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.”

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.”

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.

NUS MBA Admissions Q&A with Ms. Chua Nan Sze, Marie Antonie, Director of Graduate Studies, NUS Business School

NUS is in a unique strategic position, where it is offering a global curriculum benchmarked against top universities in the West; at the same time it offers a unique position right in the heart of Asia… it links up the best of East and West.

This week I sat down with Ms. Chua Nan Sze, Marie Antonie, who is Director of Graduate Studies, NUS Business School, and looks after the NUS MBA and EMBA programs.

Topics discussed:

  • The latest curriculum changes at the NUS MBA
  • Why NUS can compete with top-ranked MBA programs in the West
  • NUS’ focus on international exposure through exchanges, study trips, and double degree programs
  • The consulting companies that recruit NUS MBAs
  • How NUS reviews your application, and when you can expect to hear a decision
  • All things admissions – what makes a strong candidate and scholarship candidate
  • Why you have a much better chance applying in Rd 1 than Rd 2

Ms. Chua emphasized applying as soon as possible to give yourself the best chance, given NUS MBA’s rolling admissions and majority of top candidates applying in the first round.  Depending on the strength of your application, you should expect to hear back from the program in 6-8 weeks.

Starting in Fall 2013, the MBA program will require all students to take a management communication course (taught by an ex McKinsey CEO) and a management practicum, where teams of students spend over 130 hours helping a company solve an important business problem.

NUS is positioning itself as “Asia’s Global Business School” and with it’s numerous double degree programs (NUS-Peking U, NUS-HEC, S3 with Korea U and Fudan U, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy), global study trips, and exchanges with top universities around the world, offers unique value and exposure for candidates looking to get a top-ranked MBA in Asia.

Listen on for much, much more!

Show Notes:

Full Transcript:

Darren: Okay, welcome everybody to the show. This is Darren from Singapore MBA Consulting and I’m really excited. I have a very special guest today, Ms. Chua Nan Sze Marie-Antonie, who is the Director of Graduate Studies at NUS Business School. So, she oversees both the MBA and the EMBA programs at the school. Welcome to the show Ms. Chua.

Ms. Chua: Hi Darren and hi everyone. Good to be on the show today.

Darren: Fantastic. So, Ms. Chua, I noticed that you graduated in 2005, with an NUS MBA; a double-degree from NUS and Peking University and now you’re running the program. So, I was curious about how the degree has helped in your own professional life and how you’ve seen the program change in the last seven years?

Ms. Chua: Sure. I would say that the MBA is about getting the networks as well as the knowledge itself. So, I really value the experience, especially the cultural immersion in China, as well as the solid business background knowledge that NUS has given me.

I would say that, without this MBA degree, I probably wouldn’t have gotten up to where I am today. I would say that this NUS MBA double-degree at Peking University gave me a very good foundation and in terms of business management knowledge, but knowing the culture of the Chinese helped me into taking up the leadership of the Asia Pacific Executive MBA in Chinese as well as the Master’s in Public Administration and Management in Chinese. Because they think that I do know how to communicate with the Chinese students as well as know how to entertain and drink with them. That’s very important knowledge that you get in the MBA.

Of course the MBA has since changed a lot. I would say during my time itself, the offices were quite small, there were no rankings and today we have rankings. It has since progressed from 80 something right up to 23 worldwide MBA rankings for Financial Times.

As well as other rankings is beefing up of offices. The last time we used to work with one, two-men career services team. Now we have about six or seven people in that team taking care of MBA itself. Of course, the MBA team as well, so beefing up the professionalism and these things and teams, so we get more study trips. Last time it was one trip per year and now it’s like five. Some are out of Asia of course.

We send our students for case competitions; we get a greater diversity and better quality of candidates. Best of all I would say that for this year itself we will embark on a curriculum review in which we have included a soft-skills component. Management communications, which is taught by Mr. Hsieh Tsun-Yan who is the ex-CEO of McKinsey. He teaches you how to write, speak, is really leadership communication. And we also have our executive in residence, Mr. Tan Soo Jin, who in 2008 was named one of the top 100 headhunters in the world. He’s also our management advisory board member. He has come to conduct fire side chats with our students. So, guiding them along not just in terms of career development, but also character development.

Darren: Wow, okay, great. So, actually maybe to take a step back here, could you tell our listeners which MBA programs and which EMBA programs you’re looking after at the NUS Business School?

