Best Full-time MBA Programs in Singapore & Hong Kong

We’ve just posted extremely thorough (and updated) reviews of the best MBA programs in Singapore and Hong Kong at our sister site, Touch MBA.

Many applicants struggle with identifying differences between programs – now you can compare top full-time programs head-to-head across many key dimensions including class profiles, rankings, academics, scholarships and careers.

We worked really hard to put these together and hope you find them insightful.

Best MBA Programs in Singapore – Insead, NUS, Nanyang, SMU

Best MBA Programs in Hong Kong – HKUST, HKU, CUHK

“China Attracts a Growing Slice of the MBA Sector” – Asia MBA News September 2014

China attracts a growing slice of the global MBA sector… CEIBS launches Dual MMH-MBA Degree with Cornell… Insead teams up with Columbia’s Teachers College to launch a joint MA/MBA program… and NUS launches China Business Centre…

China Attracts a Growing Slice of the MBA Sector (Financial Times)

A number of top US business schools (MIT, Olin, Duke, etc) offering double degrees with Chinese schools

CEIBS Launches Dual MMH-MBA Degree with Cornell (PR Newswire)

“China is the second-largest economy in the world, and its hospitality industry is poised for dramatic expansion. As the Chinese middle class grows, domestic hospitality companies are building new brands and international brands are expanding into the country,” said Michael D. Johnson, dean and E. M. Statler Professor at the School of Hotel Administration. “CEIBS is one of the top-ranked business schools both in this market and the world, making it a perfect partner for our first MMH-MBA dual degree.”

Teachers College, Columbia University Launches MA/MBA Programs to Prepare School Leaders in Education and Business Management (Herald Online)

“The Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership – the nation’s preeminent organization of its kind, based at Teachers College, Columbia University – has teamed with Columbia Business School and with INSEAD to launch innovative MA/MBA dual-degree programs.

NUS Launches China Business Centre (Channel News Asia)
“Singapore-China business links received a boost with a new China Business Centre launched on Wednesday (Sep 24). The centre is helmed by the National University of Singapore’s Business School and is the first China business-centric outfit set up by a local university.”

NUS EMBA Programs Ranked 5th and 17th by Financial Times – Singapore MBA News Aug – Oct 2013

INSEAD receives a huge donation… NUS and NTU EMBA programs climb the Financial Times rankings… Nanyang’s new Dean shares his vision for the school… and will the MBA scene change as Asia becomes a center of the business world?

INSEAD Receives $5 million Donation to Help with Expansion of Campus (Asia One)

“A leader among INSEAD’s international alumni who has a passion for sustainability has stepped forward with a donation of S$5 million to support the expansion of the school’s Asia campus in Singapore.

The gift from André Hoffmann, Vice Chairman of F. Hoffmann-LaRoche, the global pharmaceutical and medical diagnostic pioneer, and 1990 graduate of INSEAD’s MBA programme, is directed towards the construction of INSEAD’s innovative new Leadership Development Centre in Singapore.”

NUS EMBA Programs Ranked 5th and 17th in the World by Financial Times (Straits Times)
“The National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School’s double-degree programme with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has retained its position at fifth in the world, while the School’s Asia Pacific Executive (Apex) Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme climbed nine places to 17th in the Financial Times’ (FT) Global EMBA Rankings 2013. Nanyang Technological University (NTU) too performed will, debuting at 13th place.”

Nanyang MBA ranked 64th in World by the Economist (Channel News Asia)

“Nanyang Technological University’s business school has climbed eight places in The Economist’s global ranking of full-time Master of Business Administration (MBA) programmes. It has moved up to the 64th position, from 72th a year ago. That is the highest placing ever by a Singapore business school in the magazine’s ranking, said the university in a statement.”

New Dean Shares Vision for Nanyang Business School Graduates (Nayang Business School Web Site)

“Sharing his vision for the school, he said students will be trained in a more holistic style, encompassing thought leadership and tapping cross-faculty modules such as psychology.”

The MBA’s New Dawn (Forbes)

“The balance of world economic power is shifting east, and the potential impact on business education is huge. Though the Graduate Management Admissions Council  reports that candidates from Asia Pacific make up 57% of the applicant pool to U.S. two-year M.B.A. programs, the heavy flow of applicants to schools in Europe and North America may drop off as the East’s brightest and best opt for study closer to home, and case studies about Asian companies become more relevant than those about their Western peers.”

