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UCD Smurfit Executive Development breaks into FT's top 50 rankings

  • Date: Fri, May 19, 2017

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UCD College of Business Dean Prof Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh: “This increase in our standing in the ‘Financial Times’ rankings is independent verification of our status as an elite provider of open enrolment executive education programmes.” Photograph: Paul Sharp/Sharppix

Business school UCD Smurfit Executive Development has broken into the world’s top 50 open enrolment executive education programmes in the highly prestigious Financial Times rankings for 2017. In jumping 21 places to 48th in the world, and 26th in Europe, the school was the highest climber in the rankings year-on-year. It is the only provider in Ireland to feature in the highly respected Financial Times executive education open enrolment ranking – only eight business schools in the UK made the list.

UCD Executive Development offers a wide range of open enrolment and customised courses to organisations, business professionals, managers, leaders, and executives. The courses are designed to help executives and organisations achieve operational excellence and improve results. Last year over 600 executives undertook various programmes across a variety of disciplines including business finance, corporate governance, high performance sales and business development, organisational change and transformation, and or the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. Programmes on offer include a range of short courses and industry programmes; 12 specialist diplomas and two MSc pathway programmes.

The Financial Times ranking is based primarily on participant feedback using criteria including the quality of course design and teaching and the extent to which expectations were met. UCD Smurfit Executive Development was ranked fourth for growth and repeat business, 36th for quality of faculty, 39th for teaching methods and material, and 42nd for aims achieved.

“This increase in our standing in the Financial Times rankings is independent verification of our status as an elite provider of open enrolment executive education programmes”, says Prof Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, dean of the UCD College of Business. “Under the leadership of director Helen Brophy we have focused relentlessly on investing in faculty and facilities over the past number of years to become an exemplar in the delivery of executive education. All credit should go to her for this achievement.”

Rapid rise

According to Ó hÓgartaigh, three key factors are responsible for the rapid rise in the rankings over the past year: the quality of the faculty, facilities and the programme content. “We have an excellent faculty here and we have invested heavily in it over the years”, he says. “We have 96 faculty members at present and 20 of them have been recruited in the past three years. These are very senior people with strong international experience. Our facilities are also excellent and are about to improve still further when executive education moves into Management House on the other side of the campus in September. This will double our capacity.”

The high standard of the courses on offer is also key. “A lot of our success is down to the fact that our courses are research led”, he says. “Our faculty members are conscious of what is going on in the world and are all engaged in excellent research with their work being published in the top international peer reviewed journals. Also, a lot of our courses are demand-led. Participants might say they would like something in a certain area and we will look at providing a course in it. That contributes to our very high rate of repeat business from both individuals and organisations.”

Ó hÓgartaigh believes the improved standing in the rankings will open up new opportunities for UCD Smurfit Executive Development. “When a lot of people think about executive education in Ireland they tend to look overseas but what this says is that there is a business school here that is well regarded internationally and is ranked in the top 50 in the world in the space”, he says.

“This also shows that Irish universities can achieve excellence, be ambitious and be competitive internationally.”

Looking to the future he says the university will continue to invest in the executive education faculty and student experience. “The culture here is about quality”, he says. “We don’t want to grow without what we offer being excellent.”

International activity

The growth he refers to includes both the increase in participant numbers which will be facilitated by the move to Management House as well as an expansion in international activity. In this latter area, Smurfit Executive Development has entered into a partnership with the University of Virginia, Darden Executive Education which was ranked number one for faculty in 2017 - for the fourth year in a row - and second for open-enrollment programmes in the US. It was also ranked fifth in the world by the Financial Times.

The partnership will see the launch of the Smurfit Darden Senior Leadership Programme later this year. This international senior leadership programme is a two-week fully immersive residential experience with participants spending one week each at UCD Smurfit Executive Development and Darden.

He is keen to emphasise that the growth and expansion of UCD Smurfit Executive Development has been funded entirely without exchequer funding. “It has been financed from philanthropy and income from courses and programmes. It is very important in the current climate that we are able to fund ourselves. This has come at a great point in history. We shouldn’t look back in five years’ time and regret what we didn’t achieve. Breaking into the top 50 in the world represents a step change for us and a great platform for us to build on for the future.”

For further information on UCD Smurfit Executive Development open enrolment courses visit, phone 01-716 8889 or email

Original article taken from the Irish Times



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