Ms. Chua: Right. So, I joined NUS about seven years ago and in 2008, was promoted to head up the Executive MBA programs, consisting of the Asia Pacific Executive MBA in English, Pacific Executive MBA in Chinese as well as the UCLA NUS Executive MBA.

A year later, the Masters of Public Administration and Management in Chinese was added to my portfolio, so I was taking care of four programs and only last year the MBA was added to my portfolio as well. So, that’s a huge portfolio for someone taking care of the MBA and Executive MBA programs in school.

Darren: Got it. So, you really have a long history with both the NUS MBA program as a student and looking after this large portfolio of programs. That’s fantastic and you mentioned that one of the biggest differences is you have beefed up the career services, you’ve beefed up the number of study trips, you’ve beefed up the types and numbers of students you’re attracting. Has the class size remained relatively similar to when you were a student and are there any plans to increase that roughly 100-student class size?

Ms. Chua: I would say that the class size has definitely increased from when I was a student, but more importantly, the quality. So, in terms of the number of the diversity of students in terms of nationalities, functions, industries, it has really improved. Even the number of years of work experience, GMAT score, has improved tremendously from when I was a student about eight or nine years back.

Darren: Great, what is the main reason because NUS MBA is consistently one of, if not the highest rank Singapore MBA program by a number of publications. And why do you think that is? Why has NUS been able to climb that ranking?

Ms. Chua: I would say it’s due to a number of factors.  I mean year on year, we look at the quality of the candidates that we admit and we try to improve on the people that we recruit. I would say that one is also the quality of the program and it’s relevant to businesses, which employers recognize.

So, we make sure that we have regular curriculum reviews once every few years, to make things that make things relevant and rewarding. We also hire faculty members, so during my time there was probably a smaller crew of faculty members and now we have at least 140 faculty members and many visiting faculty members. Like for example, this year, we have a Chief Asia Economist and Ex-MD of Goldman’s Sachs, who’s teaching Macroeconomics in the MBA class itself.

Darren: Great, so a focus on attracting world class faculty and experienced faculty and constant review of the curriculum to make sure it’s relevant and important for today’s MBAs. You mentioned the management communication – the new curriculum change. Are there any others that have happened this year or is that the main / change?

Ms. Chua: Management Communications would be a core component next year onwards.

Darren: Got it.

Ms. Chua: So, all our students will have to go through this in addition to marry the academic side and the practical side, we also have meet them, management practicum a compulsory subject for students joining us next year onwards.

Darren: Okay, can you talk a little bit more about what that entails – a management practicum?

Ms. Chua: Management practicum would be getting a group of our students, like three or four of them, to work closely with a company to solve a business problem that they may present. At the end of the three, four, five months really depends, but would be about an investment of 130 hours there about. The students will have to give a presentation as well as a report to both the company as well as the faculty supervisor, who will then decide to award them four credits towards graduation.

Darren: I see and do students have a choice in picking those companies or does the business school facilitate those relationships.

Ms. Chua: Well, we have a team here who will actively sourcing out for companies, but students can also take the initiative to present business problems from the place that they are working or from some associates that they have.

Darren: Got it. I think a lot of students will be interested in doing that, to get that real world experience. Another question I had about ranking, because a lot of people listening, I’m sure they have this question: NUS has a great ranking, you guys are ranked 23rd this year by FT.

Ms. Chua: Right.

Darren: But some candidates might say, “Well, look at the school surrounding NUS.” Now, I know we never like to compare schools, but there’s Yale, Oxford, Cornell, Cambridge; these are the four schools that are surrounding NUS. And some students might say, “Well, do I get more latitude with a western MBA degree for my career, than going to NUS even though it has a great reputation, great ranking and so forth.” What would you say to these candidates?

Ms. Chua: Well, I would say that the candidates joining us would have the foresight to see that there is huge growth in Asia. Where are the world’s economic powerhouses now? It would be China and it would be India. So, I would say that NUS is in a very unique strategic position, where it is offering a global curriculum that is benchmarked against the top universities in the West. At the same time, it offers a unique position, right in the heart of Asia, where everything is happening. It links up the best of East as well as West, our faculty are trained at the best schools in the West and they write case studies based on Asia-Pacific specific companies. So, I would say that it’s very practical, is applicable to the companies here.

I would say that not just our MBA is ranked top 23 in the world, our Executive MBA also provides additional support, where our UCLA-NUS Executive MBA is ranked top five worldwide EMBA by Financial Times and our Asia Executive MBA is are ranked top 26 worldwide Executive MBA. So, I would say that these couple things, ranking, accreditations, a unique location, a unique curriculum where it’s not just Harvard Ivy case studies, but also case studies and textbooks written by our professors themselves. So, it’s very relevant in Asia.