Chicago Booth EMBA Moves to Hong Kong – Singapore MBA News July 2013

With the Fall application season right around the corner, there is much news to report in the Singapore MBA scene. Chicago Booth decides to move its top-ranked EMBA program to Hong Kong with the last “Singapore” class graduating in 2015, after being in Singapore for 15 years… which although a blow to Singapore’s education hub aspirations, should open up opportunities for NUS, NTU and SMU in the EMBA space…  The NUS / UCLA Anderson EMBA ranks 3rd in the inaugural Economist EMBA rankings…. the only other Asian MBA EMBA program ranked is HKUST / Kellogg… INSEAD launches a Masters in Finance degree on its Singapore campus… As always, my comments are in italics.

School News

Chicago Booth Moves Its EMBA Program to Hong Kong (Bloomberg July 23) – here’s the Asia One piece

The UCLA Anderson / NUS Executive EMBA Program Ranked 3rd in Inaugural Economist Rankings (Economist July 18)

Nanyang Business School Hires New Dean (NTU Website) – Dean Kumar spent nearly 3 decades at USC Marshall and most recently, spent 2 years as Dean of Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology’s MBA program. 

NTU’s Nanyang Business School Launches Nanyang MBA Business Advisory Council (NTU Website July 16, 2013) – the council includes 10 senior business leaders in Singapore and is part of the school’s renewed focus on being “industry relevant.”

SMU Signs 6 MOU’s with Top Indian Universities for Masters and Executive Education (The Hindu July 17)

INSEAD launches Masters in Finance Degree (Insead Website) The post-experience degree is “designed to provide experienced financial industry professionals with the competitive skills to advance their careers and make greater contributions to their organisations—while they continue working.”

Useful Admissions Tips

How do B-Schools Factor IR Scores into MBA Admissions (Business Because) – looks like the IR score will become more important to business schools, especially for those planning careers in consulting.

“With only a year of information, the initial surveys reports MBAs that go into Consulting, Operations, and Finance have higher IR scores than the MBAs who go into human resources, marketing, or general management. In the middle of a conference call with GMAC – it was announced that top consulting firms like McKinsey and Bain have taken interest in knowing an applicant’s IR scores.” 

The Truth About MBA Applications (Bloomberg Business Week June 13 2013) – Wow! 57% of candidates surveyed used consultants during the admissions process. Candidates should at the very least get a family member or colleague or friend to read and edit their essays.

“A survey of more than 350 business school applicants by a group that represents MBA admissions consultants found that 57 percent used consultants during the admissions process—far more than previous studies have found. And 38 percent were asked to write their own letters of recommendation, with some groups—including international applicants and those in finance—reporting far higher numbers.”

INSEAD MBA Admissions Q&A with Ms. Caroline Diarte Edwards, Director of Fortuna Admissions

“INSEAD places a huge value on being international and having the ability to work in different markets, and giving participants international mobility.”

Applying to INSEAD? Then you must listen to this episode.

Caroline Diarte Edwards was Director of Admissions for INSEAD’s MBA program for 7 years, from 2005-2012, and is now Director of Fortuna Admissions, a MBA admissions consultancy which boasts 5 former Admissions Directors from INSEAD, Wharton, Haas and IE. She joins the show to talk in depth about INSEAD’s 4 admissions criteria (academic capacity, international capacity, leadership potential, ability to contribute), and what applicants can do if they are weak in any of these areas.

We also talk about what to expect (and do) in interviews, whether it’s beneficial to apply in earlier rounds, the January vs. Fall intake, and the importance of getting a first-hand experience of the INSEAD community. Carolyn gives great insight into the admissions process for the benefit of our audience.

INSEAD was ranked #6 this year by the Financial Times and is consistently regarded as one of the top business schools outside the US. Each cohort in the 10 month program boasts over 80 nationalities and graduates work in over 50 (!) countries post MBA. The program also has 2 intakes, one in the Fall and one in January.

Listen on for much, much more!

Show Notes

Singapore MBA Straight Talk: MBA Salaries in Singapore

last updated: January 2023

In our “Straight Talk” series, we go beyond schools’ marketing campaigns and give straight answers to MBA applicants’ most pressing questions.

One of the most popular posts on this site is What’s the Average Salary for Singapore MBA Graduates. A MBA is a huge investment, with tuitions ranging from 70K SGD (SMU) to 71K SGD (Nanyang MBA) to 91K SGD (NUS) to ~140K SGD (INSEAD). Naturally, those seeking MBAs in Singapore want to know what starting average salaries are to figure out their possible return on investment.

In this Straight Talk post, I want to focus on what average salaries are for MBA graduates from NUS, Nanyang and SMU, and help you cut through the often conflicting salary information you see on school web sites, ranking publications, and salary sites (INSEAD has a very detailed employment statistics report which is pretty much self-explanatory).

