US MBA Schools Top for Most Asian Students |

US MBA Schools Top for Most Asian Students

By QS Contributor

Updated Updated

As the traditional home of the MBA, to go to the US or not is an important consideration for many prospective business school applicants from Asia.

Recent research indicates that the US remains the favorite study destination for many, attracting 68% of all GMAT score reports sent from Asia. However, while score reports from China to the US are on the rise, those from other Asian countries are declining.

The GMAC 2010 Asian Geographical Trend Report shows that over the last five years the share of GMAT score reports from Chinese MBA applicants to business schools in the US has increased by 10%.

In the same period, the US has become less popular amongst applicants from other Asian countries. Notably, score reports sent to the US from South Korea and from Japan have declined by 7% respectively.

Young Chinese in search of the American MBA

Michelle Sparkman Renz, director of Research Communications at the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) tells that the largest segment amongst China’s score senders to the US was younger than 25 years of age, accounting for 69% of scores sent to the US by Chinese citizens. However, this trend is not unique to China, as the US was also favored by Koreans and Japanese in the same age group.

What is different, according to GMAC research, is that young Chinese sent more score reports on average (3.5) compared with their peers in the same age bracket from South Korea (2.3) and Japan (1.8). With overall more score reports sent out in the global business school pipeline, the share of reports sent to the US is likely to be higher.

However, the number of score reports sent does not necessarily show the number of people actually going. Is it a question of quantity only though?

“Prospective students from China expect to fund a greater share of their MBA education with parental support, which accounts for 36% of their financing mix,” says Sparkman Renz.

“Younger students are arguably less likely to be constrained by job and family demands and therefore more likely to consider international options,” she adds.

Lisa Chung, program manager at Kenichi Ohmae Graduate School of Business (KOGSB) in Tokyo believes that China's families now have more financial means to spend on education and that the country's one child policy enables those single children to take a larger chunk of their parents' savings and study on a two year full-time course in the US compared to children with siblings who might instead opt for a one year program, for example in Europe.

Patrick Groom, admissions manager of the MBA program at Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB), headquartered in Beijing and with campuses in Shanghai and Guangzhou, states that younger Chinese people are interested in American culture and more willing to attend a two-year program and hence their choice could favor the longer courses more prevalent in the US. The decease in value of the US dollar and a relaxation of visa procedures to enter the US further fosters this trend.

However, considering the cost of tuition and the cost of living in the US, these young people build up a substantial burden on the future, even with strong financial support from their families.

Groom strongly advises applicants to consider where they want to work after graduation. Anyone who plans to come back to China for employment does not need an MBA from the US, considering the continuing rise in quality of domestic (Chinese) MBA programs, he argues.

Koreans and Japanese apply to Asian MBA programs

Groom also has an explanation for why less Koreans and Japanese go to the US for their MBA studies – they come to China.

“The last two years have seen a significant increase of South Korean and Japanese applicants to our program,” Groom points out.

Geographical proximity, expanding trading relations and the foreseeable growth of the Chinese market, and resulting positive employment prospects, make Beijing and Shanghai more attractive to Korean and Japanese MBA applicants than the US.

Chung from KOGSB knows that opportunity costs are a big consideration for Japanese applicants. According to her, KOGSB, offering a two-year online MBA, has the highest intake of MBA students in Japan now.

“Japanese save money and work for a while to gain some experience before considering an MBA. They are now more likely to go to Europe where MBAs take just one year, or stay in Japan and do a weekend or an online MBA,” she explains.

“Two years out for studying does not look attractive to employers. None of our students at KOGSB need to quit their job, all are continuing working professionally during their studies. There are no opportunity costs at all,” Chung adds.

K Ravi Kumar, dean of KAIST Business School, with campuses in Daejeon and Seoul in South Korea, agrees that for South Korean students value for money has also become more important than a US-branded degree.

“With job opportunities in the US becoming difficult, expat salaries considered too high, and multinationals hiring more in developing countries, lesser value is placed on a US-branded degree,” he states.

Last but not least, the quality of business education in Asia is continuously improving. KAIST Business School for example, ranking in the Financial Times top 100 MBA programs this year, is riding this trend.

“Asia-Pacific business schools are becoming world-class allowing for more regional choices,” concludes Kumar.

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