Practical Learning in Hospitality Education

First Published in 2021 by The University of Queensland

Copyright © The University of Queensland, 2021


eISBN: 978-1-74272-351-8

Please cite as: Ren, L., and McKercher, B. (Eds) (2021) Practical Learning in Hospitality Education. University of Queensland, DOI: 10.14264/5fed372

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The University of Queensland, St Lucia QLD, Australia

Practical Learning in Hospitality Education

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Practical Learning in Hospitality Education by Lianping Ren and Bob McKercher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Author Biographies


Miguel Bendrao Baltazar holds a Master’s degree in Management in Hospitality from Cornell University School of Hotel Administration (USA). Miguel brings a mix of 14 years of international hospitality management work experience, and 16 years of teaching, administrating and advising experience in prestigious International Hospitality Management Schools in Portugal, Switzerland, Spain, Puerto Rico and the US.

Ella K. Bennion is the Student Liaison Internship Coordinator and Academic Advisor in the School of Business and Economics at The University of the South Pacific. She is from Fiji and her qualifications are in Community Development, Sociology, Psychology and Social Policy. She has just completed her Masters in Diplomacy & International Affairs. Her interests lie in education, student and alumni support, professional development and volunteerism. Her scholarly interests include social capital, professional sports, human behaviour and society in general.

Dr. Sandeep Basnyat is an Assistant Professor at Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM), Macao, China. Sandeep’s research areas of interest include employee relationships, human resource management, and work and working conditions in the tourism and hospitality industry. Sandeep has also been providing training on destination management and marketing in the capacity building workshops and seminars organized by IFTM.

Dr. Kevin Burns is a travel enthusiast, researcher, and Lecturer in Tourism Management at Dundalk Institute of Technology, Ireland. His research is primarily focused on tourist behaviour, experience, and engagement. Kevin has recently returned from a five-year teaching and research career in China, having obtained his Doctorate degree in Hospitality and Tourism from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Dr. Yong Chen is an Associate Professor at Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), Switzerland, where he lectures on economics of tourism and hospitality. Dr. Chen’s research interests include tourist behaviour, tourism demand, the sharing economy, and Chinese outbound tourism.

Cheng, Wan Lok Alan is currently an Instructor in Front Office Operations with the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM). He is a full member of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ) and Certified Practicing Accountant Australia (CPA Aust). Prior to joining IFTM, he worked as an Academic Advisor in Accounting and Finance with the Hong Kong Baptist University and then an Instructor in Professional Accountancy with the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Dr. Nate-tra Dhevabanchachai was a general manager running Salaya Pavilion Hotel and Training Centre for over 11 years and has been a Lecturer of the Human Resource Management subject in the Tourism and Hospitality Programme of Mahidol University International College in Bangkok, Thailand since 2006. Nate-tra is strongly involved in various consultancy projects in government and private sector in various industries. Her expertise is in service excellence and people management and development.

Simone Doudna, MBA, CHE is an Instructional Assistant Professor at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management with over 20 years of global hospitality experience Her classes include Practicum 1 and 2, taught to thousands of hospitality students through the years.

Ms. Dong Liyang is a doctoral student in School of Hotel and Tourism Management of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and also is an Assistant Director of Human Resources Department in Atlantis Sanya. Her research focuses on hospitality talent development and female leadership.

Dr. Joan Flaherty is an Associate Professor in the School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management at University of Guelph, Canada, and the School’s Co-op Advisor. Her research interest is in the area of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

Shelley Gallina is a Co-operative Education Coordinator in the Experiential Learning Hub at University of Guelph. She has enjoyed creating co-op work opportunities for students and building employer partnerships for more than 20 years.

Dr. Dawn Gibson is a Senior Lecturer of Tourism and Hospitality Management and Academic Advisor in the School of Business and Economics at The University of the South Pacific. She is from Fiji and her PhD examined the challenges indigenous owned businesses face delivering consistent quality services in the backpacker/budget accommodation sector in the Yasawa Islands in Fiji. She has an avid interest in education especially as it relates to learning, teaching and quality and her research and scholarly interests include: climate change and tourism mobility in the Pacific; challenges of indigenous/community based tourism operators; entrepreneurship and innovation; backpacker and voluntourism; sustainable development and food tourism, import substitution and linking agriculture to tourism; and agritourism.

Prof Brian Hay worked for five years as a town planner in England and twenty years as head of research at the Scottish Tourist Board, before developing his academic career. Over the last fifteen years, he has held visiting Professorships at various Scottish universities and is currently an Honorary Professor at Heriot-Watt University. His qualifications range from a B.Sc. in Town and Country Planning from Heriot-Watt University to a Ph.D. in Recreation Resources Development from Texas A&M University.

Dr. Cindy Yoonjoung Heo is an Associate Professor of revenue management at Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), Switzerland. Her research focuses on revenue management, corporate social responsibility, and P2P sharing platforms. She is a member of HSMAI Europe Revenue Optimization Advisory Board and serves on the editorial boards of Tourism Management and International Journal of Hospitality Management.

Hupfeld Hoerder is a Sessional Lecturer in the School of Business and Economics at The University of the South Pacific. He completed his Masters of Business in International Tourism and Hospitality Management at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia and his research interests include tourism and fashion, tourism and the bridal market, hospitality operational systems and the opportunities and challenges of social media in tourism marketing. Currently, he is working on pursuing his PhD in the field of tourism marketing, focusing on wedding market tourism in Fiji.

Dr. Ricky Hu Xiao, founder and managing director of E plus Hotel Management Consultancy Co., Shenzhen. He holds a doctorate from the School of Hotel and Tourism Management, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. His research interest includes human resource management, strategic management, and tourism & hospitality education.

Mr. Shiva Prasad Jaishi is a Chief Officer at the Planning, Training and Academic Management Department at Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hotel Management (NATHM) in Kathmandu, Nepal. Shiva has been extensively involved in providing tourism and hospitality training as well as handling administrative matters related to those training programmes.

Anna Klenert is a Senior Lecturer in Hospitality Operations and Module Leader for the Postgraduate hospitality, tourism and events placement programme at the Oxford School of Hospitality Management, within the Oxford Brookes Business School at Oxford Brookes University.

Dr. Christina Lam is an Assistant Professor and the Programme Director of the Hospitality Business Degree programme at Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT). Prior to joining academia, she was an industry practitioner and assumed different leadership roles in the hospitality industry. Her teaching and research interests are in the area of hospitality consumer behaviour, brand management, hotel development and service quality management.

Ann Lara is a Lecturer of hospitality management and Career Services Coordinator for hospitality management students in Southern California. She is inspired every day by her student’s commitment and determination to their education, families and communities.

Dr. Zhuo Li (Catherine) is a Lecturer and coordinator for the Tourism Retail and Marketing Management Program at the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies. She obtained her doctoral degree in hospitality and tourism management at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Her research interests include tourism shopping, destination shopping mall and tourism education.

Dr. Chun Liu is a Lecturer in School of Tourism Sciences at Beijing International Studies University, Beijing, China. Her research interests include technology adoption, consumer behaviour and customer experience.

Dr. Murray Mackenzie’s hospitality and educational expertise has taken him to several continents including Australasia, Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. His knowledge of the hospitality industry commenced as an apprentice chef, concluding as Executive Chef. Completing his academic qualification, he then proceeded to lecture at world acclaimed tertiary institutes in Asia and the United States. His research interests now include wine education, food and beverage and corporate social responsibility.

Prof Bob McKercher has over 30 years’ experience as a tourism academic. His broad ranging research interests include tourist behaviour, product development, special interest tourism and a range of educational issues.

Dr. Brian Miller is Associate Professor, at the University of Delaware. He teaches undergraduate and graduate hospitality courses at UD and the Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France.

Dr. Kaewta Muangasame has been a Lecturer in Tourism and Hospitality Management Division, Mahidol University International College, Bangkok, Thailand since 2006. Kaewta is strongly involved in tourism and hospitality consultancy projects for government agencies such as the Department of Tourism, Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ASEAN Tourism Marketing and Communication Working Group.

Prof Lianping Ren (Eve) is the academic coordinator overseeing postgraduate programs at the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM). Her research interests mainly include hospitality and tourism education, traveller behaviour, and strategic management in hospitality and tourism.

Dr. Yi-Fan Tung is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Leisure Industry and Health Promotion at the National Ilan University in Taiwan and is in charge of the internship program. Before joining academia, Dr. Tung worked in several five-star hotels for seven years and served in various departments such as rooms, food & beverage and corporate office. He was also a hotel development consultant and owner’s representative.

Beverley Seager is the Work Integrated Learning Coordinator at the Cape Town Hotel School, Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town, South Africa. She has fifteen years’ hospitality industry experience, giving her the background to assist in the lecturing, and placing, of students at the CTHS.

Karishma Sharma is a Teaching Assistant in The School of Business and Economics, at the University of the South Pacific and has a Bachelor of Arts in Tourism and Hospitality Management and a Master of Commerce in Tourism and Hospitality Management. Her scholarly interests include digital marketing and social media in tourism, hospitality and services marketing, women’s entrepreneurship and empowerment in developing countries and customer service in hospitality and tourism.

Dr. C. Louis Shih is a hotel development consultant. He was formerly a Vice President with Marriot International. Before that, he was a Managing Director with Selco, a USA based real estate fund management firm specializing in hotel investment.

Prof J. Bruce Tracey has been at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration since 1992. His teaching and research focuses primarily on human capital management challenges, including factors that may influence the effectiveness of learning and development systems.

Dr. Ryan Smith is an Assistant Professor at San Francisco State University. His background, teaching, and research interest are centered around food and beverage. He holds a Doctorate in Hotel and Tourism Management from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Bill Sullivan, MS, CHIA, CAHTA, is the Managing Director of the Courtyard by Marriott, Newark-University of Delaware.

Dr. Reg Foucar-Szocki is an innovative educator who believes in reflective experiential learning as the cornerstone for living and thriving in the 4th Industrial Revolution. Reg‘s work has been acknowledged with lifetime achievement awards by Michigan State University and ICHRIE.

Dr. Kirsten Tripodi is the Hospitality, Resort & Tourism Director at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. Kirsten enjoyed a successful career in hospitality operations for more than 25 years before she transitioned to pursue preparing young professionals for the industry she is passionate about.

Dr. Yang Jingjing has over 15 years’ international working experience, in UK, China and New Zealand. She has worked not only in academia, but also in government, tourism industry, tourism planning and consultancy. Currently she is working at Macao Institute for Tourism Studies, Macao, China.

Ms. Yeo May-Fung is the Director of the Centre for Career Readiness at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT). With over 25 years of experience in the education industry, she was previously head of Student Affairs at an education institution, overseeing Career Services, Student Life, Counselling Service and Alumni Services. Prior to that, she also managed education operations for undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

Mr. Shichun Yu is an Associate Professor in Beijing Hospitality Institute, Beijing, China. His research interests include hospitality marketing, hospitality education and college major choice.

Part 1 - Practical Learning in Campus-based Commercial Hotels


On campus hotels take one of two forms. They can be run as commercial, for profit businesses, whether as independent entities or part of national franchises, or they can be run as revenue generating, but not necessarily for profit training hotels. Part 1 on this book examines a number of models of commercial hotel properties, while Part 2 examines the not necessarily for profit model adopted by some other institutions.

This part of the book begins with a census of on-campus hotels based in the United States, written by Tripodi et al. The next two chapters examine two approaches to the development of commercial hotels with a strong training focus. The Chapter by Tracey looks at the Statler Hotel located on campus at Cornell University, while the Chapter by Ren et al explores the development of the Hotel Icon at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. A Chapter by Miller and Sullivan that examines the challenges in developing a branded hotel at the University of Delaware in the USA follows. Hay presents a different perspective of an on campus hotel at the Heriot-Watt University in the UK that offers traineeships and employment for non-hospitality students.

Chapter 2: Current State of Captive Hotels: USA point of view


Kirsten Tripodi, Miguel Bendrao Baltazar, and Reg Foucar-Szocki

Kirsten Tripodi, Sacred Heart University

Miguel Bendrao Baltazar, James Madison University

Reg Foucar-Szocki, James Madison University


The importance of on-campus hotels, also called captive hotels, is explored as a case study through three lenses: the academic institution and faculty, the student learner, and the hotel operator. The three populations are defined with specific benefits, opportunities, and barriers detailed for each community. A database of current hotels-on college campuses with Tourism & Hotel Management (T&HM) programs of study in the United States is presented as an Appendix to the chapter.


The consensus regarding the best way to educate students to become tomorrow’s leaders in the global tourism and hospitality discipline is at a crossroads. Some education outlets emphasize technical skills. Others believe the foundations must be in the functional areas of business. Still, another group suggests technological solutions such as AI/robotics is the ideal educational game plan. In a recent compilation of the “Best Tourism and Hospitality Schools in the World. University Rankings”, three independent sources addressed this issue, including: Top Universities QS Rankings by Subject; Shanghai Rankings by Subject; and the CEOWORLD Rankings. Each listing was reported with a detailed scoring system and rubric for evaluation (Balan, 2020).

We observed one commonality between over 80 % of the three top ten lists, and this was an on-campus hotel as part of its educational mission. Successful tourism and hospitality (THM) programs offer applied business certificates, diplomas, and degrees where the practical application is valued (Tripodi & Baltazar, 2015: 72). LeBruto and Murray (1994) point out that they identify “insuring the application of classroom learning experiences to actual management situations” as a significant issue in hotel management education. This observation is still relevant today. An on-campus fully functional hotel provides students, faculty, academic programs, and the institution with many direct advantages.

This chapter examines on-campus hotels as a learning tool from three lenses: the academic program, the hotel operator, and the student learner. A discussion follows for each stakeholder, exploring the benefits, opportunities, and barriers. The case study’s final component is a useful list of over 40 on-campus hotels in the United States affiliated with hospitality and tourism programmes.

The Academic Program and Faculty Lens


Academic Programs are comprised of a series of required courses and electives leading to completing a certificate, diploma, or college or university degree. The faculty are those individuals who are part of the instructional team of the academic program.


Competitive Advantage

A captive hotel enhances the THS program’s strategic competitiveness among similar programs by arming the department/college/school with practical labs and a more realistic industry perspective. On-site learning helps students experience the challenges of customer service while creating their professional voice. This partnership is an exceptional recruiting tool for the program and academic institution.

A Hands-On Experience

Part-time employment openings will give students hands-on experience and explore major/career options in this hospitality industry segment. A hands on experience contributes to reducing students’ unemployment rate, and due to the broad skills developed, it increases students’ employability. Moreover, real-life hotel experiences will teach students the skills they will need to further their professional careers.

Campus Amenity & Image Enhancer

A captive hotel is a campus amenity that enhances and improves the amount and quality of life available to the university community and regional residents. It serves as a destination for expenditures that support the local economy.


Academic Synergies

A captive hotel presents a unique opportunity for any THM major to capitalize on access to both the physical facilities and professional hotel staff to support the major. Hotel employment and learning opportunities offered to students may also foster the exchange of academic interests, increasing their direct connections and orientations to their professional interests. For example, a student majoring in engineering or business management could minor in THM if they develop a particular interest in hospitality, rooms, food, and events from the hotel working experiences. By working in a hotel, any student would see the importance of collaboration, communication, and creativity.

Experiential Learning

Many established THM programs have their culinary labs, and others operate their restaurant as a learning lab for their students. For those hospitality and tourism programs fortunate enough to have an on-campus hotel, the instructional team can design experience-based learning, hands-on opportunities and learning events (often referred to as “structured” activities) provided through the partnership. For those programs that fully integrate a hotel into the programs, the hotel can transform and contribute to more well-rounded students (Andresen, Boud & Cohen, 1999). THM programs often look externally for this training to complement the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Experiential learning at a campus-hotel is an opportunity to have these training experiences closer to the program, assuming mutual interest and relatively equal relationships between facilitator (faculty and/or hotel operator) and learner, giving the learner considerable control and autonomy and even career progression prospects.

Expansion of the Regular Teaching Spaces

A benefit of establishing a new on-campus hotel is expanding the instructional areas and setting a common classroom space within the hotel. This space, during non-academic times, can be cross-utilized as additional event space for the hotel. For faculty, the hotel can provide interior offices, expanding the current offices’ inventory. With its rooms, restaurant, conference, beverage services, and commercial kitchen facilities, the hotel can be utilized for experiential learning, such as practicums and internship courses or other courses, without any new capital, laboratory, or other equipment expenditures.

Development of a Robust Professional Development Culture

Hotel staff are industry professionals who can serve as mentors and provide expert hospitality guidance for our students. It will be aspirational for hotel employees to enroll as students at the institution THM programs, assisting academic programs’ recruitment, retention, and placement efforts.

Increase Fundraising Potential

The captive hotel can also frame research grants or future donations effectively. It repositions department/college/school to apply for grants, mainly related to federal programs, e.g., in the innovation field, grants targeting the study of new businesses strategic operational programs or to address complex sustainability challenges.

Research Focused Spaces

These new spaces have the potential of being used by students and faculty for research. The hotel may help the industry be better equipped with highly qualified professionals within its areas and data to advance and build its future by supporting the broad and multidisciplinary institution research agenda. The hotel services and spaces provide faculty and undergraduate or graduate students with the perfect environment for applied research, e.g., testing new rooms’ technology or design, analyzing and interpreting guest satisfaction surveys, testing a new lodging robot or new cooking equipment.

Public-Private Partnership

In the case of a public-private partnership, a captive hotel brings the potential to serve and benefit the hospitality industry as a significant contribution to tourism & hospitality education of the next generation of professionals. A collaborative hotel-academic institution relationship can contribute significantly to the hotel industry’s advancement at all three government levels, national, state, and local.

Although educational private-public partnerships are not new, the authors believe that considering the high number of public colleges’ new “captive hotels” in the pipeline, in terms of pedagogic products life cycle, campus teaching hotels might be experiencing a period of renaissance.


Effective Coordination

Hotel learning activities equip students with job-specific skills needed for survival and success in the workplace. However, as LeBruto & Murray (1994: 72) pointed out, “the scheduling challenge is considerable.” There is a need to effectively coordinate, interact, and liaise with the on-campus hotel management and staff’s efforts to provide a “hands-on” component to the curriculum, which aligns with the program outcomes, improving student quality learning

If there is no such coordination, what can be missed is:

  • some control over the quality of the provided training,
  • leadership development opportunities,
  • integration of hotel operations.

The Learner Lens


Students are the primary consumers of education. The students we consider specialize (academically) and take course work in tourism and hospitality-related content programs. Students have changed dramatically over the past decade as technology has progressed as defined by Moore’s Law (1965). An article in Digital Information World states that over 25 % of our time is spent online with over 6 ½ hours daily (Salim, 2019), and this was before COVID 19. Generation Z is more dependent on technology than other generations (Yu, 2020). However, we also know that their learning styles still support active learning choices. “The 21st Century learning concept is about learning by doing, which allows students to have logical skills to solve problems, apply knowledge to new situations, analyze information, and comprehend new ideas.” (Thinnukool & Kongchouy, 2017: 173)

Experiential learning is a form of active learning where students connect the classroom theory in a more real-world context and learn as they do (Kolb, 1984; Dewey, 1938). A captive hotel offers active learning benefits and opportunities for the students to be immersed in the world of work by seeing what occurs in a professional hotel operation.


Practical Skills

Practical experience is valued in hiring for entry-level hospitality managers immediately upon graduation (Foucar-Szocki & Bolsing,1999; Goodman, & Sprague, 1991). Tourism and Hospitality students can learn technical skills in many venues, but an on-campus hotel is an extremely convenient location to practice these skills. Although a student might not have to open wine bottles or make a bed as a future manager, credibility and earned confidence are associated with being proficient at these tasks and other related technical skills. Practical experience, which can be tied to formal experiential learning (internships, externships, and coops), also offers the students key exposure to the critical soft skills which separate great managers from all others- leadership, teamwork, time management, understanding company culture; critical thinking and decision-making.

Supports In-Class Learning

The captive hotel enhances and promotes in-class learning in a controlled environment. Student learners experience a hotel company’s culture and develop professionally following specific service standards and philosophies under the close supervision of educationally qualified internal staff and instructors/trainers.

Guest Experience

The mix of student-led and student-employed hotel staff increases the potential for service excellence, and provides real-world experiences for our students, better preparing them for the industry. An environment where highly experienced professionals supervise students will enhance the hotel image and school-affiliated programs. Service orientation is developed in several ways, the most powerful of which is observation. Exposure to a professional environment focused on the guest experience is a benefit that cannot be overstated. Service, like learning a new language, requires constant practice.


A connection of any sort between the student and the captive hotel builds confidence. This confidence helps a student focus on a career path based on positive and negative experiences and interpersonal connections with the hotel operations team, particularly with leadership. These relationships foster mentoring and future career opportunities.


Guest Speakers, Demonstrations, and Tours

Class visits and guest lectures from the hotel leadership team can connect every part of the curriculum to every hotel operation department. These early relationships can foster confidence in the student applying for a position or a job at the captive hotel or another venue.

Part-Time Employment

For those students who earn a position at the captive hotel, it is certainly convenient to be able to practice hospitality so close to where they study. All operating departments in a captive hotel may provide employment possibilities for our students. International students can have challenges working while in the U.S., a captive hotel offers unique opportunities for international students to gain professional experience.


Interns’ Preparedness

The reality is that fewer first-year college students come to campus with work experience than in years past. This may mean that skills that are considered basic such as getting to work and communicating with supervisors and other behaviors, are underdeveloped. It is also an opportunity to establish workplace basics that will be with the student for the rest of their professional career. Hotel leaders must be careful with their words and tone. A hotel can be a busy, stressful environment, which does not always translate to the mentoring required from an on-campus partner. Hoteliers are used to working with seasoned professionals who may not be comfortable with training for the basics.

Communication Issues

Openness to hiring for all departments, even those not traditionally thought of as internship sites or part-time opportunities, should be expanded in the captive hotel. Students can be shy and reluctant to reach out, yet have the drive for success. Building relationships and student confidence is important for all parties.

Preconceived Ideas

Students can sometimes have a consumer mentality about education and the venues associated with the school. Although the captive hotel is on campus, students’ expectations should be carefully managed by clear, transparent communication. It is NOT the captive hotel’s responsibility to provide the student with a purely educational experience. Indeed, it would be a disservice to the student to craft the experience as unaligned with profit-focused business practice. Rotational internships that cannot be supported by the hotel payroll might be offered as unpaid if all parties agree, and the position does not distract the leadership team from the business of hospitality. At all times, the guest and the hotel’s financial success should be the priority, as would be in any other venue.

Hotel Operator Lens


Considering the multitude of ownership and management structures possible for a captive hotel, this section of the chapter will focus instead on the hotel’s operating managers. These are the general manager, division and department managers, and the supervisors for the captive hotel. As with any hotel, the priority is to manage a sound, profitable business. Brophy (2015) found that on-campus hotels were not academic exercises but sound business opportunities. On-campus hotels experience distinct business patterns as compared with hotels at large. There is a multitude of demand drivers connected to on-campus hotels (Brophy, 2015). These benefits are multiplied on a campus which houses academic programs related to tourism and hospitality management, as there are aligned student and curricular interests.



The obvious benefit of a captive hotel is a talent pipeline of self-selected managerial candidates for the company. The hotelier can see the student in action and determine the capability of the future worker. These partnerships are an alternative way to staff the hotel on a just in time employment model. The THM student should be more motivated and engaged than another paid hourly employee.


In addition to the pipeline’s talent, there are also opportunities to improve operations in the captive hotel and other hotels the management team operates.

Research and Development

With on-campus partners who study the industry, there are numerous opportunities for collaboration to fine-tune operations and incorporate innovations grounded in statistics and science. Beyond tourism and hospitality management, there are business researchers, engineers and a multitude of other experts on campus who can offer mutual benefits to the hotel leaders.


Competing Priorities

As HVS Managing Director Anne R. Lloyd Jones pointed out (2008), the university and the developer/operator have distinct priorities and expectations. On one side, higher education institutions see campus hotels as a new education avenue or an added amenity in support of the broader university mission. On the investment side, the developer/operator typically views the project as a business opportunity, and its primary goal is attaining a significant return on investment. A misalignment of objectives between profit maximization and education needs can challenge the balance of the partnership.

Discrepancies have led to various campus hotels’ closings, for example, George Mason university closed the Mason Inn Conference Center and Hotel in Fairfax in 2014 (van der Kleut, 2013), and Stockton University sold the Seaview Inn in 2018 (Stockton University, 2018).

Business First and Guests

Hotels are busy work environments. A complicated business structure with many interdependent departments and functions can be a challenge to manage. Working with the demands of the public can be very stressful, and this can impact the patience of the leadership team. Guests can be demanding and intolerant of errors.

Mistake Quotient

Students will inevitably make mistakes, but hoteliers are trained to avoid service flaws and create procedures that promote consistent, seamless service experiences. Service errors and recovery are great opportunities to learn. Not all managers can be successful in an environment where trial and error is more familiar than in a more usual hotel operation.

Not all Leaders are Equal

Not all hotel leaders are suited to work in a captive hotel. Leaders should be carefully screened for the qualities that will make a successful captive hotel leader. We believe these qualities include empathy, patience, and open-mindedness. Leaders who value the opportunity to develop talent and mentor others should be sought. Opportunities identified by the academic experts on campus should be duly considered.

Reflections and Recommendations

The best-case scenario is campus hotels, where hotel managers and supervisors are included within the instruction team and work cooperatively with academic administrators, faculty, staff, and students. Clear, open communication and cooperation are vital to the best experience for all parties involved.

The academic community is more stable, given tenure considerations for faculty and students who will come and go (generally every four years). These conditions make the recruitment and selection of hotel leaders all the more critical. Qualities that should be sought are empathy and patience, a strong inclination to develop young talent, setting a great example, and a real passion for delivering high-quality service. Intellectual curiosity and collaborative nature will also help the hoteliers to make the most of their experience managing a captive hotel.

Above all, preserving this integration and balancing practical and intellectual activities without becoming a purely vocational component is imperative. It is also relevant to point out that on-campus hotels represent change. Moreover, who – or which institution or faculty – is comfortable with change?


All the time spent at the on-campus partner hotel should emphasize real applications related to all the HS program components, from lodging to food & beverage, accounting, events, and human resource management. A mix of classroom discussions and work assignments throughout every department within the hotel will allow the learner to gain a rich and comprehensive, in-depth learning experience. As John Dewey (1938) mentioned, the road of the new experiential education is not an easier one to follow and will require many years of serious cooperative work on the part of its adherents. This work experience, adequately included in programs, should:

  • enhance a sense of mutual commitment (hotel industry partners and faculty) towards a better hospitality management education experience,
  • facilitate stimulating educational activities that expand students’ understanding and roles within hospitality management and mutually benefit partners,
  • foster students’ ability to understand and develop their knowledge and confidence levels of performing in the hospitality industry.


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Appendix 1

U.S. Hospitality Programs with Hotel and Hotel Conference Centers on Campus

University/College Department / College / School Food, Hospitality & Tourism Hotel Name Rooms Capacity Banquet/Meeting space City / State URL
Auburn University Auburn University College of Human Sciences The Hotel at Auburn University & Dixon Conference Center 236 22,000 Auburn, AL
(*) Auburn University Auburn University College of Human Sciences The Laurel Hotel 32 N/A Auburn, AL
Ball State University Department of Management Ball State Student Center Hotel-L.A. Pittenger Student Center 25 4,000 Muncie, IN
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona The Collins College of Hospitality Management Kellogg West Conference Center & Hotel 85 12,800 Pomona, CA
California State University, Fullerton The Center for Entertainment and Hospitality Management Marriott Fullerton 224 5,730 Fullerton, CA
(*) California State University, Northridge Department of Recreation, Hospitality, & Parks Management Hyatt Place 150 N/A Northridge, CA
College of the Ozarks College of the Ozarks Hotel & Restaurant Management The Keeter Center 15 17,000 Point Lookout, MO
Cornell University School of Hotel Administration Statler Hotel 153 16,000 Ithaca, NY
Drexel University Center for Food & Hospitality Management The Study Hotel 212 7,000 Philadelphia, PA
Endicott College School of Hospitality Management Wylie Inn and Conference Center 91 18,000 Beverly, MA
Fairleigh Dickinson University The International School of Hospitality and Tourism Management Hamilton Park Hotel and Conference Center 219 30,000 Florham Park, NJ
George Washington University School of Business One Washington Circle Hotel 151 3,500 Washington, DC
Grand Canyon University Colangelo College of Business Grand Canyon University Hotel & Conference Center 300 N/A Phoenix, AZ
Indiana University Bloomington School of Public Health Biddle Hotel and Conference Center 189 50,000 Bloomington IN
Indiana University of Pennsylvania Department of Hospitality Management Hilton Garden Inn 128 3,000 Indiana, PA
James Madison University Hart School of Hospitality, Sport & Recreation Management Hotel Madison & Shenandoah Valley Conference Center 231 21,000 Harrisonburg VA
Kent State University School of Foundations, Leadership and Administration Kent State University Hotel & Conference Center 94 5,000 Kent, OH
Metropolitan State University of Denver Department of Hospitality, Tourism and Events SpringHill Suites Denver Downtown by Marriott International 150 2,000 Denver, CO
Michigan State University Eli Broad College of Business Candlewood Suites East Lansing Hotel 128 1,000 Lansing, MI
Michigan State University Eli Broad College of Business Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center 160 35,000 East Lansing, MI
New Mexico University College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) New Mexico State University Courtyard by Marriott 126 N/A Las Cruces, NM
Northern Illinois University School of Hospitality Management Holmes Student Center Hotel 78 60,000 DeKalb, IL
Ohio State University Department of Human Sciences The Blackwell Inn & Conference Center 151 20,000 Columbus, OH
Ohio University Human and Consumer Sciences Ohio University Inn & Conference Center 139 6,003 Athens, OH
Oklahoma State University School of Hotel and Restaurant Administration Atherton Hotel 69 5,000 Stillwater, OK
Pennsylvania State University School of Hospitality Management The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel 300 58,000 Syracuse, NY
Purdue University School of Hospitality Management Union Club Hotel 192 20,000 West Lafayette, IN
(*) San Diego State University L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality & Tourism Management TBD - SDSU Mission Valley master plan 400 N/A San Diego, CA (**)
Stockton University School of Business Seaview Resort 313 34,500 Galloway Township, NJ
Syracuse University Department of Public Health, Food Studies and Nutrition Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel & Conference Center 235 10,000 Syracuse, NY
Syracuse University Department of Public Health, Food Studies and Nutrition Hotel Skyler Syracuse 58 N/A Syracuse, NY
Temple University School of Sport, Tourism, and Hospitality Management Conwell Inn 22 N/A Philadelphia, PA
University of Alabama Department of Human Nutrition and Hospitality Management Hotel Capstone 150 12,000 Tuscaloosa, AL
University of Arkansas School of Human Environmental Sciences The Inn at Carnall Hall 50 8,000 Fayetteville, AR
University of Delaware Department of Hospitality Business Management Courtyard Newark-University of Delaware 126 2,225 Newark, DE
(*) University of Delaware Department of Hospitality Business Management TBD N/A N/A Newark, DE
University of Georgia Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education & Hotel 200 25,000 Athens, GA
University of Houston Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management Hilton University of Houston 86 25,000 Houston, TX
University of Iowa College of Human Sciences Iowa House Hotel 97 N/A Iowa City, IA
University of Massachusetts Isenberg School of Management Hotel UMass 116 76,053 Amherst, MA
University of Memphis Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality & Resort Management Fogelman Executive Center 51 17,000 Memphis, TN
University of Memphis Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality & Resort Management Holiday Inn 82 26,986 Memphis, TN
University of South Carolina School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management Inn At USC Wyndham Garden Columbia 116 3,000 Columbia, SC
University of Wisconsin School of Hospitality Leadership The Wisconsin Union Hotel and Club Suites 60 N/A Madison, WI
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Pamplin College of Business The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center 147 23,705 Blacksburg, VA
West Virginia University College of Business and Economics Jackson’s Mill 26 N/A Weston, WV

Chapter 3: The Statler Hotel: A case study on the evolution of a learning laboratory


J.Bruce Tracey

J. Bruce Tracey, School of Hotel Administration, Cornell University


The purpose of this case study is to present an overview of the ways in which the Statler Hotel has been leveraged to support and enhance the mission of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. Using a historical lens, this analysis demonstrates the application of and benefits from using a multi-faceted, learning-while-doing instructional design strategy to develop a wide base of operational knowledge and strategic leadership skills that are grounded within a “Life is service” philosophy.


The Statler Hotel has played an instrumental role in supporting the educational mission of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration for over 70 years. Since its opening in 1950 as a 36-room inn, to the current 153-room full-service conference hotel, the Statler has served as the hands-on learning laboratory for students to apply and further develop the knowledge and skills that are integrated within the School’s curriculum and directly applicable to real-world industry settings.

The hotel was named after Ellsworth Milton Statler, who attended one of the early industry events that was hosted on campus. Statler built his first hotel in 1907 in Buffalo, New York, and later became one of the most successful and influential US hoteliers of his time. While initially unsupportive, Statler’s public endorsement and financial endowment provided a substantial part of the initial and ongoing funding that secured the future of the School of Hotel Administration, and ensured that the Statler Hotel would remain a centerpiece of the educational program. And perhaps more importantly, Statler’s motto, “Life is service – the one who progresses provides his fellow man and little more, a little better service,” provided the bedrock for the initial and ongoing educational programming.

The Origins: Initial Design Strategy and Program Content

When the School of Hotel Administration was founded in 1922, the concept of a “practice hotel” was a key aspect of the initial programming objectives. As research has now demonstrated (e.g., Tracey, Kavanaugh, & Tannenbaum, 1995; Tracey, Hinkin, Tannenbaum, & Mathieu, 2001; Tews & Tracey, 2009), it is critical to cultivate a supportive context that facilitates the effective transfer and further refinement of the knowledge and skills that are acquired within formal learning settings. Unfortunately, the U.S.’s first higher education program in hotel management lacked the necessary on-campus facilities for promoting its primary mission. Moreover, while the industry’s support – including the American Hotel Association (currently known as the American Hotel and Lodging Association) – for the Hotel School was strong, the same could not be said of the University.

For the first several years, the School did not have its own dedicated space. As such, students developed and applied their skills primarily within the experimental kitchens of the Home Economics Hall, as well as through a variety of educational and social events that the students facilitated on campus throughout the academic year. While much of the coursework was delivered through typical instructor-led methods, the classroom and university context allowed students to extend their learning through numerous practical applications, including those that offered substantial influence in operational decision making. For example, students were given substantial latitude to develop new menu items, and even new dining concepts that were developed and tested within the program space. This experiential approach to instructional design provided a direct and systematic means for developing cognitive and behavioural skills (e.g., evaluating and creating) that go well beyond the mere application of newly acquired knowledge and skills (cf., Bloom, 1956). As such, instructional practices that afforded students opportunities to experiment while learning were incorporated throughout the curriculum in as many ways as feasible.

In terms of content, students completed traditional arts and sciences classes in topics such as English, biology, and economics during the first two years, and then focused on hotel-specific courses in the last two years. For example, of the 105 credit hours required for graduation in 1926, students were obligated to complete over 50 credit hours of classes that covered a wide range of industry-specific topics, including hotel operations, hotel power plants, food and nutrition, meats and meat products, hotel accountancy, and the law as related to inn keeping (cf., Edmondson, 1996). However, the active learning-by-doing approach was primarily limited to food service contexts, and much of the content associated with hotel operations did not include application opportunities. As such, the respective learning outcomes associated with hotel operations were primarily conceptual in nature.

