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Smurfit MBA programme shifting to a modular format

Move to blended delivery will appeal to those juggling their work and home lives

The UCD Smurfit School is offering a new Executive MBA programme that will be delivered in a modular format with a much reduced requirement for on-campus attendance*.

The programme is blended with a mix of face-to-face teaching, online learning and self-directed study.

Typically, students will be on campus once a month (Friday and Saturday) and will undertake a number of week-long modules over the course of the two year programme. This move to blended delivery will appeal to applicants juggling busy work and home lives.

“We are trying to facilitate people who may live outside Dublin or who are busy with their careers,” says Prof Cal Muckley, academic director of the MBA programmes at Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.


“We bring people in for one weekend per month on a Friday and Saturday each semester. We deliver one module each month over the two years of the programme and students engage in online learning before each one. All the modules have been redesigned to fit in with the new delivery mode.”

Significant change

This is a significant change, with flexibility the distinguishing feature. “Instead of travelling to and from the Smurfit school for two evenings every week, for the majority of the programme, they will only come once a month.

Part online

“We are moving to a blended learning model which will be part online and part face-to-face. That will make a huge difference and save students at least several hours a week commuting time.

“We had to develop a new design of module delivery to accommodate the very intense nature of the programme. One weekend per month can be planned for and, if there are other occasions when attendance is required, they will be well flagged in advance.”

UCD is ranked amongst the world’s top 1 per cent of universities. We have been educating business leaders for more than 100 years.

The UCD Smurfit School Executive MBA remains popular with students from a range of backgrounds. “If you look at the class, it includes people from medicine, law, engineering, marketing, actuarial, business start-ups and accountancy as well as the arts and sciences,” says Muckley. “That diversity is one of the great strengths of the programme.

“The class tends to be made up of people who would never be in the same room together and they learn from each other’s experiences and perspectives in very practical ways. What they share is ambitions to advance their careers and take on new responsibilities and leadership roles.”

International recognition

Another key strength is the international recognition enjoyed by the Executive MBA. “In 2020, the Financial Times ranked the Smurfit Executive MBA in 62nd position in the prestigious global FT rankings and calculated that our EMBA graduates’ earnings grew by 66 per cent in the three years after graduation,” Muckley says.

“Also, UCD is ranked amongst the world’s top 1 per cent of universities. We have been educating business leaders for more than 100 years. We are Ireland’s leading business school-our programmes are highly ranked and we have been triple accredited for more than 20 years.”

The curriculum is similar to that of the other Smurfit MBA programmes. The programme builds on students’ previous experience and helps them acquire practical skills in business topics such as finance, strategy, marketing, accounting, economics and human resources. Students also undertake a foundation course at the start of each term to introduce modules as well as completing four hours of online learning per module.

An additional module this year is data analytics. “The scope for data analytics to be impactful in business is impressive,” says Muckley. “There have been a lot of studies on how data analytics can improve decision making in business.”

He points to customer turnover as one of the business problems that can be better addressed by data analytics. “It can be used to look at a company’s customer base and predict which ones will stay loyal and which ones are likely to churn. The company can then focus on retaining the ones likely to churn and so on.

“That’s one that cuts across all sectors. Other uses include anti-fraud protecting clients from financial abuse. From a marketing angle, it can be used to profile customers to better recommend products they might be interested in. It has lots of applications in HR, such as assisting in finding which candidates are more likely to become valuable employees.”

Data analytics

Outside of these specific use cases, data analytics can be a powerful decision-support tool. “It’s really interesting to see how it can add value to very experienced teams when it comes to decisions making,” Muckley notes.

The programme also features a very strong leadership development programme.

“This is a key component of the Modular Executive MBA,” says Muckley. “Students receive 24 contact hours of one-to-one coaching which enables them to develop their leadership skills. They learn how to lead diverse teams in organisations anywhere in the world.”

To learn more about the programme go to https://www.smurfitschool.ie/programmes/thesmurfitmba/

To attend the upcoming Women on the MBA: Utilising an MBA to Accelerate your Career Event on April 21st register here.

Barry McCall

Barry McCall is a contributor to The Irish Times