UCD opened its new €5 Million Executive Development Centre at the Blackrock campus earlier this month. The centre, which is part of the Smurfit School of Business, will offer over 50 courses to potential students, complementing the current offerings of the School. The large investment in the School reflects the university’s aim to develop the first world class executive development centre in Ireland, helping the School further improve its image as a world leading post-graduate Business School. It also reflects UCD’s decision to seek new income sources, given the lack of government investment in third level education.

The opening of the centre sees the culmination of three years of planning and research. The centre has been designed to reflect similar offerings seen at other leading business schools such as Harvard, Oxford and IESE in Spain. By integrating the very best ideas from each of these universities, it is hoped that the new centre will provide a world class learning environment for all students.

The €5 Million investment in the centre has seen the school’s student capacity increase and allowed it to develop several new programme offerings. These new programmes have been designed to complement the existing programmes offered by the Smurfit School. Many of these programmes have achieved the ‘triple crown’ of accreditation from the UK, European and US standard bodies and helped the school achieve high recognition in world rankings. Earlier this month, for example, the Masters in International Management programme was ranked 15th place in the world by the Financial Times, an increase of seven places on last year’s ranking. The result saw UCD gain good international coverage, which is hoped will help the School attract international students, and corporate clients looking to train their future executives.

However, as reported in Issue 8 of the College Tribune earlier this year, the expansion of the Smurfit School has come with more than just a financial cost. Two floors of the Blackrock Halls residence were assigned to be part of the new centre. This decision saw UCD spend €2.5 Million converting 40 student accommodation rooms on the Blackrock campus into corporate seminar rooms.

In February, Conor Viscardi, UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) President, explained to the paper that UCD had outlined to the Union that the ‘accommodation units had deteriorated to a state of disrepair and were no longer fit for purpose.’ It was decided that it would be better to repurpose the rooms, and university documentation outlined that the college decided the redevelopment provided a far better financial return, as corporate courses are a significant revenue stream. The executive seminar classes run for six weekends and cost between €7750 and €9000, with roughly 1600 participants each year. This equates to an income which is many multiples of the €196,000 the university made from renting out the rooms as student accommodation each year.

Although the repurposing of the accommodation rooms makes financial sense for the university, it could be questioned given the current student housing crisis which is affecting the capital. Students who would have used these rooms have been forced to seek accommodation elsewhere, adding to the demand for housing in the region.

Kyran Brady – Business & Law Writer