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Here’s Why Applications To Business Schools In Asia Are Booming

While US business schools have seen a downturn in applications, more people are applying to MBA programs in Asia

The big US institutions like Harvard and Stanford have long dominated the business school market—but there is a force rising across the Pacific.

While US schools have seen a decline of applications, falling by 6.6% overall in 2018, Asian schools over the past few years have seen a considerable rise in MBA applicants, according to the GMAC Applicant Trends Survey—an 8.8% increase from 2017 to 2018 alone.

This rises significantly to 15.4% increase when you look just at international students applying to Asian schools—more specifically those in China and Southeast Asia—while the US has seen a 10% drop in international applications.

So why this shift? What is Asia offering students that you won’t find elsewhere?

Crossroad of international business


©SubstanceP, used under this licence

While the political and economic climate in the US is becoming more unstable, the economy in Asia is growing and strengthening, making it a much more attractive place to work and study.

China alone accounted for 35.2% of global growth between 2017 and 2019, far more than even the US and Europe combined, at 17.9% and 9.5% respectively.

This is particularly true of the Asia Pacific economy, which is predicted to increase to 36% of global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030, up from 31% in 2015.

As such, job opportunities are considerably more lucrative for MBA students in Asia. Many businesses are beginning to eye up opportunities to set up their headquarters in Asia as a way of penetrating the market there.

Singapore is home to around 4200 company regional headquarters—from LinkedIn and Twitter to GlaxoSmithKline—compared to just 1389 in Hong Kong and 470 in Shanghai, according to Cushman & Wakefield.

Singapore is well-positioned at the crossroads of Asia, connecting the major regional powerhouses of China, India, and Southeast Asia. Singapore has a distinct appeal for those eyeing up international business; that English is the most commonly-spoken language there is significant.

At National University of Singapore (NUS), graduates have a 94% rate of employment in the three months after graduation.

NUS MBA students enjoy a 131% salary increase, higher than top US and European competitors like Wharton (114%), MIT Sloan (107%), and London Business School (102%), according to the 2019 Financial Times Global MBA rankings.

That multinational businesses are growing in Asian countries like Singapore is only strengthening the appeal for international students to study there—88% of NUS MBA students are international.

“If you go to any other market, you are diving into a large domestic market, meaning that the MBA programs will have a strong domestic focus,” notes Professor Jochen Wirtz, vice dean of graduate studies at NUS.

Tech innovation


©psisa, used under this licence

Tech is fast becoming one of the biggest employers for MBA graduates, and where is tech more exciting than in Asia.

“Outside of Silicon Valley, nowhere is as exciting and dynamic overall as what you are seeing in Asia,” Jochen says.

Asia alone accounts for 55% of internet users globally, and is expected to contribute largely to the next billion users expected to come online by 2021. Factors such as high GDP growth and a growing middle class are all contributing conditions for the rapid tech growth that Asia is seeing.

Southeast Asia is already home to eight unicorn startups, two of which are based in Singapore— Grab, a ride-hailing and food delivery app, and Garena, a digital entertainment platform.

At NUS, new specializations on the MBA program are factoring in innovations which are taking place in the business world, including courses on data analytics and digital business.

MBA students are being brought up-to-date with on-going developments in those industries. Accounting, for example, looks not just at the human skills but also the digitalization and automation of a lot of the tasks in the industry.

“Business education is being disrupted, and there really has to be true value added to the face-to-face program,” Jochen explains.

International reputation


©HKUST MBA Facebook

Just 20 years ago, there were no Asian schools in the Financial Times Global MBA Top 50. There are now 15 schools in the Top 100, and four schools cracking the top 20—Chinese schools CEIBS and HKUST, as well as INSEAD’s Singapore campus, and the National University of Singapore at number 17.

This means well for both domestic and international students. According to the GMAC Prospective Students Survey 2019, 15% of students in East and Southeast Asia indicated a preference to study internationally.

The top two reasons for this preference were the reputation of the educational system abroad, and the improved chance of an international career.

Now that Asian b-schools are on a par, or even ahead, of European and US schools, and can provide first-hand access to a booming international tech market, it’s no wonder applications are on the rise.

Student Reviews

National University of Singapore - NUS Business School






I have studied at the top university in the world and it was no doubt an overwhelming experience for me. I have gained skills as well as knowledge and it was the aim of this institute to give the insight of the skills besides theoretical learning.




On Campus

My journey at University of Singapore

1. In my opinion, the library (actually the library) was a great resource and facilitated a great learning environment. 2nd The professors and tutors were knowledgeable in their respective fields and were happy to help and involve students who visited them outside of class. 3. The students themselves were involved in each program in very different ways. You can meet everyone from lazy people to studious people. In my experience, students were motivated by grades and sheer intellect. 4. A myriad of extracurricular activities and facilities were available at a very low cost. 5. Academic performance is rated very high. when I applied to college S., my NUS transcripts had to be standardized in order for them to assign me a US GPA. During this conversion all C's were converted to As




On Campus

Prestigious university - learning is in your hands

Pros: - Great branding (one of the top universities in Southeast Asia) - Relatively easy coursework (As a business major, I spend about a third of my week studying and the rest working) - Qualify under the High Potential Individual visa that UK is handing out (all NUS students can apply to get a visa to work/ live in the UK for 2 years). I don’t expect NUS to be removed from this list any time soon given it’s reputation. Cons: - Lack flexibility in coursework (committing upfront on the major you are taking from matriculation




Great opportunities,

Perhaps the best part of NUS is the vast amount of opportunities it affords it's students. It's almost as if every week there's a new career fair, industrial visit, hackathon, or any other competition or event for it's students to join. NUS also offers multiple exchange programs ranging from 3 to 12 months (see the NOC programme) to grant it's students a more international outlook upon their graduation. There is a general atmosphere here that employability isn't an issue once we graduate. It's just unfortunate that it seems most students don't utilize these opportunities the best they can, but this attitude is simply a by-product of the results-oriented education system in Singapore that can be chalked up to the lack of diversity in the student body beyond Singaporeans. Perhaps bringing in more international students will help skew the results-focused nature of academics at NUS to a focus on more holistic education and development - what I personally believe a university education is really worth. However, with the right mindset and attitude, I believe NUS can truly offer a world class education, provided you're willing to put in the extra effort.




