FORMER Taoiseach Brian Cowen has not ruled out a return to politics or a job at his family law firm, as he finishes his course at an exclusive American university.
Mr Cowen spoke to the Irish Independent after completing his final lecture at the €47,000 Executive MA course in Stanford University, California.
"It has been six interesting weeks," he said, enjoying a smoked salmon bagel in the California sun during the morning break from lectures.
The ex-Fianna Fail leader said he had enjoyed lectures from the likes of former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Republican stalwart George Schultz and Bill Clinton's secretary of defence William Perry.
He is now weighing up his options for the future, and added that the course had "expanded on" his legal background, and he now had "prospects down the road".
But he said he had not made a firm decision on getting back into law, nor much thought about a return to public life.
Mr Cowen, who led the Government in a disastrous three-year period, receives an annual pension of about €140,000.
He has been widely criticised for his role in the banking collapse and for his failure to protect Ireland from economic downturn during his time as finance minister prior to becoming Taoiseach.
He raised eyebrows when it emerged that he was studying at the exclusive university this summer, a little over a year after quitting politics.
Mr Cowen yesterday reiterated that he was not relying on state agency Enterprise Ireland to fund the course, calling it "malign speculation".
He said he had done the course of his own volition and "on my own steam" in a bid to expand his knowledge.
Since bowing out of politics he has maintained a low profile, and speaking at Stanford yesterday, he did not have firm plans for the future.
"I haven't made that decision at all yet," he said. "There are prospects down the road. I have to make a decision."
The daily lectures for the Stanford Executive Programme run from 8.15am to 4.30pm followed by discussion groups that can go on until 10pm.
According to the university's website, the course provides the "knowledge, relationships and tools necessary to drive results at the highest levels of global management".
It is aimed at executives with at least 12 years' management experience at a company or country-wide level.
Mr Cowen said: "What you get out is what you put into it. It's pretty intensive. Very intensive actually. From Monday right through to Sunday. What you get, coming to a business school like this, is a good indication of what the issues are and how business approaches various problems. I'm a lawyer by background and this is expanding upon that."
Speakers at the course gave insights into subjects like climate change, water policy and how public policy impacts business and how business interacts with government. Condoleezza Rice spoke about security and American society while George Schultz talked about how the world will deal with climate change.
Mr Cowen was placed in a discussion group with business people from many nationalities and backgrounds.
These included an airline executive, a Hong Kong policeman, a hi-tech businessman, and others in the energy, banking and mining sectors.
As he wandered through the courtyard outside the John A and Cynthia Fry Gunn building at the Stanford School of Business, he was greeted by a number of his classmates. They have been living at close quarters throughout the six weeks; staying at the Schwab Residential Center on campus.
Attendees of the course are encouraged to lodge there so they can interact throughout the summer course.
But some fellow students revealed they had no idea of Mr Cowen's former role as Taoiseach until reports appeared in the media about him studying at Stanford.
One classmate said he was "engaging and thoughtful".
"He's a pleasant, easy going guy. I wasn't aware of his background as Ireland's Prime Minister until a story appeared from one of the Irish papers. But he just got on with it. It didn't seem to concern him too much."
Mr Cowen, who has been without his family for the six-week course, said he will return to Ireland in the next few days.