Darren: Yeah and I think I noticed a lot of westerners—there’s increasing interest for westerners to come to Asia to get their MBAs. And speaking from your own experience, because you got that double-degree at Peking University, what is the alumni network like for the NUS MBA and Peking University?

Ms. Chua: The alumni network is huge, but again it all boils down to the individual’s willingness to network and tap on the alumni networks itself, because alumni networks can be very valuable, especially not just in terms of friendships, but also in terms of potential business opportunities or employment.

I would say that, I’m so sorry, I do not know the exact numbers, but it’s definitely numbers into the hundreds of thousands and it really does help with two networks; NUS network as well as Peking University Network. And it’s not just at the business school level but it’s also at the University level. So we are able to reach out to a lot of alumni if we want to and the alumni is also quite active, so they do hold gatherings in different cities in different parts of the world, occasionally, not just for social events, but also the academic forums and corporate visits and things like that.

Darren: Great and one other question I had about the academic program, was exchange programs.

Ms. Chua: Uh-huh.

Darren: So, correct me if I’m wrong, but the NUS MBA can run 16 months.

Ms. Chua: 17 months.

Darren: 17 months, okay?

Ms. Chua: Uh-huh.

Darren: And I noticed that you have a number of specialization tracks, like real estate, marketing, etc., but can you talk a little bit more about the exchange programs that NUS MBA students can go on and whether there’s an application process involved. Because, I noticed a lot of your exchange program partners are really top schools around the world as well.

Ms. Chua: Yes, right. We’re kind of picky about our exchange partners. We do review whether the school has been actively sending out students and vice versa once every few years. So, we have more than 60 exchange partners around the world and these would be the top schools in each region or each country. The number of partners are still increasing, but at the same time we are very careful about who we pick as our partners.

So, I would say that this is also part of the overall scheme for our students to have an international exposure, so if it’s not through student exchange for about three to four months, then it would be through the summer or winter exchanges, which runs for about two weeks.  If students are too busy to take part in these ones, especially the part-time students, they can choose to go on the study trips, which we organize through different parts of the world about five times every year. Two of which are out of Asia and three of which are within Asia. So, the last year we went to Thailand, we went to Hong Kong, we went to Japan. We also brought them to Los Angeles and next year itself we will be bringing them to Spain, to India, to Taiwan. So, it’s very, very exciting.

Darren: Yeah.

Ms. Chua: So, coming back to the exchange program there is an application, usually the hot schools which would be schools like Cornell, Duke, NYU and some of the top schools in Asia like Tsinghua and ISB. They will be, I would say, “oversubscribed” by our students. So, students will have to submit their resume, go through an interview and we will have to assess sending our best students to the best schools based on their contributions to the NUS MBA as well as their results, and why they want to go to these schools, like for example, finance with NYU or marketing with UCLA; something like that.

Darren: That’s great and so can NUS MBA students still specialize in say, marketing or get a concentration in real estate even if they exchange?

Ms. Chua: Sure. We do—

Darren: Okay, it is possible.

Ms. Chua: Yeah, we do have five specializations here. So, finance, marketing, strategy and organization, real estate and health care management. Our students, both full-time and part-time students, whether with specialization or without, still go to these schools for exchange. Sometimes it can be to get advantage, because some of these schools offer stronger courses in, for example, luxury marketing in HEC Paris; things like that. So, they get the best knowledge from these schools as well. Not just that, even our double-degree students sometimes go on exchange. Strange as it may sound, sometimes they may go in the winter and summer exchanges. So, we have like one of our students from the NUS MBA double-degree Peking University go to India ISB for the exchange. So it becomes a “Chindiapore” program. Yeah.

Darren: That is a really special opportunity and I hope more candidates take advantage of that. This has been great so far. Is there anything about the NUS MBA program that you wish more candidates knew about, that they can’t find on the website, they can’t find in the brochures?

Ms. Chua: Uh-huh.

Darren: Yeah.

Ms. Chua: I would really hope that everyone will have an opportunity to visit Singapore and in the process, visit NUS itself. While they are here, if they contact us early and they are potential candidates for the NUS MBA program, we can actually arrange for them to sit in the class to experience for themselves what it is like to be in the NUS MBA class, the NUS MBA cohort. So, they will experience the diversity that’s here.

