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CEMS programme: ‘We are shaping business leaders of the future’

UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School is CEMS School of the Year 2021

UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School was named the CEMS School of the Year for the first time in 2021. CEMS is the global strategic alliance of 34 leading business schools, 70 multinational organisations and eight NGOs that together offer the CEMS Master in International Management (MIM) degree programme. The Smurfit School is the only Irish academic member of the group.

The highly prestigious award is based on overall student satisfaction across all aspects of the CEMS programme, as well as a vote by the academic directors of the CEMS Schools.

In addition, the programme was placed third globally by the Financial Times in its latest rankings – the highest ever rating for one of the Smurfit School’s programmes.

“CEMS members are all in the top echelon of business schools in their home countries,” says Prof Andrew Keating, academic director of the CEMS Programme. “They include Cornell, the HEC in Paris, the University of St Gallen in Switzerland, and the London School of Economics. More recently, the alliance has expanded into Africa, and the University of Cape Town is now a member.”


The UCD Smurfit School CEMS MIM is a unique dual degree programme with graduates awarded an MSc in international management from UCD Smurfit School and a master’s in international management (MIM) from CEMS. The programme combines top-level academic theory taught by leading academics from the member schools with the business expertise of corporate members of the CEMS alliance.

According to Keating, the CEMS award and the exceptionally high ranking from the Financial Times reflect the quality of the programme. “It is a tremendous honour for the school and our students and is recognition for our outstanding team of academics and professional staff as well as the relationships we share with partner schools, corporate partners and NGOs.”

Ambitious graduates

The CEMS MIM programme is aimed at very ambitious business graduates who see themselves working in a global management or leadership position in future, he adds. To apply for the course, students must be graduates of business or economics and be fluent in English and at least one other language. They must also learn a third language to school-leaving level proficiency during the course.

The 16-month programme sees students do one semester in UCD, another semester in one of the other 33 CEMS schools overseas and an international internship with one of the CEMS partner companies.

Core modules include international business and strategy, global leadership, and business research insights. Students also choose from a range of optional modules including new business ventures; global marketing; international corporate finance; digital marketing; project management; managing the negotiation process; creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship; and supply chain sustainability.

“There is a big accent on responsibility,” says Keating. “We are shaping international business leaders of the future and we place a very strong focus on sustainability and the ethical basis of business. We want to make sure people on programme are there to do good.”

The responsible global leadership element of the programme has a strong focus on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including those dealing with responsible production and consumption and good health and wellbeing.

“We have been lucky to get some very high-level speakers on these topics,” says Keating. “We have had David Donoghue, the former permanent representative to the UN from Ireland, who was involved in the formulation of the SDGs. We have also had Ciaran Devan, chair of the HSE; Dominic MacSorley, the chief executive of Concern Worldwide; and Prof Susi Geiger of the UCD College of Business, who spoke about access to vaccines.”

Great network

The international nature of the programme is very important. “All the people doing the course are from very good business schools around the world. Really good students learn an awful lot from working with other top students. The overseas semester offers students the opportunity to learn in a different environment in a top university. It opens their minds to differing ways of thinking and seeing things. It also connects them to a great network. There are 1,200 students doing CEMS at any one time and there is a huge alumni network spread across the world.”

The internship is up to the students themselves to find, but the process is eased by a careers forum held annually by the 70 corporate partners.

And career prospects for UCD CEMS MIM graduates could hardly be better. “We find that 97 per cent of our graduates are employed after six months,” says Keating. “For the other 3 per cent, the reason they are not employed is usually because they are away travelling. Graduates get snapped up and normally have multiple options. That’s one of the great attractions of the UCD programme: there is a wealth of opportunities open for graduates in Dublin, with so many of the world’s leading companies located here.”

Learn more about the UCD CEMS/MiM programme here.