Saturday 22 October 2016

Trinity rejects tapping up big name sponsor for €70m business school

Jill Godsil

Published 13/09/2015 | 02:30

For Trinity Provost Dr Patrick Prendergast, the Business School will be a hallmark of his term in office
For Trinity Provost Dr Patrick Prendergast, the Business School will be a hallmark of his term in office

As one of the largest construction projects in the State this year gets under way in Trinity College, a decision has been made not to opt for a name-linked sponsorship. The €70m project, which has just been given planning permission, will demolish the sports hall on campus and create a new business school, the Trinity Business School.

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Leading the charge is businessman, ESS graduate and venture capitalist Sean Melly. When asked about naming rights, Melly explained: "We took advice on this from those involved in other business schools' fundraisings. Having one highlighted name can deter other would-be investors. We wanted to create a business school for Trinity founded by a group of business people, rather than any one individual. We are very happy with our decision in this regard."

Trinity College, University of Dublin, as one of the oldest universities in the world, evolved with traditional faculties such as humanities, arts, law, science medicine etc. Business schools are a relatively modern development but are integral to the overall authority of a modern university.

The former Provost, John Hegarty, coined the expression a "university of consequence" as he strove to take the university into the 21st Century. As part of that drive, interested stakeholders began to argue that for Trinity to be a university of consequence, it also had to have a business school of consequence.

It was not good enough for the old ESS business degree to be scattered across the Arts Building and postgradute business students elsewhere. The Business School lacked a clear sense of identity. It needed to come into its own.

Four years ago, Patrick Prendegast took up the position of Provost and the delivery of the new Trinity Business School will be one of the hallmarks of his ten-year term. His continued support allowed the ambitions of one Provost to echo the ambitions of the earlier.

Sean Melly became involved with Trinity formally eight years ago when ago he was asked to join the board of the business school. He accepted and, with the then Dean of the Business School, Gerard McHugh, conducted a review of the existing facilities and resources concluding with the key recommendation for a new Business School.

Like the business faculties of many ancient universities, it had emerged in a gradual way from the department of economics. There was no central physical space that clearly defined the Business School at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

Shortly afterwards, Melly was asked to join the board of the Trinity Foundation, the main fundraising arm of the college. He also became adjunct Professor on the MBA programme in the Business School and so has hands-on experience of teaching and working with students.

"I now had the coalface experience of teaching, I understood the machinations of the Business School and I was on the board of the fundraising arm," says Melly. "With the support of the Provost, we were now able to drive the dream forward. Securing planning permission this month for the new €70m Business School is a defining moment and a huge achievement for all involved."

The Trinity Business School construction project will last 24 months and employ hundreds in the process.

The new Dean of Trinity Business School, who joined in January, is Professor Andrew Bourke. He was recruited from Cranfield Business School in the UK. His area of expertise - Innovation and Entrepreneurship - speaks volumes. Trinity is aiming its school at the top level from the start.

Melly, now chair of the Advisory Board of Trinity Business School, looks at the €70m needed with equanimity.

"Almost half of that will be bank-financed, with the bulk of that provided by the European Investment Bank. We have also secured over €10m so far from individual Founding Patrons of the new Business School. This private funding has proved very powerful and provided the foundation on which the entire project is built," said Melly. The fundraising process will now broaden to individual and corporate sponsors who wish to support and be involved in the foundation of a new Business School at Trinity.

The internal planning team and architects have been working over the past year and planning has now been secured, following an extensive consultation process. As the bricks are laid, Trinity Business School is actively recruiting staff and students for its existing and new courses. The undergraduate business degree continues to be the strongest in the country and is complemented by the flagship MBA programmes (full-time and part-time), specialist MScs, Phds, and later, Executive Education programmes.

The new building will contain an 800-seat theatre and the plan is to have everything in place and ready for September 2018 entrants. The board of the Trinity Business School has also appointed new members hailing from the UK and the US to broaden its appeal.

Cardinal Newman's reflections on a university are often quoted by those in education. His liberal views on the ideas of university for young men to come together and learn a broad view of the world was revolutionary and inspiring in 1852. His belief that the university education was an end in itself had a profound impact on the structuring of learning. He even went as far as to believe the university's 'soul' leaves an indelible mark on the students.

"The Business School was once the orphan of the college," said Melly. "Now it will have its rightful place on campus and hopefully its 'soul' will leave an indelible mark on the students."

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