Operational Applications…Without A Hotel

One of the most influential efforts to engage students directly in hotel operations was a student-led initiative in 1926. Hotel School students requested and were granted the opportunity to organize a dinner party in one of the campus residence halls for a group of industry leaders. The event, Hotel Ezra Cornell (HEC), was designed to showcase the learning outcomes of hospitality management education. The students were quite inventive in transforming the space and delivered a remarkably smooth and polished service experience. They also demonstrated strong improvisational skills when things did not go as planned. Moreover, the event was successful enough to impress the approximately 600 guests, and later university administrators, such that they provided the initial funding that was required for the School to operate as a standalone department. Since then, HEC has been an annual part of the School’s educational programming, and the Stater Hotel has played an increasingly significant role in the evolution of HEC and similar efforts to contextualize the learning process.

Over the next decade and a half, the School of Hotel Administration continued to attract more students, and the number of faculty – full- and part-time – and curricular programming grew accordingly. Unfortunately, the plans for continued growth, which included the construction of a stand-alone facility dedicated to hospitality management education, were halted with the onset of World War II and the resulting declines in enrolments and financial resources. However, the School maintained an efficient approach to program delivery, and due to the early programming successes and significant industry support, was poised to welcome hundreds of students back to campus after the war.

In 1941, plans were reintroduced to design a new building that would accommodate up to 450 students. But while enrolments were growing, the project was put on hold again for several years due to the economic conditions that remained from the Great Depression and World War II, as well as concerns that developing and operating a hotel on campus may jeopardize the University’s tax-exempt status. One of the turning points in the efforts to commence with the project was a proposal by the School’s first academic director and later Dean, Howard Meek, to include a faculty club in the design of the new building that the School would operate and manage. This provision was important because it not only addressed a broader faculty need/want, it reduced the University’s risk and need to fully finance development and construction. It also afforded the burgeoning program with additional programming options. After a somewhat difficult and lengthy approval and construction process, the new facility was opened in 1950 and included classrooms, the faculty club, and a 36-room Statler Inn.

Educational Programming at the Statler

The new building set expectations very high. The Inn was viewed as the University’s de facto lodging option for visiting scholars and dignitaries, as well as the School’s “teaching hotel”. As such, the operational, service, and financial outcomes were closely monitored. Moreover, Meek fully embraced E.M. Statler’s “Life is service” motto. It was not only a fundamental feature of the School’s curriculum, but critically important for meeting and exceeding the educational and operational expectations. With these factors in mind, Meek set out to ensure that the students who graduated from the Hotel School learned to “live rewardingly by making the hotel business an instrument of service to others” (Edmondson, 1996: 77), and he knew that the newly developed facilities would play a significant role in fulfilling this vision.

When the Inn opened in 1950, the applied elements of the curriculum were immediately integrated within the operational environment. Students had three new dining outlets, including a large institutional kitchen, a faculty club, and a full-service hotel that included a ballroom and meeting space as a platform for applying and further developing the knowledge and skills that were introduced in the classroom. For example, students would learn the basics of front office operations in their hotel operations courses, and then practice their newly acquired knowledge by working with faculty and Inn staff at the bell stand, reception desk, reservations, and guest services. This design afforded a direct opportunity to develop and refine the behavioural skills associated with technical and service-related requirements that are difficult to foster in classroom settings (e.g., operating Inn’s the property management system, developing effective service recovery skills, etc.). Moreover, while instructional strategies within the operational environment followed a structured and directed on-the-job approach to learning, the primary facilitation methods relied on coaching and mentoring. This personalized process was a critically important design feature in that it not only offered the opportunity for customized, real-time feedback that strengthened the knowledge and skills that were taught in the classroom, but also provided students with a strong and supportive basis for developing life-long relationships, which further reinforced the value of service to others.

Another key feature of the integration of the School’s curriculum within the Statler Inn was the significant focus on leadership development. While the servant leadership construct was not formally conceptualized until later (cf., Greenleaf, 1970; Sendjaya & Sarros, 2002), the School’s curriculum and applications within the Statler Inn were clearly aligned with this particular framework. For example, the “Life is service” motto is clearly consistent with one of the core traits/behaviours associated with servant leaders – putting others’ needs first. Another key aspect of servant leadership is helping others grow and perform to their fullest capacity, and the primary means for developing this important characteristic was giving students increasing responsibilities within the Inn. As noted above, students worked alongside full-time staff, and participated in a wide range of decision making and problem solving activities that had a direct impact on the Inn’s service quality and operational performance. In addition, students who assumed supervisory and managerial responsibilities played a significant role in the development of their fellow students. This peer-to-peer process provided an extension of the support provided by the School’s faculty and Inn’s staff to promote a hands-on and collaborative approach to learning, and concurrently reinforced the “Life is service” philosophy.

Working at the Statler also offered opportunities to develop skills and traits that go well beyond those required for various operational roles and those associated with the servant and related models of leadership. As noted above, the lessons from the Great Depression (and other significant events since then) taught students to be resilient, resourceful, and sometimes creative. For example, the entertainment selected for the inaugural HEC cancelled their performance three days prior to the event. As such, a group of students borrowed Meek’s car and drove to Rochester, New York to solicit support from a general manager (GM) whom the students had never met. After listening to their proposal, the GM arranged and paid for the services of another orchestra to play the event. While the educational curriculum did not formally incorporate topics such as strategic adaptation until much later (1980s), the ability to respond effectively to unforeseen circumstances was a central part of the educational and operational experiences the School was hoping to shape.

Despite the austere circumstances that remained for several years, HEC and related events continued to play a key part of the educational agenda because students became extremely proficient in using their ingenuity and leveraging their relationships to secure support – financially and otherwise – to advance their educational agenda. It is also noteworthy that the effectiveness of these initiative-taking efforts, as well as the many opportunities for students to be inventive and experimental while working in Statler’s operations, have prompted many graduates to pursue entrepreneurial endeavours and start new businesses. (The School’s current entrepreneurship programming is supported through the Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship.)

Another important capability that was fostered by the educational programming at the Statler Inn emerged from the rapid growth that occurred from the 1950s to the 1980s. The global expansion of the hotel industry that occurred during this time compelled the School to adopt a more internationalized curriculum, and systematic efforts were taken to help students cultivate a heightened level of cultural awareness and acumen. For example, a broad array of cuisines, amenities, and service standards were introduced within the Inn’s operations to expose students to emerging trends and practices from around the world. In addition, an increase in not only the number but also the diversity of visitors who came to campus, especially from outside the U.S., provided students with additional opportunities to develop and further refine their guest service skills.

The good news was that the School’s enrolments grew to over 700 students, well beyond the original plans. Moreover, due to the intensely interactive approach to learning and success in leadership development, the industry’s appetite for the School’s graduates was quite high. Unfortunately, this situation created a heavy burden on the Inn and its staff to provide adequate opportunities for students to gain much needed operational experience. As such, a significant fund raising campaign was launched to upgrade the educational facilities and build a larger, 150-room hotel that included a conference centre and executive education facility. The Statler Inn officially closed in 1986, and the new property was reopened in 1988 as the Statler Hotel, a four-star hotel, featuring 153 guest rooms, that now serves a globally diverse student body and customer base.

Exploiting New Opportunities

The new hotel provided a more extensive means to advance the School’s evolving curriculum. To further support and reinforce the “Life is service” philosophy, six additional principles – ethics, excellence, caring and sharing, personal growth, financial independence, and fun – were adopted to guide the hotel’s efforts in supporting the School’s educational mission. For example, the priority on ethics was reinforced through ongoing and open discussions between students, hotel staff, and faculty about the need for personal accountability and relying on multiple perspectives when addressing challenging dilemmas. In addition, the Statler Hotel offered a context to examine a wide array of real-world ethical challenges – from the little “short cuts” that may undermine standards of cleanliness, to bigger issues associated with confidentiality (e.g., guest information) and deception (e.g., room rates). The primary objective was to help students feel more confident about effectively managing the “grey area” they will inevitably face throughout their careers.

The new space also provided the hotel with additional programming opportunities to engage students and further enrich their operational learning experiences. For example, the new J. Willard Marriott Executive Education Center became host to a number of programs that attracted industry professionals from around the world. Given the Statler Hotel’s location on a university campus in a rural upstate New York town, the ability to “bring the industry to campus” gave students an additional means of working with and learning directly from a very diverse group of experienced leaders, and created new opportunities to extend their network of industry contacts.

One of the most significant curricular developments during the 1990s was the development of “concentrations” in which students could choose to specialize in a particular area of study. One of the areas focused on hospitality leadership, and as a complement to the additional course requirements, a formal Hotel Leadership Development Program (HLDP) was implemented to provide students with an even more expansive set of options for gaining operational experience at the Statler Hotel. In contrast to prior leadership development efforts, HLDP not only offered students supervisory and managerial responsibilities, but they also had significant influence and decision making authority (e.g., selection of soft goods for room renovations, room pricing strategies, environmental sustainability initiatives, etc.). Students who are selected for this “elite” learning track complete a series of seminars, and then have successive opportunities to gain increasing levels of responsibility across all hotel departments, up to and including planning/executive committee roles. The seminars are facilitated by industry guest speakers and Statler’s full-time management team, who also serve as mentors and provide both professional and personal guidance. The program current program also provides incentives for students who are promoted to management positions, including a post-graduation Weisz Family Statler Hotel Fellowship Award that offers students a one-year full time management position at the Statler Hotel and a substantial cash award.

The Statler Hotel has also evolved as a context for pursuing independent study, which offers students the option to explore topics that are not formally or comprehensively addressed in their required and elective coursework. In this self-directed model, students identify a topic of interest and submit a proposal that describes the scope of work, key learning outcomes, and primary deliverable(s). Proposals are jointly approved by hotel staff and a sponsoring faculty member, who meet with students on a regular and frequent basis to ensure they are making adequate progress. The hotel also provides an increasingly important setting for facilitating the School’s evolving curricular emphasis on strategic thinking skills. For example, the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the ensuing Great Recession sharply reduced demand at the Statler – and industry as a whole – and made forecasting extremely difficult. Students who were working at the Hotel during this time learned first-hand about the implications of maintaining rate integrity and a dedication to service quality for managing – and leading – during an economic downturn. Taking advantage of the learning opportunities associated with these types of challenging circumstances – from the Great Depression, to the current COVID-19 pandemic – has become hallmark of student life and working at the Statler Hotel. Involving students directly in property-level decisions and solving real-world problems provides an important means for developing strategic capabilities that are critical for helping organizations respond effectively to financial crises and related environmental shocks (cf., Wenzel, Stanske, & Lieberman, 2020), as well as the competitive challenges the arise during periods of positive economic and industry growth.

Summary and Conclusion

The Statler Hotel offers a critically important context for helping students gain knowledge and skills that cannot be developed exclusively in the classroom. The educational and operational programming is grounded within a “Life is service” ideal and an active learning model that utilizes a multi-faceted instructional design strategy. Using a combination of direct instruction and a highly experiential and immersive approach to learning, the Statler Hotel provides students with numerous opportunities to develop a wide array of capabilities – from perseverance through initiative-taking and creativity, to a broad, strategically- and socially-conscious mindset – that are critical for effective leadership in an ever-changing global hospitality industry.


Bloom, B.S. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. New York, NY: Longmans, Green.

Edmondson, B. (1996). Hospitality Leadership. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Society of Hotelmen.

Greenleaf, R.K. (1970). The Servant As Leader. Cambridge, MA: Center for Applied Studies.

Sendjaya, S. & Sarros, J.C. (2002). Servant Leadership: Its Origin, Development, and Application in Organizations. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 9 (2), 57–64.

Tews, M.J. & Tracey, J.B. (2009). Helping managers help themselves: The use and utility of on-the-job interventions to improve the transfer of interpersonal skills training. Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, 50. 245-258.

Tracey, J.B., Hinkin, T.R., Tannenbaum, S.I., & Mathieu, J.E. (2001). The influence of individual characteristics and the work environment on varying levels of training outcomes. Human Resources Development Quarterly, 12, 5-24.

Tracey, J.B., Tannenbaum, S.I., & Kavanagh, M.J. (1995). Applying trained skills to the job: The importance of the work environment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 80, 239-252.

Wenzel, M., Stanske, S., & Lieberman, M.B. (2020). Strategic response to crisis. Strategic Management Journal, 41: v7-v8. DOI: 10.1002/smj.3161

Chapter 4: A Retrospective Examination on the Development of a Teaching Hotel: From strategic to operational success


Lianping Ren, Bob McKercher, and C. Louis Shih

Lianping Ren, Macao Institute for Tourism Studies

Bob McKercher, University of Queensland

C. Louis Shih, Old Stone Hotels Company Limited


The Hong Kong Polytechnic University has opted for a new model of teaching hotel – a full size, upscale, independent, commercial teaching and research hotel. It is run as a “twin brother” of the hotel and tourism school, instead of affiliating under the School. This model has so far been a great success that can be attributed to a few critical factors including entrepreneurial efforts in the early stage, leadership, innovative operation, and dedication to education, apart from its strategic positioning. The success is also attributed to the fact that the hotel is developed in accordance with key principles of hotel development, instead of following the stereotypical thinking of what a teaching hotel should be. In addition, a number of contextual factors also added to the success. This chapter traces the development of The Hong Kong Polytechnic’s Hotel ICON and summarises the various training and research opportunities available.

Key words: hotel development, strategic positioning, innovation, teaching hotel, Hotel ICON


Teaching hotels are conventionally small in size, not for profit, built on campus, student-run, and offering limited service. The main purpose is usually for the students to practice their hospitality skills learned in their classrooms. Services in teaching hotels usually charge lower fees due to the practicing nature and it often comes with mistakes and flaws. So, usually the success of a teaching hotel is not reliant on its financial performance, since profit is rarely the main objective. Most existing practices of teaching hotels are either independently run by the hotel school, or affiliated to a well-established hotel brand. However, a recent case of teaching hotel – the Hotel ICON (the Hotel) of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, broke the stereotypical model of teaching hotels by creating its own brand and running as a full-service, upscale, and commercial hotel with financial achievement as one of its key objectives, along its educational missions. The 262-room hotel, established in 2011, shares the same building as the School of Hotel and Tourism Management (the School), but operates as a wholly owned subsidiary company of the University, rather than being owned and operated by the School. The Hotel has proven to be both a commercial and critical success. It is ranked consistently by Tripadvisor among the top five hotels in Hong Kong (Tripadvisor, 2019), with 91% of the reviews posted in recommending staying there, with an overall guest rating of 4.8 out of 5.0 (Expedia, 2019). The Hotel has also won a number of international awards for innovation, service standards, facilities and food and beverage experiences, including the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Award for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism.

At the same time, the Hotel has greatly contributed to the success of the School as it has been identified by both the Dean of the School (Chon, 2012; Cheng, 2017) and General Manager of the Hotel (Hatter, 2012) as one of the key reasons why the School is ranked as a leading hotel and tourism programme. Achieving the above success as a commercial hotel with education as its core mission leads to a series of intriguing questions:

  • How was Hotel ICON developed? And what was the rationale behind the ICON model?
  • What contributes to the success of Hotel ICON?
  • How does it operate? i.e. under what structure?

Literature Review

Development and operation of teaching hotels

Hotels by nature are different from other real estate properties, since the former is a combination of a form of real estate and a service oriented business (Venter and Cloete, 2007). Venter and Cloete (2007) state there are principles that hotel projects need to adhere to, in order to achieve success. First, the project should be market driven. Second, the development of the project should also be based on principles agreed to by key stakeholders including investors and owners. Third, there should be a good match between the basic attributes such as location and funds available, and the positioning of the hotel. Apart from these criteria, Lawson (1995) adds a market gap must exist, along with favourable economic conditions, appropriate location, and careful planning and design. When it comes to operation, a list of factors has been identified that contributes to the success of hotel businesses. For example, Brotherton (2004) identified 36 success factors, including aspects such as quality, operating systems, location and accessibility, service, guest relations, standards, branding, and even the availability of different room types.

Hospitality educators have long recognized that training/teaching hotels provide an ideal opportunity for students to gain practical experience. Typically, one of the following two models is adopted. The first model involves the operation of an in-house hotel usually formally associated with a hotel school as a sub-department. In this manner, the hotel school acts as the ‘parent’, while the training hotel assumes the role of a ‘child’. These places are typically small, offer limited services and staffed mostly by students, augmented by a small cohort of full time staff (Titz and Wollin, 2002). The goal is to provide a relatively benign setting where students can develop their skills, interact with real guests and apply theories and concepts in a practical, yet controlled environment (Hinton and Hubbard, 2002, Titz and Wollin, 2002). The alternate model involves the operation of a larger branded hotel on or off campus where students can gain exposure to operations. Here, the two function as co-habiting partners, although not necessarily married. Perhaps one of the better known examples is the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston which operates the Hilton University of Houston featuring 86 guest rooms and 25,000 square feet of flexible banquet space (Houston, 2017).

Both models serve hospitality education program needs reasonably well, but each also has its weaknesses. Institution owned and operated hotels enable students to be trained according to the desires of the institution, free from imposition of practices of established hotel properties. However, their small size, management style and the fact that many do not or cannot operate at international standards may contrast with the reality students will face when they enter the commercial world (Alexander, 2007). Additionally, discussions with academics involved in such institutions suggest many run at loss, placing considerable financial strain on providers and raising questions among university administrators about the benefits of operating such places.

The opposite is the case when institutions allow branded operations to be established. Here, commercial concerns and quality standards are usually a non-issue, as students work in a true commercial setting. The main disadvantage, though, is that students may only be exposed to one management style and may have difficulties adjusting to other management styles upon graduation. The risk is that recruiters from other hotel brands may be reluctant to recruit students who are trained in a fixed brand’s setting because of the belief that they will have to unlearn some practices when they enter a different environment (So, 2011). Importantly, as well, education and training objectives may be compromised by existing operational protocols and profit demands of the brand operator, resulting in more emphasis placed on vocational training and filling low grade operational positions rather than developing future managers (Alexander, 2007; Baum, 2002).

Many deans and heads commented privately to the authors that neither model integrates academic research well. Research is often seen as an afterthought to the primary goal of providing practical training and may also impose a range of inconvenient pressures for management and staff. Small, institution-owned properties often have few visitors, limiting direct research opportunities with guests, while their business models preclude conducting practical operational research. Alternately, operators of some franchised hotels do not support research, for it is felt to interfere with the hotel’s day to day operations. As well, few are willing to reveal commercially sensitive information to academics, including various human resources and operationally-based academic studies. Interestingly as well, there is often a lack of coordination of research activities for no one person is responsible for liaising between the hotel and the school.


Information was collected through a series of in-depth interviews conducted with key stakeholders involved in different stages of the process, including: the former President of the University; the Dean and selected faculty members from the School; the founding General Manager and other key hotel staff; as well as individuals who undertook the architectural and interior design for the Hotel. The above interviewees were purposefully selected, as they represent voices and opinions from four different but important parties – the University who authorizes the initiative, the School who has been pursuing the ideology of a teaching hotel like this for a long time, the designers who have incorporated ideas from the committee (Steering Committee that is composed of management of the University and the School, members from the Hotel Association, etc.) and interpreting the key stakeholders’ input in their design mix, and the Hotel which is the end product of the efforts of all parties but is operated as an independent entity. Each interview was conducted in English and recorded, except for one which was conducted via back-and-forth email communication. They lasted from one to two hours on average. Transcripts were prepared after the interviews and the textual data of the verbatim transcripts were instantly filed for further analysis.

Their stories are supplemented by secondary sources, including the contemporary news stories, minutes of University Council meetings, minutes of the Hong Kong Town Planning Board meetings, information gleaned from the University’s annual reports and other sources. In addition, site visits were conducted to serve as a third data source, aiming at triangulating data obtained from interviews and documents. Data analysis was done along the recurring themes derived from interview transcripts, as well as published or unpublished documents on the Hotel. These recurring themes along with discussions on the themes are provided in the subsequent section.


The conceiving of the idea – vision and positioning

The idea to develop a teaching hotel at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University was borne shortly after the former Polytechnic College was granted full university status in 1994. Senior management, led by the founding President Poon Chung Kwong, realized the new university needed to identify fields of study where it could compete on a global level. He identified hotel and tourism management, design, textiles and fashion, rehabilitation sciences and nursing as core programmes, with the decision to proceed with the hotel first. However, it took a long time turning this vision into an actionable project.

The former staff quarters were identified as the preferred location for the new hotel. However, the redevelopment of the land into a mixed use development required the approval of the Town Planning Board and also the payment of a land transfer tax. The approval process took many years, for the initial proposal was rejected as concerns were raised about adverse visual and air quality impacts. According to minutes of the meeting, members of the Board further questioned the need for the development of such a bulky building purely for educational purposes. Some even wondered aloud if the redevelopment of existing staff quarters into a 300 room teaching hotel was justified (TPB, 2006). Similar objections were also raised by the two organizations that represented hotel owners and managers once it became clear that the proposal called for a much larger development than the standard limited service 30 to 50 room training hotel common elsewhere.

A revised plan was resubmitted to the Town Planning Board in early 2007, which was ultimately successful. Again, according to the minutes, similar objections were raised, but the University President and his team countered with arguments for the need and special merits of the proposed development (TPB, 2007). They highlighted that the proposed development would give the newly formed independent School of Hotel and Tourism Management the visibility it needed to become a world-class institution in line with the practice of top hotel and tourism schools. Moreover, Professor Poon argued that the hotel would be in the best interest of the industry, because it was going to produce the future hotel executives. The development would further facilitate partnership with industry and educational institutions in mainland China, and, in doing so, increase Hong Kong’s competitiveness.

Two key points swayed the argument. First, only about 50% of the total floor space would be used for the hotel, with the remaining 50% dedicated to the University’s use, including relocation of the School, the provision of offices, teaching and learning laboratories and the provision of housing for some staff. Second, since the Hotel would be owned by the University, any profits generated would be ploughed back into the University for its future developments.

Once approved, the sensitive issue of how much land transfer tax to charge had to be resolved. The initial figure of HK$900 million dollars (US$110 million) was proposed. Payment of such a fee would have rendered any proposed development non-viable. Prof Poon then began to lobby government and industry officials for a reduction in the fee. Industry opposed any reduction for it felt it would give the hotel an unfair competitive advantage (Anon, 2010). The President counter argued that in the bigger scheme of things, a 300 room hotel would have negligible impact on the viability of a hotel sector that boasted more than 40,000 rooms at the time, with tens of thousands more coming on stream. Eventually, he managed to call in many of the political favours and negotiated the land transfer tax down to a token sum. In fact, he would not have been successful if he did not have such deep political ties and further suggested that anyone without such strong ties would have likely not succeeded.

Development issues

Neither of the traditional models discussed was deemed to be ideal for this project. The solution was to consider a third option of developing and operating an independent hotel as a wholly owned subsidiary of the University. It would be associated with the School, but not be under its direct control. Instead, the hotel would be operated as a for-profit business, overseen by its own board of directors and accountable to the University’s senior management. The former President described this model as the brother model, where each would be equal but different and both accountable to the father, the university senior management. This ‘brother’ model ensured each could pursue its stated mandate without interference from the other. The key to success was collaboration, with the Dean appointed to the Hotel’s board of directors, while the hotel General Manager and some senior hotel would serve as adjunct academic staff and sit on various school committees.

Building it on campus was not seen as ideal option for on-campus training hotels were typically perceived by the traveling public as being lower quality, small and limited-service properties. Moreover, an on-campus location would always lead to a perception that it was a university property, inhibiting its ability to establish a unique brand identity in a highly competitive marketplace. A fortuitous change in government policy occurred in 1998, which led to the closure on the University’s two staff housing quarters. One of the quarters was located adjacent to the main campus in the heart of one of Kowloon’s major tourism, shopping and hotel nodes. This block was identified as a redevelopment site that could house the Hotel, the School, and provide some staff quarters.

Vision is easy. Operationalisation of that vision is much harder. In fact, it took more than 15 years from when the seed was planted until the soft opening of the Hotel in 2011. During that time, two other major issues had to be resolved. First a decision had to be made about the quality standard and subsequent market segments to target. Consultants who were hired to advise the University suggested a mid-price range, three-star level hotel, targeted primarily at mainland Chinese tour groups. The rationale at the time was that student-run hotels elsewhere were operated at a similar standard, and that, moreover, the burgeoning price-sensitive China package tour market wanted a price point that was equivalent to a three-star standard. This idea was endorsed by the Hotel Owners Association (Anon, 2010) which felt such a place would not pose any real competitive threat to their existing member properties nearby. It was also endorsed by many people in the University who opposed initially to the idea, for they saw this as the safest and lowest cost alternative. A construction budget of around HK $500 million (US$64.5 million) was mooted (PolyU, 2010).

This idea was rejected by the President, Dean of the School, and members of the steering committee who argued instead for an upscale hotel. One interviewee stated “if you train your students in the budget hotel environment, your students will not be able to work in the upscale environment; but if you train your students in the upscale environment, your students will also be able to work in the budget environment.” The local media at the time reported more succinctly that “only a five-star hotel can develop five-star talents” (Kei, 2010a). One veteran hotelier added, “you are sitting on a premium location, surrounded by upscale hotels like the Shangri-La, Inter-continental, Royal Garden, and Nikko. It is only right that you position yourself upscale…”. The President endorsed this idea as well, for he hoped the hotel would become the financial “goose that can lay golden eggs” for the University.

It took an additional two years to convince the rest of the University community about the merits of an upscale hotel. In 2010, a new budget of about HK $1 billion (US$129 million) was approved, representing a doubling of the initial estimate (PolyU, 2010). The recommendation was ratified along with a revised development plan to reposition the teaching hotel from its original 3-star rating to a Tariff A level hotel, equivalent to a 5-star property elsewhere (PolyU, 2010). The budget was further revised to HK$1.3 billion in 2008 (PolyU, 2010).

Second, cost overruns threatened to derail the project almost from the start. The average cost per room eventually rose to HK$2.8 million (US$360,000), which was substantially higher than the industry norm for five star hotels of about HK$2.3 million (US$300,000) (Anon, 2010). Plus, the University encountered a serious cash flow problem as a result of the 2008 global financial crisis. Instead of paying for the construction costs from its cash reserves, the University had to secure a HK$700 million (US$90 million) loan (PolyU, 2010). The Chinese language Hong Kong Economic Journal ran separate stories in 2010 (Kei, 2010a, 2010b) citing how the cost overruns placed the entire University on the verge of bankruptcy. The stories alleged costs had tripled in three years, while the University’s ability to pay for the project had been severely compromised by investment losses. In addition, it was alleged that the best case financial performance projection for the hotel was for an accumulated revenue of only HK$879 million (US$ 113 million) by 2025, representing an ongoing financial burden for the University. Thus, rather than being the goose that laid the golden egg it would be the millstone than sank the University. The University, in turn, responded almost immediately by issuing a press release that pointed out serious factual errors in the stories (PolyU, 2010).

Design and operational issues

No one had ever tried to design a building that incorporated an academic department, a commercial hotel and staff quarters before. Operationally, each had to been seen to be a discrete entity, even though they shared the same physical space. One of the designers interviewed commented that the best part of the structural design of the project had been the “three-in-one” concept, with each part integrated but with different entrances and identities. The north entrance bears the name of the School and the University’s logo, while the south entrance is branded with the Hotel name, and opens onto the main foyer and check-in area. Staff quarters are accessible through a separate entrance.

Operationally, the decision to opt for an independent hotel, coupled with a mandate that focuses on training means the GOP (gross operating profit) for the property is four to seven percentage points lower than for comparable properties, one of the hotel executives shared, and the payroll consumes close to 40% of revenues, much higher compared to industry averages of less than 30%. An independent hotel does not have the scale advantages of multi-national chains, meaning many duties that might be carried out by head office, such as marketing and reservations, have to be undertaken in-house, at the cost of additional staff. The inclusion of a spa has come at the cost of fewer rooms. In addition, three experimental guest rooms, have been developed where staff and hotel experts can try out new ideas and concepts. According to the one of the hotel executives, these rooms, labelled “Tomorrow’s Guestrooms”, are not as popular as others and are often sold at a lower rate. Devotion to training and development of both staff and students represents the key cost consideration that affects the bottom line. Students must complete one of a number of work integrated experience placements at the hotel during their studies. Staff members, therefore, have to devote more time to training them, meaning their productivity is lower than if they did not have a training mandate. Finally, the training mandate also extends to existing staff, where the hotel management sees its duty to develop management staff for other properties. As such, they have a formal policy of encouraging staff to develop their skills and then transfer their acquired knowledge to other hotels.

Success of Hotel ICON as a training, teaching, and research hotel

Work-Integrated Education (WIE)

One of the Hotel executives interviewed explained that the ideal education model adopted a three-stage approach. Stage One involved classroom learning, while Stage Two involved laboratory learning and simulations in training restaurants, food labs and the like. Stage Three involved comprehensive experience of working in a real-world environment. He felt that many programs proved deficient at Stage Three. As noted elsewhere, working in small in-house hotels may not provide students with readily transferable skills when they enter industry, working in a franchised hotel may expose students to only one dogmatic management style, while being placed in commercial hotels often condemns students to performing a series of tedious operational jobs as that is where staff shortages are most acute.

The University, through the Hotel, has tried to rectify this situation through the provision of three focused, credit bearing traineeship programs. Called the Work Integrated Education (WIE) programme, the traineeship has clearly identified pedagogical outcomes, learning plans, obligations and assessment rubrics. The standard program is targeted at undergraduate students and involves a structured program whereby students work either full time for six months or complete a 960-hour part-time work program in at least three different departments of their choice. Here they can put theory to practice, develop a range of generic skills that will assist them in their future career and trial working in different departments to see which one best suits their developmental interests. This programme is similar to traineeships offered by most institutions, with two major exceptions. First, hotel staff who take on students also have to follow the same criteria set out in the students’ subject and also need to write assessments to ensure outcomes are met. Second, the programme is designed specifically for the individual needs of students, with students having the option to rotate through different departments throughout their internship.

A small number of students can also apply to join the ‘Elite Management Program’. As the name implies, this program is offered to the brightest students to give them exposure to the duties and responsibilities of the management levels in the hotel and to enrich them with insight of one or two hotel divisions. It is an 11-month full-time program divided into two phases. The first phase is similar to the existing WIE program. In the second phase, students are allocated to a division/department head to learn from and mirror her or his management duties. There, they will be given a series of special projects, including opportunities to give management decision, supervising staff and mentoring first-time interns.

The Management Practice Programs, is a third option available only to Master Degree students. Initially this option was not considered when devising the Master’s programme. But a number of international post graduate students in particular, felt they could gain much by working in the Hotel. This 480-hour program was then developed to give them a chance to gain needed industry experience and to apply theoretical learning in a more practical setting and develop their professional competence. It must be noted as well, though, that all students entering the Master Degree programs must have at least one year of work experience, and so this program represents an opportunity to learn in a different business environment.

Supporting research

Perhaps research opportunities of all types reflect the greatest pure academic advantage of the model. More than 50 projects have been funded producing dozens of refereed journal papers. The types of projects vary from pure conceptual research to empirical research to solve real world problems and cover such topics as consumer behaviour, guest satisfaction, analysis of operations and procedures at the hotel, food and beverage research and product innovation tests. Project ideas can be initiated by academic staff or by hotel employees themselves

Enhancing teaching and learning opportunities

Giving the students as many real world learning experiences is one of the benefits of this system. The School and the Hotel have established a joint SHTM / Hotel ICON Common Information Database intranet portal in which the Hotel has uploaded a series of operational manuals, performance reports, sample PMS (property management system) reports, actual hotel daily operational items, and a variety of other information so that students can work with real information in their classrooms and tutorials. The School has also revamped many of its subjects which span diverse topics as hotel operations, financial management, service quality and the like that require practical training.

Hotel staff also teach some subjects, especially relating to accounting and finance. The General Manager is an adjunct staff member and appears regularly in front of students. At least 10 other management staff regularly attend classes as professors-for-a-day to ensure students appreciate the real day-to-day workings of a hotel. A series of hotel tours, site inspections and briefing sessions are organized throughout the semester. Students in the capstone events management subject have to organize a major international conference held annually in the Hotel, which requires performing all functions of a professional conference organizer.

Discussion and conclusion

This study examined the process involved in developing a teaching and research hotel, by using The Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s Hotel ICON model as a case study. The paper had two main goals. First, it examined the journey involved from vision to reality by examining issues such as positioning, developing, design and operating issues. Second it discussed how the Hotel had enabled the School in particular, to leverage the opportunities presented by the Hotel to innovate its learning, teaching and research opportunities. In achieving the above main aims, three issues are worthy of more discussion, including principles of hotel development and autonomy in operation, and the leveraging effect of the ICON model.

First, the term “teaching hotel” does not limit the Hotel from being developed into a hotel that complies with design and development principles. This is different from many other teaching hotels which are often purposefully built to deliver a limited number of educational functions. In other words, the Hotel is first of all a “hotel” which should bear the most primary functions of a hotel – to provide accommodation and to feed, and it should have the business model that a regular hotel should have, and go through the development and design process that a regular commercial hotel should have.

Second, autonomizing the operation of the Hotel, i.e., running it as an independent hotel, instead of taking a brand in the format of franchising or management contract, and not affiliating the hotel under the hotel school, has also greatly contributed to the success of the Hotel. As it is recognized, innovation is less easy in a chained/ branded condition. Taking a brand has many benefits including consistency and a guaranteed level of standard, but loses the opportunity to be as creative and innovative as it can be. The School is a place where many expert resides and many research results are generated, shared, and applied, which are precious resource for hotel innovation. And the Hotel bears the mission of “leading the industry” and to be “unlike any others”. Had the Hotel taken an established brand from the market, some of the precious ideas would have lost chance to be applied. Not taking an established brand, but recreating its own, also allows tailor-made teaching and learning programs as well as research projects possible and easier.

Ultimately, this administrative structure is deemed to have turned the seemingly conflicting goals of education and commercial business of the School and the Hotel into a mutually supplementing situation. Pedagogically, many people feel achieving commercial success and meeting educational goals is inherently in conflict (Tse, 2012). Yet, the model adopted has allowed this to occur. The establishment of the Hotel as a stand-alone subsidiary of the University and not as a sub-department within the School ensures that each has a clear mandate. Being independent, enables the Hotel to focus on what it does best – develop and deliver a reputation as a commercial, upscale, innovative hotel. Being the “brother” of the School provides it with some competitive advantages that other hotels do not enjoy. For example, the Hotel attracts many high quality staff who see a position here as a way to fast track their careers. It also has the freedom to try a series of innovative products and services and can borrow expertise from university staff as needed. Interestingly, as well, the Hotel has found that its affiliation with the University has proven to be a marketing asset.

Likewise, the School also gains much from the Hotel in terms of teaching, learning and research. Even more importantly, though, the Hotel also features prominently in the School’s positioning as a leading provider of tourism and hospitality education. Not only can it leverage on the fact that it has a hotel, it can also leverage from the fact that the Hotel is recognized as one of the trendiest, most popular and most highly rated places in Hong Kong. And, being a “brother’ of the Hotel enables the School to do many things that would be otherwise difficult to do, such as demonstrating excellence by concrete examples (one of the SHTM graduate loved Hotel ICON so much, that he decided to build a similar one), making real trial and error experiments, “pushing the boundaries of research and supplying innovative ideas to our industry” (Chon, 2014: 19-20), being a place to inspire, and even to set a new standard (Chon, 2014). As a result, the School has been uplifted on to a much higher level and has become a true leader of hotel education.


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Chapter 5: Lodging Module at the University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, USA


Brian Miller and Bill Sullivan

Brian Miller, University of Delaware

Bill Sullivan, University of Delaware


This case study discusses the challenge and success that emerged when developing a new hotel to be owned and operated for the specific rationale of providing hospitality and tourism students a live learning laboratory. Providing students with the opportunity to apply knowledge learned in the classroom with those hone in a practical experience is a key goal. The hospitality program at the University of Delaware found that the implementation of a long-term plan was not easy, and many unexpected challenges arose during the process. Challenges included negative reaction from the local hoteliers, delays in the construction process, and the unexpected resistance from initial students.


