The Prime Minister who oversaw the collapse of Ireland’s Celtic Tiger economy has gone back to college in America – to learn how to become a good manager.

Former Irish PM Brian Cowen has embarked on a $58,000 executive programme at Stanford University in California.

The Irish Mail on Sunday reported that Cowen has enrolled on the course as he comes to terms with the end of his political life.

The paper quoted sources as saying the six week long course in America has offered Cowen an ‘escape’ from the ‘terrible’ verbal abuse he regularly encounters back in Ireland.

In a follow-up report in Monday’s Irish Times, other sources close to Cowen have insisted that the former PM, beneficiary of a pension worth at least $5million over his lifetime, is paying his own way in the States.

Despite earlier suggestions in the Mail that the government body Enterprise Irelandmay be assisting with Cowen’s college fees, his friend said the Offaly man is funding the course himself.

“It’s a personal thing,” the source told the Irish Times, while Enterprise Ireland confirmed it had no connection with the course.

A spokesman insisted: “The Enterprise Ireland leadership for growth programme is totally separate and aimed at chief executives and chief financial officers of Irish companies aiming for global expansion.”

The report also says that Cowen’s course at the Stanford Graduate School of Business involves a ‘general management curriculum’ customised to the needs of senior executives working in global companies, government agencies, and non-profit organisations.

The Mail reported that Cowen is a student in the Executive Education Programme, which includes a range of courses and features prestigious speakers such as Condoleezza Rice.

Friends told the paper that Cowen intends to use the summer study programme to ‘work towards something else’ and maybe ‘return to public life’.

Cowen, 52, refused to comment when he was approached by the paper while leaving morning lectures last Friday.

He said: “I’m not doing any interviews, I’m here on a private matter.”

Cowen’s Fianna Fáilparty, via a spokesman, said he was a private citizen, the issue was not a party matter, and it would make no comment.