In addition, I would say that the double-degree programs are really something that is worth looking at. So, we have double-degree at Peking University. We also have double-degree with HEC Paris. We also have a double-degree with Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. We also have special program called the S Cubed (S3) Asia MBA program that spends six months in Shanghai and six months in Seoul and six months in Singapore with Fudan University and Korea University Business School to give them an Asia prospective. It’s called the Asia MBA. I would say if you’re going for a full-time program, no harm taking up a double-degree program.

One last thing that I would like to mention, which is a very well-hidden secret which I wish was a bit more publicized would be the MBA Alumni Lifelong Learning Program. So, if you graduated from the NUS MBA or Executive MBA programs and you are, say based in the region, you can come back to join us for our courses at a nominal fee or for free. Yeah.

Darren: That’s great, for the rest of their life?

Ms. Chua: Yes, for the rest of your life. This is like you pay once and you can learn and refresh yourself forever. Fantastic.

Darren: Great. And just to clarify to listeners, if they were interested in say, NUS PKU, Beijing Uiversity, NUS HEC, S3, do they get degrees from both institutions or is it a dual-degree that says, “NUS-PKU?”

Ms. Chua: Oh, they get the degree from both institutions. So, it’s separate degrees from both institutions as if you did your full-time MBA in that institution itself. No difference.

Darren: Do the students also get access to those other alumni networks at PKU, HEC…?

Ms. Chua: Alumni networks as well as careers service? Yes.

Darren: Great.

Ms. Chua: As well as the study trips or whatever. Yeah. In each of these partner universities they are treated as if they are the full-time students in these institutions itself.

Darren: Got it and do the normal regular NUS MBA students—do they take classes at the same time with the NUS-PKU and NUS-HEC students and S3 students?

Ms. Chua: / Yes.

Darren: So, there’s mingling—

Ms. Chua: There’s mingling between the single degree and the double-degrees. There also mingling between the full-time and the part-time students. In addition, we also try to make opportunities for mingling between the students as well as the Executive MBA students, the students as well as the alumni.

Darren: Got it.

Ms. Chua: In small social settings, of course.

Darren: Yeah. Okay, great and if we could shift our attention to career services, which is, along with admissions which we’ll get to later often the biggest concerns of candidates. So, I looked at your website, I saw a very interesting statistic and that was that the primary source of full-time acceptances for NUS MBA students was through school facilitated activities, at close to 90 percent. So, I think that a lot of candidates would be interested in knowing how the business school helps them with their career search and of course they’re going to have to really take the initiative and reach out themselves, but what does NUS—what activities does NUS Business School do to help students with their internships and with placements post-MBA?

Ms. Chua: Right. So, our MBA career services team invites companies on campus for recruitment talks and stuff like that. We also have career fairs where our students can network with recruiters. We have workshops, many of them business etiquette, interview skills, resume review; we have a lot of networking events. We also have daily job postings and internships as well as career advisory with individual career counselors.

As I mentioned earlier, we also have our Executive in Residence, Mr. Tan Soo Jin who was the top 100 headhunters of 2008 to come in to provide some career advice, but most of all I would say, because of the diversity, because of the bonds that you form during your MBA, probably one of the best ways to get a job will be through your friends in the MBA. And from my personal experience friends are just more than happy to push you to their employers, even though you may not have the relevant background, because they know that you’re good.

Darren: Wow, so, I mean that’s a very collaborative culture. I’m sure everyone at the MBA program, they want to get the best jobs and they’re willing to help their classmates out. I think that’s fantastic.

Ms. Chua: Yep.

Darren: With the 17 month program—do students commonly pursue internships?  Like is a typical career path to go from an internship with the company to a job—or yeah, I’m just wondering how common internships are?

Ms. Chua: Right. So, about half or more of the MBA students every year undertake an internship. This will be useful for those who are looking for a change in career or to secure a job before graduation. Most of my friends, including myself, actually secured a job before we graduated. So, I would think that most people actually would prefer internships even though I would recommend that those who are not switching careers to go on student exchange, because I always tell them that you’re be working so hard for the rest of your life, it’s like an extended internship whereas you never, ever get another chance at student exchange.

Darren: Yeah.

Ms. Chua: Unless you’re sent overseas, right?

Darren: Great, great with the 17 month program, everything is so accelerated and there’s so many resources at their fingertips and I’m sure it’s tough to choose between going on exchange or on a study trip abroad or to do an internship. Yeah, and also a lot of people that visit Singapore MBA Consulting are very interested in consulting, and I noticed that roughly 30 percent of your alums, at least last year, went into the consulting field. And so, I’m sure they would love to hear what type of consulting firms are recruiting NUS grads and what can these candidates do to give themselves the best chance of success to work in a consulting role post-MBA.