Academic programming in hospitality and tourism management programs is very diverse. Common curriculum blocks include business, nutrition, social sciences and professional studies. A common thread and attraction for students to many programs are the practical aspects of the education. Developing experiential learning opportunities can be very challenging for faculty, students, and industry partners. Today, program administers are seeking support and advice from a growing number of stakeholders including but not limited to faculty, student, governmental officials, industry, and industry recruiters.

Historically, early hospitality service professional programs always had a practical applied learning approach to student learning, yet today, many of the academic based programs have struggled to support an integrated practicum learning experience for postsecondary students who are working toward an advance baccalaureate degree. This chapter presents a case study from a medium size university located on the Eastern part of the United States. A presentation of the planning, developing and executing issues surrounding the implementation of an original hotel curriculum that included integrated experiential learning for all hospitality majors will be provided as well as the identification of key issues from both the faculty and student’s perspective.

Between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s there was a bevy of published reports from educators addressing the need for practical experiences in developing the future leaders of the hospitality and tourism industry. Since that time very little attention has been given to this topic. In a 1994 study by LeBruto and Murray discussing the educational value of “Captive Hotels” from the perspective of students, faculty and the industry, found that there were significant differences reported by students and faculty from programs with a captive hotel used for student learning and those from programs without such facilities (LaBruto and Murry, 1994). These researchers further assessed that there was no question regarding the efficacy on student experiences in programs with captive facilities.

A recent search of 4-year hospitality and tourism programs in the US yielded a tally of over 186 academic institutions offering this degree. The growth in hospitality programs is not limited to the US, as this phenomenon is occurring in Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Middle East. As the growth of academically based hospitality and tourism programs continues, it seems reasonable that programs will attempt to identify competitive advantages in their competitor set. Developing an integrated practical and theory-based program would appear to be a viable competitive strategy.

In early 2000s, the Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management (HRIM) at the University of Delaware began the process of seeking approval for the development of a branded hotel located on the campus. The process took over 3 years to develop, which included approvals from University administration, local existing hoteliers, and local government. Additionally, the University needed to find a managing partner to operate the hotel and secure a branded hotel franchise. Once the approvals and necessary partners were in place, it took nearly an additional 3 years to get the hotel open to the public and to support student learning.

The main case

The University of Delaware is a Land Grant Public University, which receives public funding from the State of Delaware, however, the proportion of State support is relatively small compared to total operating income. The decision was made by the University to develop a for-profit entity to develop and operate a hotel for use as a learning laboratory for students in HRIM. In this initial for-profit entity, there was an ownership split between the University and the management partner. The management partner was responsible for the development of and eventual management of the hotel. Eventually a franchise agreement for a 126-room Courtyard by Marriott Hotel was secured by the management company. This hotel became the Learning Center for Lodging Operations curriculum for the HRIM program and was referred to as the Lodging Module (LodMod). The announcement of the hotel and its role in the Department’s curriculum led to a reorganization of the sequencing of courses for students enrolled in the LodMod to take 5 courses as a cohort group. Initially, this created some anxiety and stress for students as many of the Department’s students held jobs in the local town concurrently while enrolled in classes. Communicating the demands on students during the LodMod semester was an initial concern for faculty.

The LodMod semester included 4 academic courses taught in the salons located in the hotel. The courses were Management of Lodging Operations, Property Engineering, Managerial Accounting and Finance, and Marketing Hospitality Services. A fifth course was Management of Lodging Operations Practicum, which required students to work 140 hours in various shifts in the hotel working along-side hotel management and associates with direct guest contact.


Initial Elements of the LodMod Semester

All students enrolled for the semester in the LodMod were registered in all five courses. This requirement created up to 50 students as a cohort group, which made the semester unlike any other semester that students would have during their academic career at the university. The decision to create this requirement was done so that faculty would be able to schedule students in their rotation of hotel shifts and know that these shifts would not conflict with student’s class times.

Class times were set in the afternoon on Monday/Wednesday and in the morning of Tuesday/Thursday. Students could be assigned to work hotel shifts Monday/Wednesday mornings or Tuesday/Thursday afternoons or any time on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. At the beginning of the semester students would receive their individual hotel shift schedule. Prior to the beginning of the semester students were given the opportunity to request days for personal reasons that they would not be scheduled to work a hotel shift. Once students received their hotel shift schedule at the beginning of the semester, they were expected to complete their assigned shifts. Students were not allowed to request consideration for outside work or extracurricular activities (except for college sports participation).

Hotel Shifts

Students were assigned hotel shifts in groups of two or more depending on the shift. In addition to actual hotel shifts, where students would be working alongside of a permanent hotel employee, the hotel management team also included shifts to learn the hotel’s PMS and reflect/debrief/discuss other hotel related topics (such as, orientation, revenue management, hotel projects, franchise standards evaluation, financial audits, etc.). Most hotel shifts were for four hours. Below is a list of hotel shifts:

Front Desk (AM), Front Desk (Midday), Front Desk (PM), Night Audit (11pm-7am), Housekeeping (room attendant), Housekeeping (supervisor). Manager on Duty (2 shifts), Restaurant (AM), Restaurant (PM), Administration, Maintenance / Engineering, Sales Calls, Catering (sales), Banquet (set up), Disaster Workshop Seminar.

With the addition of the bi-weekly hotel topic sessions and hotel related enhancement projects, students spent about 108 hours working in and for the hotel during the LodMod semester.

Academic Courses

As noted above, the LodMod semester included four academic courses, each taught by a single faculty member. Most of the content for each course was presented at the discretion of the instructor, however, during each semester students were pre-assigned into groups and were assigned a US lodging market and required to prepare a comprehensive feasibility study. Each of the four instructors were required to supervise a portion of the feasibility study. Therefore, instructors had to include necessary content and in-class time to ensure that students were successful in the completion of the feasibility study project. At the end of the semester, student groups were required to present a 15-minute presentation of their project to the class and invited industry professionals, as the program matured some of these professionals were HRIM alumni.

Advance Analytics

Early on in the execution of the Lodging Module at UD, through the support of an Advisory Board member, faculty were able to request market data from Smith Travel Research (STR) for the assigned markets. This enabled the faculty to guide students in both their understanding and application of these data to their feasibility study projects. Since the development of the Certification in Hotel Industry Analytics (CHIA) by STR Share Center, students enrolled in the LodMod semester were required to complete and obtain the CHIA Certification.

Industry Training and Development Recognition

Since the hotel that students work in as part of the LodMod semester is a Courtyard by Marriott, students were also provided with a certificate in recognition of professional development in the Marriott training program. This recognition allowed for students to include this on their professional resumes.

Execution of the Strategy

The development and execution of the Lodging Module took considerable coordination between the hotel management team and the department’s faculty. The Managing Director of the hotel and an individual faculty lead the coordination efforts. The Managing Director took control to direct his team and the LodMod coordinator took control to direct the LodMod curriculum and faculty. Below are key issues that needed to be worked out on the hotel side:

  • determination of shifts and related seminars for students, with source materials,
  • integration with hotel staff and guests,
  • evaluation of students and staff related to shifts,
  • student standards – uniforms, parking, behavior, proprietary information,
  • integration with safety and security issues,
  • integration with other student time demands (sports, outside jobs, personal obligations),
  • hotel enhancement projects,
  • presentations and reports,
  • end of semester recognition.

Below are key issues that needed to be worked out on the Faculty side:

  • content of courses and linkage across the 4 academic classes with the hotel content,
  • elements of the Feasibility Study Projects,
  • coordinating student teams, lodging markets, securing STR data,
  • schedule of student drafts of feasibility study sections,
  • coordination of end of semester presentation and evaluation,
  • end of semester recognition program.

Reflections and recommendations


Hotel market’s negative reaction

One of the initial concerns to move forward with the development of the University’s hotel was the negative reaction from the local hoteliers, who argued that the new hotel supply was not needed in the market and that the proposed hotel would have an unfair advantage with free student labour. Navigating through this unpopular view from existing hotel management was a significant obstacle. Fortunately, the University and Department had positive connections with these industry professionals, through existing university demand and a consistent labour force with university students.

Once the hotel was open it became clear to these hoteliers that students were not replacing hotel associates, they were merely learning from and shadowing. Additionally, the students worked with hotel management to invite area hotel managers to join them in a focused effort to collectively market Newark (Newark Hotel Co-Op) hotels for regional groups in alignment with the UD conference services facilities.

Delays in the construction process

At the time that the development of the hotel was occurring, the University had put in place a renovation and renewal of the central campus (The Green). These projects were funded through existing cash on hand and with the help of a favourable contractor. Much of the renovation work was specialized and was carried out far above the administration’s expectation. It was with this previous experience that the University offered the development of the hotel to this contractor. In the relatively short period of time from the announcement of the hotel, the selection of the contractor to build the property, the preparation of the site, and the foundation poured and the steel beams raised, the contractor filed for bankruptcy, leaving the site idle and vacant for over six months. The University’s administration scrambled to find another contractor that was willing (or rather incentivized) to pick up the project, with the hotel opening date moved back nearly 18 months. This delay caused angst among students who had been delaying their LodMod semester so that they would have the hotel as their practicum experience. This caused significant dissatisfaction from the students and stress for the faculty as they scrambled to provide an alternative experience that ended up not meeting either the student’s or faculty’s expectation. Once faculty and hotel staff communicated that all jobs are vital to guest service success, experiential learning and future management experience, this concern passed.

Unexpected resistance from initial students

Once the hotel development got back on track, the faculty and the hotel team began preparations to get the students involved with the opening of the hotel. The strategy was to develop teams of students to complete tasks that needed to be accomplished and would have needed additional hotel staff to complete. Faculty and the hotel’s leadership appreciated the excitement, energy and experience in opening a new hotel project and wanted our students to get this experience. Examples of these activities included: coordinating hotel parking layout/construction and identify policy for control of the space (managed by the hotel or by university parking services), development of a local marketing plan for surrounding businesses and university departments, creation of a VIP (very important parent) program, initiation of a Newark Hotel Co-Op, storage space allocations, etc.). These activities’ success was critical to the eventual operation of the hotel. However, students were not satisfied with the guidance and direction of these projects from the existing hotel team. It appeared that the student’s maturity level and industry experience hampered their view of the time spent and their own success in completing their assigned projects.

Similarly, dissatisfaction occurred with our initial students once the hotel opened. As would be expected, the University and the Department were very excited by the opening of the hotel. Faculty were excited for the expected experiential learning experience that this living laboratory was going to provide for students. What was very unexpected, was the way that the press presented their articles of the opening of the hotel and its integration of students into the operations. One of the initial articles included a photo of our students vacuuming the hallways of the hotel and opined if this was what higher education should be? This single article created a backlash from parents that ignited a protest by the students regarding the rationale/value of the lodging practicum experience. This unforeseen situation affected the faculty and took considerable effort to shake this viewpoint for many semesters.

Operational challenges for hotel staff to carry dual roles

Fortunately, the hotel team was initially hired with the expectation that the associates would all be involved with the training/mentoring/and support of the students. However, as with any new hospitality staff ramp up, not all selected employees continued employment for an extended period of time. A continual challenge for the hotel’s leadership is to keep its team members motivated to provide the same care and empathy for the students that they are expected to provide for the hotel’s guests. Evidence of the lack of this on the part of the hotel’s staff is manifested by students not receiving their expected amount of attention and guidance during hotel shifts. As the program matured, feedback on each student and hotel staff member was part of the shift evaluation process, this two way feedback was most informative.

However, the experience in this lodging practicum is that most of the hotel’s senior leadership (Managing Director, Director of Operations, HR/Accounting, Executive Chef) are still with the hotel since opening day and continue to be committed to the academic mission of the department. Their support and unwavering mentors of our students is noticed and appreciated by our students, faculty, industry and university administration.

Managing consistency of shift content and experience

Since the opening the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel and the commencement of the Lodging Module, there have been many changes both at the University and at the Department level. Of particular importance is the change in the Department’s name from Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management to Hospitality and Sport Business Management, which one may suspect was a mind shift away from practical learning to a more theoretical and traditional management school educational experience. However, to date, this has not been the case. The Department still provides two laboratory/practical facilities to our students. First, we have a student run restaurant offering both lunch and dinner operations experience for our students. This facility is managed and lead by University staff/faculty. The facility only operates while students are on campus during the Fall and Spring semesters and demand is controlled by the facility’s leadership. Second, we have the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, which is opened all year round, where demand is only controlled by the amount of supply (126 rooms, 2,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and food service capacity). Therefore, during the course that students are working in the hotel there will be times when the hotel demand is low and times when the hotel demand is at full capacity. Unlike the student run restaurant, were students’ practicum experience can be moderated by limiting/opening up demand, there is not this option at the hotel. So, there is the challenge to provide the lodging module students a consistent educational product while working shifts in the hotel. This challenge is ongoing and is addressed every semester.


Impact on guest service

Since the very first day that the hotel welcomed guests, the presence of students has had a significant impact on the service provided. This Courtyard by Marriott has consistently ranked in the upper percentile of Courtyard around the world in customer satisfaction. Almost daily, during the academic semesters the students in the LodMod are identified and recognized by guests for their great performance. Additionally, the VIP program developed by the first group of students in the lodging module program has been a resounding success and is highly favoured by university’s parents who visit campus.

Use of students in hotel sales calls has positive impact on hotel meeting business

In the 15 years that the hotel has been opened, the sales team, UD conference services and local industry partners (such as the Wilmington CVB) have used students to make sales calls to University Departments and the local community. These sales calls have proven to be a very valuable experience for students and have a consistently positive impact on hotel room and catering sales. Putting the work and experience of students in front of potential guests has proven to be a successful strategy to generate future bookings.

Coordination of Faculty to project-based learning and assessment

A lot has been learned in coordinating a valuable learning experience for our students. There have been many strategies deployed that quickly get modified the next semester, however, coordinating faculty to execute a project-based learning experience has stood the test of time. Students appreciate the time and effort that faculty give to their success. Throughout the semester students are working through terminology and activities that are novel to them, at times, feeling stressed and overwhelmed. However, at the end of the semester, when their projects are complete and their presentation (to fellow students and industry professionals) are positively recognized, there is an overwhelming appreciation of the work and effort that they have accomplished. Students are recognized by faculty and the hotel team by recognition of selected students as “Student of the Week” and from this list a “Student of the Semester”. The student of the semester is awarded an opportunity to attend a hotel investment conference with the President of the Management Company.

Opportunities for students to work with outside hotel development projects

Through the feasibility study project, selected student groups have been provided with the opportunity to work on real hotel feasibility projects. To date, the LodMod students and faculty have worked on 15 projects for industry professionals and firms.

Impression on Recruiters

Since the inception of the LodMod, the impression of our recruiters has been amazingly positive. Initially, recruiters were excited to hear that these students were provided with the LodMod experience. As time went on their comments changed from that is great to “WOW”, your student’s interactions with us stand out in their ability to discuss about important issues in hotels and their professionalism. A significant benefit of having a Marriott hotel for the LodMod is the ability to provide our students with the Management Trainee Designation from Marriott in the eyes of the recruiters.


The inclusion of a live learning practicum hotel experience for students seeking a baccalaureate degree in hospitality management adds significantly to the development of key skills for these future hospitality professionals, regardless of industry sector selected for a career. Buy-in and value of experiential learning from students, faculty and Administration is achievable but it takes time and a commitment to the long haul. In our experience, this lodging management practicum has led to better prepared students who have been exposed to industry data that provides them with the skill to integrate these data to real world projects. Additionally, the efforts put forth by the faculty and students has led to greater connection of the involved faculty and higher satisfaction and learning outcomes for our students.


LaBruto, S. & Murray, K. (1994). The Educational Value of “Captive Hotels”. Cornell Hotel & Restaurant Administration Quarterly, 35(4), 72-79.

Chapter 6: The Commercial Campus Hotel: An alternative model to the traditional hotel school?


Brian Hay

Brian Hay, Heriot-Watt University


For too long, hospitality education has relied on established methods for training its future managers, with the traditional hotel school often seen as the gold standard in hospitality pedagogy. This chapter suggests that now is the time to consider new hospitality education models, particularly for non-hospitality students. For such students, a possible new model could be developed around the growing number of free-standing commercial university campus hotels, which are not linked to university hospitality education programmes. This chapter suggests that, for both hospitality and non-hospitality students, this model offers an alternative and perhaps more relevant method of entry into the hospitality sector.


All research has a beginning, and often it is driven by a literature review and previous studies that highlighted areas for further investigation. However, the starting point for this chapter was different; it was an observation by a non-hospitality student who was working in a campus hotel: “I never thought of working in hotels, but now I am thinking about an M.Sc. in hotel management” (Hay, 2020, p. 12).

The worldwide spread of Covid-19 in 2020/21 had a profound impact on the hospitality sector: some hospitality businesses failed, some adapted to the new normal, while others emerged as the sector responded in different ways to the future needs of the consumer. As with all profound societal changes, there are always calls to return to the comfort of the tried and tested methods of the past, and hospitality education is not immune to this call. However, societal shocks also provide an opportunity to explore new opportunities, for, as suggested by Jones and Boer (2018, p. 161) “Innovative developments in hospitality education are becoming rare occurrences”, due to: bureaucratic difficulties, such as who is really responsible for the quality of the programme; fear of the unknown, for example the development of new hospitality programmes that are widely different from the current narrow hospitality education model.

Since the establishment of the first hotel school, the Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne in Switzerland in 1893 (Yong et al. 2019), the hospitality sector has viewed the hotel school as the ideal model to provide education and skills development for its future managers (King & Tang, 2020). It can be argued that traditional hotel schools satisfied past markets, when hotels, travel, and hospitality services were designed to meet the needs of the well-travelled elite. However, in today’s market of budget hotels, low-cost airlines, online booking systems, and the importance of consumer experiences over physical products, a different range of skill sets are required to better meet ever-changing consumer expectations. Historically, hotel schools have been seen, for perhaps far too long, as the gold standard of hospitality education. They and their associated hospitality education programmes, through restricted admission policies and driven by an ideology that only hotel school-trained students possess the skill sets necessary to work in the higher echelons of the sector, established themselves as the de facto gatekeepers to the hospitality sector. Formica (1996), Morrison and O’Mahony (2003) and Yong et al. (2019) all argue that this model places too much focus on skill-based vocational education for a very narrow and elite segment of hospitality students.

The two major criticisms of the existing hospitality education model are: first, its failure to produce graduates who rise to the most senior positions in hospitality, as such positions are often filled by non-hospitality graduates who have a wider range of skills sets than hospitality graduates. Second, driven in part by the close association of hospitality education with the hotel school model, hospitality educators often associate hospitality education with employment in the commercial hotel sector, rather than recognising the wide range of positions that may be open to hospitality students, out with the hospitality sector. Perhaps a more serious criticism of the existing model is its failure to recognise the education of the increasing number of non-hospitality school-trained staff, including students working in casual employment (in bars, cafés, fast food restaurants, etc.) for whom hospitality could be a valid career option. For such students, this may not only be their first experience of working in the hospitality sector but could also provide an opportunity to apply their specialised non-hospitality university-acquired skills (information technology, languages, engineering, etc.) within a hospitality work environment (Hay, 2020).

The aims of this chapter are as follows:

  • To deconstruct the idea of the traditional hotel school as the solitary future model for hospitality education.
  • To advocate that a commercial university campus hotel, without the constraints of accepted hospitality pedagogy, can provide a more relevant and legitimate career entry point into hospitality for both hospitality and non-hospitality students.

Literature review

In the interest of brevity, this literature review focuses on and draws examples from three different locations (USA, Hong Kong [SAR China], UK) as they all have similar Western developed campus hotel models. This is not to dismiss other countries, such as Malaysia, Thailand and China, but their campus hotels have different development priorities (King & Tang, 2020).

Since the creation of the Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne in Switzerland, the traditional model for campus hotels has been the hotel school, with a strong link to campus-based hospitality management education programmes. There is no one universal model for the operation of campus hotels; some are associated with a specific hotel brand, such as the Hilton on the campus of the University of Houston (USA), and others are owned by a university but managed by a commercial company (Alfond Inn at Rollins College, Florida). Other operational models include the Pousada de Mong-Há Hotel in Macau (SAR China), managed by the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies, a public sector provider of vocational hospitality education, while the Edge Hotel School (England) operates in partnership with an education charity (Edge Foundation) and the University of Essex.

Despite the creation of the first degree in Hotel Administration in the USA some 100 years ago in 1922 at Cornell University, the first research on university campus hotels did not emerge until LeBrutto and Murray (1994), in their study of USA campus hotels, identified 12 university hospitality programmes that had “captive training facilities” (p. 73), that is, hotel schools. Some 20 years later, Tripodi and Baltzar (2015), in another survey of USA captive training hotels, recorded 16 such hotels but also crucially noted that there now appeared “to be quite a few hotels on campuses where there are no hospitality programs” (p. 266). This growth in USA campus hotels continues, for example, the University of Texas and Texas A&M University opened new-build campus hotels with no formal links to any hospitality programmes on their campuses in 2015 and 2018, respectively.

Hess (2017), Powell (2017) and Rhodes (2017) also highlighted another trend in the USA: a growth in new commercial hotels, close to, but not on or formally associated with a university. This growth in such campus hotels is reflected in the emergence of a hotel brand aimed specifically at the millennial market (, 2020) and in the popularity of a college-ranking site (, 2020), which lists the 50 best university hotels close to or on USA college campuses. However, far more interesting is that none of the university hotels listed was associated with a hospitality education programme. Dimitropoulou (2020), in a listing of the 50 best hospitality and hotel management programmes in the world, noted that more than half (29) were in the USA, followed by 7 in Switzerland, 3 in the UK, another 3 in India and 1 each in 8 other countries. It is also notable that of these 50 programmes, less than 10 were associated with a residential training hotel/school, suggesting that an associated training hotel/school is not a necessity for a hospitality programme to be classified as one of the best.

Looking further afield, Hay (2020) suggested that the growth in campus hotels “is perhaps best illustrated by the development of three Hong Kong campus hotels” (p. 5), each with different operational models and markets (ICON Hotel, Hyatt, T Hotel). Recent research on campus hotels in Asia and, in particular in Hong Kong, has been undertaken by King and Tang (2020), who noted that the ICON Hotel on the campus of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, “appears to have achieved both its teaching outcome and the desire to be a viable hospitality operation”; however, they also cautioned that “some training hotels may emphasize profitability over educational objectives” (p. 51). King and Qui (2017) highlighted that Asian hospitality providers have developed innovative methods for developing their hospitality students’, for example, paid internships in university owned/managed training hotels. While Tse (2012) praised both the importance and quality of hospitality training in Hong Kong training hotels within a commercial environment, Ninarum and Wongleedee (2019) suggested that such hotels need to more openly recognise and acknowledge their service shortcomings.

Although not unique to the UK, over the last few decades, UK universities, driven by the twin pressures of increasing student numbers and decreasing central government funding, have viewed the conference market as a source of additional funding (Woodward, 2013). However, to attract what Connell (1996) calls learning tourists (conference delegates and academic visitors) will in itself be insufficient to support a campus hotel. For, as noted by Powell (2017) in a study of one campus hotel, only 30% of its hotel guests had a link to the college; this suggests that campus hotels need to look outside their own internal market for additional guests.

In the UK, building campus hotels is not a new development; for example, in 1991, Loughborough University built what can best be described as a sport-focused hotel (Loughborough University, 2020). More recently, campus hotels in the UK have mostly been built on the campuses of universities created by the 1960’s expansion of UK university education: Aston, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Essex, Heriot-Watt, Keele, Lancaster, Loughborough, Nottingham and Stirling Universities. While there is no single operational model (charity, commercial hotel, university-managed hotel, franchised hotel), only one of these new campus hotels was associated with a hospitality programme/hotel school, namely the Edge Hotel School at Essex University, which was developed through the support of an educational charity. Research on UK campus hotels is limited, but Jones and Boer (2018) explored the rationale for the development of the Essex University Hotel School and highlighted the importance of a hotel school in “developing a real world of learning” (p. 161) approach to hospitality education. However, this real-world model seems to be centred around the acquisition of practical skills provided by a training restaurant, rather than an opportunity to develop higher forms of skill development that can contribute to the student’s educational development. Hay’s (2020) study of an independent commercial campus hotel at Heriot-Watt University explored the views of its students and staff with regard to having a fully commercial campus hotel on their campus, and the importance of open access to all the hospitality spaces for all campus users. Other operational models for campus hotels in the UK continue to be explored, with Surrey University (2018) proposing the creation of a ‘learning hotel’. However, it is noticeable from the literature review that none of these studies explored the educational needs of non-hospitality students.

Looking to the future, two recent and interesting trends in the operation of independent commercial campus hotels have emerged, which highlights their flexibility in responding to fast-changing market conditions. First, in the USA, there are examples of campus hotels used to quarantine students suspected of being infected with Covid-19 (Oliver, 2020). Second, as suggested in the introduction, new businesses will emerge as the hospitality sector responds in different ways to the future needs of the consumer. A start-up company, The U Experience (Bragg & Russell, 2020), plans to buy hotels near university campuses and to develop them as “resort campuses, through COVID-19-safe bubbles” (p. 1).

Research method

Despite the lack of any hospitality programmes or even courses in 2017 on the campus of Heriot-Watt University (UK), a fully independent commercial hotel was opened, operating under the Marriott Courtyard brand. Its development was driven by a number of factors: increasing the number of campus research institutions, the development of the Scottish National Sports Performance Centre and growing the number of academic visitors/conferences. In addition, like most UK universities, reflecting a shift in education funding from the traditional academic learning model to an educational commercial business model, there was a commercial imperative to seek external sources of funding, if the campus hotel was to be built.

Since the research for this chapter was essentially explorative, its qualitative approach was based on that adopted in an earlier study on the same campus hotel (Hay, 2020). The sample used for this chapter was based on a type of non-probability sample, a convenience sample. Zikmund et al. (2011) suggest that this method is useful in explorative research, but as noted by Saumure and Given (2008), given the self-selection nature of the sample, it may be biased.

To collect the data, face-to-face interviews were conducted in early 2020 with undergraduate students who were working or had worked in the Heriot-Watt University campus hotel. Based on the recommendations of Marshall et al. (2013) and Thomson (2010) that 30 interviews should be enough to find commonalities within the data, 30 interviews were conducted, which generated some 9 hours of discussions. To collect the data, a desk was set up outside the university’s main catering outlet, with a sign inviting undergraduate students who had worked/were still working in the campus hotel to take part in the study. While this method had the advantage of conducting interviews without prearranged appointments, it also had some disadvantages: the openness of the environment meant it was not possible to record the interviews, and as only one person conducted the interviews, the results were based on the researcher’s notes rather than full transcripts.

The development of the interview topics, while based on insights provided by the literature review, were designed to open up discussions with the interviewees about the campus hotel, rather than to provide answers to a set of questions. Driven by the two aims of the study, the research methodology used semi-structured questions, as this allowed the interviewees to highlight issues that they, rather than the researcher, thought was important (Waller et al. 2016).

A thematic approach was used to analyse the data, for, as noted by Braun and Clarke (2006), this provides an opportunity to identify patterns or themes. The researcher’s notes from each of the 30 interviews were first grouped into a series of codes so as to identify common issues. From these issues, a series of patterns emerged, which were categorised into one of two themes (Table 1). One of the practical challenges in thematic analysis is to allocate the codes to themes because, as Braun et al. (2019) noted, in seeking to establish the strengths of themes, there is no definitive sample size; rather, the inclusion of a code within a theme “should be informed by pragmatic and subjective considerations” (p. 842). Given that words are powerful tools, in the results section, they are used to illustrate the key messages emerging from the two themes, for, as suggested by O’Gorman and Macintosh (2014), using the actual words of the interviewees to tell a story is one of the strengths of thematic analysis.

Table 1: Thematic map

Thematic map
Themes Codes
Do the training and work experiences provided by a campus hotel encourage non-hospitality students to consider a career in hospitality? Not thought about a career in hospitality or tourism but would now consider this as a career.

Working in hotels was hard real-life work.

Working in a campus hotel was fun, but it was not a real job.

Training provided by the hotel was really focused, and we got paid for attending courses.

It helped to be working alongside other students.

Learnt a lot by working alongside real people in real jobs.

The university careers service had very little information about graduate training programmes in hotels.

The university discouraged me to consider a career in hospitality or tourism.

Could the hospitality education/training provided by a commercial campus hotel offer an alternative pedagogical model for a new type of hospitality training hotel? Real-life hospitality/tourism courses taught by the hotel staff could expand the university teaching programmes.

Students already gain a lot of work experience by working in research centres [institutions] on campus, so why not work in a hotel.

Hospitality is a lot more than serving drinks and meals; it involves lots of unseen technical skills.

Given the number of public/commercial research institutions already on the campus, the campus hotel could enhance the university’s research reputation/outputs.

The university could form links with further education colleges/teaching universities in the local area to provide real-life [hospitality] training programmes.

The [campus] hotel could act as a place for hospitality training in Edinburgh/Scotland.

Findings and discussions

Theme 1: Do the training and work experience provided by a campus hotel encourage non-hospitality students to consider a career in hospitality?

The interviewees used the terms ‘hospitality and tourism’ interchangeably and saw little difference between such terms. They tended to see the campus hotel not as a building that provided a service (rooms, food, etc.) but as a facility for experiences (meeting friends, workmates, colleagues, etc.). They also clearly saw the campus hotel as a place where they could gain real work experience, while also working alongside their friends. That is, the campus hotel provided the best of two worlds: work experience and friendship. However, they were also aware that for some of their work colleagues, the campus hotel was not ‘pretend work’, and this helped them to develop a stronger work ethic as they knew that real people’s lives/income were dependent on their approach to work.

There was much praise for the quality of the training provided by the campus hotel, not only from those working in front-of-house positions but also from those in support positions, such as revenue management, accounting, human resources and IT. Indeed, it was clear that the permanent campus hotel staff recognised that they had access to a ready supply of skilled (if not fully trained) temporary staff. However, the hotel managers, while supporting training, also recognised that it was expensive, but by encouraging the undergraduate students to work in the hotel for two to three years, through the provision of hospitality training, they developed a pseudo ‘staff loyalty scheme’. The training opportunities provided by the hotel certainly raised awareness among the students of the broad range of working opportunities provided by the hospitality sector. However, there was clearly a discrepancy between the quality of the skills training provided to the students by the hotel and the recognition of these skills by the university careers service. The university careers service failure to recognise the skills gained by students working in the campus hotel, highlights a poor understanding of the breadth of skills required by the hospitality sector.

The student’s loyalty to the hotel was a surprising and frequently mentioned topic. This trait is often associated with hotel guests, but it was difficult to understand why this issue was raised by students. Perhaps it was driven by the quality of the training, the perception that they were paid above the average pay rate, or the ease of access to paid work for students living on campus.

I have previously worked in casual jobs in cafés/bars but working in a hotel alongside other women [like me] made me take my job much more seriously. [2nd year Chemical Engineering student]

I spoke to one of the assistant hotel managers about a permanent job in hotels, and she encouraged me to seek help from the university careers service. They were rubbish, and implied that working in a hotel was not for language graduates. [4th year Modern Languages student]

I started working in the hotel café making cappuccinos, but one day I helped a guest with their email. The manager spoke to me afterwards and asked for help with a PowerPoint issue. The next week, I was asked to help with a broken link to central reservations, and when I sorted this out, I got transferred to the IT team with a big pay rise. [4th year Computer Science student]

When I saw your sign, I thought it was a great topic to research. The hotel work was my first real job, and I am really grateful for the experience. [2nd year Civil Engineering student]

Some of my friends thought working in the campus hotel was demeaning for a science student, but as a shy person it helped me understand the importance of working in groups. Also, speaking to hotel guests helped me to be more assertive. I am a big fan of the hotel. [1st year Physics student]

Theme 2: Could the hospitality education/training provided by a commercial campus hotel offer an alternative pedagogical model for a new type of hospitality training hotel?

The students, when discussing the opportunities provided by the campus hotel, focused on the quality of the training, but when discussing the opportunities for the university, focused on the education benefits. They had clearly thought about linking the training and work experience provided by the campus hotel to the possible pedagogical opportunities for the university. This was surprising given the strong science/engineering focus of the university, but perhaps this reflects a Scottish tradition, that favours a broad university education over a narrow technical education. The students were aware that working in other campus establishments (research institutions/centres/laboratories, retail outlets, sports centres) helped with their skill development, and highlighted both the formal and informal links between the university staff/departments and such institutions. However, they saw a discrepancy between the training provided by the campus hotel and the education programmes provided by the university and could not understand why the university failed to develop teaching/research links to the campus hotel.

The students had a surprisingly wide understanding of the hospitality education/training programmes in other local universities. When expanding on the issue, it appeared that some had explored the possibility of postgraduate study in hospitality/tourism, while others had spoken to their line managers, who were aware of training opportunities in other local universities. There was a widely held view among the students that the university had failed to acknowledge that hospitality and tourism was a key economic sector in Scotland, accounting for 5% of Scotland’s GDP. They suggested that the campus hotel not only offered an opportunity for the university to diversify its mainly engineering/science teaching programmes, but also provided an opportunity to develop a new centre of excellence in Scotland for hospitality education/research, by making use of the wide range of technical skills already provided by the university. For example, when asked how their own degree programmes could be linked to hospitality education, all the engineering students and most of the science students were able to provide examples from their work experience. It was clear that they would openly welcome hospitality options in their current degrees, and, based on real-life tasks drawn from their campus hotel work experience, some suggested courses, including “ventilation issues in hotel air circulation” (mechanical engineering); “modern hotel furniture design” (architectural engineering); and “management of cyber-attacks in hotel booking reservations systems” (computer science). This raises the question as to how such courses could be provided and the type of hospitality education model that could deliver such training. One interesting suggestion outlined by the students was the development of joint degrees, such as Mechanical Engineering with Hospitality, Urban Planning with Hospitality/Tourism or even joint degrees with recognised international hotel brands.

The university encourages us to gain work experience in the campus research institutes and to use this experience to develop a final year project. When I suggested I could use my campus hotel experience by modelling their pricing policies, this was rejected. [4th year Property Management student]

The senior hotel staff would make great teachers; they know how the real-world works, but none of them had ever been asked to speak in our classes, but they have spoken at Napier and QMU [two local teaching universities]. [2nd year Chemistry student]

The university is missing an opportunity to broaden its teaching programmes, but the hotel staff have no contact at all with the university staff. [3rd year Brewing student]

Given that the university focuses on practical research-focused degrees, I don’t understand why it does not work with the hotel to run courses in specialised tourism and hospitality subjects. By that, I do not mean cooking and making coffees but running a commercial business and all the practical issues that this involves. [4th year Structural Engineering student]

The university offers a number of joint subject degrees, and it is missing a trick by not linking our degrees to hospitality. [3rd year Building Engineering student]

Some of my friends at other universities are taking degrees in partnership with major engineering companies, so why can we not offer a joint degree with say Hilton Hotels. [4th year Electrical Engineering student]

Conclusions and implications

The chapter questions why today, and much more importantly, in the future, the restrictive practices of the traditional hotel school should be seen as the only and the best method to provide hospitality education. It argues that the hotel school model has failed to recognise that hospitality education is more than cooking skills, silver service or even warm interpersonal interactions, best provided by one of the declining number of hotel schools. Arguably, the current hotel school training model has failed to recognise that customers’ aspirations, needs and wants have changed, and that we are moving into an era of contactless payments over credit card payments, machine interactions over personal interactions, fast service over slow service, experiences over physical products and, maybe even, hospitality services over hospitality interactions. This chapter suggests that university hospitality departments have failed to recognise the opportunities provided by the growing number of interdisciplinary teaching programmes, outside their own traditional narrow range of hospitality subjects. To thrive in the future, hospitality education needs to develop a ‘go big, or go away’ education model and needs to break the connection between a university’s hospitality programme and the traditional hotel school model.

