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UCD Smurfit School: New skills for a new business world

  • Date: Tue, Jul 6, 2021

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“In 2020, we did a deep dive review of our Project Management programme which resulted in a comprehensive update to the curriculum,” said Professor Federica Pazzaglia, head of the Management Subject Area at UCD Smurfit School. “There is a renewed focus on cutting-edge topics such as agile, negotiations, project sustainability, and governance.”

“We’ve preserved foundational aspects, such as project management tools and techniques, strategy, and leadership of project teams, and enhanced the hands-on experience students get via two applied projects working on real-world business issues.”

The review also allowed us to better reflect key skills that can add value to participants looking to transition into, or further, their project management career. These skills include leadership of project teams, strategic management of projects and stakeholder management, in addition to governance of projects and sustainable project management.

The programme also has a new module on contemporary topics whose content will vary periodically to capture new and emerging developments in this domain.

In combination with the focus on core technical skills, these softer skills will equip graduates with the strategic and operational mindset needed to be an effective professional in an in-demand area.

Offered in both full-time (one year) and part-time (two years) study modes, the programme supports those who want to dedicate a single year to achieving this degree, or those in employment who find a two-year programme more in line with holding down a position while studying.

Sought-after skill sets

Project management is one of the top three most sought-after skill sets across all business areas, industries, and organisations worldwide. Since 2005, the UCD Smurfit School MSc in Project Management has been helping graduates enter this rewarding and well paid profession, and the pandemic has only accelerated the need for these highly skilled professionals.

The programme provides individuals with the knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to plan, develop, and execute projects to achieve specific objectives within given time and cost constraints, and makes graduates highly attractive in the global market. With its practical focus and close links to industry and non-profits, the programme is structured around delivering the skills required by leading companies who come to UCD Smurfit School looking for top talent, both in Ireland and for global roles.

Real-world application

Cohorts are multinational. There are typically students from over a dozen countries in the class, adding a layer of multicultural experience to team work which comprises about half of the programme.

Students will also experience the reality of the management of projects in a broad range of organisational and industry contexts. This engagement will enhance their ability to plan, develop, and execute projects to achieve valued objectives, which will greatly enhance their careers and provide a valuable, market-relevant experience.

What students learn here in these classes directly and immediately translates into work, and raising their game
It is particularly relevant to participants who have work experience, as learnings from the programme will translate directly back into their work, enhancing their ability to effectively think and act strategically and operationally in their area of expertise.

Due to the relevance of project management knowledge and skills to a wide range of employment contexts, this programme is directly applicable to participants in a variety of careers.

Career enhancement

“By the end of the programme, almost all students will be in different jobs, having been promoted or moved to another company,” said assistant Professor Joe Houghton, co-founder of the programme MSc in Project Management Programme at UCD Smurfit School.

“What students learn here in these classes directly and immediately translates into work, and raising their game. This gets noticed; by bosses, by recruiters, by other potential employers,” continued Joe, who has been the programme’s director for 15 years.

“Students are investing in a career accelerator doing the Smurfit MSc in Project Management — we see this time and time again, year after year for so many of our students and graduates."

Graduates of the MSc in Project Management go on to gain employment as project managers, business consultants and industry analysis in a range of prestigious companies, including Accenture, Bank of Ireland, Deloitte, PwC, Salesforce and more.

Our graduates run projects and programmes in global leading companies, as well as their own, both in Ireland and further afield.

Alumni success

During their programme, several students shared how they had been promoted to the next level during the programme.

“I decided to do the MSc in PM for career advancement after spending many years working actively on projects in multinational environments,” said Tracey Kennedy. Tracey is the chief transformation officer at The Project Foundry, an international project management and consulting firm that works across a wide range of organisations in both the public and private sector. “Within the first six months, I was promoted in a new company to a global role.”

The revamped module offering has further developed core strengths of the programme and adjusted to reflect the most timely understanding of the topic.

“I had developed a real passion for pursuing continuous change and on reviewing the modules and course content for this course it was completely fitting with my interests,” continued Tracey. “More and more companies are now needing to transform, change and mobilise within an ever-changing environment. The MSc in Project Management equips and informs students with the insights, capabilities, and skills to support companies to make that change.”

“The students on my course were a diverse group of people from various backgrounds and geographies, and there was a great sense of camaraderie and teamwork,” said Tracey.

“During the final paper submission the additional engagement from faculty and genuine willingness to help me succeed was excellent. I was afforded hands-on support which was really invaluable.”

“I wouldn’t think twice about recommending this course — the content, tutors, tools and support are all excellent and a really worthwhile pursuit,” concluded Tracey.

Community impact

The UCD Smurfit School experience is not just about great courses led by top academics and business people. Students are encouraged to develop their confidence, networks and links to commerce and non-profits through the inclusion of external speakers in classes, and also through completing assignments in collaboration with Irish companies and non-profits.

This year, nine student teams raised over €45,000 for 10 Irish charities, and also worked with eight different companies creating business plans for expansion opportunities, many of which are being actioned by the companies concerned. UCD Smurfit School MSc in PM students have raised over €800,000 in the past 10 years through the charity assignment in their final taught semester.

How to apply

If you are thinking about how to jump-start your career, or are looking for a springboard to the next level, contact the UCD Smurfit School by email on  to discuss the opportunities the MSc in Project Management could open to you. Or attend a virtual drop in session by viewing our events page here.

The UCD Smurfit School is ranked 23rd in the Financial Times' ranking of leading European Business Schools and is one of an elite group of schools worldwide to hold the "triple crown" of accreditation from three centres of business and academic excellence: EQUIS, AACSB and AMBA. The UCD College of Business alumni community includes more than 95,000 professionals around the globe in 35 international chapters.

Applications are now open for the MSc in Project Management programme which begins in September. Learn more about the MSc Project Management Full-time programme here and the Part-time programme here.

This article first appeared in The Irish Times on June 22nd 2021.


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