The Rise Of Asian Business Schools: Ranking The Best MBA Options


Founded in 1994 under an agreement between the Chinese government and the European Commission in Shanghai, CEIBS was the first school in China to offer a full-time MBA degree. It garnered headlines in 2019, ranking fifth in the world in The Financial Times – up from 16th just three years ago. The reason had little to do with its coveted Shanghai location. Instead, CEIBS produced results, as in $174,115 average pay within three years of graduation…or a 172% bump over pre-MBA pay. In other words, CEIBS MBAs earn more than graduates from Ivy League programs like Dartmouth Tuck, Yale SOM, and Cornell Johnson.

Beyond pay, CEIBS presents an opportunity to pivot. In fact, 86% of CEIBS MBAs are switching industries or functions (sometimes both). That was the case for Pablo Che León Sarmiento, a 2019 P&Q Best & Brightest MBA, who moved from engineering to management. He became fascinated with China from watching Bloomberg Tech, where news often revolved around technological innovation in China. For him, the programming at most business schools – a week or two trek to China – wouldn’t suffice. To learn it, he needed to live it.

A recent revamp of its full-time MBA program reduced the core courses credit requirement by 25% and added on more than 21 new electives for the students to choose from, giving MBA candidates at CEIBS the chance to customize the MBA degree to their career interests. A mentoring programme pairs current MBA students with CEIBS alumni (mentors), who, who have gone through the same journey. “They have a thorough understanding about the nuances involved and are thus perfectly suited to impart valuable knowledge, offer guidance, share experiences, and suggest ways students can develop,” says Juan Antonio Fernandez, MBA programme director. In the school’s MBA 2021 batch, 100 alumni are serving as mentors to 172 students.


The school’s success is even the focus of a Harvard Business School case study which cites the following challenges: “stiff competition from schools in Greater China, South East Asia and South Asia; recruitment of high-quality faculty members; generating new knowledge that contributes to management practice not just in China but globally; and maintaining a robust economic model to ensure long term financial sustainability.”

On the other hand, through many years, it has met many of those challenges well. After all, location is critical but so is access to China’s business elite. “The most underrated part of our programme is probably our proximity to the business world,” add Fernandez. “Shanghai is a truly dynamic city and always at the forefront of innovation. This enables our students to closely witness these disruptions and be extremely connected to the business community here. There is a huge gap between the city’s perception and actuality, especially outside China. The city is a multi-cultural metropolis of history and modernity. For someone who has not been here, it’s very hard to understand the true nature of the city. And for someone who has visited the city even once, they want to keep coming back.”

For HKU Business School, its location in Hong Kong also plays a central role in the culture of the institution. “We are in the heart of a city created by entrepreneurs and raised to global pre-eminence on deep business foundations,” says Sachin Tipnis, the senior executive director at the University of Hong Kong’s MBA program. “This confers an immense advantage on our students. Hong Kong is not only a capital of business, it is a great financial hub, a status it supports by being the most open business environment in Asia and one of the freest in trade and money in the world, with a low and simple tax regime.

“Its competitiveness is breathtaking and its infrastructure, which beats all other cities worldwide, makes it irresistible as a location,” he adds. “An Asian nexus and forever a portal to China, Hong Kong is a draw at all levels. Overseas and mainland companies are locating there in greater numbers. It is fertile ground for startups, both local and from around the world. As a city, Hong Kong works and gets the job done. It is an ideal setting for internationalism, attracting people of many skills from far-and-wide.”

DON’T MISS: Meet The CEIBS MBA Class Of 2021 or Meet HKU Business School’s MBA Class Of 2021

Page 2 of 3