has made graduate business education a priority. Among nationals, an MBA from an Asian school reflects a mastery of fundamentals and a readiness to shoulder bigger responsibilities. For international students, studying in Asia is an invaluable immersion in area practices and languages – not to mention a chance to build networks.

That begs the question: which Asian programs offer the best opportunities for pay, diversity, and overall satisfaction?

The data collected by FT provides several insights. Take pay – or what FT calls “Weighted Salary.” The term is defined as “average alumnus salary three years after completion” using a U.S. dollar equivalency. Here, the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad tops all Asian peers with pay reaching $192,390 within three years of earning an MBA there. That tops every business school ranked by FT with the exception of Chicago Booth! CEIBS is the runner-up in Asia at $178,558 – the largest compensation package outside of India. Another four schools reported pay between $160K and $171K: Indian School of Business, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, Institute of Management Bangalore, and the National University of Singapore.


That said, Chinese programs tended to score highest for pay increases between pre-MBA pay and current pay. The Fudan University School of Management and the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management produced pay growth at a 190% and 189% clip, respectively. However, their MBA alumni’s respective pay only stood at $121,198 and $105,648. There was one program that produced high income and pay increase. The Indian School of Business bridged the gap, where a $161,349 average pay was augmented by a 173% pre-MBA boost.

Career Services, be it building employer relationships or coaching students, also plays a part in compensation. According to the alumni survey conducted by FT, the Indian Business School’s career services office ranked among the 40-best in the world. By the same token, the Fudan University School of Management, with 190% pay growth, boasts a career center that ranks 21st. However, good pay and career services aren’t always correlated. South Korea’s Sungkyunkwan University GSB can tout the 5th-highest ranked career office. However, the school’s pay ($147,512) and pay increase (94%) generally run middle of the pack.

The same could be said for job placement, where 91% of Sungkyunkwan MBAs landed jobs after graduation according to data collected by FT. One trend that stands out here: Indian schools have perfected graduate hiring. Four of the five Indian programs scored placement rates at 96% or above – with two schools actually reaching 100%! Compare that to the United States, where the highest placement rates were reported by the University of Washington’s Foster School (94%) and Northwestern’s Kellogg School (93%). Such rosy results invite skepticism, though one Chinese MBA program (Shanghai University of Finance and Economist) also hit the 100% placement threshold.

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