More importantly, the existing hospitality education model has failed to recognise that many non-hospitality trained students work and thrive in a hospitality setting without setting foot in a hotel school. For far too long, such students have been seen as second-class workers compared to those who trained in hotel schools, resulting in their real-life hotel work experience, along with their specialised university education skills, lost to the hospitality sector. This failure is perhaps due to the low regard held by society of hospitality, as both a service and a career. This perception may have become institutionalised within universities, for example in the comments by the university careers service, resulting in hospitality not seen as a valid career choice, irrespective of a student’s degree. It may also be due to the hospitality sector’s failure to recognise that students with a non-hospitality degree, but with work experience in a campus hotel, may offer a different, but just as valuable, skill set from that of hotel school-trained students.

While rejecting the existing hotel school model, this chapter does not reject the need for hospitality education programmes and, to paraphrase Scotty in Star Trek, ‘It is hotel school Jim, but not as we know it’. Moving away from the idea that hospitality education requires a special physical building or even needs a distinct hospitality programme, hospitality education in the future could be built around three concepts:

  • Acknowledging that hospitality education provided to non-hospitality students by a commercial campus hotel could open up new career paths for such students.
  • Recognising the universality of demand for hospitality skills, hospitality students should consider careers in customer facing sectors, such as banking or social welfare.
  • Accepting that hospitality education is no longer the sole preserve of the traditional hotel school/hospitality department but could be better provided through specialised hospitality options in a wide variety of non-hospitality university degrees, thereby opening up hospitality education to the many, not the few.

In conclusion, this chapter advocates that a new operational model for hotel schools could be a campus-based hotel associated with, but not driven by, a university hospitality programme: a hotel that focuses on providing education opportunities for the many non-hospitality students, for whom a career in hospitality is an option, but not a definitive career path.


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Part 2 – Practical Learning in On-Campus Training Hotels


Developing on campus training hotels that are designed to generate some revenue, but not necessarily run commercially is the second model adopted by some programmes. These types of facilities tend to provide excellent training opportunities for students, but often have to face the challenge of continuing to justify their existence to university senior management.

This section of the book presents three cases. The first is from Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand that examines the process of integrating student training into hotel operations. The second case comes from the Institute for Tourism Studies in Macau that examines its training model and discusses challenges faced by its on-campus boutique property. The third case comes from the Hospitality Institute of Sanya, China that discusses its tripartite educational model that  incorporates both on campus training with hotel operations. Interestingly, in all cases, students complete one internship in the on campus hotel and another longer internship off-campus.

Chapter 7: Establishing an In-house Hotel Training Centre in a University: A case of an international college hotel training centre in Thailand


Nate-tra Dhevabanchachai and Kaewta Muangasame

Nate-tra Dhevabanchachai, Mahidol University International College

Kaewta Muangasame, Mahidol University International College


This chapter addresses the development and management processes of in-house hotel training centres by using the case of Salaya Pavilion Hotel and Training Centre, Mahidol University International College, Bangkok, Thailand. Once the desired infrastructure was built, relevant planning and development needed to be addressed for the human resources to carry the roles of a hotelier and a trainer, linking to an educational programme, and how the operation and training function together are determined. The case describes how students are introduced into the training programme and the issues involved in ensuring consistency if delivery of the programme from an HR perspective. The pros and cons of in-house training centres in universities are explored.

Keywords: hotel training centre, hotel training centre in a university, hotel and training, Tourism and hospitality management program, Thailand


This case study examines the process developed by the Salaya Pavilion Hotel and Training Centre (SPH) at Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand, to ensure students gain a quality internship experience during their early years of study. In particular it focusses on the need to develop proper job descriptions, establish clear organisational goals and develop standard operational procedures to ensure students gain the most from their internship. The authors also discuss the challenge of trying to be primarily a hotel training centre, but with the added bonus of being a commercially viable property.

The Salaya Pavilion Hotel and Training Centre was established in 1999. It aims to assist in student internship for a tourism and hospitality management (THM) programme and to cater the public in terms of a general hotel service. It is located in the sixth to eight floors of the study building within the Mahidol University International College, Thailand. The infrastructure has a 3- to 4-star market position and offers 43 rooms of six different types, food and beverage (F&B) service areas, two F&B outlets and five banqueting rooms. A total of 58 associates comprise the management team and staff. The associates carry dual roles of hotelier and trainer. The general manager is one of the faculty members of the THM programme. SPH is managed under the college, while a board committee approves important matters. The board committee is composed of a dean, associate deans, THM faculty members and a general manager. Guests are a mix of local and international visitors, including the university’s lecturers and students who account for approximately 60% of the clientele. Thus, the purpose of most guests in utilising the hotel services is related to academic activities, such as meetings, training activities and academic events. Non-academic activities include weddings and parties. About 15,000 in-house guests, 18,000 banqueting guests and 900 local and international site visitors use the facility each year. Annual occupancy is about 55%. The average room rate is 1,100 Baht (about US$40) per night and approximately 150 Baht (US$5) for F&B per guest. From 2009 to 2020, the annual revenue rose from 10 million Baht (US$330,000) to 27 million Baht (about US$900,000).

The vision set in 1999 was that SPH would be well recognised as an excellent training centre in the hospitality industry in Southeast Asia. The mission is to equip students with knowledge, skills and abilities to meet the requirements of the international hospitality industry. The philosophies of the training centre are as follows: 1) the centre should be operated by professional trainers and associates who are deeply service-minded and dedicated to satisfying customer needs in any environment; 2) every staff member should be involved in the development and implementation processes of long- and short-term plans to achieve set objectives; 3) the team should communicate effectively for the understanding and achievement of all goals. The organisational goals are clearly geared towards being a training centre. However, the operation has evolved gradually to become a commercial hotel and training centre.

Deale et al. (2010) found that the most effective learning approach for students is a combination of theory and practice, which also provides students with a significant hands-on opportunity. Students’ experience in actual operation with real problems and challenges, is a valuable learning aspect for them. Students’ comments and a satisfaction survey have proven the effectiveness of being trained under a real situation with real guests, which is called on-the-job training mix with some lecture, rather than a pure lecture-based training or unreal/make-up situations.

Students complete two internships during their programme. Internship 1 is conducted at SPH, while Internship 2 is completed outside in a real organisation in the last term before graduation. Internship 1 involves three batches of students with each group working for three months. Approximately 30–40 interns comprise a batch. Students earn 12 credits after the completion. To be eligible, students must earn at least 80 lecture credits, which means they are relatively junior. Interns are divided into four groups with each group rotating within four operational departments, namely, front office, housekeeping, F&B and kitchen departments, every 3 weeks. The internship and hotel operation are systematically scheduled and merged; 70% is on-the-job training, and 30% is lecture-based training. In terms of hotel associates, approximately 85% or 50 out of 58 persons are directly involved in intern training. Therefore, the guests are often cared by staff and interns within the real service time. With the full scale of 10 for each satisfaction rating, the annual average result of guest, staff and intern are 9, 8.3 and 8.5 respectively.


Many universities in Thailand that offer tourism or/and hospitality management programmes have their own in-house training centres to serve their students’ internship needs. Examples include the DPU Palace Hotel of Dhurakij Pundit University, Vatel Restaurant of Silpakorn University, Ruankham Apartment of Mae Fah Laung University and Suan Sunandha Palace Hotel of Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University. Therefore, in most places, an important element of a quality curriculum is practical training, internship or experiential learning opportunity. Experiential learning can be referred to as a wide range of programmes, such as internships, practicums and cooperative education tasks, in which students have a chance to apply what they have learnt from academic classes in a job context (Lee, 2007). A hotel integration project or/and hotel training centre could be regarded as a form of experiential learning (Pang et al., 2013). An effective programme in a university setting is an ideal in-house facility for many institutions. The concept of an in-house training centre in a university acts as an internal training property for students with real guests. Pavesic (1993) emphasised that students learn by integrating theories and practices into real-life situations. Pang et al. (2013) indicated the benefits of such centres, such as: 1) students can learn from real-life experiences; 2) academic staff/researchers can utilise the property for further study; 3) students can test and apply their fresh and innovative ideas to the centre; 4) associates are encouraged to keep themselves up-to-date with the industry. However, managing and developing a training centre that serves the study programme in a university involve many parties, such as a management team, lecturers, students and hotel staff or even customers; they require strong competencies and human resource (HR) management (Pang et al., 2013).

Main case

The main goal of SPH is to be a hotel training centre that helps THM’s students develop their knowledge, skills and attitudes in the hospitality industry. A good Human Resources (HR) management system is therefore imperative for effective operation and management. First, a responsible management team must establish clear vision and mission of being both a training centre and a hotel. Second, the training must mirror actual hotel operations as much as possible. As such, it is critical to establish clear job descriptions, and organisational chart and relevant standard operating procedures for both students and associates.

To begin, formal, relevant job descriptions and specifications need to be developed based on the hotel’s goals. This step is essential for effective recruitment and selection to hire the right person for the right job for the right company. The candidates/hired associates must understand their dual roles as a service provider and a trainer. Thus, service operation and training experiences are advantageous. Subsequently, the right strategies for associates in training and development, a fair performance management system, reasonable compensation and innovative strategies in the motivation aspect should be solidly systemised for associate retention.

Then an organisational chart, similar to a real hotel organisational chart, should be well established from the position of the general manager to the positions of department heads and operational team members. This is another significant aspect in which students will learn and integrate themselves quickly into real service operation teams and systems. The students are part of the professional team members in the organisational chart of each department. They must be informed about their job position and descriptions in each working area from the first day. Accordingly, hotel and departmental orientations must be provided for students, just as if they were new, permanent associates.

To link the hotel and the THM programme efficiently, the general manager can be one of the faculty members who can help systemise work standardisation, service guideline leading, excellent training for students and all management-monitoring processes to produce a quality internship for the THM’s curriculum as a whole. Thus, the general manager manages the property just like managing a hotel by involving the student interns in the normal operations in each department. The interns report directly to trainer(s) and department heads and all work standards and procedures are to be communicated and trained so that the operation is as smooth as possible. The teaching team must be trained and led as if they are working in a real hotel to have the right setting and environment for delivering the work and service cultures to interns at all time. The working style and command line must be professionally operated and respected like in a real organisation/hotel setting. This method is the fastest way to integrate interns into a real operations and for them to adjust themselves effectively and understand the real work context within only three weeks in each department.

The creation of standard operating procedures (SOP) is the next imperative key element for effective training for managing student internship and, hence, must be in place for service and work standardisation. The SOP must be aligned with the work infrastructure, departments, products and services and facilities of the hotel as a base, yet it has to have a good foundation of standardisation. It must be used for students’ training throughout the 3-month internship such that the students are cultivated with a solid foundation of work standards. The SPH’s training strategy is 70–30; 70% is on the job training, and 30% is lecture-based training. The 30% is the process in which trainers prepare interns to understand work and service standards and operational guidelines from SOPs and additional lectures on certain knowledge, skill and attitudes. The remaining 70% is a hands-on operation with real guests, in which the interns are encouraged to handle real situations. Therefore, the teaching team must be trained and guided on SOP writing; importantly, the team must be prepared on the training programme such that they are equipped with training competencies to deliver and train interns on solid work and service standardisation.

The process begins by welcoming students with a hotel orientation, and then dividing them into four groups and sending each group to a different department. A departmental orientation is provided on the first day in each respective department, in which the interns are briefed on the role of the department, the organisational chart of the department, job description, important work procedures, certain rules and regulations, necessary information and their work roster. The first week is focused on SOP guidelines to understand work policy, service standards and all procedures with some opportunities to deal with guests together with the trainers. The second week allows students to be more involved in a real operation, in which trainers and students handle and deal with guests. Trainers are not involved in the third week. The last two days is the examination time on the knowledge and skills manned by the trainers. Attitude, professionalism and teamwork aspects are observed by the trainers from the first day. Students are evaluated in five aspects: knowledge, skills, attitude, professionalism and team work. In addition, THM’s lecturers who teach academic subjects are scheduled to test their services. At times, lecturers need to use their services due to certain activities. The feedback from lecturers and guests is counted for feedback-giving sessions. The last key performance indicator is for the entire batch to arrange a theme night, in which the students do all the event planning, from theme and concept creation to decoration, menu creation, service sequence design, room and venue setup, marketing and PR and selling tickets. This theme event enables students to combine all their knowledge and skills to demonstrate their competencies.

Last but not least, to keep the training or internship lively and effective, the hotel’s sales and marketing team does marketing in a traditional way and digital marketing similar to other hotels to keep the real business going. Real guests are real teachers for students and trainers, which is the reason why an effective centre should be operated with real customers, providing actual experiences for students. This condition strongly helps students broaden their knowledge, and innovative ideas could be explored when situations are dealt in reality. Moreover, all aspects of evaluation must be conducted by guests, staff team and interns. This process can help the HTC’s team review the strengths and weaknesses of their operation and training aspects to improve and adjust the strategies and standards for enhancing the HTC further.

Reflection and recommendations

The case of SPH certainly has interesting points to be learnt from. This reflective discussion covers the period of 2009 to 2020. Three main thoughts are discussed. Firstly, the business goals should be readjusted in accordance with the change in the college’s management team such that the centre team can commit in the right direction. The original goal of SPH is to be a training centre. Nevertheless, over time, different management teams have diverse business mind-sets on hospitality education. This difference should be clarified through redefining relevant goals. The financial objective/model can be reshaped accordingly. SPH is not a profitable organisation, although the revenue is increasing each year and has finally covered all operational costs, except payroll. This financial improvement is still unsatisfying as a whole, which has affected the motivation of the centre’s team, whilst the dual roles in service and training responsibility are highly challenging. The payroll staff is an unresolved issue that has been discussed year after year. Whether the centre is a profit centre or supporting unit at times should be re-clarified with a business legal advice. Therefore, the first important reflective point is a clear relevant business goal because it is significant to the work direction of the team.

Secondly, the innovative direction could be reconsidered given the great opportunity to serve the public in many aspects due to the complete team of HR and their competencies and the infrastructure, such as disability training, elderly service or training, children camp and normal training curriculum for public. This centre is to serve not only the domestic market but also the regional or even international groups. This centre is only one in Thailand that is equipped with four operational departments which are the compulsory training curriculum for students who enrol in tourism and hospitality management programs, and certain reputation has been built along, given that it has been operating for over 20 years and highly active in the past 11 years. The asset of the team’s competencies should also be considered, including the good condition of the property. The second reflective viewpoint is hence a feasibility study on expanding or altering the business strategies and/or training services from the existing assets, from HR competencies to building aspects.

The last thought is the financial model of the centre. The financial aspect, especially the payroll, should be considered from the responsibility of the HR. If the centre’s vision is to capture business and training opportunities simultaneously, the payroll of the team should initially be divided into two parts in accordance with the dual roles of the team. A person who is expert in providing services might not have the training ability. Therefore, if the organisational vision is to play two roles, the payroll should be relevantly designed; 50% of the payroll is counted in the centre’s profit and loss sheet, and the other 50% should be allocated as academic payroll. In quality education, nothing is cheap, but it can be made surviving for the quality learning of students. Thus, a financial model should be carefully established.


An effective and quality hotel training centre tries to balance two factors: 1) sustainable profit and 2) quality learning of a group of people. The best format is achieved when the centre has made a good profit with great evaluations from guests, staff and students. Therefore, the management team should start right from the vision setting, which results in a relevant direction in the operation and financial management together with a well-aligned strategy for HR management.

What the society obtains from a quality hotel training centre are quality graduates with a strong foundation of being a hotelier/service provider. Here, students are learning not only about the technical skills of hotel and service operation but also about countless life skills because they are trained in real-life situations. Many nontechnical skills that could not be learnt anywhere during the university life could be learnt via internship. Students enjoy learning whilst dealing with strangers in a safe zone. In the meantime, guests are filled with enjoyment being served and cared by future leaders, namely, the students, and they are always willing to guide and give feedback. Importantly, guests often realise that they become a natural teacher when they use the services and they are proud of it. The last asset that the hotel training centre is creating for the society is a set of competent working team providing service and training students. They are continuously learning from training students batch by batch, servicing each of the guests and improving systems from various evaluations. Having a working group of staff who are competent in service excellence and training effectiveness is difficult to achieve. The centre provides the opportunity to produce quality graduates, proud guests and highly competent HR teams. Having in-house training has a few plus-points, but the constraint is balancing profit and quality training. Thus, any university that wishes to have an effective hotel training centre to realise a quality in-house internship for a study programme can certainly learn some strategies from this case.


Deale, C., O’ Halloran, R., Jacques, P., and Garger, J. (2010). An examination of current hospitality and tourism teaching methods. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Education, 22(2), 20-29.

Lee, S., A. (2007). Increasing student learning: a comparison of students’ perceptions of learning in the classroom environment and their industry-based experiential learning assignments. Journal of Teaching in Travel & Tourism, 7(4), 37-54.

Pang, L., W., Wong, S., C., and Wong, N., C. (2013). School and hotel integration: practices and experiences from stakeholders. Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism Education, 13(2013), 5-18.

Pavesic, D., V. (1993). Hospitality education 2005: Curricular and programmatic trends. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research, 17(1), 285-294.

Chapter 8: Pousada de Mong-Há – The Teaching Hotel of Macao


Zhuo Li and Alan Cheng

Zhuo Li (Catherine), Macao Institute for Tourism Studies

Alan Cheng, Macao Institute for Tourism Studies


Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM) utilizes a training hotel, the Pousada de Mong-Há (Pousada) to provide management and operational training to students who study hospitality related programs. This case study documents how teaching faculties and the hotel team work together to enhance students’ learning experience and practical understanding in hotel operations. The case study first examines the training model of the Pousada, followed with reflections and practical recommendations.


The Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM) was established in 1995 as a public tertiary institution in the Macao SAR, China. The Institute currently offers degree programs at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level in tourism and hospitality. These programs include a broad range of tourism and hospitality related disciplines such as hotel, tourism business, heritage, events, retail and marketing, and culinary arts management. In 2020, IFTM, a world-class tertiary institution specializing in tourism and hospitality education, was rated 1st in Macao, 2nd in Asia and 14th  globally by QS World University Rankings in the category of Hospitality and Leisure Management. In addition, IFTM also ranks among the Top 50 worldwide in the 2020 Shanghai Rankings Global Ranking of Academic Subjects in Hospitality and Tourism Management. It is also the first higher education institution to pass the International Quality Review (IQR) from the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA).

IFTM has incorporated a practical component in all its hospitality programs so as to reinforce students’ learning of theoretical concepts by imparting more solid skills and knowledge to them. In doing so, it helps enrich their learning process. The Institute has achieved this goal by utilizing one of its training units, Pousada de Mong-Há (Pousada), to provide a real-world environment where students can gain relevant hospitality skills during their on-campus studies. The Pousada is located on the side of Colina de Mong-Há (a view of the facade of the Pousada is shown in Figure 1). It is operated and managed by a team of full-time staff of the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies. The training hotel contains 30 guestrooms and suites. There are superior rooms, premier rooms, deluxe rooms, accessible rooms and suites. The room-rates range from MOP700 to MOP1800 (US$90 to US$230). Leisure travelers are their primary target guests. The Pousada is located in the north end of Macao, some distance from the Cotai Strip, where large scale casino hotels and resorts are situated. Despite its limited scale, the Pousada provides a range of settings for student practice in front office and housekeeping operations.

Figure 1: Facade of Pousada de Mong Há

Facade of Pousada de Mong Há

Practical learning has widely been used for decades as an effective learning and teaching methodology across a range of disciplines, including tourism and hospitality management studies, at most higher educational institutions. There is evidence indicating that hospitality students have benefited from practical learning in a number of aspects (Lee, 2007). These benefits include giving students a deeper understanding of the operations of hospitality organizations, as well as enabling them to reflect on their career expectations in a realistic setting. In terms of soft skills, after participating in practical programs, students find themselves more capable of adapting to change as well as having better leadership and financial management skills (Lee, 2007). In addition, a study of two management programs comprising practical learning elements showed that practical learning provided a platform for students to develop their management skills, as required in the contemporary business world (Gruman, Barrows, & Reavley, 2009; King & Tang, 2020). Therefore, the value and high importance of incorporating a practical component in a curriculum of most tertiary institutions is evident, provided that those practical components are well placed in the relevant curriculum.

This chapter presents the training model of the Pousada as a teaching hotel, with reflections on the advantages and disadvantages of this model. Recommendations are made for its future orientation as the leading iconic teaching hotel in Macao.

Training Model

As illustrated in Figure 2, the main characteristic of the training model used by the Pousada is its ‘sequential manner’ whereby students are involved in the hotel during three of their four years of study. Students of the Hotel Program and Tourism Event Program receive relevant on-site training at the Pousada, throughout the first three years of their study. Part-time hotel helper opportunities are also offered to students throughout their four years of studies. The program combines both classroom and practical learning. In the classroom, students learn concepts and theories in relation to their program of studies. A number of hotel management related subjects are integrated with the Pousada to enhance students’ understanding of the elements taught. Students also have opportunities to learn skills and knowledge related to hotel operations through practicums, field trips, and practical projects as well as internship placements. The following section provides a detailed description of the Pousada’s role in providing practical training on subject integration and practical learning design.

Figure 2: Pousada Training Hotel Model

The Pousada Training Hotel Model - Practical training through mock training facilities - Mock Front desk training station was used to teach year 1 students front desk operation related practical knowledge and Mock Housekeeping training room was used to teach Year 1 students housekeeping management related practical knowledge. First year - Subject integration - On-site observation on front office observation, on-site observation and practice of housekeeping operation, on-site role play of housekeeping room inspection. Second year - Subject Integration - Action project stage 1: strategy proposal formulation, Action project stage 2: On-site project execution. Third year – Tailor-made Training Programmes - through six-month internship. Fourth year – Talent Programme – Senior part-time student helper program. On-site talent program is provided to year 1 to year 4 part time student helpers.

First year of study

In their first year of study, students are required to complete two practicum courses, one in front desk theory and practice (Practicum I) and the other in housekeeping (Practicum II). The duration of these courses is normally seven weeks. After students have enrolled in the subjects, they need to attend two 1.5-hour theory classes per week. They also need to attend another seven-hour practical class per week where they will have opportunities to practice the procedures of taking room reservations, check-in, and check-out. Students practice through role-play with their peers as well as instructors. The primary learning objective is to give students a simulated front desk environment. During role-play, the instructor usually acts as the guest and the student as the front desk agent. Usually in the second last week of the practicum classes, the Pousada de Mong Há will invite students to their front office to both observe and practice front office operation related tasks with real hotel guests.
In terms of housekeeping practical training, the Year 1 subject Housekeeping Management Theory and Practice involves the Pousada as part of its practical training and course assessment. Students first have to learn housekeeping-related practical knowledge in a mock housekeeping room. After they have completed 12 hours of practical training there, they are required to work with a full-time housekeeping staff member in a Pousada’s guestroom to observe and practice how to clean and prepare a real guestroom. During these training sessions, students will be led by a full-time staff colleague to learn how to clean the room and bathroom as well as to prepare a guestroom by following an industry standard. Students will be assigned to complete a few housekeeping tasks during the session. Students are then required to work individually to complete a role play of a “supervisory room inspection assessment” of a cleaned guestroom. In this activity, they have to follow a specific room inspection checklist. Such an assessment requires students to demonstrate their understanding of the room cleaning procedure. The assessment accounts for 10% of the overall course grade. The benefit of involving the Pousada in the Housekeeping subject delivery is that students are exposed to a real hotel organization. The opportunity to work in a real guestroom can enhance students’ understanding of the operational challenges in a real business setting. The challenges derived from involving the Pousada in the course, however, can be related to lack of sufficient “guest-ready” rooms for students to complete their assessment, due to fluctuations in hotel occupancy. In addition, the scale of Pousada is relatively small, so the situations presented to the students might not fully reflect the real challenges that they may experience in the industry.

Second year of study

The subject of Supervised Work Experience (SWE) has involved the Pousada by including a problem-based group project in the form of presentation and project execution that together accounts for 20% of the total course assessment. Students have to act as a consultant and based on a specific project objective set by the hotel management to propose and organize a real event that addresses one of the management issues faced by the hotel. The hotel’s management team later sits in on students’ presentations to provide comments on their proposal. Upon approval of their proposal, students are required to host the event to assess the effectiveness of their proposal. In the past, students have worked on projects related to green awareness, travel service design and tourism souvenir development. In these projects, the Pousada serves as a real organization for students to learn how to formulate a strategy that addresses a real management issue, further providing students with a real business environment to help them reflect on their business proposals. Integrating the hotel in the subject assessment provides a valuable opportunity for students to learn how to develop a business strategy to address a real management issue, while also exposing them to other management aspects of hotel operations. More importantly, it provides opportunities for students to interact with guests and provides guests an opportunity to know more about our students.

Third year of study

In their third year of study, students start to fulfil their internship in either the first semester or second semester. Internship carries 6 credits. Hotel and event management students are required to look for an internship placement in relation to their programs. Third-year students are encouraged to look for their internship placements with large-scale hotel properties so as to have their horizons broadened. However, the Pousada is always readily available as an internship option. The Pousada normally provides 6-month internship placements in the Room Division department (Front Office and Housekeeping). Depending on students’ interests, they can also have the opportunity to observe or work at the Housekeeping or Food and Beverage departments.

Pousada’s student helper program

Students can also become paid part-time student helpers.  All students in IFTM, in their first, second, third or final year of study, are encouraged to work and learn on a part-time basis at the Pousada as a student helper in preparation for a career in the lodging industry.  Here, they learn the skills and knowledge needed to operate a hotel from experienced full-time staff of the Pousada.  By working part-time on a regular basis, students typically can hone their front office operational skills more effectively because of the valuable opportunities of real-life practice.  Students normally start off as student helpers, where the Pousada’s small scale allows them to be exposed to different roles within a hotel operation, including front office operations, concierge, housekeeping and room services.  Students who have worked for more than 6 months can be promoted to qualified student helpers to handle supervisory level tasks. With all the experiences obtained from working for the Pousada, these students are usually highly valued by hotels after graduating from IFTM.

Benefits and Challenges of the Training Model

There are several benefits associated with the current training model adopted by the Pousada.

Firstly, the Pousada is a teaching hotel solely operated by IFTM.  Hence, IFTM is independent in making decisions on the standard levels of the service, operation mode, and how students can be involved and integrated.  Because students’ learning needs are considered top priority, courses can be integrated in the business activities of the Pousada.  Faculty members are strongly encouraged to work closely with the Pousada so as to deliver their courses embedded with a practical component, ensuring students benefit from their courses to the fullest extent.

Secondly, since the Pousada is a teaching hotel fully dedicated to providing professional practical training, there is a consistency in the quality and level of hotel practical training offered.  The Pousada is at all times working closely and collaborating with the faculty to explore all possibilities to provide support to the students.  For example, in order to enable first year hotel program students to acquire an idea of front desk operations and guest services, during their front desk and housekeeping theory and practice course (Practicum I), students will be shown to the Pousada’s front desk and guestrooms to observe how their room division is run by its professional full-time staff as well as how professional guest services are delivered.

Thirdly, in comparison to other commercial hotels, the Pousada operates on a relatively smaller scale. However, training opportunities in its Front Office Department expose student helpers to varied aspects involved in hotel operations that are not normally available in larger properties.  Therefore the practical experience they gain is not limited to front office operations itself.

Fourthly, management has placed strong emphasis on the hospitality management philosophy of service quality and customer care.  The management team has nurtured a culture and strong sense of customer care among the full-time and part-time workers.  The philosophy has contributed to the success of the training hotel.  For example, the Pousada started to gain popularity among overseas visitors by being frequently mentioned favorably on Trip Advisor within the first several years of becoming a training hotel.  It is currently named one the best hotels in Macao by the Telegraph, a famous British daily newspaper.  Therefore, the philosophy of service quality has not only contributed to the growing popularity of the Pousada but also has become a motto for the students receiving hospitality training there. This philosophy has continued to be their core value for managing and improving the service quality of their property.

Whilst there are benefits associated with the training model, at the same time there are  several challenges the Pousada is experiencing. The foremost is the current intense competition in the lodging industry.  According to the Macao Government Tourist Office, there are currently around one hundred 3 to 5 star deluxe hotel properties in Macao.  Because of this intense competition, this small Portuguese-style hotel with 30 guestrooms, has started to experience large fluctuations in occupancy rates.  The current business model might also be attributed to its unstable business performance.  Unlike other commercial hotels, profit making is not the primary concern of the Pousada because its prime mission is to provide professional hotel training opportunities to students.  Thus, inconsistent levels of occupancy throughout the year might influence students’ overall learning experience. In terms of providing practical training opportunities, high occupancy rates play an important role in helping enhance and enrich the learning experience.  For example, with more guests, students tend to have more guest interactions, enabling the students to learn more effectively through a real-life situation.

Class scheduling to include the practical component in a course for students is another challenge. With the current study load of most students, it is difficult for them to complete some of their practical learning activities in a normal semester, meaning some may need to complete these practical components during summer holidays.  For example, in the second year of study, students have to complete a practical component of a course named Supervised Work Experience. This practical component requires students to work at least 20 hours in a hotel property under an assigned mentor or supervisor.  If students decide to select the Pousada as their practical training site for this requirement, they can only complete this requirement in their summer holidays.

The third challenge for the Pousada is its small scale compared with other new hotel properties continually emerging in Macao.  The Pousada is often recognized as a type of boutique accommodation; there are limited functional areas for offering guest services (i.e., housekeeping, front desk and food and beverage services).  In this context, students’ exposure to a full range of hotel functions during their practical training is limited to an extent.

The final challenge may be that as an independent hotel, the Pousada does not operate within a business network as other chain hotels do.  Its independent operational model might limit the development and formulation of its marketing and branding strategies.  Although the Pousada is an independent hotel, it may consider operating in partnership with other properties with similar business values on the assumption that it can operate in this manner with its current framework as a government-owned hotel property.


The Pousada de Mong Há, the sole government-funded teaching hotel in Macao, serves to provide relevant training to its hospitality students. An introduction to this teaching hotel was provided. Then its training model was described.  The main characteristics of its training model were reflected upon, with a discussion of the main advantages of the model and challenges it faces.

The Pousada plays an important role in preparing the students in many aspects for their career upon graduation.  However, given the existing scale of the hotel, the integration of hotel operations in the students’ practical learning process is limited.  The Pousada may consider the following (recommendations) to continue to be the iconic teaching hotel in Macao:

Firstly, the Pousada may embrace a higher level of participation in delivering practical courses to students.  For example, it may contemplate working with the broader faculty.  At this stage, there are only two course units that incorporate the practical component provided by the Pousada.  However, IFTM faculty may review all their current course units to seek out the possibilities of whether more course units of all their programs could include a relevant practical component or activity with the support of a teaching hotel, dependent upon the current capacity of the Pousada. In this way in the future, the Pousada can continue to pursue its mission and vision, while aligning itself more closely to modern-day common practice at tertiary institutions around the world, namely, offering practical elements across a wide range of disciplines.

Moreover, the Pousada may become a teaching hotel where research relevant to tourism and hospitality can also be undertaken so as to inform IFTM as well as the tourism and hospitality sector for continuous improvement purposes.  For example, certain business units of the teaching hotel may be selected as a unit of analysis for research purposes so that the results generated may inform the current policies and practice of the teaching hotel.

Secondly, the Pousada, given its existing operating scale may consider expanding to include more functional areas in its establishment.  These functions may include those that provide guest services in relation to spa, conventions, and Food and Beverage outlets of a wider variety of cuisine, as well as different retail outlets for leisure and family guests.  Its Concierge Department may also consider providing a wide range of personalized services to guests.  These personalized services might include organizing local tours to explore the local neighborhood where the Pousada is situated.

If the Pousada can realize the above ideas, it may be able to position itself as a teaching-cum-research hotel. The Pousada can also parallel other larger properties currently emerging in Macao, most notably in the aspect of hotel facilities.

Acknowledge:  The authors would like to thank Dr. Helena Lo, Ms. Gloria Wong, Ms. Ivy Un, and Mr. Ryan Wai for sharing their valuable insights about Pousada de Mong-Há.


Gruman, J., Barrows, C., & Reavley, M. (2009). A hospitality management education model: Recommendations for the effective use of work-based learning in undergraduate management courses. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Education, 21(4), 26-33.

King, B., & Tang, C. M. F. (2020). Training Hotels in Asia: An Exploration of Alternative Models. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Education, 32(1), 43-54.

Lee, S. A. (2008). Increasing student learning: A comparison of students’ perceptions of learning in the classroom environment and their industry-based experiential learning assignments. Journal of Teaching in Travel & Tourism, 7(4), 37-54.

QS Quacquarelli Symonds Limited 1994 – 2020. (2020, October 21). World University Ranking.

Shanghai Ranking’s Global Ranking. (2020, October 21). Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2020 – Hospitality & Tourism Management.

The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. (2020, October 21). International Quality Review of Institute for Tourism Studies, Macao December 2016.

The Telegraph. (2020, October 21). Best hotels in Macau.

Chapter 9: A Hierarchical Model for Talent Cultivation in Hospitality Programmes: The case of the Hospitality Institute of Sanya


Shichun Yu, Liyang Dong, Chun Liu, and Jingjing Yang

Shichun Yu, Beijing Hospitality Institute

Liyang Dong, Atlantis Sanya

Chun Liu, Beijing International Studies University

Jingjing Yang, Macao Institute for Tourism Studies


Whilst practical education components of hospitality programmes in China garnered considerable attention, their implementation modes and outcomes remain unclear. This chapter explores these issues through a case study of the Hospitality Institute of Sanya. Firstly, this study reviews the tripartite education model adopted by the institute, consisting of three sections: Input, Learning by doing, and Output. In the Input section, campus culture cultivation and the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) model certification are addressed. The section on learning by doing includes classroom activities, teaching hotel traineeships and formal hotel internships. Finally, the output section involves assessment of students in terms of their skills, knowledge, vision and attitudes. The system has proven to be successful, as evidenced by industry managers’ comments. Moreover, students can improve their abilities to serve, practice, learn, execute, communicate and manage on the basis of professional etiquette. The model links theory with practice, and adjusts the original Western EHL model to the Chinese context, considering the features of Chinese students and the Chinese education system.


The fast-changing needs of the labour market create new challenges for education providers. On the one hand, service organisations complain about difficulties in recruiting qualified staff. On the other hand, fresh graduates complain about difficulties in finding jobs. This discrepancy might partially lie in the mismatch between service organisations’ demands and graduates’ skills. Lam and Xiao (2000) believe that the number of hotel and tourism management (HTM) graduates produced by universities falls short of the industry’s demands mainly due to a lack of qualified teachers and effective talent cultivation programmes. This situation has become a bottleneck restricting the development of national or regional tourism in China (Wu, Morrison, Yang, Zhou, & Cong, 2014). To address this gap, in addition to academic expertise, rich internship experience has increasingly become a key factor in obtaining jobs. Therefore, undergraduate hospitality programmes should cultivate talents among students to meet the industry’s demands for qualified staff. Historically, a series of educational and training initiatives was developed, including the technical and further education sector, advanced general national vocational qualifications, dual-system vocational education and training and national/Scottish vocational qualifications to bridge the academic/industry divide (Abbott-Chapman, 2006; Baethge & Wolter, 2015; Clayton, Fisher, & Hughes, 2005; Williams & Raggatt, 1998). However, several scholars argue that many colleges pay too much attention to practical skills whilst neglecting professional and management abilities (Zhan, Zhan, Xie, & Zhong, 2020).

In response, academic scholars and hotel practitioners have developed the ‘School + Hotel’ model. For example, aside from collaborating with hotels around the world, Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) established a restaurant (i.e., Le Berceau Des Sens) and simulated the hotel environment. Similarly, the former School of Hotel Management of Cornell University and the School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University own and operate hotels open to the public. These practices gained much acclaim owing to their advantages in cultivating students’ theoretical expertise and developing practical knowledge.