Ms. Chua: I would say that we actually recruit from—diverse people from diverse backgrounds and functions. Most of our students are from the IT and engineering background, but for these people who want to change careers, they have successfully made that change into finance and consulting. So, that’s something that we’re really proud about. Both large and boutique consulting firms recruit MBA graduates from NUS Business School. Regardless of their size, these firms are looking for candidates with previous consulting experience or prior knowledge of specific industry or line of business. Amongst the larger firms, some recent employers of NUS MBAs include Deloitte, DHL in-house consulting, McKinsey, Frost and Sullivan, KPMG and amongst the smaller firms, more specialized firms, some of our recent MBA grads have joined Double Effect, which is focused on private wealth, Linkage Asia in the area of leadership, development and DEGW, now part of AECOM, a consultancy focused on work place design and planning.

Darren: Okay and most of these consulting jobs are in Singapore?

Ms. Chua: Actually, they are all over the place. The NUS MBA is one of those that are highly ranked in terms of global mobility, so our students, once they graduate, they can work anywhere in the world.

Darren: Okay. Yeah, I think that really helps. Just to hear those names, because I think that’s very useful for our listeners, just to hear what sort of consulting companies are recruiting from NUS. And I’ll be sure to link to your career service pages in the show notes to make sure everyone can know where to go to look for those companies.

Yeah, so if we can move to admissions. NUS is a very, very selective school and so if you could walk us through the life of an application in your office from the time someone applies, clicks that submit button, submits their application—can you explain the process of what happens when they submit the application to when they hear back from NUS?

Ms. Chua: So, we actually review applications on a rolling basis. I would advise candidates to send in the applications as early as possible and not wait until the application deadline and vie for time in cyberspace with the rest of the candidates; that’s when the peak happens.

So, once the application is completed, we’ll check the documents and start reviewing all the applications. Usually, if one is short-listed for the interview itself, the interview slot will be arranged with the candidate, either face-to-face or through Skype with—it could be faculty members, it could senior administrators like myself. It could also be alumni. It really depends on which part of the world they are at. After the interview itself, the entire application will be put to the board of selection where the Vice Dean, the Deanery, the head of departments, ourselves, senior administrators will sit down to decide whether the person is in or out or with scholarship or without scholarship and things like that. So, it does take a bit of time. Some people, if they are clearly good candidates they are accepted quite quickly. Some people, they may be wait-listed, so we may take some time to get back to them.

Darren: Got it. So, if someone applies earlier. Let’s say that someone hears this podcast and applies tomorrow, would they hear back sooner than someone who applied, say 30th of January?

Ms. Chua: I would say that the chances are “yes,” but again it all depends on their profile. So, if it’s a clear good candidate, someone we really want in the program, then they’ll hear back very fast from us. However, if the person’s profile is quite mediocre as compared to a person who applies on the 30th of January, the guy who applies later may hear back from us first. But we try to be fair in terms of reviewing and in terms of getting back to the applicants.

Darren: Okay, I see, so it usually will take roughly 8 weeks or 12 weeks?

Ms. Chua: About 8 weeks, yeah.

Darren: 8 weeks. Okay.

Ms. Chua: 4 weeks to be short-listed for the interview and depending on 2-4 weeks after the interview to be offered a place.

Darren: Fantastic. Okay. And I know you mentioned scholarships and I’m sure a lot of ears perked up for that. I noticed on the site that you said scholarship candidates should apply by end of round one to be considered.

Ms. Chua: Right.

Darren: Now, is there a separate scholarship application process or are scholarships awarded along with the application at the same time?

Ms. Chua: It really depends again. So, I would say that we try to make the scholarships available at the time that we offer the candidates. However, some of the scholarship decisions may also come later because we have to assess the whole application cohort.

Darren: Yes.

Ms. Chua: So, it really depends, but I would say that if you are a clear good scholarship recipient than we may offer either quarter or half or three quarters or full. However, I would always advise our applicants to take scholarships as a bonus, because getting into the NUS MBA is extremely competitive and one has to be confident that the return on investment for the NUS MBA will come. You guys will be there someday, because the thing is that if you are good enough to get into the NUS MBA, then you must be of a certain caliber. And if you are going to continue waiting for scholarships and you may not even start on any MBA program, let alone the NUS MBA program.

Darren: Yeah, first step is to get in, right? Then worry about scholarships.

Ms. Chua: Yeah, scholarships should always be a bonus.

