UCD Smurfit School’s executive part-time MBA programme has been ranked 74th in the world and 35th in Europe in the latest Financial Times Top 100 Global Executive MBA Rankings, which were published last week.
This latest plaudit reaffirms UCD Smurfit School's position among the world's leading business schools. Other UCD College of Business programmes ranked by the FT are the MSc in finance, MSc in international management and executive development open enrolment, all of which are ranked in the global top 50. The Smurfit School full-time MBA programme is also ranked in the FT Global top 100.
"UCD Smurfit School has made great strides over the years in consistently improving its global reputation as one of the world's leading business schools," says Prof Tony Brabazon, interim dean of UCD College of Business. "Our executive MBA programme has climbed 15 places in the latest rankings and that is the result of a relentless focus on continual improvement and investment in our faculty and facilities to ensure optimum outcomes for our students and graduates who continue to be in high demand both here in Ireland and internationally."
He puts the scale of the achievement in context. “According to the best estimates there are between 14,000 and 15,000 business schools in the world at present. To get into the top 100 puts a school in a very elite group. The rankings are also dynamic. We are seeing new schools from different regions around the world being ranked for the first time each year.
Pop-up business schools
“What’s happening in a lot of countries is that governments are seeing the need to invest in business education centres of excellence and they are getting funding for them from local industry and other sources. We are seeing the creation of what you might term pop-up business schools with significant endowments of up to €100 million which allow them to bring in top talent from day one,” he says.
“It’s a challenge just to stand still in this context. You have to improve by three or four places each year just to hold on to your existing ranking. It’s a tough game and success requires continuous improvement.”
Central to the rise in this year’s ranking has been the quality of the students going through the programme, Brabazon explains. “The rankings are reflective of student performance,” he says. “The look at salary increases achieved three years out from the programme, for example. The quality of our students is exceptionally strong.”
Quality of faculty is another area where UCD Smurfit School performed strongly with 100 per cent of MBA programme lecturers holding doctorates, a score achieved by only 20 schools worldwide. The programme was also ranked 13th in the world for the percentage of female faculty.
“We have made substantial investments in the programme in recent years,” he adds. “That includes a 50 per cent increase in faculty. That gives us great bench strength in all of the key functional areas. We have also invested €16 million in capital expenditure over the past five years and we intend to do the same again over the next two years.”
Funding for this investment programme has been raised by the school. “It’s all self-generated and that’s very important. If you get into the game of borrowing to expand, the danger is that it forces you to go down a numbers strategy. We can focus on the quality of our students because we don’t have to increase numbers to fund borrowings. Student quality is where they game is won and lost. Student success begets future student success and is vital for the standing of the school.”
Great students, great faculty, great support, is how he sums up the basis for the school’s success. “Our priority is to get the best students. We have also made a substantial investment over the last few years in a reasonably comprehensive suite of scholarship programmes at postgraduate level to assist smart, bright students to access the school.”
Investment in faculty continues and he has at least half an eye on Brexit in this regard. “We are looking at the opportunities which Brexit may create for us as the UK becomes a less friendly place for international scholars. We see this as potentially significant for our faculty recruitment in future.”
The improved ranking is important at a practical level, he asserts. “Rankings are an imperfect measure of quite a complex thing but they do matter,” he says. “But they are an independent assessment of how a school is performing relative to others. By looking at the career performance of the graduates coming out of the school they give students and potential students assurance that they will be getting value for money.
“From an employer’s perspective they give an independent assurance of the quality of the education provided. The fact that our Smurfit MBA graduates receive salary increases averaging 51 per cent, bringing average remuneration to $128,552 [€109,388] within three years, demonstrates the value that other employers put on them and the qualification.”