With the rapid development of the hospitality sector and calls for qualified staff, the practical education components of hospitality programmes in China have garnered considerable attention. Based on the successful experiences of EHL, SHTM and Cornell University, Chinese scholars suggested several models for hotel management programmes in China. For instance, Ding (2016) proposes a personnel training framework for management ability cultivation-oriented hotel management after comparing EHL and Cornell University. Penfold et al. (2012) use the Guilin Institute of Tourism in China to clarify the curriculum review, redesign and implementation process of a new hotel management programme based on students’ and faculty’s perceived importance of and satisfaction with different attributes relating to teaching quality and the overall programme. Whilst the aforementioned research provides useful information for understanding hospitality management programmes in China, the implementation modes and outcomes of the practical education components of hospitality programmes in the country remain unclear.

The chapter examines the approach of the Hospitality Institute of Sanya (HIS) to investigate how it cultivates students’ knowledge, hones strong skills, creates a broad international vision and develops professional attitudes based on an input–response–output tripartite system. Firstly, this study reviews the HIS then discusses the three dimensions of its programmes before assessing the opinions of industry leaders regarding its success. The objectives of this study are to explore the talent cultivation mode of the HIS and examine the outcomes of the mode from the perspective of employers.

Hospitality Institute of Sanya (HIS)

Figure 1 Hospitality Institute of Sanya

Front of the Hospitality Institute of Sanya

The Hospitality Institute of Sanya (Figure 1), covering a land area of 144,000 square meters, is located in Haitang Bay in Sanya, Hainan Province, China. It is adjacent to the Haitang Bay Duty-free International Shopping Complex and is surrounded by international luxury hotels. The HIS is managed by the Beijing Hospitality Institute and the first hospitality-oriented educational institute in Sanya. It was founded in 2017 and  attained EHL academic accreditation in October 2018. Moreover, it is the only vocational college in China that passed this academic certification, becoming the 10th EHL certified academic institution in the world (HIS, 2017). As of 2020, the HIS has 1,780 students.

The HIS has a training front desk, Western cuisine restaurant, Chinese cuisine restaurant, cafe, wine tasting training room and three demonstration kitchens (a bakery, Chinese cuisine kitchen and Western cuisine kitchen). In addition, it operates a teaching hotel, La Fountain Hotel & Resort Sanya, in collaboration with its owner. The property covers a building area of 59,700 square meters, with 284 hotel rooms and 210 apartments.

Tripartite Approach to Education and Training

HIS adopts a tripartite approach to education (Figure 2). The objectives of the programme are to create a clear learning culture and provide a combination of theoretical and practical teachings and internship opportunities for regular posts in its teaching hotel. Ultimately, the programme aims to equip students with skill, knowledge, vision and attitude (SKVA) portraits to realise the balance between being a person and attaining quality skills, certain knowledge, a broad international vision and positive attitudes. Its three dimensions include Input, Learning by Doing and Output. The three dimensions are briefly discussed below.

Figure 2 HIS Tripartite Education Model

Input – Campus Culture Cultivation and Localisation of EHL Model into Industry Internship, Training Hotel Internship and Theoretical Teaching+ Practical teaching. Output – Vision, Skills, Knowledge and Attitudes.

Part 1 – Input Section

The HIS strives to implement proper campus culture cultivation to help students develop effective learning routines and habits. For example, students must strictly follow dress code and etiquette standards. In addition, teachers and students are required to wear formal business attire during regular classes. Moreover, etiquette standards, including elevator etiquette, classroom etiquette, workplace etiquette and telephone and email etiquette are established.

A monitoring team called the ‘dandelion team’ consists of 146 people, including 116 student volunteers and 30 faculty and staff volunteers. The monitoring team is responsible mainly for the inspection, supervision and training of teacher and student behaviours and etiquette. Teacher and student violations of the norms of conduct and etiquette are recorded in the campus culture management system. A ‘student court’ is held before a decision on punishment is made on violations of rules of conduct and etiquette and other transgressions.

In addition, the HIS signed a consultation agreement with EHL at the beginning of its establishment in 2015. The EHL was involved in the campus planning and design as well as in the curriculum and student development design. EHL consultants visit the HIS once a year for auditing and support. For practical application, the HIS revised and adjusted the EHL model to fit Chinese students. The adjustment can be divided mainly into three parts. Firstly, in view of students’ unfamiliarity with the major and industry, the HIS added a week-long entrance course for freshmen to provide them with basic knowledge on the industry and discipline. Secondly, to enhance the outcome of practical teaching, preliminary practical courses (e.g., catering services, room service and so on) and practical theory courses (e.g., conceptual and theoretical knowledge before practical operations) are added to 8 to 12 class hours per week in one practical module. Meanwhile, internships in the teaching hotel are arranged to increase students’ experience in customer service. A teaching hotel is not included in the EHL education system. Thirdly, internship mobilisation and commendation meetings are held before and after the industry internship to ensure the internship effect. Tutors are assigned to 15 interns, whose responsibilities include instructing students in the internship programme and facilitating the relationship between the hotel and students.

Part 2 – Learning by Doing Section

The education and training system has three dimensions. The first dimension is the completion of students of theoretical and practical courses. Approximately 60% of HIS teachers and staff are from the hospitality industry. The credit ratio of theoretical courses to practical courses is approximately 1:1. Subjects include theoretical and practical components designed to provide a broad yet practical tertiary-level education. In addition, practical courses on baking and Western and Chinese cuisines are taught and demonstrated in the demonstration kitchen. Students cook various foods under the guidance of the practical teacher in the kitchen then sell them to teachers and students in the canteen.

The second dimension is an internship in the teaching hotel La Fountain Hotel & Resort Sanya, which serves the functions of operations and teaching support (Figure 3). Students are required to complete 228 hours of practical exercises at the hotel, including catering production, catering services and room service. Under the guidance and arrangement of teachers and hotel department heads, students are assigned to relevant positions in the hotel to work with full-time employees. Teachers serve as deputy managers to assist department managers in carrying out the work and observe, record, correct and summarise the performance of the students. Given that Chinese students have nearly no work experience in the hotel industry before enrolment, this link between laboratory practice and hotel industry internship can effectively solve the shortcomings of students’ work experience.

Figure 3 La Fountain Hotel & Resort Sanya 

Front of La Fountain Hotel & Resort Sanya

Finally, in the third dimension, students complete off campus internships in five-star hotels. This programme is unique, because whilst most internships are arranged at the end of students’ studies, the HIS follows the ‘sandwich’ principle and organises internships for the third and sixth semesters. Thus, students have two opportunities to be exposed to industry practice. The first internship is called the cognitive internship and mainly for frontline hotel positions, and the second internship is called the management internship. The internship assignment clearly states that students must complete management-related tasks and the graduation design during the internships.

Part 3 – Output Section – SKVA Portraits

The goal of the first two sections is to produce students with SKVA portraits, an acronym standing for quality Skills, certain Knowledge, a broad international Vision and positive Attitudes. Students obtain theoretical knowledge in the classroom and improve their practical abilities in hands-on courses and internships. Moreover, students broaden their vision by participating in various international events and activities as volunteers, including the ‘Boao Forum’ and ‘Miss World’. In the above process, students’ attitudes towards life and other aspects are strengthened. The HIS aims to train students to have excellent SKVA.

Effectiveness of the Programme

The effectiveness of the programme can be best assessed to by employers who hire HIS students. Interviews were conducted with the human resource directors or general managers of hotels where 287 HTM sophomore students completed their internship. The hotels are all five-star or luxury hotels in Sanya. The interviews were conducted in Chinese to ensure the effectiveness of the interview. Each interview was recorded with the interviewee’s permission. The interviews were transcribed verbatim from a recording then translated to English by professionals. The scripts were further encoded openly, axially and selectively for categorising and analysing. The data reached saturation at the ninth interviewee. A total of nine hotels hired the HIS students for their first internship from July 2018 to February 2019.

The interview questions covered the following themes:

  1. Understanding of the HIS
  2. Evaluation of the HIS interns at respective hotels
  3. Evaluation of the interns’ work attitudes, knowledge, skills and vision
  4. Performance of volunteers at events
  5. Comparison between the HIS interns and those of other institutions

The rules of grounded theory were used to analyse the data. Firstly, concepts from the meaningful units of the original information were extracted and labelled using open coding. The principle of labelling is to be as open as possible and rely on the instincts of the researcher (Xie, 2018).

Their good performance is mainly because they can be seen to have received professional training in hotel management in the school and entered the operational status quickly. Meanwhile, they learnt the work standards of the hotel very quickly and can perform very well. In terms of their attitudes towards customers and colleagues, they are quick to react and have good learning abilities. So, at the end of our internship farewell party, we said that this was the best group of interns we had ever had.

Axial coding was used to determine the possible logical relations between each category, categorise the meaningful units and establish connections. This study integrated 68 concepts formed by open coding and classified 11 conceptual categories (Table 1).

Table 1. Industry’s perception of HIS graduates

Frequencies Conceptualisation  Categories
30 Jump into work quickly; learn quickly; master standards quickly; have satisfactory learning and hands-on abilities; are stable; skilful, especially, in table laying and making beds; and have satisfactory competency Ability to study and practice
16 Have grooming; are stately, confident, skilled, natural, professional and expert; demonstrate satisfactory appearance, qualifications and behaviours Professional image
14 Demonstrate quick response and satisfactory attitudes, are earnest, have initiative, are active and proactive Working attitudes
12 Learn the demands of guests, serve in advance, demonstrate service awareness, provide satisfactory service, can observe and predict guests’ needs, exhibit a strong desire to serve, have proactive consciousness Ability to predict needs and service awareness and ability
11 Have qualifications, demonstrate stability and ease, are natural, comfortable, calm, vigorous and responsible Vocational qualifications
9 Are confident, make eye contact, express appropriate greetings, are polite, impressive and kind hearted Politeness
9 Ask pertinent questions, are anxious about their future career and willing to learn, have a thirst for knowledge, education, ideas and vision Knowledge and professional levels
5 Take orders, have executive abilities, are obedient Executive abilities
5 Are noble, bear hardships, are persistent, can deal with difficult work Endurance of hardships
4 Have ability to communicate and express themselves, are calm and relaxed Communication abilities
4 Well organised, hardworking and self-managed Organisation and management abilities

Selective coding, namely, core coding, represents the third tier of grounded theory. It aims to select a core genus from discovered concept generated through systematic analysis, which is effective and can include most research results in a relatively broad theoretical scope akin to ‘a rope of a fishing net’ (Chen, 2000, p. 334). Using open coding and axial coding as well as the discussion on the previously discovered conceptual categories, this study combined concepts with similar genera and extracted seven main categories for the HIS students’ professionalism. Figure 4 presents a summary of the outcome.

Figure 4 Students’ professionalism model in the talent cultivation framework

The seven categories for student professionalism are Learning Ability, Management Ability, Communication Ability, Professional Etiquette, Executive Ability, Service ability and Practice Ability.

Discussion and Conclusion

The employers were very impressed with the quality of the HIS interns. The interviewees perceived the interns to have satisfactory professional skills and the ability to learn standard operation procedures quickly. They stated that most of the interns were confident, professional and polite. According to one interviewee:

Your 18 classmates are really the best interns we’ve ever had. The general manager of our hotel said at the farewell party, ‘It’s not a compliment’.

Our hotel has accepted seven interns from the HIS, and the departments’ feedback is very good. The department heads said that they had good working attitudes, working skills and learning abilities. What impressed me most was an intern in the front office department who was very active. I hope she chooses our hotel when she graduates.

The interns were perceived to be quick learners who showed proactive initiatives. In other words, they demonstrated positive customer care attitudes, strong vocational qualities and professional knowledge and potential to occupy management positions.

Compared with other schools, they are faster and better at learning new things and new skills, more stable, more polite … are more confident and act more naturally at work.

They are enthusiastic, serious, responsible and proactive. A student named Chen received 125 praises from customers on the website in half a year and got our rewards every month. Miss E

This study summarised and constructed the tripartite talent cultivation model of the HIS, which consists of three sections, namely, input, learning by doing and output. In the input section, campus culture cultivation and the EHL model certification are addressed. The section on learning by doing includes teaching, practicing and internships, which entail teaching hotel traineeship and industry internship. The output section assesses students’ excellence in terms of their SKVA portraits. On the basis of talent cultivation SKVA portraits, a professionalism model for the HIS students was presented, which is a collection of their learning, practical, service, executive, management and communication abilities based on their professional etiquette and image. The model links theory with practice and adjusts the original Western EHL model to the Chinese context to consider the features of Chinese students and the Chinese education system. This summary on the tripartite model and exploratory research on students’ professionalism can help HTM improve talent cultivation quality and alleviate the shortage of talents in the industry.


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Part 3 – Practical Learning in Training Facilities


On campus training facilities form an integral part of practical skills development for most students. As noted in the first two sections of this book, most hotel traineeships were presaged by an intensive on-campus practicum or lab component.

The following three case studies focus primarily on this component of a student’s education. The 10th Chapter by Smith and Mackenzie discusses some of the challenges associated with four different types of practical lab activities in food and beverage training, based on their experiences in America and Asia. The 11th Chapter by Basnyat and Jaishi discusses the experiences they encountered in offering such programmes in Nepal. The 12th Chapter by Chen and Heo takes a different perspective and looks at student led consultancies as a means of developing critical thinking and problem solving skill.

Chapter 10: Food and Beverage Training Facilities within Hospitality Education: Operational and managerial nightmares


Ryan P. Smith and Murray Mackenzie

Ryan P. Smith, San Francisco State University

Murray Mackenzie, University of Nevada


Food and beverage training facilities are not easy to operate and maintain. This chapter looks at four full-service style restaurant training facilities that have been used at different universities and the positives and negatives associated with each method. There is no “best” method for a training facility in university education, but the purpose of all training facilities should be to teach managerial and soft skills that are best learned through practical experience.


While formal food and beverage (F&B) university educational training programs date back over 100 years, the volume and number of programs have significantly increased in the last 30 years. Traditionally, programs are situated in autonomous schools, colleges within a university, or as sub-departments in schools or colleges of business. Traditionally most hospitality departments/schools/colleges have integrated a practical training component into their F&B programs. This chapter will focus on F&B training facilities that when in use, function as a full-service restaurant with a kitchen and service element to them. There are other training facilities that are used primarily for cookery skills, wine tasting, or bar training; however, these will not be addressed as a full-service restaurant tend to be the most common.

Running F&B training facilities requires a significant amount of funding and depending on the model adopted, may operate at a profit or loss. Training facilities are broken down into two major categories, a “laboratory” (lab) and a “restaurant”. Both types of operations generally serve the university in some capacity by providing a place to dine. The operational hours and main objective will vary. A lab-type facility has clearly defined intended learning outcomes, where the lab is built around meeting those outcomes. It typically loses money, as it is not designed to generate revenue. In addition, it is only in use when a class or course needs to meet to obtain the learning outcomes. It is traditionally closed outside of class use. Alternately, a “restaurant” training facility ideally, should also be designed around a clear set of learning objectives. However, the goal is to generate revenue or be revenue-neutral. Typically the operating hours are consistent throughout the year regardless of whether the classes are held or not. Therefore, restaurants typically need paid staff (not faculty) to continue operations. Often though, this goal is unattainable and these restaurants too run at a loss, albeit at a smaller loss than labs. Larger universities may have both training labs and training restaurants. A number of universities have debated recently whether it is necessary to incorporate F&B training into a degree-granting hospitality management program, due in part to the high costs of running training restaurants or labs with some USA hospitality programs foregoing practical training altogether.

This chapter discusses different methods of how these facilities have operated at different universities and the intended learning outcomes of the courses that operate within the operations. Four different operational methods of delivering F&B training facilities are examined, including: 1. Lecturer oversight with graduate students operating, 2. Tenure/tenure-track (T/TT) oversight and operation. 3. School/department staff oversight with lecturer operating, and 4. Catering division staff oversight with lecturer operation. Each model has individual strengths and opportunities while also providing unique drawbacks.

Each of the aforementioned operational methods will be assessed separately as each provides varying learning outcomes, which are dependent on the course structure and resource allocation provided by the department/college. Both internal and external university requirements will be assessed. This will highlight the quality standards reflected in each of the operational methods and possible reasons for their choice or not so.

Lastly, this chapter will investigate the long-term implications of each strategy and what can potentially cause each strategy to thrive or perish. The order in which these cases appear is the least amount of support to the greatest amount of support from the university, college, and/or department. The title of each operation is separated as a “lab” or a “restaurant”, which helps to give better context to the decisions around one or the other.

Background on F&B Training Teaching

The courses that are embedded in the training facility and how those courses are delivered are vital to the understanding of the reasons for universities to develop these courses to begin with. All universities the authors examined have multiple required operational courses and, in some cases, capstone courses in the food service portion of the curriculum. As such, they build on most of the material students have studied throughout their academic careers. For example, students will use their knowledge of sanitation, safe food production, accounting and financial management, personnel management, production scheduling, kitchen and dining room operations, and management as well as effective planning and leadership at various times during their practical program.

Achieving a balance between vocational training and academic requirements means that a lot of higher education F&B training facilities face the challenge of meeting educational and guest expectations. Although the training of future hospitality employees and managers continues to emphasize skill-based operational activities over theory and textbook scenarios, the overarching aim of higher educational institute’s F&B laboratories is to prepare students through F&B hands-on training and academic theory that underpins managerial practice.

F&B has traditionally been viewed as a career path to senior-level management within the broader hospitality industry (Ladkin 2000). As a result, training restaurants have become better in preparing future industry leaders. Students with little to no experience learn the value of teamwork, communication, guest interaction, learning “on the job”, while those students with experience learn to train others, offer guidance and support, and learn supervisory skills.

Operation 1. Graduate Student Teaching Fellows Operation “Lab”

Universities that offer graduate programs have a pool of qualified individuals to assist in university/college/department support. Most universities that do offer graduate education offer student assistantships, teaching assistantships, and/or teaching fellow scholarships. Although finding students with F&B experience, especially the kitchen, might be difficult in some parts of the US, it has been a utilized way to operate a training facility.

In this model, a university takes on two or three graduate students to operate the “lab” while two courses are conducted in a lecture/lab set up. A faculty member oversees the courses and conducts lectures, while the graduate students ensure that the lab is up and running when needed. The first course is a required course wherein the lab students learn about the operation in both the dining room, front of house (FOH), and kitchen, back of house (BOH). The goal of the lab is to teach basic training skills and teamwork through live simulation. The lecture part of the course is used to teach the aspects of managing a restaurant like an operation similar to the lab. The second course is a guided elective intended for final year students that aims to focus on F&B. The course is about management and leadership in the lab and the lecture. The lab section of the mandatory course runs concurrently with the lab section of the elective course, where the F&B focused students supervise the required class students with the aid of the graduate students. In the lecture of the guided elective course, students learn leadership skills and theory. The same faculty member oversees both courses that operate the training lab for consistency.

A major benefit of this type of operation is the low overall operation cost as two labs are operating concurrently, and being overseen by the same graduate students. The required class learns the basics of F&B management and operations and the guided elective class learns supervisory and leadership skills. There are only two lecturers in this setting regardless of the number of labs needed, which keeps faculty resources low for this operation. Additionally, since graduate students are overseeing the operation and are on scholarship, there is a sense of responsibility and commitment from these students. These students also are with the program for two to four years and therefore, re-training would be needed when turnover occurs. Also, the F&B focused students in the guided elective, already had taken the restaurant operation course and are familiar with the operation to assist the other class with simple questions.

The drawbacks of this operation are that you need to ensure you have qualified graduate students, training needs to be carried out for these graduate students (although if there is a returning graduate student paired with a new graduate student, it makes it easier), and there is no one responsible to follow up on maintenance and equipment upkeep. Graduate students are not invested long term in the operation and equipment upkeep will become a problem as the years pass. In addition, F&B equipment is expensive and this type of operation typically does not make enough money to pay for the upkeep as it is only in use when labs are scheduled. Therefore, additional funding will be required as it is not a self-sustaining operation.

Operation 2. Tenure/Tenure-Track (T/TT) oversight “Lab”

Another “lab” operation method for a training facility is to hire a T/TT faculty member to operate and manage the lab. Few universities have T/TT positions that are meant for administration, special events, teaching, with little to no research requirement. Most universities hold strict requirements for all T/TT faculty regardless of subjects or methods taught to adhere to regarding research and administration. The value of teaching, research, and administration duties may be different at universities, but typically all T/TT faculty in departments and/or colleges are held to the same standards. For a T/TT person to oversee a training operation, there has to be a buy-in from the university to change the requirements for this person. Primarily, this person should be back-of-house based, but that is not required. The reason is because preparation, equipment management, ordering, stock take, is easier if the T/TT’s “hands” are somewhere in there.

This model is not a method that the authors have personally experienced, but know that other universities operate this way. The authors have seen universities that try to operate a T/TT faculty member with the same requirements as all other T/TT faculty and it creates a number of challenges. Simply stated, there are more teaching and administration duties required for a faculty member who teaches in a training operation lab than in a regular teaching format. The result is the person has little or no time to devote to research and more generic administrative duties, at the possible cost of career advancement. Some of these duties can be off-set by interns or part-time student workers, but the time involved in training interns and part-time student workers can be similar to teaching an actual class. Training of these students is still above and beyond the normal functions of other T/TT positions within a department/school/university. As a result, it is rare to see T/TT faculty teaching in a training lab because of this.

This type of operation functions in a lecture/lab format. The T/TT faculty oversees the lecture and the lab. There is typically an additional support person such as staff or lecturer to help run the operation in FOH or BOH. The T/TT faculty designs the menu and service formats during the semester, sometimes in conjunction with a lecturer in FOH and/or BOH. The semester generally commences with basic cooking techniques and menu items and gradually becomes more complex each week. Foodservice also has a similar training method, commencing with basic table service and working towards final student supervision of the restaurant. The students in the lab work in teams and are introduced to BOH and FOH protocols, the importance of communication, deflagration of the task, time management skills, problem-solving and professional competence. The lecture part of the course is used for restaurant management topics. Due to the issue of T/TT time constraints, the lecture may be conducted online to reduce face-to-face time with the students.

If there is buy-in from the university, there are many positives to this method. The department/college will have the T/TT faculty member responsible for the lab and maintaining it. The learning outcomes will be consistent year in and year out. There is a go-to person for all F&B lab-related matters. The drawbacks of this method are the university having different tenure criteria for this person and finding the right candidate that will be solely dedicated to this position. Also, education is constantly evolving (online degrees, MOOCs, certificates, etc.) and the need for lab may not exist in years to come. Lastly, like Operation 1, the operation is not self-sustaining and additional outside funding to maintain equipment will be required.

Operation 3. School/department staff oversight with lecturer operating “restaurant”

Another example of university educational F&B student training has been with lecturer oversight in BOH and FOH that is supported by a department/college F&B staff department. This scenario enables students to be taught by experienced professionals in both FOH and BOH while department academic staff oversee the academic structure and integrity. Academic staff are required to teach related lectures, coordinate assessments, structure the weekly teaching schedule to meet the course and program outcomes, and submit final grades.

The restaurant is open to the public during weekdays for lunch and dinner service and closes during public holidays and weekends. During 10-12 weeks of the academic year, different levels of F&B classes are scheduled to run the restaurant with lecturer oversight and professional support from the full-time staff, including an executive chef, kitchen support staff, a dining room manager, and/or restaurant support staff. Two courses are offered typically in the third and final year of study to formulate new ideas that focus on management training.

The executive chef designs a five/six-week rotating menu. The lecturer in FOH designs the appropriate service techniques. The menu and service are similar to operation 2, in that food preparation and service techniques are easier at the beginning of the semester and gradually build each week.

During semester breaks, students are also employed to assist in the continued restaurant operation. This additional opportunity provides a valuable experience for students and comfortably prepares them for their next step into the industry once they graduate. Academic courses are designed to be revenue self-generating. The income generated from the restaurant during the academic year is fed back into student learning through the upkeep and maintenance of the restaurant and to support scholarships. Additional income generated outside of the academic year supports the wage bill of the employed students and extra equipment needs in both FOH and BOH. Wages for staff are not factored into the sustainability of the training restaurant.

The advantage of this operation method is consistency. The executive chef, dining room manager, and all support staff ensure consistency for the guests that come into the dining room during a class or outside the semester time. Also, the restaurant operates year-round, which helps to serve the university with a sit-down restaurant on campus. Students are watched over by the F&B staff and ensure a high level of education with the lecturer to oversee the class operations.

The disadvantage of this system is cost. With the support staff, lecturer, food cost, and general maintenance, this type of operation will always operate at a loss. There may be a way if the university offers large banquets outside of normal operating hours, but the moving of staff outside or in addition to the normal operation may not be feasible in a university setting.

Operation 4. Catering division staff oversight with lecturer operation

There have been several attempts to expose university level F&B students to training within a realistic working environment. One such example has been to develop a separate F&B catering department that can meet student expectations while also generating funding that gives back to the educational environment. This department is operated entirely by staff with college oversight. In so doing there are many advantages to both the student and the educational provider.

FOH and BOH skilled catering professionals are employed by the department/college to generate income through coordinated internal and external catering events. To support varied requested events such as banquets, sit-down formal/informal luncheon and dinners, cocktail receptions and gatherings, students also assist, through volunteered hours and paid employment. Students are often required to complete a paid internship of varying length, and this option gives them the opportunity to complete some or all of it. As students volunteer to support catering events, this gives the full-time employed staff opportunity to evaluate their soft skills as well and practical ability. Students work in both FOH and BOH, which enables a valuable rounded experience.

Students attached to this form of learning opportunity tend to be highly motivated, primarily by the anticipated vocational outcomes and payment to support their studies and course fees. Also, those employed in senior catering positions overseeing the total operation, supervise student training, and manage student’s related interpersonal skills associated with critical thinking, problem-solving, effective communication, ethical leadership as well as valuable vocational outcomes that meet both curriculum and industry expectations. Interestingly, the industry’s views suggest that attitudinal attributes are more valuable over skills, thus training while working is seen as a valuable way in assisting employees to gain the skills needed for their future roles (Harkison, Poulston, & Kim, 2011).

Evidence has shown that additional vocational training can accelerate career advancement and opportunities for management advancement can be achieved through gaining relevant industry experience (Harkison, et al 2011). During these valuable realistic work-related opportunities, students are instructed by employed professional catering staff. Through these experiences, students are gaining valuable industry experience while completing additional work-related activities.

In addition to the catering department, faculty-led courses use the facilities to operate courses that use the training facilities when needed. F&B classes are administered by two faculty members responsible for BOH and FOH. Some of the courses operate lunch service in a similar manner to Operation 2 labs, while other courses put on small dinner events. However, the courses that operate small dinner events do not have a lecture/lab set up, but rather conduct a lecture or event during the scheduled course time.

Issues do arise in this set up as the facilities are managed by the catering department. Often times the use of the facilities by faculty led classes may conflict with when the catering department’s needs to use these facilities for revenue-generating events. Although the catering department does try to operate around faculty led classes, sometimes specific class schedules may have to change based upon the needs and demands of the catering department. Often times faculty members see this as an opportunity to facilitate learning through real-life encounters with guests.

The catering department also undertakes charity events, supports student societies and clubs such as The Epicurean Society. This student-run society hosts guest speakers, present an at-home cooking series, and provides opportunities to meet with those interested in the experience of food, culinary events, and foodservice operations.

The advantage of this model has allowed assessment to be undertaken in a realistic working environment, initiate additional skills training, and enhance future employment opportunities. In addition, the catering department generates enough funds to be self-sustaining and maintain the equipment and facilities over time. The disadvantage to this model has been the conflict of interest with the catering department and course educational goals. In addition, large funds and university support were needed to set up an operation like this before becoming self-sustaining.


As originally stated, running a training facility is no easy task. There needs to be a clear direction that is set by the college and department with a good understanding of the support that can be offered through university resources. It is important for someone with an F&B background to help design the best operation and if major changes need to happen in the operation, F&B faculty should be consulted or an outside F&B education expert should assist. Practical training is not the same as theory. No one asks a hotel, human resource, housekeeping, or finance person to consult on a restaurant in the industry, so the same should be applied to a training facility.

It is important to decide if the facility should be a lab or a restaurant, as either will be a nightmare, but a nightmare that will provide more benefits to students than just industry experience. In the lab setting, the revolving issue is funding and equipment upkeep. In both lab settings discussed, the equipment in these facilities tends to not be kept very well as students are involved in the daily cleaning of the operation. In the restaurant and catering settings, both operations need a large budget to implement and coordinate. However, the benefits of restaurants and labs, offer students the necessary industry knowledge, practical skills, and essential soft skills such as, working in teams, problem-solving, motivation, and communication skills taught through well-structured practicum courses that further meet industry needs. These operations courses also contain many frontline skills such as, supervisory and delegation skills, which are a requirement for higher-level supervisor/management training.


Harkison, T. & Poulston, J. & Kim, J. H. (2011). Hospitality graduates and managers: The big divide. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 23, 377-392. 10.1108/09596111111122541.

Ladkin, A. (2000). Vocational education and food and beverage experience: Issues for career development. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 12 (4), 226–233.

Chapter 11: Use of Training Facilities in Hospitality Education: A case study of Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hotel Management (NATHM)


Sandeep Basnyat and Shiva Prasad Jaishi

Sandeep Basnyat, Macao Institute for Tourism Studies

Shiva Prasad Jaishi, Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hotel Management


The Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hotel Management (NATHM) provides training to its undergraduate hotel management students through a range of in-house training facilities. These training facilities include training kitchens, bakeries, restaurants, bar, hotel rooms and a coffee shop, among others. This chapter explores the use of practical training facilities, especially training kitchens and training restaurants, by students and instructors at NATHM. As will be seen, the approach of participatory training employed at NATHM not only encourages students’ engagement and contributions during a training but also equips them with professional knowledge, skills and ideas that they can effectively, efficiently and creatively use in their everyday work in hospitality establishments.


Ensuring classroom learning experiences are applicable to actual management situations has been an important issue as well as a concern for higher education institutions that provide hotel management education (LeBruto & Murray, 1994). In order to broaden students’ thinking and enable them to operate outside the existing practices and paradigms, most hotel management schools provide some form of practicum (Alexander, 2007). Hotel management is considered as a distinctive part of hospitality management education that strongly emphasizes acquiring practical skills required for the management of specialized accommodations (Higher Education Funding Council for England, 1998). Therefore, a practical element is not only a defining characteristic of hotel management education but also indicates its strong connection with the industry (Higher Education Funding Council for England, 1998). In order for students’ learning experiences to be responsive to industry demand, the development of suitable physical facilities that provide adequate training opportunities at hotel management schools plays an important role (LeBruto & Murray, 1994). This chapter presents the case of the Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hotel Management (NATHM) and explores the use of its practical training facilities, especially training kitchens and training restaurants, by both students and instructors. As will be seen, the approach of participatory training employed at NATHM not only encourages students’ engagement and contributions during training but also equips them with professional knowledge, skills and ideas that they can effectively, efficiently and creatively use in their everyday work in hospitality establishments.

The tourism and hospitality industry employs about 20% of the economically active population in Nepal, or about one million workers (ILO, 2018). As of 2018, there were 1,254 starred and non-starred hotels operating in Nepal (MOCTCA, 2019) and the average annual growth rate of the hotel and restaurant sectors was above eight percent (8%). Undergraduate and post graduate degrees in travel, tourism and hotel and hospitality management are provided by four major universities, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu University, Purbanchal University and Pokhara University, and their affiliated colleges (Thapa & Panta, 2019). As of 2019, for example, a bachelor’s degree in hotel management was offered by 17 colleges affiliated with the above four universities (Thapa & Panta, 2019).

The Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hotel Management (NATHM) was established by the government in 1972 to provide supervisory level skill-oriented training to cater to the demands of the tourism and hospitality industry. Since 1999, NATHM started to offer a Bachelor of Hotel Management (BHM) program and from 2003, it has been offering a Bachelor of Travel and Tourism Management (BTTM) program. The BHM curriculum includes a blend of theory classes, a practicum, and industrial exposure through an internship. Students complete their undergraduate program in four years. With the launch of the Master of Hospitality Management (MHM) program in 2011, NATHM has been able to produce senior-level human resources suitable to the needs of industry. Apart from academic courses, the Academy provides regular as well as on-request craft and skill-oriented training sessions, including tour and trekking guiding, small hotel and lodge management, food preparation, food and beverage service management, front office management, and housekeeping, among others, to cater to the demands of the industry. In line with the government’s policy to diversify the tourism industry, NATHM has been conducting mobile outreach training programmes in various parts of the country. These training programmes are primarily aimed at improving small hotel and lodge management, homestay management and tour guiding skills among local residents.

Participatory training approach at the training kitchens at NATHM

Spread over one and half hectares, NATHM provides training to its undergraduate hotel management students through a range of in-house training facilities. These training facilities include five training kitchens, two training bakeries, three training restaurants, one training bar, 20 training hotel rooms and a coffee shop. A new 4-star, 82 room training hotel is under construction to provide real-time experiences for students.

This section introduces the training kitchens and their usefulness and provides details of the participatory approach of providing practical training at NATHM. The next section will focus on training restaurants.

Table 1: Training kitchens, equipment and their uses

Training kitchen Students/instructors who use the kitchen Equipment in the kitchen What students learn
Advanced First and Second Semesters Working stations with ranges, tables, combination oven, deep freezer, refrigerator and cutting equipment Cut, chop, and trim meat, fish, poultry, and vegetables /roast, grill, and bake / artistically present the prepared food
Basic Third and Fourth Semesters
Satellite Third and Fourth Semesters Reheating equipment Reheat prepared food before they are served in the training restaurants
Bulk All semesters Working stations with high-pressure ranges, tables, combination oven, deep freezer, refrigerator and cutting equipment Prepare bulk food or a large quantity of food
Demonstration All semesters Working station with a range, table, combination oven, deep freezer, refrigerator and cutting equipment for demonstration Recipes, menus, nutrition information, food presentation styles, fruits, vegetable and ice carving techniques, and culinary techniques

The five training kitchens have been named as Advanced, Basic, Bulk, Demonstration and Satellite kitchen. Table 1 provides the details of equipment installed in each kitchen as well as what students learn. Altogether, students will prepare 32 sets of Indian, Nepali and Continental dishes from their first to fourth semesters of training in the Advanced and Basic kitchens. In addition, third and fourth-semester students will learn to prepare several types of a la carte menus. Moreover, students learn to prepare 16 different set menus in the Bulk kitchen that are intended to cater to large groups. The Satellite kitchen is complementary to the Basic kitchen and used for reheating purpose. The Demonstration kitchen is used by instructors for the demonstration of a number of theoretical as well as practical aspects. Students also have the chance to sample the dishes prepared during the demonstration by the instructors. Figure 1 shows the workflow process at the Advanced, Basic and Bulk training kitchens.

Figure 1: Workflow process at the training kitchens

Workflow process - Divide students into teams - Allocate a table for each team - Check grooming, assign roles and provide instructions - Select a supervisor and brief the tasks - Prepare a report - Discuss / Evaluate
Diagram of the workflow process at the training kitchens

During the practicum, each cohort of students is divided into several groups of 20 and each group is then assigned to different tasks such dispensing beverages, handling pantry service, preparing food at workstations, taking care of utilities, and performing as a food server, including a cashier and a supervisor. For an entire semester, the same group of 20 students will obtain practical training in all aspects of food and beverage operations. Instructors play important roles, not only by providing training but also by ensuring that students are fully engaged and participate in the entire training process. While preparing food in the Advanced and Basic training kitchens, instructors start a typical day in a kitchen by dividing the 20 students into 10 teams. Since there are 10 workstations with 40 ranges in both kitchens, each team of two students has an opportunity to work with two ranges. While preparing food at the Bulk kitchen, the 20 students are divided into five teams, and each team is assigned a separate task required for bulk food preparation including cutting, food preparation and cleaning, among others.