A dynamic and inter-disciplinary experience, that nurtured a love for learning

Coming from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, what I greatly enjoyed was the sheer breadth of courses available within the faculty and encouragement to take courses outside our faculty as well. Courses were always engaging, and professors and lecturers often gave students the freedom to pick topics for their final term papers or presentation and exercise creativity - for example, my interest in Art History meant that I could often delve deeper into this interest in my main academic leanings of Political Science and History. Professors and lecturers made themselves readily available to the students, and were approachable. During my time in NUS, there was a noticeable effort to invest in the students' global experiences (Exchange Programmes, Summer School, NUS Overseas College) - I truly believe that NUS was sincere in allowing as many students to have overseas experiences in spite of financial capabilities, and if one made the effort, the Centre for Future Ready Graduates was useful and invested in the potential careers of students too. When a friend from another local university did a local exchange to NUS, he remarked that NUS students truly loved to learn. I was content being surrounded by people who pursued their Arts/Social Sciences disciplines with a love for the content. It is also dynamic to be in a university that simply has so many different disciplines and faculties - one is just surrounded by people of varying interests and experiences, and forces them to look beyond their majors. Of course, NUS is commonly known for being too theoretical and content-focused. This is up to the students' prerogatives on how they want to exact their education and mould it for their lives, but generally NUS feels comfortable and safe within the academic realm - there is no push towards internships or whatnot that other universities might focus on. This could be a con. Another thing I did not like about NUS in recent times was the blatant grade inflation - that juniors from the 2014/5 batch could have liberties to S/U a lot more modules than their seniors could in some bid to take the focus away from grades, and towards learning and experimenting. Nevertheless, I greatly cherished my time in NUS and would highly recommend it.





There is an issue of overcrowding during peak hours such as before morning class and lunch time. This results in uncomfortable travelling experience for many students, it also becomes dangerous when the drivers make steep turns and brakes suddenly.




On Campus

never ending accademic excellence

Considering various aspects of my university experience, here is my review as a student at National university of Singapore. NUS is highly ranked globally and has a strong reputation for academic excellence across a wide range of disciplines. The school attracts a diverse student body and offers an international perspective through its academic programs and exchange partnerships with other universities. NUS boasts modern facilities, including libraries, laboratories, and recreational spaces. Accommodation is spacious. However, due to its high reputation, admission to NUS can be highly competitive, making it challenging for some students to gain entry. Singapore is known for its high cost of living, and this may pose a challenge for students on a tight budget, especially those coming from lower-income backgrounds. International students may face a period of adjustment to a new cultural and social environment when studying at NUS.




On Campus

rigorous yet a nurturing academic environment

As a student at the National University of Singapore NUS, I have found it to be a vibrant and diverse institution with a top-notch faculty. The faculty are not only knowledgeable but also approachable and supportive of students' academic pursuits. For me the University is rigorous yet a nurturing academic environment. The student life is rich with clubs and activities, and the accommodation options are comfortable and safe. While tuition fees may vary, there are numerous financial aid and scholarship opportunities available. Overall, NUS offers a well-rounded university experience with modern facilities and a strong emphasis on global engagement. Overall, my experience at NUS has been enriching, and I highly recommend it to anyone seeking a world-class education in a dynamic and inclusive environment.




On Campus

high cost of living

The cost of living at the National University of Singapore (NUS) is quite high for Chinese citizens, especially when compared to living expenses in China. Accommodation, food, and transportation expenses are significant, with rent for a room in on-campus housing ranging from S$400 to S$1000 per month. While there are affordable food options on campus, dining out can be expensive. However, the quality of education at NUS is excellent, with top-notch faculty and resources available to students. The university ranks among the best in Asia and offers a wide range of programs, ensuring a high standard of education. As for student life, NUS has a vibrant campus with numerous clubs, societies, and events to cater to various interests. Chinese students can find a sense of community through cultural groups, while also engaging in activities with local and international students. Overall, despite the high cost of living, NUS provides a diverse and enriching educational experience for Chinese students.




On Campus

dedicated staff

I am a local student studying at the National University of Singapore, I can confidently say that this institution truly lives up to its reputation as one of the best universities in the world. What I appreciate the most about NUS is the quality of education that is offered here. The professors are dedicated to helping students succeed. The curriculum is rigorous and challenging, but it is also very rewarding as it equips us with the knowledge and skills. I really lik the campus itself. It is well-maintained and equipped with state-of-the-art facilities. The campus is also vibrant and bustling with various activities and events. Furthermore, NUS has a strong emphasis on research and innovation, which is evident in the many groundbreaking research projects that are being conducted here. As a student, I feel proud to be part of an institution that is at the forefront of pushing boundaries and making significant contributions to various fields of study.

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