Darren: Yeah, you mentioned a strong scholarship candidate. Can you unpack that a little bit? What a strong scholarship candidate would be?

Ms. Chua: Right, so we are looking for well-rounded individuals. We are of course looking at their academic qualifications, we are looking at the university they come from, the GPA that they’ve obtained. We’re also looking at GMAT scores. I would say that GMAT scores, we are not looking at any minimum GMAT score. Basically, we are looking at the overall profile, so even though the average GMAT is 658, but if you are Bill Gates and you come into a 620, we’re not going to penalize you on that.

Darren: Yeah.

Ms. Chua: But of course, the thing is that if you fall short on certain areas, then the GMAT is a helpful way to make up for your shortcomings. So, we are looking for candidates with good career trajectory; so at least two years of work experience even though the average would be five years of work experience. So, in case you come in, say two or three years of work experience, it’s best that there is a strong case supporting you. Either you’re a young team leader or you’re a young entrepreneur or you have an extremely high GMAT score with good academic qualifications and things like. For those people who’s main language is not English, they also have to take TOEFL OR IELTS.

Darren: Do you prefer the TOEFL to the IELTS or the IELTS to TOEFL?

Ms. Chua: We have no preference, although the Chinese always tells us that the IELTS will be a little easier to score on. So, we’re looking at scores of 620, 260 or 100 for the TOEFL and IELTS at least 6.5 onwards.

We are also looking for candidates who are active in their lives, in terms of university life, maybe they have some extra curricular activities and in terms of in working life, maybe they’re still taking part in some professional clubs or doing some CSR, things like that.

Darren: Okay, what would you say to a candidate who is younger, maybe has less than the average years of work experience, maybe say three or four but works in an industry or job function where he or she hasn’t been able to get that management experience yet—hasn’t been given that opportunity to lead a team? Would you still encourage them to apply?

Ms. Chua: I may encourage them to apply now just to get their lead, but I would also advise them to probably look at embarking on the MBA maybe one or two or three years from now and in the meantime maybe try to get some international experience or try to develop other aspects of their life. They could also start an online business to show that they are enterprising, they can take up leadership in, I would say, voluntary organizations or something like that.

Darren: Got it. So, just to sum up what we’ve talked about, you’re really looking for candidates who are strong academically, who have strong undergraduate performance, strong GMATS and who have shown career progression, who have international experience, if possible—

Ms. Chua: Yes.

Darren: And who make an impact in their community. That’s my interpretation of what you’ve said. Is that right? Those qualities?

Ms. Chua: Yeah, those who have leadership qualities, who are enterprising, if possible and people who have special talents in music, in sports. So, we want people who are unique, who can learn from the NUS MBA as well as contribute to the NUS MBA and the NUS business school community.

Darren: Okay, great. That is fantastic. I think that this is extremely valuable information and thank you for sharing so candidly what you’re looking for in admissions, your career services and so forth. In terms of—for candidates who are interested in—maybe they can’t visit the school like you mentioned that’d be the best thing to do, but maybe they are not able to do so. What is the second best way they can learn about NUS and meet students and talk to students or talk to faculty? How could they do that?

Ms. Chua: I would say the most important thing is to contact us and make sure that we know that they exist. We do have alumni as well as faculty who are located in different cities around the world. Our faculty do visit those cities sometimes as well and we, the administrators, do go to market the NUS MBA quite aggressively. So, while we are in those cities, whether we are with our alumni or our faculty members, or with us, we can always meet up to talk more about the program. They can also read our blog. They can also request for a student ambassador to get in touch with them. So, we usually try to match student ambassadors to potential applicants in terms of nationality or industry or job functions or what they aspire to be, right?

Darren: And they can get in touch with these student ambassadors through the blog?

Ms. Chua: Well I would say the—

Darren: Through the student blog or through contacting the office?

Ms. Chua: Through contacting the office—

Darren: Got it.

Ms. Chua: Because the thing is that we are also quite careful about who we give the contacts of our alumni as well as our student ambassadors to. So, I would say that we would do some preliminary check to make sure that this person has fulfilled most of the criteria and would be a potential applicant for the NUS MBA.

Darren: Got it. So, I will be sure to link to the student blog and your contact information, your office’s contact information and the show notes. This has been fantastic. Is there anything else you would like to say about the NUS MBA? Any question I didn’t ask that I should have asked?