The training activity that follows revolves around four functions: instructions, demonstration, supervision and control, and discussion and evaluation. In the beginning, instructors provide a brief introduction of the activities that the students need to carry out, the goals for the day, individual team’s job responsibilities, a general procedure of the work to be carried out and what students can and cannot do during their practical session. The instructor then demonstrates the procedure of the kitchen work. Students watch and observe the instructors’ activities and are free to help the instructor and/or ask questions.

After the instructor finishes, each team of students is asked to discuss between themselves in detail, the entire procedure. This part of the training process helps students to clarify and understand the work that they need to carry out for the day. Additionally, it helps them to remember the process, the part of the work they would perform in the team, and the areas where they would need to help each other.

Then, the students repeat the same procedure and prepare the meal which eventually is served in the restaurants. The instructor performs ‘supervision’ and ‘controlling’ functions concurrently as he or she observes students and their work during the entire preparation and cooking session. If a student experiences a problem, the instructor further guides the student to resolve the problem. Since each student is assigned a different job, all students are engaged during a typical practice session. Furthermore, since each student is responsible for completing a certain task, the completion of the overall kitchen task rests on the completion of tasks by all students. Any inappropriate activity by a student including misuse of the equipment is recorded by the instructor and the students are subjected to disciplinary action. Finally, the instructor asks the students to share with each other in their own team, their experiences, problems they faced during the food preparation, and how those problems could be resolved. The instructor then checks and evaluates the work performed by the students before the food is served in the restaurants.

Participatory training approach at the training restaurants at NATHM

While the first and second-semester students undertake their training in training Restaurant I and II, training Restaurant III is mainly used by the students studying in the third and fourth semesters. Table 2 identifies what each student learning in the training restaurants, while Figure 2 illustrates the workflow process int raining restaurants. The students learn three different forms of service in the Training Restaurants I and II: pre-plated service, platter to plate (silver service), and buffet service. Importantly, students learn and extensively practice subtle but important aspects of service such as the way pre-plated (food is prepared in the kitchen on a service plate and is served from the right-hand side of the guests) and platter (food is prepared in the kitchen and portion on a platter and is served from the left-hand side of the guests on a plate using service gears) meals are served.

Table 2: Training Restaurants and their uses at NATHM

Training restaurants Students who use the restaurants What students learn
Training Restaurant I & II First and Second Semesters Independently manage the food service counter, display food counter according to the menu, provide food services, keep a record of the food consumption (and the guests), pre-planning of services and scene (mise-en-scene), keep a record of pre-service and post-service inventory of service equipment, set up a professional dining room, lay and re-lay table cloths, and set up a table with cutlery, crockery, glassware, table condiments and linen.
Training Restaurant III Third and Fourth Semesters Breakfast services, a la carte menus services, platter to plate (silver) services, room services, banquet services, mixed drinks services, preparing a duty roster, assigning duties to a team and preparing a sales report.

In Training Restaurant III, students learn and practice more advanced forms of training including personal and specialized services. They also learn to prepare and serve more than thirty varieties of mixed drinks including different types of coffee. Additionally, the students also learn and practice basic administrative tasks from the opening to closing of a restaurant. Towards the end of the semester, students organize a theme lunch event. While training restaurants are not opened to the public for commercial purposes, faculty members and students are allowed to consume meals on a rotating basis. External guests, including high government officials, are also invited to attend state banquet services or to have a casual lunch to appreciate the tasks performed by the students.

While serving at a training restaurant, the group of 20 students is again divided into 10 different teams, and each team is assigned a table where four guests would sit. Therefore, each student has an opportunity to serve two guests. The roles of students while providing service at the restaurants are changed on a rotating basis to ensure that each student has an equal chance of developing all the skills required by a food and beverage server while serving guests sitting in different table arrangements.

Figure 2: Workflow process at the training restaurants

Workflow process - Divide students into teams - Allocate a table for each team - Check grooming, assign roles and provide instructions - Select a supervisor and brief the tasks - Prepare a report - Discuss / Evaluate
Diagram of the workflow process at the training restaurants

After checking the status of students’ personal hygiene, grooming and appearance, the instructors allocate students to different wings of the training restaurant including service areas, and cash counter/reception, and assign roles that they need to perform during their practical sessions. The instructors brief them about the menu and the service patterns required for the day (particularly to the servers). The instructor then selects a student as a supervisor who supervises the activities of other students in close coordination with the instructor. The supervisor is also briefed on the individual aspects he/she needs to pay attention to during supervision. In case a student faces a problem or a difficulty in performing his or her duty, the supervisor assists the student to complete the training duty. After the restaurant service has been completed, an operational report for the day is prepared by the supervisor and submitted to the instructor. This report includes details of any problems that students and/or guests faced during and recommendations for further improvement. Finally, the instructor asks all the teams to share their experiences for the day and provide their opinions. A brief discussion on the supervisor’s report is also held to understand the challenges and issues that need to be resolved and ‘good practices’ that can be replicated in the future.


Understanding food preparation or providing services in the restaurants requires students to understand/anticipate the implicit/explicit effects of the actions they take which can be generally described through a workflow process. Consequently, most existing hotel management institutions rely heavily on providing training to their students based on workflow process chart, and focus on developing hand-crafted features through a variety of models including both text instructions and cooking images (for example, see Pan et al., 2020). However, it is important to understand that these are non-trivial tasks and mastery of these tasks requires conceptual clarity and a considerable use of common-sense to resolve unforeseen problems. Additionally, the existing food-centric education models that are adopted by many hotel management institutions are mostly intended to help students to pitch attractive career options in the industry (NFCI, 2018). While useful, such an industry-focused approach hinders the creativity of many students as they concentrate solely on developing skills that are widely accepted and practised (Peng et al., 2013).

Creativity is essential in the food business, and as a result, food consumers across the world have been able to consume innovative and exclusive dishes. However, creativity also requires students to think outside the box, immerse in what they do, and analyse the entire process objectively. It is where the participatory approaches of training, such as that provided at NATHM become useful. The approach of participatory training, employed at NATHM encourages student engagement and contribution during a training session and enables them to transfer hands-on experiences to them. Based on their curriculum, the students obtain extensive knowledge and understanding of the ways the equipment is used, and the processes that are generally needed to follow during the entire training session. But at the same time, the students also learn from each other’s experiences and implement them during their own training. Since students work as a team and receive a variety of training together, they develop bonds and personal connections which motivates them to help each other and resolves each other’s problems. Although the training is undertaken as a formal procedure, because of the participatory methods that are used to provide training, student engagement during the training session is high. This approach adopted by NATHM provides an opportunity for students to learn best practice implemented by actual hotels and also equips them with professional knowledge, skills and ideas that they can effectively, efficiently and creatively use in their everyday practices.

While the benefits of participatory approach of providing practical training are immense, it is also not completely free from weaknesses. Since this model of providing training is based on a participatory approach, rather than coaching, the model requires students to develop their ‘thinking patterns’ as professionals. They need to engage in the activities, participate in discussions and provide feedback to overcome challenges and improve overall processes and efficiency. In this regard, the experiences of NATHM demonstrate that one of the key challenges that instructors and students face is related to the psychological adjustment of the students. Since the trainees are undergraduate students, many of them are entirely new to the cooking and/or serving process, and have problems in identifying, holding and using the kitchen equipment or restaurant cutlery. Although the instructors provide them with complete information and demonstrate the entire process before the students begin their actual work, many students expect guidance on each step of the way, just like in the coaching approach. Moreover, the participatory approach being used at NATHM requires the same group of 20 students to work in a kitchen or a restaurant, generally, for the entire day (most theory classes at NATHM are designed in a way that they do not have conflicts with the practical training). The long working hours in practical training not only causes physical fatigue among the students but also sometimes develops intra-team conflicts and/or inter-team rivalries.

It is essential, therefore, for hotel management institutions that aim to employ the participatory approach of providing practical training, to understand the psychological needs of students, considering their age, previous and their motivations to engage in practical training. Often, additional workshops, motivational lectures from industry experts, and industry visits help students to motivate themselves, maintain discipline and focus on their learning goals. In-house counselling services provided by the institutions is also useful to help students develop a positive mindset and cope with stress and other factors that negatively affect them.


A country like Nepal relies heavily on the tourism and hospitality industry for its economic development. Institutions such as NATHM play a key role in providing qualified future staff. While the value of theoretical knowledge is immense in understanding the ways the tourism and hospitality industry operates, hands-on experience provided through practical training by hotel management institutions is paramount in managing daily operations of tourism and hospitality establishments, particularly hotels. However, it is equally important to ensure that such practical training incorporates components that are based on real-life activities in which students get involved and obtain knowledge and information that is valuable for them. A participatory training approach, such as the one used by NATHM, equips students with skills and knowledge required by the industry, and helps them to develop their own creativity. Indeed, such approaches need consistent monitoring of the psychological needs of the students, as well as motivating them using a variety of methods.


Alexander, M. (2007). Reflecting on changes in operational training in UK hospitality management degree programmes. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 19(3), 211-220.

Higher Education Funding Council for England. (1998). Review of Hospitality Management. Higher Education Funding Council for England.

ILO. (2018). The enabling environment for sustainable enterprises in Nepal International Labour Organization, ILO Country Office for Nepal.

LeBruto, S. M., & Murray, K. T. (1994). The Educational Value of” Captive Hotels”. Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, 35(4), 72-79.

MOCTCA. (2019). Nepal Tourism Statistics 2018. Government of Nepal, Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Civil Aviation.

NFCI. (2018). Industry.

Pan, L.-M., Chen, J., Wu, J., Liu, S., Ngo, C.-W., Kan, M.-Y., Jiang, Y., & Chua, T.-S. (2020). Multi-modal Cooking Workflow Construction for Food Recipes. Proceedings of the 28th ACM International Conference on Multimedia.

Peng, K.-L., Lin, M.-C., & Baum, T. (2013). The constructing model of culinary creativity: an approach of mixed methods. Quality & Quantity, 47(5), 2687-2707

Thapa, B., & Panta, S. K. (2019). Situation Analysis of Tourism and Hospitality Management Education in Nepal. In C. Liu & H. Schänzel (Eds.), Tourism Education and Asia (pp. 49-62). Springer.

Chapter 12: Swiss Hospitality Education and Students Business Projects: Action plans from the industry and for the industry


Yong Chen and Cindy Yoonjoung Heo

Yong Chen, Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne

Cindy Yoonjoung Heo, Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne


Swiss hospitality education is grounded in the tradition of vocational education, exemplified by an intensive study of practical arts in a variety of hospitality contexts. As hospitality education shifts from vocational training to business administration, Swiss hospitality schools started to offer degree-granting programs, particularly bachelor’s programs, in the late 1990s. One major reason is that vocational education is incapable of addressing a lack of innovations in the industry by simply training practitioners. This situation is exacerbated not only because the boundary between the hospitality industry and non-hospitality industries is increasingly blurred but also because innovative business models that are built upon a hybrid of hospitality and technology have burgeoned over the past decade. It is more crucial than ever for hospitality education to bridge the chasm between academia and the industry through generating and propagating innovations. We demonstrate Student Business Projects (SBP) practiced by Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, Switzerland as an example that helps to address the challenges in academia and the industry. On the one hand, SBPs aim to solve pressing problems that the industry is facing, and on the other hand, they provide action plans to the industry by highlighting the pivotal role of students in solving these problems.

Keywords: hospitality education, vocational education, Student Business Project, EHL, Switzerland

Swiss Philosophy of Hospitality Education

Swiss hospitality education is grounded in the tradition of vocational education, exemplified by an intensive study of practical arts on campus and internships in industry. Vocational education in hospitality focuses on a wide range of operational techniques in various hospitality-specific sectors, including hotels, restaurants, kitchens, bakeries, bars, and so on. It aims to teach students how hospitality businesses operate on the one hand and, on the other, to equip students with the skills they need to perform service provision as practitioners. The pedagogy of vocational education dates back to apprenticeships in Europe in the Middle Ages, when various practical arts, such as blacksmith and goldsmith, were passed on by masters to a handful of apprentices through learning by doing with their masters for a period of time. Apprenticeships had long been an efficient way of knowledge transfer, especially for practical know-how, before modern lectures took place in nineteenth-century Europe. As soon as modern tourism burgeoned in Europe in the late nineteenth century, vocational education was immediately adopted by Swiss hotel schools to train hospitality professionals, such as bakers and chefs, similar to apprenticeships in the Middle Ages. Founded by Jacques Tschumi in 1893, Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) became the first hotel school in the world in response to a lack of skilled and qualified professionals in the industry. Swiss hospitality education takes root in the philosophy of pragmatism, which has become an integral part of hospitality education in Switzerland and by and large in Europe.

In the first place, vocational education in hospitality aims to train students as practitioners who are capable of providing and delivering service to customers with high standards. Thus, students need to practice hospitality principles and deliver services even before they go to the industry. Only when students are able to turn hospitality philosophy into a daily routine and act on it can service excellence be achieved. It is not surprising that vocational education is a key feature of hospitality programs offered in more than one hundred hospitality management schools across Switzerland. This education mode has also been exported to other countries where the development of the tourism industry depends on highly qualified practitioners and professionals to meet the needs of international tourists. In the second place, Swiss hospitality schools started to underline hospitality business administration through shifting hospitality education from hotel operation to hospitality management. This shift entails focusing on the economy of tourism and hospitality as a whole that includes various businesses instead of hotel-specific operations. This model underlines the importance of degree-granting programs in hospitality education besides the long-standing vocational diplomas.

From Vocational Education to Hospitality Management

Despite the fact that many hospitality schools have realized the importance of business administration education, the tradition of vocational education has restricted the scope of hospitality education and the academic level of programs in Swiss hotel schools. Swiss hotel schools have for a long time been offering diplomas. For instance, EHL did not offer a bachelor’s degree programs until 1998. Its two degree programs, the Bachelor of Science (BSc) and the Master of Science (MSc), are aimed primarily at attracting international students. The bachelor program, in particular, lies at the heart of the Swiss hospitality education and attract the lion’s share of international students. It is worth noting that vocational education and business administration studies are not substitutes. Instead, they are complementary in degree-granting hospitality programs. Vocational education is valued by all hospitality schools across Switzerland, and it usually serves as the basis on which business-related courses are built. On the one hand, the integration of vocational education is one the most important features of Swiss hospitality education even for master’s programs. On the other hand, due to the component of vocational education, hospitality management is set apart from business administration in provided by business schools in universities.

The advantage of bachelor’s education in hospitality management is that it integrates intensive business studies and a wide range of vocational education. For instance, at EHL a bachelor’s program runs three years, which is built upon vocational education in the preparatory year (Figure 1). The preparatory year’s study introduces students to basic skills and culture of the hospitality and tourism industry. It can compensate for one year of professional experience, which is a prerequisite for students to enroll in a bachelor’s program. In the preparatory year, students need to rotate among 20 workshops in the campus’ diverse food and beverage outlets, including a gourmet boutique, pastry, and Michelin-starred restaurant, and room division department to learn about hotel and restaurant operations. The preparatory year is followed by an operational internship for six months in industry. Year 1 is the first year of bachelor’s programs, which aims to develop students’ fundamental management competencies by immersing them in an intensive study of business administration courses. These courses are in three modules. One module focuses on the foundation of hospitality management, with courses including marketing, economics, statistics, finance, and accounting. The second module teaches business tools and analytics, highlighting a series of key management courses, such as revenue management, corporate strategy, human resources management, and so on. The third one is to leverage students’ communication skills by providing business communications courses.

Figure 1. Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management (EHL)

Preparatory year – practical immersion followed by an operational internship, Year 1 – development of fundamental management skills, Year 2 – Application and enhancement of knowledge and skills, followed by a management internship, Year 3 – Strategic management: Consolidation and integration of skills, knowledge and experience acquired.

Year 1’s courses are similar to those offered in business schools, where students learn various business foundation subjects. These courses aim at laying a management foundation for students’ second internship that is dedicated to business administration in the industry. In this sense, hospitality education is more than training practitioners but nurturing managers and business leaders. The role that vocational training plays is to consolidate the management of hospitality businesses. Year 2 is devoted to building up students’ ability to apply knowledge and solve problems. To achieve this goal, a majority of courses are application-oriented, including a wide range of business analysis courses, such as revenue management, managerial accounting, digital marketing, real estate finance, and so on. This year is followed by the second, and the last, internship for another six months. Year 3 aims at achieving the highest goal of hospitality education, helping students to develop theory-application synthesis and strategic management skills. Students should be able to synthesize theories from different courses and translate them into business solutions. Also, students should be able to take a strategic perspective to analyse the macro-business environment in which the industry operates. In the final year, students can choose to complete an individual thesis or a group project, which we shall address in detail, for fulfilling the bachelor’s degree.

Practitioners, managers, and leaders

There is no doubt that vocational education has earned Swiss hospitality education an international reputation especially for providing talents for industry. To truly master the art of hospitality management requires students who are dedicated to working in the hospitality industry to be practitioners in the first place. The culture of hospitality and services is thus nurtured through students practicing the philosophy and principles of hospitality management, helping students translate the principles into action. While the principles of hospitality operations can be taught in a classroom, they must be learned on a daily basis in the industry, which is why vocational education cannot be downplayed. A mastery of practical arts lays a solid foundation for students to excel in theoretical courses and internships. This action-oriented approach helps students translate what they learn in classroom to a working environment, aiming at integrating business intelligence and practical, hands-on knowledge. As an extension of vocational education, internships are completed at different stages of a bachelor’s program, which are designed not only to help students apply what they have learned in the classroom but also to let them bring questions from their internships back to the classroom at the later stage of their study. Students are therefore able to find solution to these questions when they are enrolled in more advanced courses.

Swiss hospitality schools not only need to train managers who are competent in dealing with operational routines but also nurture leaders who can rapidly respond to industry trends and ultimately change the industry for the better. This is because the hospitality and tourism industry has today become increasingly complex. Context-specific practice and know-how is by no means adequate. The past decade has seen an increasingly deep integration between different industries, with the boundary between hospitality and other sectors becoming blurred. For instance, Swiss manufacturing sectors, such as watchmaking, have started to incorporate hospitality culture into their daily operations. Industry practitioners have realized the strategic importance of creating a consumer experience by incorporating a component of hospitality in their products and customer solutions. This evolution has challenged the status quo of hospitality education which has long focused on industry-specific management and hotel-specific operation. The success of hospitality businesses depends on managers’ ability to transfer what they learn in hospitality to other industries. Entrepreneurs have provided compelling evidence that hospitality education should also cultivate a culture of innovation that is fertile to all businesses in the experience economy. The question is how hospitality education can respond to this change and respond to it swiftly, and how the chasm between hospitality education and industry needs can be bridged by centering on students.

Student business projects

In 2000, EHL launched what is known as Student Business Projects (SBP), which is a telling example of student-centered innovation. SBPs are mandated to final-year students as a partial requirement for the bachelor’s degree. Above everything else, SBPs enable students to generate economically viable solutions to real-world problems, thereby transferring ideas from students to the industry. Three criteria are set to ensure that SPBs are action plans from the industry and for industry. First, SBPs generate solutions to problems that companies encounter in the industry. To this end, a special taskforce consisting of five specialists is set up to promote the SBP concept to the industry and to gather problems and requests from it. Then the taskforce winnows down problems that are suitable for SBPs in terms of academic standard for a bachelor’s degree and industry relevance. Second, SBP clients are charged a consultation fee, and hence there is no difference between an SBP and a consulting project furnished by professional consultancy firms except that students are the consultants. Third, an SBP requires the engagement of the client in the whole process. In particular, the client needs to provide student consultants with the information they need about the company and the problem. Students have regular meetings with the client in order to obtain feedback from the client and ensure that the project is on the right track. Client engagement ensures that the deliverables meet the expectation of the client.

An SBP project entails coordination between three parties, a client, a team of six final-year students, and two faculty coaches. A client commissions students to fulfil a project through the school. A team of six final-year students act as consultants, selecting an SBP based on their academic interests, expertise, and background. Two faculty coaches are assigned to guide students by providing expertise as well as safeguarding the quality of the project. Figure 2 shows the relationships of the three parties. The principal relationship is between students, who provide ideas and solutions, and clients, who have a pressing problem that requires a solution. In this regard, clients believe that the solutions should be provided by students instead of industry consultancy. Faculty members are supervisors and mentors who provide expertise and guide students as they carry out their SBP mandate. Since faculty members are not directly involved in the project nor have contact with clients, SBP consultancy underscores the pivotal role of students as the main contributor of business plans.

A typical SPB project works as follows. A client proposes a problem and details the deliverables of solutions. A group of six students select the client and acquaint themselves with the problem and deliverables. They have nine weeks to propose a solution that can be implemented by the client. A well-crafted and feasible solution requires students to clearly identify the problems, contact the client on a regular basis and administer a series of market research activities.

Figure 2. An illustration of Student Business Project (SBP)

Client: define a problem, specify deliverables – Students: examine the problem, provide solutions – Coaches – Provide expertise, guide students.

We take a SBP project completed by a team of students in June 2018 for an illustration. The client was a company providing skiing and hotel services in the region of Flims-Laax-Falera in Switzerland. Due to seasonal demand, a majority of hotel businesses were contributed by Laax, which was only one of the three areas in which the company was operating. The company wanted to turn the whole area of Flims-Laax-Falera into an all-year-round destination, and believed that the Chinese market would help achieve this goal. The deliverables of the project included examining the feasibility of the Chinese market to Flims-Laax-Falera and analysing Chinese travellers’ behavior. Specifically, the goal was to identify consumer segments that the company could target and provide recommendations regarding how to attract Chinese tourists and sell vacations to different segments in order to reduce demand fluctuation. In the nine weeks, students were scheduled nine weekly meetings, each for one hour, with two faculty coaches to obtain academic and administrative support. These meetings were necessary for the coaches to know the students’ feedback and provide disciplinary knowledge. Besides extensive secondary research, the students accomplished two field trips to the company and the destination, administered two surveys collecting information of prospective Chinese tourists, and organized 10 interviews with industry professionals who were experts of the local tourism market and Chinese tourists.

The outcome of this SBP was a 90-page long consultancy report, including references and appendices. In this report students detailed deliverables in four parts, namely (1) introduction, (2) research methodology, (3) research findings, and (4) recommendations. Of the client’s primary interest were research findings and recommendations. In research findings students presented the results of the surveys and secondary research, including the evolution of Chinese tourism market, Chinese consumer behavior and middle-class consumption, and Chinese tourists and their preferences. This part set the background of the Chinese market for the client and drew the relevance of the Chinese market to the client’s product. In the recommendation part, students provided suggestions which included general recommendations and specific market segmentation strategies. They suggested segmenting Chinese tourists into nature lovers, snow lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and snow sports enthusiasts, and proposed solutions that the client could implement in operation. While the consultancy report was the major part of the SPB, the project was officially concluded by inviting the CEO, or other management, of the company to campus to assess student presentation. The SBP was evaluated by the client and two faculty coaches on aspects regarding final report, presentation, and project management. The feedback of the client during the presentation and the report was communicated immediately to the students. Clients often appreciate the passion and creative thinking demonstrated by student consultants, especially when the final research results fit the scope of the project.

Academic-industry collaboration through students

The SBP consultancy has accomplished 1,100 projects for 650 companies or organizations in a variety of industries since it was launched in 2000. EHL now hosts between 80 and 100 projects each year. One may believe that SBPs are favoured by small enterprises and start-ups, which often lack financial resources to commission their projects to big consultancy companies while craving innovation and solutions as large corporations do. On the contrary, our results suggest that big corporations account for the largest proportion of all clients (22%) as shown in Table 1. Big corporation and medium businesses combined account for 43% of all clients, followed by entrepreneurship with 18%, and small businesses with 17%. There are perhaps two reasons why big corporations are in favour of the SBP consultancy. One is that big corporations become well aware of the importance of hospitality in creating consumer experience despite the fact that they do not render hospitality goods and services to their customers. For instance, the Swiss watchmaking and financial industries value luxurious experience to their customers through implementing the principles of hospitality. The other reason is that the scope of tourism and hospitality has been expanded with the integration of hospitality and technology, exemplified by new businesses such as Uber and Airbnb. Students are perhaps the most competent consultants for these companies, because they are the key consumers and know these products better than anybody else.

Table 1. Types of SBP clients

Source: EHL Insights. SBP: 20 years supporting hospitality innovation. Retrieved from
Types of clients Proportion Size of the company Example
Big business 22% More than 400 employees Nestlé, UBS
Medium business 21% Between 100 and 400 employees
Entrepreneurship 18% Fewer than 20 employees Biolia
Small business 17% Fewer than 20 employees
Non-profit 6%
Academic institution 6%
Municipality 6%
International 2%

Table 2 shows the top 10 project types that are commissioned by clients of SBP. These projects can be classified in three areas: (1) marketing and business expansion, (2) product/concept development, and (3) business financial feasibility. There are many requests for marketing and business expansion solutions. These requests are primarily from well-established firms in Europe aiming at expanding their businesses or brands to other countries or markets. Specifically, they need solutions regarding how to enter a new market through product reposition, extension, or franchising because the parent companies have little knowledge of the target markets. Many tourism companies, cruise lines, or destinations aiming at attracting tourists from certain countries or markets also fall in this category. Product/concept development is favoured by start-ups in cases where they aim to develop new products, such as environmentally friendly food, craft beer, and so on, while have little knowledge with regard to consumer responses. Thus, understanding consumer needs becomes crucial. This also includes, as we experienced over the years, that many engineers who developed cutting-edge products but had no idea how to market them. Financial feasibility study addresses the needs of new products and business expansion and the profitability in a given period.

Table 2. Top 10 project types

Type Deliverables Industry
Business plan Market research in new markets, business expansion, consumer acquisition strategies Hospitality, non-hospitality
Concept creation Develop a product/service concept that can be implemented by clients Hospitality, non-hospitality
Customer experience Service delivery process, customer satisfaction management Hospitality, non-hospitality
Event concept Event and marketing proposal and strategy Hospitality, tourism
F&B concept New products and innovation in restaurant and F&B of hotels Hospitality
Financial feasibility study Feasibility analysis of new business and product Hospitality, non-hospitality
Hotel concept Hotel branding, hotel business expansion Hospitality, non-hospitality
Market research Consumer study, market segmentation Hospitality, non-hospitality
Marketing & sales strategy Marketing, promotion, revenue management Hospitality, non-hospitality
Product development New product development, new product concepts Hospitality, non-hospitality


The hospitality and tourism industry requires various innovations ranging from service provision, customer management to distribution design while the industry itself may not be able to generate this type of innovation. Scientific research and consultancy by involving students can help to address the lack of innovation and entrepreneurship in tourism and hospitality. It is difficult to practice innovation in service industries like hospitality and tourism where operation seems to override everything else. Therefore, applied research and consultancy from academic institutions can fuel industry development by incubating innovative ideas in laboratories and turn these ideas into business solutions and entrepreneurship. SBPs reward to students, the school, and the industry simultaneously. For students an SBP is a milestone project that provides them with tremendous opportunities to apply their creative ideas and fulfil the requirements of their bachelor’s degree. Clients can obtain solutions at a lower cost and deep understanding of consumers. SBP are in essence user-generated innovations because students not only the innovators but also tomorrow’s customers. For the school, the relationship between academia and industry can be extended from operation and internship to consultancy and innovation.

Swiss hospitality education has evolved from the predominance of vocational education to a blend model of arts and sciences. These changes reflect the changes in the industry over the past few decades and contributes to the development of the industry as well. The orthodox hospitality industry today is also gradually expanding to include not only hotels and restaurants but also airlines, casinos, cruises, and all businesses insofar as they addressed the needs of travellers and tourists in one way or another. Therefore, the boundary of the tourism and hospitality industry is blurred especially when vocational education is giving way to hospitality management of a wide range of businesses. What the hospitality industry evolves in future decades is perhaps a shift from providing hospitality- or tourism-specific services to creating customer experiences in various contexts where human interactions occur. From a disciplinary perspective, hospitality management needs to solve problems in any industry or for any business in which hospitality is an integral part of product offering. Therefore, we should also expand the scope of hospitality management from vocational training to business administration, thereby furnishing the industry with innovative ideas and business acumen. Hospitality education should focus on training students not only as practitioners in specific hospitality domains but also innovators and leaders in the industry as a whole.

For students, obtaining an education in hospitality does not mean that students’ career development is only restricted to hospitality or tourism. According to EHL, around 46% of its graduates are employed in non-hospitality industries, such as consulting, banking and finance, real estate, healthcare and education. Hospitality education at EHL provides students with extensive coursework in a broad business arena, which helps sharpen their business acumen and competences in a wide range of non-hospitality industries. These skills are honed by attending business courses that are not industry-specific, but can be applied to a wide range of industries. In this regard, there appears to be no significant difference between hospitality schools and business schools. What matters is whether students can sharpen their analytical skills and business acumen in applying what they learn to the fields of hospitality and tourism. These skills can be applied to other industries as well, indicating that students are resilient and flexible in operating businesses in a multi-business environment. The question is how to prepare students with business skills and how to test the suitability of students for the industry. The SBP consultancy is one of the answers.


Chen, Y., Dellea, D., & Bianchi, G. (2019). Knowledge creation and research production in Swiss hotel schools: A case Study of the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Education, 31(1), 10−22.

Chen, Y., & Dellea, D. (2015). Swiss hospitality and tourism education: The experience of Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, Tourism Tribune, 30(10), 5−9.

Part 4 – Off Campus Practicums and Internships


Most universities do not have the resources to develop their own training hotels. Instead, the common practice is for students to complete the practical training component of their degrees off campus in commercial establishments. As discussed in the Part of the book, this model has a number of advantages, but also poses challenges for both industry, students and universities.

Chapter 13 by Mackenzie presents three examples of hotel initiated programmes. Chapter 14 by Flaherty and Gallina discusses the University of Guelph’s co-op programme in Canada. Chapter 15 by Klenert discusses how internal support for international post graduate students can help ease them into their practicum experience. Chapter 16 by Seager examines the challenges in integrating work integrated learning in a South African contest. Last, Chapter 17 by Lam and Yeo looks at a similar programme in Singapore.

Chapter 13: Hotel-company Initiated Training Programs in Hospitality Education


Murray Mackenzie

Murray Mackenzie, University of Nevada


As the hospitality industry continues to expand, the growth in tertiary education courses has kept pace with the increased demand for the next generation of entry-level managers. Many individuals seeking formal education in hospitality management will typically enrol in a diploma or bachelor’s degree program to learn the fundamentals of hospitality industry management. Although the hotel industry acknowledges the importance of academic process and accomplishments, there is an expectation that new employees and entry-level managers have a solid and practical understanding of the industry with knowledge and skills developed through industry-based experiences (Pusiran, Janin, Ismail & Dalinting 2020). Although many major hotel companies favour hiring new employees with at least a diploma or bachelor’s degree for those pursuing management positions within their organization, practical knowledge and skills continue to be a prerequisite.

However, there has been a move from hotel companies to initiate their own in house training programs or development of a management training program in conjunction with educational institutes to prepare new employees and management trainees with a more hands-on approach. This chapter will present three examples of hotel initiated training programs, the positive outcomes, and the challenges.


Hotel initiated management training programs have focused on training individuals through experiential learning while incorporating a strong brand identity. These management-training programs develop essential skills that provide new employees and trainees with the necessary aptitude to continue with the hotel company and gain recognized qualifications while employed. These training initiatives have also been hugely beneficial for hotel companies in attracting, retaining entry level managers/employees and earmarking many for succession within a company’s global network of operations. In-house training has also contributed to a positive culture change, with consideration of diversity and inclusion being important to their success. Improvements made to existing training programs that overcome barriers of a very traditional mindset and instigate a rounded program that attracts new employees and college students and retains existing employees to this important industry have further strengthened the relationships between the hospitality industry and educational institutes

Tertiary educational hospitality internship programs have been designed to provide students with an opportunity to relate current theory from the college classroom to practical experience under the direction of professionals through extended work assignments. Hotel initiated training programmes have a similar focus. Previously, hospitality industry training programs were in part, developed as a way of reducing turnover, recruiting new employees, and retaining talented employees. Many of these programs target existing employees and those with management potential. In addition, providing educational and practical learning opportunities in a real-life hospitality-working environment where a substantial element of working in this industry includes attention to customer satisfaction. Through incorporating a hands-on experience, while providing management and operational training, hotel-initiated training programs further enhance managerial and business decision-making skills by developing the trainees’ strategic mindsets. Equipping trainees with foundational skills such as; working with culturally diverse work colleagues and customers, problem-solving, time management, communication, and improving self-confidence are essential for a career in this industry.

The following chapter considers three different approaches to hotel-company-initiated training programs in hospitality education, how major hotel companies provide these programs as a way of influencing employee attraction and retention. These three examples include; 1. Industry Training with Educational Recognition, 2. Student Internships and Industry Training Programs. and 3. Elite Management Program. Each example has individual strengths and opportunities that have been successful, while also overcoming some limitations. These three approaches will discuss internal training programs, provide examples of best practices and initiatives between tertiary institutions and hotel companies.

Industry Training with Educational Recognition

Hotel industry policies, practices, and systems are designed to create and sustain high levels of employee engagement and performance. To prepare new trainees to become valuable employees, the hospitality industry requires a variety of practical work-based skills, knowledge, and experience as well as an educational component. Although, experiential learning is among one of the most important components in any hospitality training program, what has been self-evident has been the highly valued educational acknowledged opportunities available to trainees when their training is also linked directly with an established tertiary provider.

This goal was evident when a global hospitality and entertainment company collaborated with a highly ranked publicly funded university to provide online degree programs available to their trainees and employees. This partnership initiative was developed to provide an online educational program that met with the training and educational requirements of company employees while meeting the necessary educational rigor. Making certain those choosing this initiative had a seamless experience across different curricula based courses (e.g., general education and hospitality), and that the rigor of the courses were maintained to ensure those enrolled successfully complete and gained creditable recognition was paramount.

This task was accomplished through the development of an online undergraduate “Master Course” that met the needs of industry and education. Core courses based on discussion with industry and educational content experts for each course were outlined. The resulting related course syllabi, subject to the educational provider’s curriculum committee’s scrutiny were then completed. After the syllabi were completed, the actual building of course materials and method of delivery was considered, not only face-to-face, but hybrid and fully online as well. To maintain consistency, training sessions accepted best practices and online course templates were provided for those developing the materials. The complete educational course component could consist of up to fourteen modules, each providing the trainees with related topic introductions, course objectives, readings, related course work that encompasses topic related activities, discussion and assignments.

As working in the hospitality industry has a strong customer service element, a big part of the job must include attention to customer satisfaction. Therefore, trainees are expected to not only interact with customers and learn from industry professionals but, also expand their oral and written communication skills, become familiar with organizational structures, objectives, and culture of the hospitality industry while obtaining a meaningful learning experience alongside educational course objectives. The goals were completed through the integration of knowledge gained during the online educational courses, real work experience and hands-on application of the hotel setting. Depending upon hotel occupancy, different food and beverage outlet requirements and scheduled events, such as banquets and weddings, the hotel would respond proactively by allocating trainees and build upon their ability to use and develop skills learned that met expectations between the industry and hospitality educators.

Student Internships and Industry Training Programs

Student internships and training programs have always ranked highly among undergraduate students. Enhancing employability has been identified as one of the benefits of internships for graduating students. These programs are seen as a period of supervised work experience with an appropriate employer in the hospitality industry, to gain valuable knowledge and skills that have been taught in the classroom practicum. Through these industry-focused training programs, students and valued employees have the opportunities to develop analytical and leadership skills along with cross-cultural awareness by interacting with colleagues and guests. This model has become a valuable realistic experience of the professional world, especially for interns as it bridges the gap between the classroom and the real work environment. The supervised internship/work experience period has been able to assist students and employees to learn how to cultivate their communication, tolerance, and interpersonal skills (Chatzigeorgiou & Simeli, 2017). Chen, Shen, & Gosling (2018) go further and suggest that the hospitality industry can assist in training the next generation of managers by working closely with educational institutions to suitably bind theory and practice.

