Sponsored content is premium paid-for content produced by the Irish Times Content Studio on behalf of commercial clients. The Irish Times newsroom or other editorial departments are not involved in the production of sponsored content.

Business schools seek to define the future of work

Dublin gathering focused on the new skills required and the development of global mindsets

Representatives of some of the world’s top business schools – along with leading global companies such as EY, Google, Facebook and Salesforce – gathered in Dublin this week for the prestigious CEMS Corporate Partners Benchmarking Meeting on the future of work.

Established in 1988 by four leading European schools – ESADE, HEC Paris, Bocconi University and the University of Cologne – CEMS has grown into global alliance of 32 business schools, and nearly 70 multinational companies and NGOs that together offer the CEMS master's degree in international management (Mim) which is offered in Ireland by the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School as part of its MSc in international management programme.

“Business schools around the world are struggling to define what exactly the future of work is,” says Prof Damien McLoughlin of the Smurfit school. “It sounds like something that is 10 years away but it’s actually happening right now in workplaces. We are already seeing the impact of technology and its capacity to allow international teams to interact and collaborate across three, four or even 10 time zones. That is very significant, as is its capacity to enable individual professionals operate independently in different parts of the world. But there is an assumption if you have the hardware that the software will fall into place. That doesn’t apply in practice. The CEMS community is trying to think through the software issue.”


The Dublin meeting focused on the new skills required for the new world of work, the development of global mindsets and new ways to learn.


McLoughlin says CEMS is now an alliance academic and corporate institutions dedicated to educating and preparing future generations of international business leaders. “It includes the best business school in each country and UCD is a member of that community. The second leg of that community is the corporate partners. These are some of the best employers in the world. They make a financial contribution, but they make a much more significant intellectual contribution.”

That intellectual contribution includes direct inputs to the Mim curriculum as well the organisation of interactive training seminars to help students develop skills relevant to management life. The partners design the seminar content – usually a simulation of a business life situation – in co-operation with a member school and provide a trainer who delivers the session and gives feedback to students.

‘Influence and strengthen’

“There are two other parts to the community,” McLoughlin adds. “We have social partners – non-profits and NGOs – who do not make a financial contribution to CEMS but influence and strengthen its social commitments and teachings. And there are the alumni. We hold our alumni very close. This is not something you normally find outside of the US. Our alumni work with us to decide what is required for students in future.”

The UCD MSc in international management/CEMS Mim programme was rated seventh in the world by the Financial Times Masters in Management Global Ranking in 2018. The course is devised by both academic and business leaders, bridging university education and business expertise, thus offering insights into management best practices through seminars, core modules, electives, language teaching and internships.


It is targeted at graduates with a business, economics or Stem background, fluency in English and an additional language as well as another language at beginner level to be developed during the course.

"All students are required to be multilingual and must speak three or four languages," McLoughlin says. "They spend one semester in UCD and the other in a partner school in another country such as France, Russia, Hong Kong, China, Brazil, or the US. They learn how to work in different countries and in multilingual and multinational teams. The hardware is the ability to travel and not to travel if you don't wish to. CEMS provides the software to make that hardware work. Just because you can speak to someone in Brazil doesn't mean you can work with them. There are cultural and other differences to be aware of. The average CEMS student understands those cultural differences. They understand the software and have the capacity to build deep relationships because they know what it is like to work somewhere else – they have that cultural awareness."


The programme is continually evolving. “We listen to what the corporate partners say,” McLoughlin says. “One of the things these have been asking is what we do about Stem and Stem graduates. CEMS was historically targeted at business and economics graduates who but now we want people in different areas like a science and maths as well. The meeting in Dublin provided an opportunity to have conversations like that with the corporate partners around the future of work and use them to drive the CEMS programme.”

Not surprisingly, competition for the limited number of the process is intense. “Around 85 per cent of the students on the course are from overseas,” he says. “The application process for CEMS is extremely demanding. It’s highly selective and competitive and we have four people applying for every place.”