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Brian Cowen studying in Stanford Photo by: Google Images

Former prime minister Brian Cowen undecided about future as he finishes up course at Stanford

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Brian Cowen studying in Stanford Photo by: Google Images

Former Irish prime minister Brian Cowen, who is finishing an Executive MA course at Stanford University in California, said he has not ruled out a return to politics or a job at his family law firm.

Speaking to the Irish Independent of his €47,000 course of study, Cowen said "It has been six interesting weeks."

The former Fianna Fail leader said that the course has "expanded on" his legal background, and that he has enjoyed lectures from former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Republican stalwart George Schultz and Bill Clinton's secretary of defence William Perry.

While he says that he now has "prospects down the road," he has not given much thought about a return to public life.

Mr Cowen, who receives an annual pension of about €140,000, has been widely criticised for his role in Ireland's banking collapse and for his failure to protect the country from economic downturn during his time as finance minister prior to becoming prime minister.

Although eyebrows were raised when it emerged he was studying at the exclusive university, Cowen reiterated that he was not relying on state agency Enterprise Ireland to fund the course and claims that he has done the course "on my own steam" in a bid to expand his knowledge.

He has maintained a low profile since leaving politics and said he 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."

According to the university's website, the Stanford Executive Program provides the "knowledge, relationships and tools necessary to drive results at the highest levels of global management."

The course is aimed at executives with at least 12 years' management experience at a company or country-wide level.

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."

According to the Independent, speakers at the course discussed subjects such as climate change, water policy and how public policy impacts business and how business interacts with government.

Cowen was placed in a discussion group with business people from a variety of nationalities and backgrounds, including an airline executive, a Hong Kong policeman, a hi-tech businessman, and others in the energy, banking and mining sectors.

Cowen and his classmates have been living at close quarters throughout the six weeks; staying at the Schwab Residential Center on campus.

Many of Cowen's fellow students had no idea of his former role as Taoiseach until reports appeared in the media about him studying at the university.

One classmate called Cowen "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."

Cowen said he will return to Ireland in the next few days.

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