Ms. Chua: I guess there are so many things to know about the NUS MBA. I would advise people don’t wait to apply. Apply as soon as possible, because even though you may not have your GMAT or your TOEFL or your IELTS, at least once you apply we know that you exist and our team will follow up closely with you to ensure that your application goes through, right?

Darren: Okay, yeah and actually that reminds me of one more question I had which was, there’s an emphasis on applying early for scholarship funding and for giving yourself a good chance. Well, what about candidates who are applying in Round 2? Are their chances severely less than Round 1 candidates?

Ms. Chua: I would say, “yes” to some extent because some of the seats and some of the scholarships have been taken out by the Round 1 candidates, especially the scholarships. Also, people applying in Round 1 show the admissions team that they are better prepared for the MBA, they would have given this some thought and apply early and are very serious about getting in.

Of course, the thing is that if you are an exceptional candidate who applied in Round 2 and we really want you, we may still offer you a scholarship. But, of course the thing is there are the internal scholarships that we have control over and the external scholarships that are offered by other organizations, which we have to adhere to the deadlines. So, we’ll see what we can do to get in the best students from around the world.

Darren: There’s no quota for round one or round two is there?

Ms. Chua: There’s no quota for round one or round two—it’s the same. There’s no quote for the number of students that we take. Currently, we’re looking at about 100 full-time and you know, about 60-80 part-time as well as a handful of double-degree candidates. However, if we see a lot of good applicants that year, we would not mind increasing our intake.

Darren: Got it. Got it. Thank you so much, Ms. Chua for your time and for your insights about the program and I really hope we can do this again next year and see what has changed with the NUS MBA as well. So, thank you much for your time—

Ms. Chua: Thank you very much, Darren.

Darren: Okay, thank you and we’ll talk to you soon.

Ms. Chua: Sure, thank you.


Nanyang MBA Unveils New Website; Essec Signs Deal for Brand New Campus in Singapore (Singapore MBA News – Nov 10, 2012)

My comments are in italics.

Nanyang MBA Unveils Brand New Website (Nanyang MBA Web Site) – Following its announcement of a new 1-year MBA program, Nanyang MBA has a brand new website which states their differentiators as global perspective & experience and asian focus, and their mission to groom leaders for a sustainable world.  In addition to this focus on leadership in Asia and sustainability, the program has 2 tracks (down from 6 one year ago): Strategy & Innovation and Banking & Finance.

Essec Signs Deal for Brand New Campus in Singapore (Financial Times) – looks like Essec is following Insead’s footsteps in creating a dual-country program in France and Singapore.

“Starting from January 2013, the school will teach its Grange Ecole Masters in Management degree in Singapore, and teaching of the school’s Executive MBA and full-time MBA programme will follow, in autumn 2013 and September 2014 respectively.

“Now it will be possible to follow the Grande Ecole programme 100 per cent at Essec without putting one foot on European land,” says Prof Tapie.

NUS’s double degree programme with the Anderson School of UCLA ranked 5th in the world by Financial Times (Channel News Asia) – and here a participant of NUS – UCLA EMBA degree shares his thoughts on the program.

“Average annual salaries of group participants were upwards of $250K USD.”

NUS’s APEX EMBA, which has teaching segments in India, Indonesia, Philippines, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Australia and Vietnam was ranked 26th.”

A Rolls Royce Opportunity (Financial Times) – a participant of the NUS-UCLA EMBA degree shares his thoughts on the program.

The course offers a global perspective – there are six segments, four of them in different countries (Singapore, Los Angeles, Shanghai and Bangalore). The visits to companies in these locations give you a sense of what it means to operate in divergent business cultures.

Nanyang’s EMBA Program celebrates it’s 5th graduating cohort (Nanyang Website) – for a comprehensive list of all EMBA programs in Singapore, go here.

“In July, students and faculty members together celebrated the graduation of 60 participants…This year’s graduates included 29 General/SME participants, 18 Shipping, Finance and Offshore, and 13 with Energy Specialisation. With students from 15 different countries”

NUS Organizes Cerebration, of the world’s largest student organized case competitions (NUS Website)

3 ways to prepare for your admissions interview (Veritas Prep) – preparing an “airtight” 1-3 minute summary of your CV is crucial, as is having 2-3 good questions to ask your interviewer.


Interview with Ms. Angelyn Ang, Head of Marketing & Admissions NUS MBA (Singapore MBA News – Oct 29, 2012)

My comments are in italics

“There is no typical NUS MBA Student” – Interview with Ms. Angelyn Ang, Head of Marketing & Admissions – NUS MBA ( – looks like the NUS MBA is placing greater emphasis on management communication which is greatly desired by corporate recruiters.  The key takeaway?  Make sure that the way you communicate – in your essays (written or video), resume, and interview – your professionalism. One of the three major questions admissions officers have when reading your application is your employability – and aside from your work experience and network, the way you communicate and present yourself will be the difference maker in getting your desired job. 