The short answer? Look at NUS MBA’s graduate employment report which gives mean ($74K USD) and median ($66K USD) salaries. NUS used to give these figures by function, industry, and location. Sadly, not anymore. Or they exist but are difficult to find on their website! (Nanyang’s site does not list the average starting salary of its graduates; SMU’s lists its average as 85K SGD)

NUS MBAs, Nanyang MBAs and SMU MBAs are regarded similarly by employers in Singapore, so those figures will be representative for the other programs, especially for those entering consulting, finance, and sales & marketing roles.

Now let’s tackle the single biggest misperception about average salary data: you are not guaranteed the average salary just by going to these programs. Your starting salary post-MBA will range substantially based on your prior work experience, and the industry, function and geography of your job.  While the average starting salary was $74K USD at NUS, the highest salary was $160K USD! Generally, you’ll earn a higher starting salary than average if a) you have more years of work experience b) you are working in a more mature economy.  Conversely, your starting salary will be lower than average if a) you have only a few years of work experience and b) you are working in a less developed economy. It’s important to factor this into your ROI calculations.

Unlike the elite MBA programs in the US and Europe, the local Singaporean MBA programs are not feeders to big-name consulting and finance firms.  For example, INSEAD sent 52% of its 800 graduates into consulting, with more than 120 graduates going to McKinsey alone.  NUS probably sent one graduate to McKinsey, with the rest going to consulting firms like Deloitte, DHL, Frost and Sullivan, and KPMG, and more boutique outfits like Double Effect, Linkage Asia, DEGW.  This is why starting salaries for NUS MBAs in consulting and finance aren’t necessarily higher than in other industries.

If you were to look at the “average” starting salaries for NUS MBAs ($74K USD) and SMU MBAs (85K SGD), you wouldn’t get the whole picture. And that’s why I’m mentioning these figures last.

Asian MBAs on the Rise (Singapore MBA News Jan 30 – Feb 5)

In this week’s news… NUS MBA graduates enjoyed salary increases of 185 percent over 3 years… for NBS the increase was 129 percent… but NBS graduates enjoy the highest average salaries among Singapore MBA programs… NUS MBA ranked 9th in the world for its graduate international mobility… 9 Asian MBAs made the Financial Times top 100 list this year, up almost double from last year… an INSEAD alumni from India shares his experience starting a company while a student… INSEAD creates its own admissions test for its Singapore EMBA program… As always, my comments are in italics.

More Coverage on NUS and NTU’s top 35 FT Ranking (Channel News Asia, Business Because, ST701, Yahoo Finance) – it’s GREAT to see that NUS and NTU MBA graduates – on average – are getting a good return on their MBA investment.  However, your average salary 3 years out from graduation (and the percentage salary increase) will depend heavily on what industry you were in before and after your MBA.  I think it’s dangerous to use average salary figures as a baseline for what you can expect 3 years after your MBA.  Some graduates will make a lot more; some a lot less.  What’s more important to know is what employers in your desired post-MBA industry are willing to pay MBAs.

“MBA graduates from NUS enjoyed salary increases of 185 per cent over three years, compared with what they were earning before completing the programme. In contrast NBS graduates had an average salary increase of 129 per cent.

But NBS graduates had a higher average salary with an average pay of US$102,350 a year three years after graduation.

Measured three years after graduation, they had an average annual salary of US$102,350 (S$130,000), compared with NUS graduates’ US$97,625.”

The school also retained its place at 9th in the world for its graduates’ international mobility. This, the school said reflects the broad international demand from employers for NUS MBA graduates.

Singapore Management University’s (SMU’s) master of business administration (MBA) programme did not meet the criteria for inclusion in the FT rankings, which requires a college to have graduated its first class at least three years ago. SMU’s first batch of MBA students graduated in 2009.”

Come for the Tropical Climate, Stay for your MBA (Nasdaq) – Asian MBA programs are using their formidable resources to recruit top-notch faculty and students; they are also riding the wave of excitement surrounding Asia.  As Asian candidates make up the majority of their classes, these programs are hungry for candidates from the West – it is a GREAT time to be a westerner and applying to Asian MBA programs.

“The Financial Times has released its 2012 list of the Top 100 Global MBA programs  on January 30, and nine Asian schools made the cut. Five of these programs are new to the list within the last three years.

The highest-ranking Asian school is the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology at #10. Other on the list include the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad (#20), China Europe International Business School in Shanghai (#24), and the Nanyang Business School in Singapore (#34). All are actively recruiting American and European students.

