Where to find the brightest (and cheapest) MBA graduates in Asia

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INSEAD Singapore is Asia-Pacific's top ranked business school in terms of employer recognition, according to the newly released QS Global 200 Business Schools Report 2013/14, but it is three institutions in India that stand head-and-shoulders above all 200 business schools surveyed around the world for the academic quality of its students.

The report said India's IIM Ahmadebad, IIM Bangalore and IIM Calcutta were notable for the "extraordinarily high average GMAT scores" of their students, and that all three schools placed ahead of any North American or European school for the academic quality of their student intake. The average GMAT score of  IIM Ahmadebad was 767, while IIM Bangalore and IIM Calcutta each boasted an average of 780 (out of a possible 800). The three Indian schools also came into the top 19 MBA providers for finance jobs.

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The survey divided all the surveyed business schools into four categories: elite global; emerging global; elite regional, and emerging regional. The most significant factor in the rankings was international employer recognition, based on responses from more than 4,300 companies. The two highest ranking business schools in the Asia Pacific survey were INSEAD Singapore and IIM Ahmedabad in India. They were also the only two in the elite global category for the region.

The survey ranked 35 business schools in the Asia Pacific region, and provided detail about the average GMAT scores of graduates, the employer ranking, the average number of years worked before doing an MBA, average salaries earned, and the ratio of male to female students, among other classifications.

Unsurprisingly, starting salaries for INSEAD Singapore graduates were on a par with many elite global schools in Europe and North America, at around US$123,000 after an investment of US$59,500 in tuition.  By contrast, IIM Ahmedabad’s average graduate salary was less than two thirds of that, at US$68,000  - the lowest of any elite global school measured in the global survey - after course fees of US$36,000.

The problem of relatively poorly paid Indian MBAs is not new. Salaries have been improving - albeit still far from those graduates at many of the other top schools can expect - but the issue appears to be one of simple supply and demand. An article on the QS TopMBA website said there had been an increase in the supply of MBA graduates from local business schools, "many of whom are willing to accept lower salaries than graduates of established international business schools".

Another possible reason for the low salaries of MBA graduates from Indian schools was their lack of work experience. The QS survey noted they had only about two years of professional experience, tending to "move quickly on to the MBA qualification at the outset of their careers rather than using it to up-skill at mid career, as is more common in Europe and North America."

Craig Brewer, director of  Hudson Global Resources in Singapore, said many people do an MBA too early in their careers, adding that the qualification was intended to help people advance their careers to the next step after working for several years. "You don't reach that level two years into your career."

He said that there were fewer requests for MBAs these days from employers, with many rating relevant experience just as important as the degree.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the Australian business schools dominated the pay rankings. Of the seven business schools whose graduates earned over US$100,000 a year including bonuses, five were in Australia. The highest earners were graduates of Macquarie Graduate School of Management who averaged $143,583, followed by Hong Kong University of Science and Technology at $127,600; INSEAD Singapore graduates got $122,900;  Melbourne Business School with $112,065; La Trobe Business School in Melbourne at $110,000; Brisbane Graduate School of Business ($104,756) and Sydney Business School, University of Wollongong, at $102,500.

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