APAC business schools rise as top picks in 2021 rankings

SOURCE: Wang Zhao / AFP
Dozens of Asia-Pacific schools have achieved international accreditation from organisations such as AACSB and AMBA, and many are now ranked among the world’s best business schools.

By U2B Staff 

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Business schools in the APAC (Asia Pacific) region have cemented the same stellar reputations as those in the west, a fact backed this year by rankings. A total of 17 business schools in Asia have muscled their way to the top in this year’s Financial Times Global MBA charts, with China Europe International Business School (CEIBS)’s MBA programme nabbing the seventh spot among the world’s top 100, specifically among the top 50.

These schools have certainly worked their way to the top  — a far cry from 1999, when the Financial Times first launched its top 50 top programme ranking with not a single Asian school making it to the list.

A slow but steady climb for APAC business schools

In 2000, the first Asian business school muscled its way in, with Hong Kong University of Science and Technology debuting at a rank of 70th out of 75 MBA programmes. In 2001, another Asian business school joined the list, with the National University of Singapore Business School, ranking 89th out of the 100 best in the world.

Every year, more and more have begun making their mark. By 2002, there were four. Six years later, in 2008, the first MBA programme from India popped up, with the Indian School of Business debuting at an impressively high rank of 20th. 


With a whopping 17 schools now representing the region in rankings, many are considering the rise to be just the tip of the iceberg. These gains have largely been achieved at the expense of business schools in the US and Europe. On the first FT ranking, 62% of the MBA programmes were based in the US while 32% were in Europe. Today, US business schools make up less than half, or 48% of the total, while European business schools account for 26%. 

These schools are held in high regard by applicants all over the world. In 2020, the GMAC reported that MBA programmes in China and the wider Asia-Pacific region have seen a year-on-year rise in application volume. GMAC also reports a 41% increase of applications to MBA programmes in China, reflecting the strong growth in international applications in 2019, with a further 23% reporting stable growth in international applications.

Outstanding returns for graduates

The demand for full-time MBA degrees is clearly growing in the Asia-Pacific region. This is partly due to data proving that a good sum of graduates succeed in securing salary increases. According to the data used by FT to compile the MBA ranking in 2020, the six schools whose alumni received the biggest salary increases are based in Asia-Pacific. Shanghai University of Finance and Economics graduates reported the highest uplift at 216% three years after completing their MBA.

This year, the appeal remains. Average alumni salaries for CEIBS graduates came up to US$178,558, an increase of 156% from pre-MBA employment. National University of Singapore Business School’s figure came up to US$160,729 with a 138% salary increase. HKUST Business School graduates enjoy an average salary of US$151,758, an increase of 109%.


Additionally, dozens of APAC business schools and MBA courses have achieved international accreditation from organisations such as AACSB and AMBA, and with many now ranked among the world’s best business schools, this recognition is often seen as a perk to employers.

CEIBS reigns supreme

The crown jewel of business schools in Asia, at least as measured by the Financial Times, is CEIBS. In each of the past four years, the school’s 18-month MBA experience has consistently ranked among the top 10 in the world. It has also ranked among the top 25 of the FT rankings for a consecutive 17 years. This year the FT rated it the seventh best, after two consecutive years in fifth place, the highest rank ever achieved by an APAC 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.

“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.”