American universities produce most billionaires

University of Pennsylvania leads the pack, Mumbai U is only Asian institution among top 10


WHERE can you invest US$160,000 and get back a cool billion dollars?

In an American university it seems - well, at least in some of them (view infographic).

The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), which also includes the top ranking business school Wharton School of Management, has produced the most number of billionaires in the world.

A four-year undergraduate course at the prestigious Ivy League university would set you back more than US$160,000 in tuition fees alone, but according to this year's Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census, you could stand to gain a 6,250 times return on your investment, as up to 25 of the world's current billionaires obtained their bachelor's degrees from UPenn.

Its billionaire alumni include the likes of media and property mogul Donald Trump, hedge fund manager Steven Cohen, industrialist Ronald Perelman, who formerly owned the Marvel Entertainment Group among other business ventures and Ronald Lauder, son of Estee Lauder and himself a businessman and former diplomat.

Indeed, US universities are the most prolific academic breeding grounds for future billionaires as the list reflects, accounting for all top five billionaire-producing universities.

Harvard came in second by producing 22 billionaires, with Yale University, University of Southern California and Princeton University making up the top five. To underline the point that the majority of the world's billionaires received their college education in the US, the list reveals that 16 out of the top 20 billionaire schools are in the US.

With 12 billionaire alumni, India's University of Mumbai has the most billionaire graduates of any university based outside the US. Coming in at 9th place - the only Asian institution in the top 10 - the university's billionaire alumni include industrialist brothers Mukesh Ambani, India's richest man, and Anil Ambani, helping it beat illustrious US universities New York University, Columbia University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

There was only one British university on the list and it was not Oxford University or the University of Cambridge, but the London School of Economics and Political Science, which took the 10th spot. Lomonosov Moscow State University and ETH Zurich in Switzerland are other schools outside the US that made it to the top 20.

However, the study also shed some light on the recent public debate in Singapore on the importance of degree qualifications as it shows that higher education is not a prerequisite to achieving billionaire status - as many as 35 per cent of the 2,325 billionaires in the world do not have a tertiary-level degree.

Notable university dropouts include Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. Both walked out of Harvard during their undergraduate years to start their businesses.

The study also revealed that among those billionaires who hold a degree, 42 per cent graduated with a bachelor's degree, 26 per cent have a master's degree, 21 per cent finished their MBA, and 11 per cent attained a PhD.

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