As part of hospitality tertiary education commitment to integrating management theory and industry practice, many embed a mandatory component of industry hours as a requirement for students to complete before graduation. Such programs involve students undertaking up to 1,000 hours of work experience at a verifiable hospitality-related job. In addition, credit-based internship courses also provide students with the opportunity to relate current theory from their college classroom to practical experience under the direction of industry professionals, while gaining essential skills and completing extended course work assignments in a cross-cultural environment. Students are able to choose from different hospitality organizations that offer a variety of internship opportunities, which differ in structure but are equally beneficial. There are several hospitality industry initiated training programs designed to not only provide guests with an experience but also deliver valuable knowledge, experience, and training to new employees and students. Many such training programs have had success in providing an educational platform while expanding the knowledge of trainees and equipping them with the necessary skillset. Through their training, valued employees and students acquire the experience and confidence needed to establish successful careers within the industry.

In the example presented, this international hotel has developed a rotation scheme to ensure the student’s educational needs and the hotel objectives are achieved without compromising the guest experience. By dividing the selected students into four groups of six, a total of 24 students are rotated throughout four different hotel departments over a 24-weeks period. Housekeeping, Concierge, Front Office, and Food and Beverage departments are designated enabling a multi-divisional learning opportunity throughout the hotel by exposing trainees to the fundamentals of hotel operations and management. Another important and sometimes neglected factor has been the need for supervisors and trainers within the hotel to be well-trained and fully aware of the trainees’ requirements themselves. In this case, the education provider has a key role to inform, train, and monitor the trainees’ progression to ensure that stated learning objectives and goals are achieved.

This model has further enhanced the learning experience of students while on internship and enhances already acquired prior knowledge and skills, rather than in most cases, hotel companies utilize student interns to work in any department where staff is required or customer need is greatest. Through well-structured training programs, roles, and educational learning objectives, student expectations are clearly aligned and the intern can take responsibility of their learning and opportunities that arise during their internship. Whereas if there are unclear expectations from the intern’s perspective as roles and training objectives have been unclearly communicated, this leads to a lack of understanding and integration of educational and hotel objects between intern and supervisor. Furthermore, in many cases, interns are usually given lower skilled repetitive tasks rather than challenging roles or responsibilities such as problem-based intellectual projects. This then may have a negative effect on the intern and loss of interest in the internship and future employment in the hotel industry, thus reflecting a possible gap between student intern perceptions and industry expectations. Therefore, well-coordinated structured internships can provide students and trainees with extensive hands-on management experience that incorporates a sound educational and industry experience

Elite Management Program

Work experience is the most important experience in terms of trainee or student exposure to the real-world of the hotel industry. Attracting and retaining future employees at entry-level management has been an issue for some time. The industry requires well-trained, talented, experienced, and capable recruits in these positions to meet with increasing customer demand, their expectations, and the demanding challenges of the hotel environment. In this example, an Elite Management Program was designed between an international hotel and a highly acclaimed hotel management school to give the most outstanding students the opportunity to work closely with a hotel manager for an extended period. Selected students completing this program will have gained high-level management experience, a comprehensive understanding of the hotel industry, and solid experience in their chosen hotel management field necessary to become a future professional hotel manager. Potential elite management students are required to have completed at least 400 hours of work in a hospitality organization before they join the program and be enrolled full-time onto the second year of a Bachelor of Science Degree.

This Elite Management Program is integrated within a top-rated independent international hotel to meet the needs of local, regional, and international demand for high performing future hotel managers. This elite training program is also designed to recruit exceptional students with high academic achievements, enthusiasm, and energy to mirror and learn directly from hotel managers. Through exposure of trainees to the duties and responsibilities of hotel managers and executives, an insight into the various hotel divisions has enabled the trainee to better appreciate the connections between a hotel’s key departments and unique characteristics in preparation for future managerial roles after their graduation.

How this training program differs from others is the combination of short-term externship (job-shadowing) components, internships in daily operations, and management trainee programs. After several intensive interviews with hotel senior managers the selected trainees are required to oversee special projects, understand business decisions, supervise staff, and mentor first-time interns. Additionally, trainees are expected to work alongside hotel executives and attend daily management meetings. The program initially was designed for 48 weeks on a full-time basis. This structure was modified to meet the changing industry needs and educational requirements. However, a customized training program designed for each trainee still acquires operational experience in all the major divisions of the hotel and managerial experience. There is a final presentation on an assigned project, which forms part of the performance evaluation criteria before final completion and graduation.

It is essential that the hotel operates on a commercial basis, demonstrating good business skills in marketing, revenue management, and financial management. However, this model has gone further to develop a better integrated approach to hotel management training and has great success at attracting new elite management trainees and retaining them in full-time employment after completion of the program and graduation. Training potential hotel managers who can adapt to suit future industry requirements through this well-structured educational hands-on elite management program has successfully addressed the long-term implications of hotel company strategies to provide training initiatives that attract and retain new employees and students.


From a hotel operational and academic perspective, employee attraction, commitment, and retention in particular have become increasingly important from a professional operational level. To meet the present and future demands to fill the position as hotel employees and entry-level managers, in particular, both academic institutes and industry have coordinated accredited qualifications, internships, and elite management training. These opportunities of internship, practical training, work-integrated learning, and extensive management experience offered to trainees and students, have balanced the theoretical learning with operations and observations in a real-life setting.

Hotel companies and educational providers should aim to effectively support, facilitate, and supervise trainees and students while they undertake and complete their valuable industry-based experiences. A good industry experience has a positive effect on the retention of student interns after their graduation, whereas a bad experience has a negative effect and will turn graduates and prospective employees away from the industry. The examples in this chapter have demonstrated the importance that experiential learning and hands-on participation, with the backing of academic institutes, have on an employee’s attraction to, retention by, and commitment to the hotel industry.


Chatzigeorgiou, C. & Simeli, I. (2017). Perception of service quality in agrotourism accommodations: Impact on guest loyalty and re-visit intentions. Journal of Tourism, Heritage & Services Marketing, 3(1), 33–41.

Chen, T. L., Shen, C. C., & Gosling, M. (2018). Does employability increase with internship satisfaction? Enhanced employability and internship satisfaction in a hospitality program. Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism Education, 22, 88–99.

Pusiran., A. K, Janin., Y, Ismail., S, Dalinting., L. (2020). Hospitality internship program insights. Worldwide hospitality and tourism themes, 12 (2), p.155-164

Chapter 14: University of Guelph’s School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management Co-op Program: Aiming for a transformative learning experience


Joan Flaherty and Shelley Gallina

Joan Flaherty, University of Guelph

Shelley Gallina, University of Guelph


The University of Guelph’s School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management offers a co-op program intended to foster transformative learning. Housed within a five-year Bachelor of Commerce degree, the program includes a year-long work placement in which the student rotates through positions and departments, aiming to achieve an understanding of the property’s operational needs. Employers are strategically selected to offer enriched learning opportunities that target the student’s personal and professional development. The challenges associated with these opportunities are myriad and, to a large extent, an important part of the program’s strategy. By addressing them, with the help of the program’s built in support mechanisms, students move toward achieving a transformative learning experience.


The University of Guelph’s School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management (HFTM), located in Canada, offers a co-op program that aims to foster transformative learning. The challenges students face in addressing that aim are often formidable and, at times, unpredictable. But they carry within them the potential to be growth-enhancing. Judging by participation rates, both the student population and co-op employers confirm this latter point. Sixty-six percent of HFTM undergraduates choose the co-op program and two-thirds of them receive an assessment of “very good” or “outstanding” on their final work performance evaluations. Based on these positive outcomes, co-op employers continue to compete for students. Each student receives an average of three to four job offers from employers who are eager to bring them onboard for their co-op term. Part of this eagerness stems from the employer’s long-term recruitment goals, for it is not uncommon for graduating co-op students to be offered permanent positions by their co-op employer. This outcome indirectly testifies to our students’ success in their transformative learning journey.


Established in 1991, the HFTM co-op program is housed within the School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management. It is a five-year program that offers its graduates a Bachelor of Commerce degree. The non-co-op option is four years. The program has a limited intake of 40 students per year. Students admitted into the program from high school need a secondary school average of at least 80%, or equivalent to an A. Once admitted, they must maintain a minimum 70% cumulative average (B grade) in order to remain in the program. Not all students can achieve this standard as the attrition rate due to grades is approximately 25%.

The actual work term itself consists of one twelve-month work period that begins at the end of the student’s second year (May) and extends into the following April. Industry employers are typically out-of-province and include hotels/resorts and popular restaurant operations. During their work term, students rotate through various departments and positions within the organization, including finance, sales and marketing, rooms, front desk, spa, event planning, night audit and restaurant operations. All positions are full time and compensated.

The program is administered by a central Co-operative Education Office, which oversees all the University’s co-op programs. The co-op faculty advisor is the students’ resource for academic questions and direction in preparing their work term reports. The co-op coordinator is the students’ main point of contact and co-op resource for their job search, interviews, job offers, learning goals and job-related questions or concerns.

An Important Goal: Transformative Learning

As with every co-op program, ours is intended to integrate theory and practice, in order to facilitate students’ transition from their academic studies to their professional work life. This focus aligns with HFTM’s emphasis on experiential learning. However, we have another, over-reaching goal: transformative learning.

The co-op program aims to move students beyond the comfort of fixed mindsets into unfamiliar terrain that asks them to become “inclusive, discriminating, reflective, open and emotionally able to change” (Mezirow, 2003, p. 58). That is the definition of transformative learning – and it is also a central learning outcome of the co-op program. An integral part of achieving this learning outcome is the concept of “the disorienting dilemma” – a challenge that disrupts the learner’s current way of thinking or belief system, asking them to re-evaluate and perhaps change it based on the new information they are presented with (Mezirow, 2003). These sorts of challenges, along with supportive measures to address them, are embedded throughout the co-op program.

Program Elements that Contribute to the Students’ Transformative Learning Experience

A Five-year Commitment

Unlike many of its College-level counterparts, which offer a three-year diploma, this program is part of a five-year Bachelor of Commerce degree. Extra time spent in the program means extra time learning the principles, theories and skills required for the transition from student to successful industry professional. In short, it means more time for transformative learning opportunities before, during and after the work term, where students anticipate, reflect upon and evaluate key lessons of their work terms.

Ongoing Structured Opportunities that Integrate Reflection, Assessment and Application

The program’s integrated model of reflection, assessment and application is illustrated in the following examples.

Before the work term

During the students’ second year of study, just before starting their work term job search, they complete a co-op preparation course (Introduction to Co-operative Education). Here, students participate in self-awareness exercises, identifying what they can contribute to the workplace and developing a plan to deepen and broaden that contribution. The subsequent insights are then applied in practical exercises where students learn to professionally present themselves, both verbally (cover letters; resumes) and orally (job interviews).

During the work term

The year-long work term is split into three four-month long semesters (Spring/Summer; Fall; and Winter). Throughout each work semester, students are required to take time to reflect upon what they are experiencing, assess the extent to which their experiences fit the theories they have learned in the classroom, and identify a course of action to deepen their learning.

For example, Work Report #1, due at the end of the Spring/Summer work semester, includes the following:

  • a progress review in which the student considers what they have learned so far on the job and what challenges they have faced;
  • an initial skills assessment, where the student critically reflects on their current knowledge, skills and abilities, assessing the extent to which they match the job’s requirements;
  • weekly journal entries, each entry divided into three parts: a description of relevant events; a reflection on their underlying importance and opportunity for learning; and a plan of action for positive change; and
  • a critical incident report which explains two separate impactful incidents, positive or negative. The student identifies the cause of the incident, considers factors that shaped its outcome, and reflects on pertinent theory associated with it.

Thus, Work Report #1 directs the students’ attention to their own personal and professional growth, with a consistent theme of how further development can be fostered and applied. Work Report #2, due at the end of the Fall work semester, broadens the context: now, the students’ attention is directed not just to themselves, but also to the leadership models they have encountered in their workplaces.

Along with their weekly journal entries and critical incident reports, each student also conducts a “leadership audit” in which they discuss the most and least effective leaders they have encountered in their organization. No names or position titles are included. The focus is on the qualities and behaviours of the effective or ineffective leader; the response of others to this leadership style; and the reason for this response, all drawing on theory learned in the classroom.

Based on this analysis, students then turn their focus inward to describe a situation during their co-op term when they were placed in a leadership position, either formally or informally. They have to answer a variety of questions, such as ‘What style did they use?’, ‘What were the outcomes?’, ‘How would they assess those outcomes?’, and, lastly, ‘What practical steps can they take to ensure positive outcomes going forward?’

Work Report #3, due at the end of the final work semester, builds on this learning by requiring each co-op student to assume the role of leader. The student develops and presents an “industry project” that, if implemented, would substantively contribute to their co-op workplace. Past projects have included a wide range of topics such as orientation and training; cost control; turnover; and customer feedback measurement.

The reports throughout the work term have two purposes. First, they are designed to give the co-op student a deeper understanding of the management of the property. Granted, this understanding could result simply from being immersed for a year in the organization. However, the requirement to produce a report at the end of each work semester helps keep the student on task, reminding them not to get so caught up in the daily minutiae (i.e., the particular skills needed to, for example, check in a guest, prepare a forecasting sheet, or serve a customer) that they overlook the bigger picture: identifying and addressing operational needs. Second, the reports are designed to give the co-op student a deeper sense of their own professional potential, the barriers (sometimes self-imposed) that stand in the way of achieving that potential, and a concrete action plan to blast through those barriers.

A 12-Month Work Term

As illustrated above, working fulltime for one year allows students to learn more deeply and contribute more substantially than the traditional four-month co-op work term. Those eight additional months help distinguish the work term from a summer job because they allow for a fuller, more prolonged immersion as the student rotates through positions and departments. Of course, those additional months also allow for more problem-solving, conflict management – and soul searching – which can help deepen the student’s self-awareness, guiding them toward the necessary changes that foster their personal and professional development. This process is the very essence of transformative learning.

Learner Autonomy with Program Support

A central tenet of the program is learner autonomy. Each co-op student is expected to forge her or his own path to success. Developing and harnessing the initiative, perseverance and judgement to do so plays a strategic role in their learning journey. Any obstacles (or disorienting dilemmas) they encounter along the way have the potential to be significant learning opportunities. And, yet, common sense tells us these obstacles also have the potential to dishearten and discourage. The program aims to reconcile this dichotomy through incorporating measures that foster learner autonomy while supporting students as they navigate the challenges – or “disorienting dilemmas” – associated with this autonomy. Some examples follow.

Securing a co-op position

Securing a co-op position is a competitive process. Students are expected to take the initiative to research employers, identify the most suitable of the job postings made available to them, and then apply for an interview. Engagement is key to their success. No applications mean no interviews and therefore no co-op job offers. The predictable anxiety that accompanies any job search gets exacerbated by the fact that most of our students have limited to no work experience. The co-op program is their first exposure to the job market. Therefore, the high level of excitement and anticipation that accompanies the process can also shift into worry and stress, with students feeling that they are out of their depth.

The program offers a number of supports to avoid this possibility – or lessen its impact. As explained earlier, each student has been prepared for the job application process through having taken Introduction to Cooperative Education. Each student, therefore, has received instruction on employer expectations and how to meet these expectations with professionalism, maturity and initiative. The program also helps the students get a head start on their job search by narrowing the possibilities right from the start. The Co-op Office solicits, screens and then posts appropriate industry positions. The program facilitates the interview process by (i) inviting employers to campus to conduct their interviews over a period of several days; and (ii) providing interview rooms. Thus, students are interviewed in a familiar setting and spared the necessity of having to travel outside campus, incurring travel costs and possibly missing classes. All students, even those whose initial interest is limited to one or two of the postings, are encouraged to apply to a number of the posted jobs in order to gain more experience – and confidence – in applying, interviewing and learning more about the industry.

Starting work in the new co-op position

Most students have had to move away from home and transition to university life in an unfamiliar place, away from family and childhood friends. Now, their new co-op placement almost always requires these students to relocate again – often at some distance. Sixty percent of placements are out-of-province. Therefore, co-op students’ lives are uprooted as they change their social and support network, move to another province, into a new apartment or shared staff accommodation, and begin a new job where they quickly begin to learn how much they do not know. Not surprisingly, under these circumstances many students experience a period of renewed homesickness and may struggle to adapt to their new work environment as they feel overwhelmed with everything in their worlds being new and unfamiliar.

Exploring unfamiliar territory is a crucial component of transformative learning. At the same time, though, we are mindful that our travellers are young and inexperienced. Consequently, to help ensure they stay on their learning path, the co-op program offers the following guideposts. First, as much specific detail as possible is provided about the position they have accepted, so each student has a realistic preview of what their co-op year will entail. Second, students are required to identify Learning Goals each term to articulate both personal and professional skill development and to share these Goals with their supervisors. The first requirement helps focus the student, reminding them of what they are aiming for; and the latter helps facilitate a relationship between student and employer right from the start. Third, we select employers who are willing to help the student adjust to unfamiliar surroundings by offering additional benefits (e.g., subsidized or complimentary accommodation and meals; partially or fully re-imbursed travel expenses; signing bonuses; access to guest amenities, such as the gym or pool; and discounted room rates for visiting friends and family).

The above examples are more than just perks. They are gestures of welcome, signalling to the student that they are valued and that they belong. Thus, these additional benefits set a firm foundation for the challenging work of transformative learning to continue in this new setting.

Once established in the co-op workplace

When pairs or small groups of students go to the same workplace, they often settle relatively quickly since they have maintained some of their social circle. Consequently, as the work term proceeds, most students motivate one another to perform, collaborate and achieve. However, the opposite outcome can also result. Students who work with their classmates can be a distraction for one another, become overly social and fail to prioritize their jobs and learning. The latter scenario does not happen often with students. They have, after all, spent two years in the program preparing for their placement. More common challenges are imposter syndrome, a feeling that they are not qualified for what they are undertaking; or, conversely, disillusionment with their assigned position due to feeling that their talents are not being recognized. For example, a student assigned to a housekeeping rotation might chafe at having to clean toilets and make beds. After all, their reasoning goes, “haven’t I spent two years in the School being told that my education was preparing me to be a leader?”

The program, in concert with the co-op employer, helps students address these challenges in the following ways. First, on-site and virtual visits with the co-op coordinator allow the coordinator and student to share feedback and to plan next steps. Out-of-province students typically receive one in-person visit and two telephone/virtual visits during the year. Those who are local receive two in-person visits and one telephone/virtual visit. During these visits, the student is encouraged to build their professional network, to make a strong contribution by going above and beyond their regular work tasks, and, in this way, to raise their profile. Our students, therefore, often become engaged in extracurricular workplace activities, such as sports teams, safety committees, or in-house journal writing/editing. The subsequent increased visibility and engagement help boost the student’s confidence, reminding them that they do have an important role to play in this workplace.

Second, performance coaching, if needed, can be provided. A Human Resource staff member, the student and the co-op coordinator discuss how the student might forge a path to success. Depending on the situation, the result might be extra training with a supervisor; more time spent mastering the skills before moving to the next rotation; modified work responsibilities; or a direct transition to the next rotation for a better job fit. The co-op coordinator then follows up with more frequent check-ins to ensure progress continues and the student is feeling supported.

Third, the Work Report requirement prompts each student to reflect on lessons to be learned from every task. This ongoing reflection encourages them to connect the dots between serving and leading; and between humility and strength. It encourages them, in other words, to see the learning potential in even (or perhaps especially) the most mundane jobs.

Fourth, the program strategically chooses employers who agree to offer students a full year of enriched learning though special projects or committee work. Some create an entire training plan with set rotations, while others define only the starting role and allow the student to participate in creating their own path. Consequently, most students are given opportunities to demonstrate leadership through helping guide, develop or even supervise new staff. For example, students may participate in additional cross-training opportunities that arise with special events. Thus, a student assigned to front desk duties may find themselves also working in event management, helping to organize a conference set up or supervise a banquet crew. They may also seek new positions that arise due to promotions or staff turn-over. The goal here is not to settle comfortably into one job for the work semester. The goal is to accept new tasks, responsibilities and challenges, all in the name of increasing the student’s personal and professional self-awareness.

Fifth, and finally, work performance evaluations are conducted at the end of each work semester. The co-op student receives an evaluation from their employer/supervisor that gives detailed feedback and ratings in a dozen performance categories, including Communication, Teamwork, Initiative and Problem-Solving. (As an added incentive to achieve an exemplary evaluation, the resulting grade is included on the student’s official transcript).

After the work term

The post-work term transition back into the identity of “student” is not seamless for any co-op student. After all, someone who has just spent a year working in a fast-paced industry, building their professional credentials – and bank account – through on-site experience may have mixed feelings about returning to the classroom. The prospect of attending classes and focusing on assignments may feel constrictive, like a set of clothes that no longer fits. It may, in other words, present a disorienting dilemma for co-op students.

To help this dilemma become the catalyst for transformative learning, the program has built in the following support systems for the returning student:

  • a post-employment seminar in which co-op students discuss informally with each other key lessons learned from their experience;
  • interview with the co-op faculty advisor, allowing each co-op student an opportunity to debrief their own experience – including the challenges faced during the work term, those anticipated going forward, and a plan to address those challenges; and
  • enrolment in core course: Experiential Learning and Leadership in the Service Industry. Here, students are reminded of the importance of theory in guiding their actions as future industry leaders.


The co-op program’s academic and work-related demands set the bar high for students. In fact, at times, its height can seem daunting. A fifth, additional year of study adds to the student’s regular course load as they complete their Bachelor of Commerce degree. And the year-long immersion in their co-op workplace comes with its own set of pressures. Once they have arrived at their workplace, typically far from home, students may experience homesickness. Tasked with demonstrating superior performance and strong leadership for their peers, they may feel like an imposter. Anxious to prove their worth in an unfamiliar setting, they may overestimate their capabilities. The challenges are myriad – and, to a large extent, an important part of the program’s strategy. By addressing these challenges, with the help of the program’s built in support mechanisms, students move toward achieving a transformative learning experience.


Mezirow, J. (2003). Transformative learning as discourse. Journal of Transformative Learning 1(1): 58-63. doi:10.1177/1541344603252172.

Chapter 15: Capitalising on Internal Collaboration: Redesigning the Placement Preparation Process for an International Postgraduate Hospitality Programme


Anna Klenert

Anna Klenert, Oxford Brookes University


Work experience in the form of hospitality placements is merited with developing key sector related skills and increasing an individual’s potential for future employment. The nature of such programmes has highlighted the need for strong tripartite relationships between universities, students and sector employers, emphasising the importance of external collaboration. However, the pre-placement process can be challenging to navigate due to the need for polished career documentation such as a CV and cover letter and an appreciation of effective recruitment process techniques such as interviewing skills, suggesting that internal collaboration for universities as stakeholders is just as important. For international students choosing to undertake a placement, this can be a steep learning curve if they have no experience of pertinent job recruitment practices and standards of their chosen placement location. In these circumstances, university level support throughout the placement recruitment process is critical in ensuring that placement students are well prepared to secure an interview and ultimately a placement position. Such efforts often require input from academic, placement and career service teams, putting emphasis on having a strong internal relationship. This chapter illustrates how internal collaboration can be leveraged advantageously to support international postgraduate students. By capitalising on the relationship between the academic, placement team and career services, the programme was redesigned to integrate career development skills and techniques. The case study highlights some of the problems and challenges that led to the redesign and implementation of the solutions that extended beyond the pre-placement needs to post placement career development, thus maintaining an equilibrium between academic theory and management practice.


A fundamental aspect of practical learning hospitality education is its experiential nature. Placements are a form of experiential learning that is embedded in hospitality programmes (Zopiatis and Constanti, 2012). Such placements, which comprise core parts of international hospitality programmes around the world are also known as work integrated learning (Martin, Rees and Edwards, 2011) or internships (Singh and Dutta, 2010). Work experience in the form of hospitality placements is merited with developing key sector related skills and increasing an individual’s potential for future employment. It is an important part of the hospitality education experience (Caterer, 2006). One of the key benefits is that when practical learning is experiential it is highly contextualized and helps relate theory to practice (Lenihan and Sheridan, 2014). Placements can help students gain global competencies and support the internationalisation of study programmes (Becket and Brookes, 2012).

The key stakeholders in placement programmes include higher education institutions, students and industry employers. They rely on mutually beneficial relationships in order to ensure that placement goals are achieved for all stakeholders involved (Yiu and Law, 2012). The student seeks to develop professional competencies and personal attributes linked to employability. In a study conducted by Tse (2010) using content analysis of student responses about internships, it was found that personal growth was identified as the second most significant theme that students referred to in the areas of cultural awareness, interpersonal skills language skills, sense of responsibility and time management. Without insight from students’ experiential knowledge of placements any efforts to improve the experience is likely to be disjointed (Huang, 2015). Lam and Ching (2007) stated that a closer appreciation of differences in expectations and perceptions of the practical learning experiences for students could help to improve the quality of tripartite relations. This enables stronger networks between higher education institutions and industry, which in turn helps to inform academic content (Martin, Rees and Edwards (2011).

Tripartite relations are not without challenges (Yiu and Law, 2012). A key issue is the level of preparedness of international students to engage with work place practices, language skills and professional work practices that are likely to be very different to their own home context. Chen (2015), states that for students travelling abroad for placement, training in English language skills, insight into work place practices, professionalism and cultural awareness of geographic locations of placements is necessary for students prior to placement to appreciate work place cultures and cultural awareness of placement destinations. The pre-placement process can be challenging to navigate due to the need for polished career documentation such as a CV and cover letter and an appreciation of effective recruitment process techniques such as interviewing skills.

Placement students benefit from the placement preparation process on CV development and writing of cover letters, placement searches, interview practice and insight into self-assessment tests, psychometric testing and what to expect from assessment centres, (Martin, Rees and Edwards, 2012). Survey results of students studying on a BA Tourism and Hospitality programme at the International Hellenic University in Greece on the experiences of the placement students, revealed that one of the critical areas to still address is the support for students’ psychological readiness for the placement period in the workplace (Christou and Chatzigeorgiou, 2019). This finding suggests that the ability to facilitate successful placements within higher education could benefit from leveraging internal collaboration among relevant stakeholders involved with the placement processes. Few studies consider how relations of the key internal stakeholders can contribute to fostering a successful placement process for international students.


The Oxford School of Hospitality Management (OSHM) is a department within the Oxford Brookes Business School at Oxford Brookes University. The school is currently ranked 9th in the QS world rankings and has a strong standing within international hospitality programmes globally (Oxford Brookes University, 2020). OSHM offers a postgraduate placement module as part of its suite of international programmes (Oxford Brookes University, n.d). The postgraduate placement programme attracts a significant number of international students because it provides an opportunity to gain international work experience (Oxford Brookes University, 2019, p.14). The placement module is a one-year work experience period that is undertaken following the completion of a one year taught Masters. Experiential learning through work placements and links to fostering employability for graduates has been a long-standing focus of OSHM and it is reflected in the way practical learning is built into the curriculum (Maher, 2005).

The case study reviews secondary data spanning 2014 – 2018 reflecting on insight from email communication between the internal stakeholders, feedback from placement module reviews, placement workshops and post placement student surveys as well as internal workshop presentations, training material and numerical data. Further information on Oxford Brookes and the Oxford School of Hospitality Management is drawn from the public domain. These secondary sources are used to illustrate the internal challenges and the outcomes. Ethical considerations have been considered in using internal secondary sources that are anonymised. Where evidence has been used, the requisite permissions were sought from the relevant contributors. The focus is on the placement sandwich mode offered on the International Masters suite of programmes at OSHM.

In presenting this case the chapter applies the reflective cycle framework developed by Graham Gibbs (Gibbs, 1988) using the five stages of description, feeling, evaluation, analysis, conclusion and action plan. In “description”, the main case, presents the placement programme structure and the key internal stakeholders. The author was the module leader on the programme from 2014 onwards therefore; “feelings” are represented by the personal insights derived in delivering the module. The “evaluation” is focused on articulating the key challenges faced and how the pre-placement processes were redesigned. The “conclusion” brings together key reflective points on learning and the action plan provides an opportunity to make recommendations.

Programme structure and internal stakeholders

Three key stakeholders are involved in this main case, namely the ‘Careers Centre’ which, since 2014 is referred to as ‘Careers ’, the placement office and academic placement module leader. The Careers Services website at Oxford Brookes highlights its tailored support in the following areas:

  • one to one drop in sessions with careers coaches
  • practical advice on CV writing, putting together job applications and interview skills
  • workshops on popular issues such as job searching
  • specialist careers coach for international and EU students
  • continuing professional development advice once you have left Brookes

(Oxford Brookes University, 2019).

The placement office was instrumental in maintaining accurate data information and relevant documentation for the placement process. The office was also key in maintaining communication lines between Careers, the academic team and themselves. The module leader was the key liaison for students for the pre-placement sessions and the placement year itself. While there was support from colleagues in the academic team, this was a role predominantly driven by the module leader.

The placement module is a one-year programme that is undertaken in the second academic year of the sandwich mode programme. In order for students to be work ready all the pre-placement support, bar the induction, is carried out in the first year of the taught Masters programme. The first year of the Masters is structured around a 12-week timetable with exams running in the 13th week. Due to the need for students to start their placement on time in the second year, the pre-placement support is time sensitive and has to be delivered in the second and third semester of Year One. The pre-preparation placement support is critical to increasing students’ chances of a successful placement. The placement programme seeks to foster a range of benefits for postgraduate students as summarised in Table 1. In order to ensure placements are successful practical learning experiences, the workshops involve a combination of job search techniques, skills based workshops and interview practice to name a few.

Table 1:

Source: Oxford Brookes University, 2019 p.14
Beneficial Placement Outcomes Pre-Placement Skills Development
Paid full time work experience Developing job application competencies such searching for and using desired job descriptions to learn how to tailor their CV to the right audience.
Practical experience in the hospitality, tourism and events industry
Dedicated guidance on placement search Reviewing CV’s and CV formats that are relevant to the UK recruitment standard
Tailored placement skills development workshops
Continual support from the school Writing cover letters
Improved graduate employability Interview practice and undertaking a skills audit for employment

Delivering the module

The placement programme numbers between 2014 and 2018 grew from 18 students in 2014 to 48 students in 2018 reflecting an increase of 166% over this period. The increase was gradual between 2014 and 2016 and working with smaller numbers ranging between 13-20 students. The significant increase occurred between 2017 and 2018 to 42 and 48 respectively (Oxford School of Hospitality Management, 2014 – 2018). The students represented nationalities from geographic regions of Central and South East Asia, North and South America and Africa. Working with a range of different nationalities was rewarding in the opportunities this created for gaining insights into the diverse cultural contributions and limitations in relation to language, knowledge and work experience that the student came with onto the placement programme. The module combined students with first degrees in hospitality and students on a conversion programme that attracted students from different disciplines such as nursing, dentistry, and engineering.

Figure 1 shows, the simplified placement process stages from registration to completion. Step 1 involves regular communication between the placement administration team and academic team ensuring students are registered for the module. At this stage record keeping of sector interest and previous sector and non-sector related work experience prior to the programme was critical. The data held by the placement team became critical to regular communication about placement updates sent out to students. In Step 2 the students are supported in interview practice focusing particularly on identifying what competencies they already had and could be linked to the relevant sectors; for the conversion students, the focus was on what competencies they had that could be transferrable to the hospitality, tourism or events sectors. At this stage, students need clarity about the placement process and insight into what job roles are possible and therefore interviews would run for 15- 30 mins. As module leader, it is critical at this stage to assess the level of support the students’ need based on their experience at that particular point in time. In Step 3, a series of workshops is carried out focussing on CV writing, cultural awareness, employer expectations in the UK in relation to CV format, content and structure. Step 4, involves the confirmation and engagement with the one-year placement. In Step 5 students complete the placements. Final completion involves the submission of an assigned project work.

Figure 1: OSHM Postgraduate Sandwich module: simplified placement process model

1. Placement registration OSM Placement Office. 2. Interview practice & placement interest OSHM 3. Pre-placement & CV workshops OSHM 4. Placement year 5. Completion of programme & assessment & graduation

The approach of giving students some interview practice was combined with the opportunity to gain some knowledge about the strengths and limitations that students had in relation to placement applications. They are asked a series of questions, such as: “why are you passionate about the hospitality industry?”, “what type of companies are you interested to work for and why?”, “what are your expectations of this placement job role?” and “what do you think makes for a successful job role?” By responding to the questions, students have the opportunity to practice their language skills and appreciate cultural differences such as eye contact and voice levels.

In terms of Step 3 pre-placement workshops were designed to run for three hours with one comfort break. The content focused on identifying transferable skills, understanding what employers are looking for, how to go about preparing the most relevant sector CV, using job descriptions effectively for CV development and interview practice, setting the scene in relation to professionalism in the interview, tips for interview success, concluding with placement information and questions. The workshop included interactive sessions such as a paired 20-minute Icebreaker where students swap CV’s and take turns to describe themselves. Thereafter, each partner reviews their colleague’s CV to identify to what extent the self-description is evidenced in the CV profile and content. Such practical exercises helped the students to practice speaking. When observing another student speaking, students were able to notice body language and intonation offering peer feedback that they could use to improve their interview techniques.

Challenges faced

Prior to 2014, the postgraduate student’s pre-placement preparation was largely driven by the OSHM academic placement team. There were three key challenges that we faced concerning time as a resource commitment, how to support the conversion students with non-related skills evidence and understanding different cultural work practices.

Time as a resource was one of the most significant challenges faced in terms of Step 2. The practical pre-placement preparation such as CV feedback and interview practice to determine skills set and respond to student’s initial queries had to be carried out outside of normal teaching contact time. The individual one-to-one interviews that were manageable with 18 – 20 students proved to be more time consuming as the student numbers increased to 48. While the placement interests and registration data could be attained through other means, student feedback in the module guide of 2014 provided below revealed the importance of retaining the practical placement supportive elements if students were to be successful in making the placement applications.

“The lesson for future students is to ensure that they fully understand what is required of them in their placements before they start and that they will cope with the nature of work. They therefore should prepare in advance, about those things that they think are important for them to deliver satisfactorily and which are likely to affect their work.” (Anon, 2014) This meant that we had to reconsider how to give students the opportunity to continue to have one to one support.

The second challenge that arose was identified through the student interviews was that students on the conversion programme needed significant support to reposition themselves from their non-hospitality related education to hospitality, tourism and events roles that required distinctive sector related competencies. This refocused our need to identify key transferable skills within their existing experience and education. The third challenge was regarding cultural appreciation.

Leveraging internal collaboration

There were some significant advantages for OSHM in undertaking all the pre-placement training for students within the OSHM department. We had direct access to a database of sector job descriptions from previous student placements and we had contemporary knowledge of the sectors based on our historical links with placement employers and industry alumni through the Bacchus Mentoring Programme. We were also closely involved in preparing the students and helping them find placements, which kept us closer to our industry employers. However, with the increasing student numbers we had to consider the nature or the delivery and ensure that we could still be attentive and responsive to student’s placement needs.

At the request of the academic team, there had always been input from Careers to provide students with careers’ support. However, this was not specifically embedded into the postgraduate placement process. The student feedback summary showed that for international students, choosing to undertake a placement could be a steep learning curve if they have no experience of pertinent job recruitment practices and standards of their chosen placement location. In these circumstances, making the careers’ support component an integrative part of the placement process was critical to ensure that placement students were well prepared to secure an interview and ultimately a placement position. As the numbers increased, it was clear that such efforts would require a closer internal collaboration between the academic team, Career Centre and the placement administration team.

In September 2014, Careers approached the department offering an increased level of support. The team had developed an extensive programme of workshops and information sessions and was looking to embed, where appropriate, careers support within different programmes delivered by the School. Staff were also continuing their usual programme of one-to-one drop-in sessions for career related issues on the different campuses. This initiative presented an opportunity for us to capitalise on an internal collaboration by using our database of placement resource information and the careers input through workshops and the one-to-one sessions. In 2005, the restructured programme in OSHM to a semester timetable (Maher, 2005) meant that we had 15 years of data we could draw on identifying some of the key areas of limitation for the postgraduate placement students and where they needed selective intervention.