According a November 2011 Wall Street Journal  article , many Asian schools are increasing recruiting efforts.  Melissa Korn reported that “Asian business schools are hoping to swipe some of the world’s best and brightest students as Asian nations stake their claim in a global economy.”

The growth of emerging market economies coupled with the financial woes of Europe and the United States has proven enticing to many MBA candidates.  Students are now turning down top MBA programs in the US. At China Europe International Business School, about 40% of the student body is from abroad.  At Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Americans are now 14% of the student body, a major increase.

It’s a trend likely to continue as long as the Asian economy outgrows the western economy.”

Sowing the Seed (Financial Times) – Insead is one of the top MBA programs for entrepreneurs – almost 50% of Insead alumni start their own businesses. I appreciate this alumni’s candidness in describing the challenges of starting a business during/after a MBA.

“In January 2011, I found myself surrounded by people of 86 different nationalities. I feared that I was in uncharted territory. Everything I was going to say in class was going to be analysed, dissected and analysed again from multiple perspectives. Was I going to fit in? In order to achieve my goals it was important that I overcame my apprehension of being judged.

There is a term at Insead that applies to the herd mentality that can take over when MBA students first start: “FOMO” – fear of missing out. Everyone wants to go to the same events – parties, trips, speaker panels. For the first few months, I embraced this. In the process, I made a great set of friends.

Then a typical new fear arose: failure. If I became an entrepreneur, I could fall flat on my face and I would regret having left a lucrative career. But my fears were allayed by studying at Insead. Here I have encountered many alumni entrepreneurs who have shared their ­stories – some successes and some failures.”

Business School (Insead) Moves away from GMAT with own Test (Gulf News) – Insead has created a new test for its EMBA program.  Will they use a similar test for their MBA students?  I find it interesting that Insead’s Dean has essentially questioned the relevancy of the GMAT exam for producing “global business leaders” when they still require the GMAT for the MBA program. 

“The GMAT tests knowledge, such as trigonometry, that is not particularly relevant for global business leaders,” Peter Zemsky, chaired professor of strategy and innovation and deputy dean degree programmes and curriculum, told Gulf News.

INSEAD reported that the new test also puts less emphasis on engineering, English grammar and reading, indicating that these are not the top requirements of global executives.

“One of the drawbacks of GMAT, for example, is in the reading section, which has a lot of emphasis on English grammar. This is not particularly relevant for global business leaders,” he added.

NUS and NTU ranked top 35 in Financial Times 2012 Global MBA Rankings (Singapore MBA News: Jan 15-29)

Happy Chinese New Year everyone!  In this week’s news… NTU and NUS both make top 35 in Financial Times worldwide annual MBA ranking… SMU will be in 11 cities in Asia this February and March… Dr. Alice Chu from the SMU MBA program is profiled… INSEAD launches an EMBA in Singapore… GMAC finds that it takes 4 years on average for MBA graduates to recoup their investment.  As always, my comments are in italics.

NUS, NTU among top 35 for MBA Programmes, NTU grads earn most (Straits Times) – NUS is ranked 23 and NTU 34 in Financial Times 2012 annual ranking.

SMU MBA Course Previews in Mumbai (Feb 7 and 8), Singapore (Feb 8), Delhi (Feb 9 and 10), Manilla (Feb 18), Tokyo (Feb 23), Ho Chi Minh City (Feb 29), Beijing (Mar 2 and 3), Seoul (Mar 3),  Shanghai (Mar 4 and 5), Jakarta (Mar 24), and Taipei (Mar 31) (SMU MBA website) – information sessions are a great way to meet faculty, administrators and students from the program.  You’ll get a much better feel for the program at these sessions than from brochures and websites.

An Internship During Her MBA Programme Leads Dr. Alice Chu to a New Career with Her Dream Company (Straits Times) – an informative profile piece on one of SMU’s full-time students and her experience attending SMU.  SMU has a smaller class size than NUS and NTU which SMU  students seem to treasure. Also, SMU released it’s profile for the Class of 2012 (see below), which includes both full-time and part-time classes. 

“We had practice professors and lecturers who have worked all over the world, but have extensive experience and knowledge of the Asian environment.”

Profile of MBA Class of 2012

Class size: 60 / Average age: 30 / Average work experience: 6  years / International students: 58% / Average GMAT: 649 / Women: 52%

Insead Launched Executive MBA in Singapore (Financial Times)

MBA Graduates Across the World Recover their Investment in 4 Years (Pagalguy)

The world average for recouping return on MBA investment is however four years, according to a survey of 4,135 MBA alumni from the batches of 2000 to 2011 conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).