“What have been the major changes in the admissions procedure and the curriculum over the last few years?

There have not been any significant changes in the admissions procedure over the past few years. The admissions criteria remain the same and NUS still looks to recruit the best and brightest students from diverse backgrounds, who are well-rounded, confident and future global leaders in today’s fast-changing world.

NUS Business School has recently completed a curriculum review, which was implemented this year. This was based on feedback from industry leaders and after benchmarking the NUS MBA programme against top MBA programmes around the world. The outcome is an MBA curriculum that is more relevant to businesses today. This review has led to the introduction of a Soft Skills & Experiential Learning component, in which students get to undertake a Management Communications module, modelled after the training that top consulting firms provide to their new associates, as well as a Management Practicum that gives students the opportunity to work closely with the industry.”

NTU Steps Up with a new MBA Curriculum (Singapore Business Review) – Nanyang MBA is focusing more on leadership in an Asian context.

“So what sets this new programme apart from the old curriculum and that of other MBAs? Chung noted that one component of the new curriculum is to address the changing concept of leadership by making it compulsory for students to go through a leadership development module focusing on skills needed to lead multi-cultural teams.

The new programme will help students understand leadership practices and business models across Asia, as they will be required to solve management dilemmas presented in cases, network with experienced practitioners at industry talks, and complete projects, including a 20-hour module on corporate governance and ethics.”

“As Chung puts it, the key mission of the business school is to produce leaders for a sustainable world. “If you want a programme that helps you become a leader today, and that prepares you to manage challenges in corporate Asia, come to us.”




NUS, SMU Top Asia’s Economic Schools (Singapore MBA News: April 9 – July 15)

In this week’s news, Cass launches a joint finance masters with SMU… IIMB and SMU tie up for joint research… NUS and SMU are the top economic schools in Asia, according to Tilburg University’s 2012 ranking… and Singapore is fast becoming a global education and business school hub

Cass to Launch Joint Finance Masters with SMU (Financial Times)

“The joint programme will follow the syllabus of Cass’ established masters in quantitative finance degree, with the first semester to be taught in Singapore by SMU faculty. In the second semester, this cohort will join Cass single programme students for classes in London, before returning to Singapore for elective modules.”

NUS, SMU Top Asia’s Economic Schools (Channel News Asia)

“The National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Singapore Management University (SMU) School of Economics (SOE) have emerged as Asia’s top two economics schools in a prestigious worldwide ranking. According to the 2012 Tilburg University Top 100 Worldwide Economics Schools Research Ranking, NUS is ranked 60th while SMU SOE is ranked 65th.The Tilburg University website showed that SMU rose 19 places from its 84th position in 2011. NUS on the other hand slipped seven places from its 53rd position in 2011. The findings were based on research contributions in 36 leading global economics journals.”

Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB) and SMU Tie Up for Joint Research (The Hindu)

Singapore Fast Becoming a Global Education Hub (PR Web)

“According to a recently-released report by Universitas 21 called “U21 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems,” Singapore emerges as the top 11th country worldwide and first in Asia for its provision of quality higher education. The survey, which measures 48 countries based on four indicators i.e. resources, environment, connectivity and output, aims to provide insights into areas for improving living standards and how quality higher education systems contribute to new ideas, bilateral trade relations and business activity.

According to a report by Business Standard, management education in Singapore is more affordable (approximately 20 – 25% cheaper) than those in the USA and United Kingdom. For example, the total fees for a full-time MBA program in Singapore ranges between S$57,000 and S$60,000. A Masters in Fine Arts at the NYU Tisch Asia on the other hand costs under US$48,000. Thus, regional students need not go far to enjoy high quality education and students from around the world.”

Singapore, new B-school hub (Business Standard)

“Another institute, Singapore Management University (SMU), has also been a popular destination for students. “SMU is one of the youngest universities to have been awarded long-term, five-year AACSB & EQUIS accreditation. In addition, we have an interactive pedagogy, an intensive but well-balanced business education, high quality of faculty members drawn from around the world, a campus located in the heart of the business city facilitating a close interaction with the business community and a diverse mix of nationalities,” said S N Venkat, senior associate director, Office of Postgraduate Professional Programme, SMU.”

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).