UCC is set to lodge fresh plans for the €106m redevelopment of the former Brooks Haughton site in the centre of Cork city for the new location of its business school.
In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Professor Thia Hennessy, the head of the Cork University Business School (CUBS) said the Covid-19 pandemic had
delayed the progress on the project but they were back up and running now and
expected to lodge a planning application for the site this year.
“We have outline drawings developed by architects RKD and would hope to move to planning shortly,” she said.
If approved and developed, the project would result in CUBS’s almost 4,000 students and 180 staff relocating from the campus on College Rd to the centre of Cork. The site is at the location of a former Brooks Haughton builder’s yard, between Copley St, Union Quay, and South Terrace.
“I think it to be very exciting project for the city. By the time it is ready we would be bringing almost 4,500 people into the city.”
While the new school will include traditional lecture halls and theatres, Prof Hennessy said the design includes flexibility for the various spaces taking into consideration the requirements learned from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The facility will be around 17,000sq m, incorporating teaching space, laboratories, meeting facilities, office space, and catering facilities on site.
She said the current academic year has seen a significant return to in-person lectures.
They expect to expand on this by September when they also expect to see a significant return of international students.
Like all other sectors, the school had to adapt rapidly as Covid spread in 2020.
“The way international student recruitment works, it all happens in the autumn and they’ve already decided by January or February if they’re coming the following September. So when Covid hit, our numbers were actually quite positive for 2020. But then gradually, we start seeing problems with travel restrictions. We had one programme in particular that was an accounting programme that was 100% Chinese students so we had to cut that.
“We still had quite a few international students that came in the autumn of 2020 and all of that academic year was online and so not a great experience for them.
“For Irish students, they were also sitting at their computers and looking at us talking on a screen, which is not ideal.”
However, Prof Hennessy said the lockdown did open up certain opportunities.
“We had Colin Hunt the CEO AIB come in and do a lecture, something that might have been more difficult at any other times. So being online opened up extra opportunities in terms of bringing speakers in.”
Once developed, the CUBS school will complement the existing Centre for Executive Education which opened in 2018 in the refurbished Savings Bank on Lapp’s Quay.
The CUBS business schools combines undergraduate and postgraduate courses. A partnership with the Irish Management Institute (IMI) who deliver executive and leadership training means CUBS is now one of the largest business schools in the country.
It recently received AACSB (the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) accreditation which Prof Hennessy said benefits the school in a number of ways.
“It has made a difference internally in our quality control. We had to jump through a number of hoops to achieve it. But it also makes the school more attractive to potential students. A prospective student in India might want to go to a business school but might decide to only go to an accredited one.”
“The same thing applies for attracting staff internationally. Staff might only want to work with an accredited school. We would also work with the IDA. So if they were bringing a prospective company to Cork, they would often bring them to UCC because they want to know about the talent pipeline. So a financial services firm, for example, would want to know what types of graduates we produce.
“Those companies, they look for cities of a certain size, then they look for universities of a certain ranking globally and then, within that, certain types of accreditation.”
With the expansion of the CUBS school, Prof Hennessy said they hope to broaden and further diversify the students they bring to Cork.
Prominent alumni of the UCC Business School include Ken Murphy, the current CEO of Tesco, Sean Doyle, the chief executive of British Airways, Cathy Kearney, head of Apple’s Irish operations, and Kerry Group CEO