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MBA programmes at Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, ‘A qualification that students can trade as a global currency’

  • Date: Thu, Jun 18, 2020

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The economic fallout from the Covid-19 crisis has left many people at a career crossroads but this period of uncertainty can offer opportunities, according to Prof Cal Muckley, academic director of the MBA programmes at Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. “An MBA offers people the chance to upskill or retrain to take advantage of those opportunities.”

Established 55 years ago, the Smurfit School part-time Executive MBA was one of the first programmes of its kind in Europe, while the full-time one-year MBA was established in 1991. The programmes have been included in the prestigious Financial Times Global MBA rankings for almost two consecutive decades. The full-time MBA is currently ranked 99th in the world, while the Executive MBA is ranked 66th. In addition, the Smurfit School was ranked 21st in the 2019 Financial Times’ ranking of leading European Business Schools.

“It is the only school in Ireland to hold the triple crown of accreditation from AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA,” Muckley adds. “Only 90 schools worldwide have achieved that accreditation. Our aim is to provide graduates with a qualification that they can trade as a global currency. What we do is give students a transformative, experiential education with a strong international focus.”

The curriculum includes modules and electives covering all aspects of a modern business including finance, marketing, human resources, supply chain management, doing business in international markets, and digital transformation which was added as a core subject this year.

But the curriculum is just part of the experience. “The very nature of the class and its diversity is vitally important,” says Muckley. “Students come from different backgrounds in terms of sectors and education as well as nationality. We have physics, maths, arts, and pharmacy graduates, for example. The class tends to be made up of people who would never otherwise be in the same room together and they benefit from each other’s perspectives in a very practical way.”


The international dimension is also important. The Smurfit School is a member of the Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) made up of 30 leading business schools around the world.

“We tap into the GNAM network and every October students have the opportunity to go to Yale or Berkeley or other top business schools,” Muckley points out. “There is also an international study tour in March to Asia or South America. This offers students the opportunity to learn first-hand from senior executives from international firms about the reality of doing business in these exciting emerging economies.”

Students also get to carry out international consultancy projects in Iceland or Lisbon. “They use the skills they learn on the programme to do consultancy on live business problems. They also bring expertise to bear on the Capstone Project which they work on over the summer. These are brilliant points of reference to take away from the MBA.”

The final element of the programme is the Leadership Development Programme. This innovative and highly interactive programme includes understanding personality and preferences, mastering communication and team building. Students benefit from 24 hours of one-to-one coaching to help them develop their personal strengths.

“We also send a team of students each year to take part in the IBM Georgetown Case Study Competition,” says Muckley. “Our team has outperformed Ivy League schools and has been placed in the top three for the past few years.”

The Smurfit MBA also equips students to deal with the current rise of nationalism being witnessed across the globe. “We give students a means to navigate different national cultures,” Muckley explains. “We hold workshops which introduce them to different facets of different cultures. They will be working with people from those cultures and this allows them to see things from their distinctive perspectives. These hands-on workshops allow students to spend time with experts in the area and navigate business problems with people from different cultures.”


“A whole range of business problems can be driven by culture,” he continues. “We look at things like the impact of national culture on business mindset, capital structure, dividend policy and so on. It’s an underrated variable. For example, some cultures are very individualistic, and this is strongly related to issues in the financial services sector. Ireland ranks quite high up the scale on individualism.”

According to Muckley, the Smurfit MBA offers students an opportunity to unlock and develop their leadership potential, build global networks and accelerate their careers. “Our students do very well after they graduate with 86 per cent employed within three months and 68 per cent of them seeing growth in earnings after three years.”

This article was first published in The Irish Times, June 18.

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