The collaboration from 2014 was strengthened through a series of meetings between Careers and OSHM. As a result, we were able to develop combined workshops that focused on CV development. Critical to this workshop was also wider recruitment insights such as the legislative requirements on what does not need to be on a CV, as in some cases this was culturally different, for example through the use of photos indicating gender characteristics. Therefore, the objectives of the workshops were expanded to include understanding UK employability factors, knowledge of CV’s for the UK employment market and raising awareness of career resources available. Subsequently, there was also a greater emphasis on including the use of LinkedIn as a professional footprint within the workshops due to the increasing use of LinkedIn by recruiters to view professional profiles of individual candidates.

Efforts to embed the careers’ workshops within the module were enhanced through administrative efforts of the placement administrative team. They were critical to maintaining strong communication links with Careers. They were instrumental in ensuring the meetings that students needed to attend were on student calendars, giving the Careers team access to the job descriptions and necessary information to create the bespoke workshops. The new format meant that we were able to schedule the careers team into the semester schedule at specific key points in the semester to ensure that student CV’s were done within the scheduled time.


In reflecting on this case, the critical learning was being able to leverage the strengths of key stakeholders. The placement administration team armed with data, information and communication efficiencies were able to ensure that workshops ran to schedule and that students submitted and returned relevant documentation on time. The collaboration also helped us to understand where the individual unit pressure points were. The feedback from the students that attended the workshop indicates that they were successful.

The postgraduate students were more informed about what the Careers has to offer and having the opportunity to engage with the students directly gave the Careers team more specific knowledge about OSHM students and their placement needs, which they were able to feedback to career coaches. Careers also leveraged their strengths by increasing the level of communication with OSHM about bespoke workshops and training. In email communication to module leaders dated December 2016, Careers stated that 24 workshop sessions were arranged for the Business School (incl. OSHM) in Semester 1 of 2016, and the students attending these workshops increased by 63% between 2015 and 2016 (717 to 1,169). In addition, 98% of students surveyed would be happy to recommend workshops they attended to others. In email communication of December 2020, with an OSHM postgraduate placement student of 2018, she highlighted that, for a lot of us, international students, we had various formats of CVs from our home countries which did not meet UK recruitment standards, so it was extremely helpful to have those sessions to update our CVs and cover letters”.

From an academic perspective, a key outcome of this internal collaboration was that it has created an opportunity for the module leader to initiate a post-placement workshop for the postgraduate students. The student feedback suggests that the pre-placement support can be impactful. However, while this had a positive impact for some students it has revealed a gap in linking students’ placement experience to future employability. Therefore, Step 5 has since been redesigned to incorporate a postplacement workshop involving contribution from both OSHM and Careers. The post-placement workshop takes place three months before placement end due to students having different end dates on their placement contracts. At the workshops, students are able to identify what key competencies they had developed and how to build this into a new CV post-graduation. By introducing the post-placement workshop, there have been benefits to this new structure. It has enabled us to increase our student feedback as well. The OSHM module review reports compiled by the module leader showed an increase in student feedback from 22% in 2016 to 47% in 2018. The post-placement workshop has also created a route by which students not only reflect on their placement achievements but they are able to use the workshop insight to graduate with an updated CV enabling a starting point for a more sustainable approach to their professional development.

The case study has shown that the experiential knowledge acquired from students’ engagement with the placement support process can offer very useful insights to ensure that OSHM can continue to make a positive contribution to the tripartite placement relationships. Gaining a more in-depth understanding of students’ expectations and challenges helped to improve the quality of placement support delivery. The case study has also shown that students’ practical learning experiences are not only beneficial for tripartite relations involving external stakeholders but can be beneficial for internal collaborations as well. The specific collaboration with Careers highlighted how the internal university expertise can be leveraged effectively when this is incorporated within the module delivery process. It required significant flexibility and regular communication in order to foster a seamless delivery of support services from the placement, academic and careers teams.


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Maher, A. (2005), Embedding employability in the curriculum: enhancing students career planning skills, Hospitality Leisure Tourism and Sport Network, Retrieved from

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Chapter 16: A Case Study of the Work-Integrated Learning Requirements in the Hospitality Curriculum at a University of Technology in South Africa


Beverley Seager

Beverley Seager, Cape Town Hotel School, Cape Peninsula University of Technology


This reflective case study explores the integration of the hospitality Work-integrated Learning (WIL) training programme in the hospitality curriculum at the Cape Town Hotel School (CTHS) in Cape Town, South Africa. The importance of the placement process is discussed as well as the manner in which the curriculum outcomes are embedded in, and assessed during, the WIL placement. The chapter closes with the challenges that the CTHS faces, and the recommendations to improve the WIL placement.


For the past 30 years Work-integrated Learning placements (WIL) have formed an integral part of the National Diploma in Hospitality Management qualification offered by the Cape Town Hotel School (CTHS), a department within the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. These placements are offered twice during the three-year diploma programme, at the beginning of the second year, and at the end of the third year of study. As credit-bearing subjects, it is essential that there is an integration of the theoretical aspects of the hospitality qualification into WIL placements, and that these placements are assessed adequately to meet the outcomes of the qualification.


WIL placements are an important component of higher education qualifications, especially at universities of technology (Mcallister & Nagarajan, 2015:279; Hay, 2020:51; Scholz, 2020:25). According to McAllister and Nagarajan (2015:279), it is important that the experience gained through WIL is properly integrated into the curriculum to ensure that the student meets the required outcomes. This point is substantiated by McNamara and Ruinard (2016:23), who insist that the curriculum of a WIL programme should contain specific criteria, the performance against which must be assessed by suitable methods to ensure that the required outcomes are achieved (Ferns & Zegwaard, 2014:184). Hodges et al. (2014:190) expand on this understanding of assessment by describing it as a way of preparing the student for life, as learning is a lifelong phenomenon. Winberg et al. (2011:41) stipulate that the assessment of WIL must be carried out in accordance with the same principles as any standard assessment practices. The assessment processes in WIL should be “appropriate, fair, transparent, formative as well as summative, valid, authentic, and consistent” (Winberg et al., 2011:41). The CTHS places considerable emphasis on the WIL placements of the hospitality curriculum, ensuring adequate integration and assessments of these placements.

Main Case

Placement of students

On average, 100 students are placed within the hospitality industry for their WIL placements every six-months. As a credit-bearing subject that is assessed, it is important that the placement process serves all three components of the WIL practice, namely the student, the hospitality establishment, and the educational institution. It is important that there is coherence between the student and the establishment providing the WIL placement. Although it is difficult to align the designated student to the appropriate placement all the time, a specific process is followed to ensure that there is an understanding of the expectations of both the hospitality establishment and the student. Here communication is key in building relationships with the hospitality establishments, and liaising with the students. This responsibility lies with the WIL Coordinator.

Hospitality establishments

The CTHS has a database of hospitality establishments that accept students for their WIL placements. This database is very dynamic, and requires constant attention to ensure that as many possible hospitality establishments are available to accept students. When creating this database, it is important to identify the requirements of each establishment. The required information includes:

  • The exact location of the establishment and whether the establishment offers staff transport. Students often struggle with transport and this is an important factor to ensure that all students can get to and from work safely, and within the hours that they are required to work.
  • The student-intake that the establishment can accept, and the key departments where they would be placed. These key departments are categorized as Rooms Division, Food and Beverage, and the kitchen for the Professional Cookery students. This information is dynamic and must be confirmed prior to each placement period.
  • The possibility of a monthly stipend is established. Although this is not an essential aspect of the placement, the stipend does assist students to cover transport costs and serves as an excellent motivational factor. For many of the students this is their first form of income, and assists students who are generally rather cash strapped.
  • The type of establishment must be identified. Aspects included here are the size, the star-grading, and the target market of the establishment. These aspects are important as they define the type of student who would suit specific establishments. For example, a student who prefers a corporate atmosphere should settle in and function better in a hotel that caters for a corporate target market.
  • The contact person at the establishment. Generally, the WIL Coordinator works with the HR department, and more specifically the Learning and Development Manager. This relationship is essential in making the placement process smoother. Although changes in the contact person are not a regular occurrence, it is important to stay abreast with the correct contact person for both placement purposes and to address any issues that arise with the student during the placement.

These aspects are an ongoing process to ensure that the hospitality establishment database for WIL placements is completely up-to-date.

Student liaison

Students complete WIL placements twice during their three-year programme. The first placement is at their start of their second academic year. The preparation and placement of these students takes place during their first year of study, and takes the form of WIL preparation classes, and one-on-one interviews with the WIL Coordinator. There is a distinct difference between the WIL preparation classes for students going on their first WIL placement, and those students who have already been on a student placement and are being prepared for their final WIL placement. The final year students complete their WIL placements at the end of their academic year and therefore are often seeking a placement that may become permanent employment. Therefore, the WIL preparedness for these students concentrates on guest speakers from different hospitality establishments and employment agencies. Social media is now an important aspect of employment therefore the students are exposed to the importance of the correct social media presence on platforms such as Linkedin.

Students being prepared for their first WIL placement require a different kind of preparation. The majority of these students completed their schooling the previous year and have little or no work experience. Therefore, the work preparedness classes take on the form of preparing the student for the workplace. The WIL preparation classes for first year students include the following topics:

  • An introduction to WIL and how the placement process takes place as students are required to complete a WIL Placement Application form.
  • How to write a professional curriculum vitae with the different aspects of the CV discussed, and the student is required to submit a soft copy of their CV which is used for the placement process.
  • Interview and grooming skills teaches students proper grooming and how to dress and present themselves in the interview. Typical interview-questions that a student may be asked are discussed during these classes. Students are required to complete an interview role play, which helps the WIL Coordinator to identify areas where students may need improvement.
  • Students are issued with a WIL student manual: This manual includes all aspects regarding the placement, including such things as how to behave on placement, what to do if the student is placed in a difficult situation, and how the placement is assessed. This manual is discussed in detail, allowing for the discussion of various topics regarding related to the world of work, such as what to expect during the placement, and how to behave as an employee and not just a student.
  • Part of the assessment process is the completion of a portfolio: This is discussed at length during the WIL preparedness classes.
  • Group discussions are held on different scenarios that could occur in the workplace and how students should behave in these situations.

In addition to the WIL preparedness classes, the WIL Coordinator has one-on-one interviews with each student. The purpose of this process is the find out more about the students, their background, their interest in the hospitality industry, and the type of establishment they prefer. The line of questioning in these interviews is aligned to the hospitality establishment database whereby the student is questioned as to the type and size of establishment they wish to work in, and their access to transport to and from work, especially after hours when public transport is not as readily available. The safety of the students are paramount; therefore, consideration must be made regarding these aspects.

The placement process

Once the hospitality database is reviewed and student interviews are completed the actual placement process is conducted. This involves matching suitable students to different establishments. Student CVs are sent to the relevant hospitality establishments for review, and subsequent interviews. The final decision lies with the hospitality establishments, as they accept the student based on the interview. This process is ongoing until all students are placed. It is important to note that all communication flows through the WIL office.

Embedding the curriculum in the WIL placements

The importance of embedding the curriculum in the WIL placements to ensure that the student meets the graduate outcomes has been established. This process is often difficult to achieve successfully. The method in which the hospitality curriculum at the CTHS is embedded in the WIL placement is by ensuring that the students are exposed to the relevant positions within the key department where they are placed. At the start of the placement both the student and the hospitality establishment are given a WIL training guideline, the purpose of which is to ensure that both parties are aware of what is expected during the WIL placements. Within each department students are required to complete certain procedures to ensure that they are exposed to the procedure and understand both the theoretical and practical aspect of the procedure. This is best explained through an example of checking in a guest of during a Rooms Division placement.

During the Rooms Division placement, the student works for a length of time at the reception desk. One of the skills the student must acquire is to know how to check-in a guest. The theory behind this concept is covered in the subject Accommodation Management. The student now has an opportunity to apply the theory in the real-world environment, using the relevant property management system (PMS). At the same time the student learns the importance of communication skills, observes supervisory skills, and utilizes the information learnt in Hospitality Information Systems by using the PMS. In this way the theoretical content is incorporated into the WIL placement.

This is one example of how the curriculum is incorporated into the WIL placement. This scenario is replicated in the various practical procedures that occur on a day-to-day basis in the hospitality industry. The next step is ensuring that the procedure is assessed adequately for positive learning.

Assessment during the WIL placement

The purpose of the assessment is to measure the student’s understanding of each concept, and determine where assistance is required (McNamara & Ruinard, 2016:23). The assessment process at the CTHS is threefold: the student is assessed at the workplace by a workplace supervisor or manager on a monthly basis; the student submits a portfolio of evidence of what has been learnt during the placement; evaluation of attendance and class activities during the work preparedness classes.

The student portfolio

The largest allocation of marks is for the student portfolio, which is submitted a week after completing the WIL placement. There is a guideline on how the portfolio must be written and presented, which is addressed during the work preparedness classes. The reasoning behind the portfolio is that students keep a diary of their experiences during their placement, which they can translate into a reflection of the learning achieved and experiences gained during the WIL placement. It is important to understand that the knowledge gained during a WIL placement is not limited to theoretical and practical knowledge, but includes the development of the soft skills required to succeed in the hospitality workplace. Although some students find the portfolio tedious, the reflection obtained during its writing helps to cement the knowledge gained during the WIL placement.

The workplace assessment

A monthly assessment at the workplace is conducted by the student’s manager or supervisor. The ideal situation is that the student is assessed by the person who has observed her or his performance the most. There are numerous challenges regarding the workplace assessment which are discussed under the reflection and recommendations section.

The work preparedness mark allocation

Ensuring that students are prepared for the WIL placement is an important part of the Coordinator’s work. Preparedness classes are not assessed by the normal written assessment method, rather through work and exercises completed during the year. It is important that there is a mark allocated for this aspect of the WIL placement to ensure students are exposed to its expectations. A fundamental aspect that students are required to remember is that, while on placement, they remain a representative of the CTHS, and therefore their behaviour and work ethic must reflect the ethos of the CTHS. This point is stressed during the WIL preparedness classes.

Reflections and recommendations

The WIL placements at the CTHS are essential in equipping graduates of the National Diploma in Hospitality Management with the necessary skills for the hospitality workplace. Throughout the WIL placement process, the integration of the curriculum and assessment of the WIL placement are well established, but are not without challenges.

The placement process

There is a systematic approach to placing students, however there are various variables that affect the placement process. One of the challenges facing the CTHS is the lack of actual placement venues. A combination of increasing student numbers and the economic climate, limits the number of students to be placed. Although some establishments would accept students for placements if there was no stipend payable, the majority of students simply do not have the money to work for free. One of the recommendations to overcome this situation is to allow students to complete WIL Intervention projects. During 2020 when students could not be placed in the hospitality industry due the COVID-19 pandemic, and the closure of the majority of hospitality establishments, students were exposed to different methods of WIL experiences. This has now become a new area of research and new methods are being investigated and developed to ensure all students complete their WIL subject, even if they cannot be placed in an actual work environment.

Embedding the curriculum in the WIL placements

One of the challenges that students face during the WIL placement is to ensure they move between departments. The hospitality industry is a high-pressured environment plagued by a shortage of staff, which results in many establishments keeping students in a particular department once they have shown competency. This prevents students from being exposed to all departments in the establishments, thus preventing them from integrating all aspects of their curriculum into the WIL placement. The outcomes of the curriculum are not clear cut, but rather intertwined into various scenarios in the day-to-day operations in the establishment. It is important that stakeholders at hospitality establishments understand the importance of students moving between departments to gain the most from their WIL placement. One of the recommendations to improve this challenge is to ensure good communication between the educational institution and the hospitality establishment. There must be complete understanding by the hospitality establishment on what is expected by them as a crucial aspect in the training of the student. These outcomes can be stipulated in the training guidelines issued, and importantly, filtered down to all supervisors and managers responsible for the training of students.

Assessment during the WIL placement

There are numerous challenges facing the assessment process during the WIL placement which have resulted in a large amount of research done into this topic. The challenges that the CTHS students have experienced include biased assessments, assessments that do not actually measure their capabilities, and supervisors and managers who do not take an interest in the evaluation of the students. Some supervisors and managers do not understand the importance of the evaluation, and rather see it as an unnecessary task, and assessments are not being completed together with students, which means that both the input and feedback from the supervisor is limited. Overall, there is a lack of feedback which is detrimental to students as they cannot learn from their mistakes. The assessment process requires improvement. One recommendation is that an academic lecturer be involved in the assessment process. Although this is an excellent idea, logistically it would not be possible to implement such a process for every monthly assessment for each student due to the number of students and the locations where students are placed. However, there are suggestions that could help improve the assessment process, including:

  • The WIL lecturer or an academic lecturer visiting the student once during the WIL placement. During this visit, one assessment could take place between the lecturer, the student and an industry representative. At this time, there could be discussions of how the student has improved, any challenges that the student may have faced, and goals for the remainder of the WIL placement. Although the lecturer cannot give input on the student’s work performance, the fact that the lecturer is involved in the process will encourage the feedback process.
  • The amount of interaction between the student, the industry representative and the academic lecturer can be increased by incorporating student and industry consultations via Zoom calls, WhatsApp calls or Team calls. It is important to incorporate social media to ensure that there is sufficient contact between the three stakeholders in the WIL subject.


The WIL subject is crucial to the success of the National Diploma of Hospitality Management at the CTHS. Although the programme has been running successfully for many years, there are always challenges, and insight is necessary to ensure these challenges are addressed for a better WIL placement for students. The framework of the placement process, and the manner in which students are exposed to the hospitality establishments and assessed, is in essence, sound. There are challenges, and these can be addressed through improved communication between the educational institution and the hospitality establishments. It is also important that technological advances are maintained and incorporated in the communication with students and hospitality establishments during the WIL placements.


Ferns, S. & Zegwaard, K.E. (2014). Critical assessment issues in work-integrated learning. Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education, 15(3):179-188.

Hay, K. (2020). What is quality work-integrated learning? Social work tertiary educator perspectives. International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning, 21(1):51-61.

Hodges, D., Eames, C. & Coll, R.K. (2014). Theoretical perspectives on assessment in cooperative education placements. Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education, 15(3):189-207.

McAllister L. & Nagarajan, S. (2015). Integration of practice experiences into the Allied Health Curriculum: curriculum and pedagogic considerations before, during and after work-integrated learning experiences. Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education, 16(4):279-290.

McNamara, J. & Ruinard, E. (2016). Evaluation of collaborative assessment of work integrated learning. International Journal of Clinical Legal Education, 23(1):5-32.

Scholz, D. (2020). Assessing workplace-based learning. International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning, 21(1):25-35.

Winberg, C., Engel-Hills, P., Garraway, J. & Jacobs, C. (2011). Work-integrated learning: good practice guide. Pretoria: Council on Higher Education.

Chapter 17: Singapore Institute of Technology – Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP) Model


Christina Lam and Yeo May-Fung

Christina Lam, Singapore Institute of Technology

Yeo May-Fung, Singapore Institute of Technology


In 2015, the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) launched a hospitality business degree programme to accommodate the needs and demands of the hospitality industry. This is the first and only hospitality business degree programme offered by an autonomous university in Singapore. Its focus is on applied learning pedagogy, in which students learn to integrate theory and practice. This pedagogy is particularly applicable and relevant to the nature of hospitality business, which focuses on practical learning and skills. A key feature of the Singapore Institute of Technology’s applied learning pedagogy is the Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP), which is a work attachment of eight months. This case study offers a comprehensive overview of IWSP and aims to examine success factors and to identify key challenges. Recommendations are presented to address the challenges and concerns.

Keywords: Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP), Hospitality Business Programme, Practical Learning, Industry Partners


The hospitality industry has been growing rapidly in the past decades. In recent years, there has been a significant number of new hotel openings worldwide, from developing to developed countries, from economical to luxurious categories, and from boutique to large sizes. Countries such as Singapore have continually faced manpower and labour shortages. One of the crucial tasks for the senior management is to attract more “work-ready” graduates to join the workforce. Practical learning becomes an important component to enhance students’ competency with adequate skill sets. Applied learning is primarily an approach that links the ‘real world’ to the concepts being taught in the classroom (VCCA, 2006). Therefore, an 8-month Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP) is the key component of the Singapore Institute of Technology’s (SIT) hospitality business programme curriculum. Applied learning manifests in higher education as one or more of the kinds of pedagogical practices, such as practical experiences, project-based learning, service-learning, and integrated work study programmes (Lim, Foo, Loh & Deng, 2019).

This chapter presents the Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP), the practical training model of the three-year hospitality business degree programme at SIT. IWSP offers opportunity for students to undertake real work that allows them to integrate theory and practice while developing deep, specialised skills in the hospitality industry (SIT, 2020). Numerous research on hospitality curricula stated the importance of relevance of the curriculum to the industry development and demand, especially in students’ skill sets.

SIT emphases an applied learning pedagogy to maintain the relevance to the hospitality industry needs that is very crucial for the stakeholders: students, faculty members and industry partners (Figure 1). How to design a programme curriculum to meet learning outcomes and to bridge the gap between the degree programme and the skill sets required by the industry (Chen, Deller, & Bianchi, 2019) is a key question. The programme emphasizes enhancing students’ practical skills and developing them to become industry-ready graduates. The practical learning experience could improve students’ confidence, self-esteem and problem solving skills. Workplace learning can help also students develop generic skills and learn practical skills (Downing, 2017).

Figure 1: The Stakeholders of the IWSP Model

SIT HB Programme IWSP, Faculty Members (Academic Supervisor), Industry partners (Work Supervisor) and Students

Within the tourism industry, hospitality, specifically the hotel sector, plays a vital role in the economy. The hotel sector continues to grow aggressively (Deloitte, 2018). The industry faces a challenge of attracting and retaining labour, though with one of the biggest concerns being to recruit the right people and retain them (Lefever & Withiam, 1998). Singapore is an example of a country continually facing manpower and labour crunch issues. Labour shortages significantly impact business operations and work efficiency as well as impeding investment and organisational growth (Montgomery & Spragg, 2017). The hospitality industry faces severe labour shortage issues, especially in housekeeping, front desk and food & beverage (Montgomery & Spragg, 2017). Therefore, there is a need to develop more well-trained graduates to meet labour demand.

SIT’s Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP)

The Singapore Institute of Technology is Singapore’s University of Applied Learning. Gazetted as an autonomous university in 2014, SIT is a young University with a vision to be a leader in innovative learning by integrating learning, industry and community. The essence of the applied learning pedagogy is promoting active learning in an authentic learning environment. In the context of preparing students to be industry-ready, the authentic learning environment would be industry. Hence collaboration with industry is a theme that permeates through the design of SIT’s degree programmes.

The Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP) is a key feature of SIT’s applied learning pedagogy. It is a work attachment of eight to twelve months. The substantial attachment period provides an authentic learning platform for students to be engaged in real work and projects. The learning is supported by active coaching and mentoring by an SIT academic supervisor, as well as the assigned work supervisor from the company. The IWSP learning outcomes for students are as follows:

  1. Develop career and professional skills
  2. Facilitate integration of knowledge and practice
  3. Develop innovation skills

Through forging close collaboration with relevant industries, SIT seeks to provide real work experience for students in their relevant field of specialisation. Students will then have the opportunity to apply their knowledge in solving real-world problems, and hone both their technical and soft skill competencies. The extended period of immersion at the workplace is akin to a probation period, and students are trained to perform work scope similar to full-time employees of similar qualifications, as well as gain a good understanding of the company’s business and culture.

Students on IWSP are not placed. They are required to go through an IWSP application process that is similar to a real-world job application experience. SIT has a job portal to facilitate the IWSP application. Companies put in their IWSP job description and requirements, and these will need to be approved by the degree programme leader to ensure that the roles are relevant and meet the IWSP learning outcomes. The IWSP positions are then open to students to apply, after which companies will shortlist for interview and make offers to suitable candidates. Although the process may be more time-consuming, there are benefits to students and companies as there is mutual interest and choice. Students also make their choice with their longer-term career interest in mind.

The Hospitality Business (HB) Curriculum

SIT’s Bachelor of Hospitality Business (HB) degree programme was launched in 2015 and was the first and only hospitality undergraduate programme in Singapore. The programme has two industry specialisations: Hotels and Integrated Resorts and MICE. SIT puts in intentional design to scaffold the students’ learning and experience. Below are the learning outcomes of the HB IWSP:

  • Understand the organisation in terms of its structure and major areas of business
  • Describe, explain and evaluate inter-relationships between major business areas and departments of the organisation
  • Formulate managerial decisions within areas of business and departments to reflect application of theory in real-life business settings
  • Identify potential room for improvement and propose solutions

The HB curriculum structure is built on three layers: cornerstones, keystones, and capstone, and IWSP is the key feature of practical learning to enhance effective learning outcomes (Figure 2). In Years 1 and 2, five cornerstones are laid to prepare students for the required fundamental skills and knowledge to work in the hospitality industry. In Year 2, students can apply their skills and knowledge to real-world scenario through their 8-month IWSP on the job training. In Year 3, students are required to work a capstone project to solve a problem, or to improve process and guest experience that is related to their IWSP experiences.

The design of IWSP aims to enhance our students to integrate their learned knowledge with practice through our curriculum before starting their IWSP. Three assignments (What, How and Why) are designed for students to reflect on their learning and practical experience in the workplace. Applied learning in tertiary educational institutions often encompass an internship programme in the curriculum. It acts as a form of experiential learning, exposing them to the hotel industry and allowing them to gain hands-on experiences, instead of being confined to theoretical boundaries (Rahman, Zahari & Nik, 2015).

These assignments give students the opportunity to utilize their cognitive thinking to identify current issues from their workplace. Students are required to brainstorm and come up with innovative and strategic ideas that would potentially solve the problems or improve the operational process. The academic supervisors guide students through a series of progressive and structured questions that are designed to bring them through operations, management, and business levels of thinking in real-life business environments. As a result, students are also required to identify innovative capstone (the final year project) topics at the workplace that they can bring back to work on after IWSP.

Figure 2. HB Curriculum Structure – IWSP is the Key Feature of Practical Learning

Year 1,2 - Cornerstone IA and Industry Specialisations – Year 1 Core Modules, Hotel & Integrated Resort, IA, MICE, Year 2 Core Modules. Year 2,3 – Keystone IWSP and Functional Specialisations – Hotel Real Estate & Investment, IWSP, Sales & Marketing. Year 3 - Capstone

Developing Students

Given the high expectations of students to perform well in the workplace, SIT prepares students for IWSP through a series of modules and workshops. In the curriculum, there is a “Career & Professional Development” module prior to IWSP application, to prepare students in resume writing, interview skills and communication skills. There are also preparatory sessions such as Networking Workshop to prepare students before the Industry Networking Event for students to meet with the companies. A key emphasis is to have a growth mindset towards IWSP, so that students approach it with a longer-term employee mindset versus a short-term internship mindset.

During IWSP, SIT academic supervisors will coach and mentor students to provide regular guidance in achieving the IWSP learning objectives. This is an important part of the learning to get students to reflect on and learn from their IWSP experience, building their adaptability and resilience. Students gain authentic work experience and develop workplace competencies. They also gain clarity of their career interest for full-time job search and employment.

Partnering with Industry

For every company participating in IWSP, SIT will meet with the company to share and align understanding of the learning outcomes and expectations of company in developing the students. This will provide an opportunity for companies to understand SIT’s applied learning pedagogy, and also for SIT to understand the company’s needs and how IWSP can contribute to building their talent pipeline. Each student would also be assigned a dedicated work supervisor to mentor the student at the workplace. The work supervisor is required to provide assessment of the student’s performance, which will contribute to the student’s assessment for IWSP, which is a credit-bearing module. During IWSP, the SIT academic supervisor will also engage the work supervisor to discuss the student’s progress. The feedback is important to monitor progress and provide feedback for improvement. The extended period of IWSP provides the opportunity for companies to evaluate the suitability of students as potential employees.

IWSP Results

The two main stakeholders of the HB IWSP model are students and industry partners. It is crucial to ensure learning outcomes are fulfilled through practical learning. There are six key performance criteria of the IWSP model as summarized in Table 1: 1) Learning and Work Integration, 2) Professionalism, 3) Communication, 4) Problem Solving and Decision Making, 5) Teamwork, and 6) Adaptability.

Based on the student performance in Year 2018 and 2019, the results showed that the average rating by industry partners (direct work supervisors) was mainly between “4” to “5” based on the 5-point scale, meaning between “Good” and “Excellent.” Only a few outliers were rated at “2” and “3”, ranging between “Average” and “Below Average” as shown in Figure 3. In general, our industry partners recognized our students’ knowledge, attitude, and capability. To support this statement, some qualitative findings have been collected (Table 2). In general, both industry partners and students commented IWSP is an effective and practical learning method for engaging students to apply what they have learnt in class to the real-world scenarios.

Table 1: Performance Criteria and Descriptor of the IWSP Model

Criteria Descriptor
1. Learning & Work Integration Learns new materials quickly and applies learning from university and workplace to work situations.
2. Professionalism Exhibits self-confidence; punctual, proactive and motivated, takes ownership of work and learning and produces quality work; receptive to feedback from peers and supervisors.
3. Communication Speaks / writes clearly and effectively and listens to differing views and puts across opinions respectfully.
4. Problem Solving & Decision Making Evaluates situations and data, suggests options to resolve issues and demonstrates sound judgement and takes ownership of decisions made.
5. Teamwork Works effectively in teams and contributes positively to achieve common goals.
6. Adaptability Adopts to workplace culture and environment and remains effective through change and ambiguity’ works effectively with people from diverse backgrounds.

Figure 3: Employers Assessment Results on HB IWSP Students (Year 2018 & 2019)

Bar chart showing company ratings of HB IWSP students in 2018 and 2019
The bar chart shows company ratings of HB IWSP students in 2018 and 2019. Ratings are based on 5-point scale: 1 – Unsatisfactory to 5 – Excellent.

Table 2: Employers’ Comments on HB IWSP Students (Year 2018 & 2019)

HS: Hotel Student & MS: MICE Student

Industry Specialisations Work Supervisor

(Positive Comments)

Work Supervisor

(Areas of Improvement)

Hotel & Integrated Resort HS1 has a strong technical skill especially Opera (PMS). The foundation of theoretical and practical knowledge helps HS1 to adapt quickly and apply in her daily tasks. SIT should manage students’ expectations prior IWSP. HS5 can further improve her communication skills, EQ self-management and awareness of others.
HS2 showed great professionalism at work. Her best skills would be her excellent communication skills internally as well as with guests. HS6 should continue to enhance customer relationship management (CRM) skills & business writing skills.
Adaptability to any situations that we have given to HS3. She was responsible and definitely is a team player. HS7 needs to empower herself more to make decision. She needs to forget that she is just an intern and she should make decisions for herself and her guests.
HS4 has adapted well to our fast-paced environment. She delivered all work tasks promptly and with good quality. HS8 can discover and inject even more creativity when tackling complicated problems
MICE MS1 was very efficient to complete all given tasks with excellent results, especially when asked to do research. MS5 should gain more confidence in responding to clients directly. I do not see the ‘extra mile’, and only maintains expectations instead of exceeding them.
MS2 was professional when dealing with clients MS6 can improve her skills in conducting research and creative thinking.
MS3 was well organized and a fast learner, she expressed interest in learning new things. Taking ownership in the projects she was handling MS7 can improve her multitasking skills and manage deadline better, as well as corporate writing.
MS4 was good at analyze and troubleshoot without supervision or minimal supervision was needed. MS8 should pay more attention to details and be a little more confident when she has to challenge or question the issue deeper.

Key Challenges

A key challenge is shaping the mindset of students, industry partners (work supervisors) and faculty members. IWSP is a work attachment, although the approach differs from a typical internship, requiring a mindset change from all parties involved. Industry partners need to see the students as potential future employees, and hence be willing to invest time and effort in training them. Students need to move away from the notion of just “helping out” versus contributing as a full-time employee and building a professional network within the company as it may be their future employer.

In general, academic staff focus more on teaching and conducting research. However, since the hospitality industry dynamic is always evolving, academic staff should play a proactive role in understanding the changing business environment, trends, and new developments. Faculty staff should find ways to bridge gaps between theory and practice, and between students and industry partners.

There is a growing trend that more applicants with non-relevant diplomas are interested in the HB programme. For students without any prior knowledge and work experience in the hospitality industry, they are required to take an Industry Attachment (IA) in year 1. IA provides students with opportunities to gain practical experience in operations. Industry partners play a vital role to give a good first impression on the hospitality industry and create memorable and meaningful practical learning to attract talents and potential work force in the future. However, in reality, it is not the case.

Crisis is unforeseeable, unpredictable, and unavoidable. The recent COVID-19 pandemic highlights how such a crisis can severely impact available IWSP positions. Such external factors include economic recession and pandemic-led disruptions. In such situations, the risk of not getting sufficient IWSP positions for all students is a genuine concern. In particular, IWSP for Hospitality Business was severely affected due to the travel restrictions. Companies’ businesses are affected and are unable to provide work attachments. Given that industry environment is key to the applied learning pedagogy, a key challenge is to provide alternative arrangements that meet the learning outcomes.

Furthermore, some MICE companies aim to sustain their business during crisis, they offer hybrid events which means to conduct a “face-to-face” in-person event and with a “virtual” online platform. For this new initiative, students may have limited knowledge and skills in running hybrid events.


In fact, based on the Graduate Employment Survey conducted in 2019, it showed that 93.4% of our graduates gained employment within six months of completing their degrees. Employers found our graduates are “work-ready” and with relevant skills are needed. Some graduates secured job offers even before their graduation as they received priority offers from the IWSP companies where they interned. However, as a young university, the model still has room to grow and has areas for improvement, in order to better prepare students prior to practical training in the real-world scenario. Some practical recommendations are discussed in this section.

Bridging gaps among stakeholders’ expectations: For students, practical learning experience in the hospitality education is crucial. Every individual holds different views and expectations based on his or her characteristic, perception, knowledge, experience, need and want. Therefore, dissatisfaction is inevitable. One of the key objectives is to find ways to narrow or close the gap of stakeholders’ expectation and perceived practical learning experience. Academic supervisors are encouraged to act as a ‘bridge’ that connects students with industry partners. Academic supervisor should meet the work supervisor and students on a regular basis, to ensure the alignment of learning outcomes and objectives are met. Furthermore, work supervisors should meet IWSP students and give face-to-face feedback and advice on the learning progress and actual performance in a timely manner.

Improving Practical Experience and Learning Journey: Reviewing the Career and Professional Development (CPD) module on a yearly basis to ensure soft skills are relevant to the market needs based on the feedback from work supervisors is crucial. More recently, it is getting common to conduct meetings and interviews via Zoom or other online platforms. Students were not well equipped with the appropriate interview skills yet. The CPD module should cover online and on camera presentation skills, communications skills, grooming and etiquette.

Strengthening Knowledge in Technology: The contents of Information Systems Management (ISM) and Hospitality Interactive Marketing (HIM) modules can be reviewed carefully and regularly. It is crucial to make necessary changes to meet the constantly-changing needs of the industry. These two modules should enhance students’ knowledge in information technology, digital marketing, and digital literacy. For example, digital literacy encompasses a wide range of “new” technologies, including being able to find the right tools and skills to consume information, and to create content for others via different online platforms. Some companies have started implementing “new” technology to improve customers’ experience and satisfaction, such as robots, contactless check-in, and interactive social media marketing campaigns.

Exploring a Hybrid Internship Opportunity: The hospitality industry is a global based business and service sector. Students need to be given the opportunity to look for overseas IWSP opportunities. A hybrid IWSP does that by providing a ‘3+5’ model, whereby students spend three months in Singapore and five months overseas with the same organization.

Building Industry Connection: Faculty should actively seek industry project ideas as early as possible so that there are good innovation projects for our students to work on. Furthermore, academic staff should proactively build relationship with new players to explore different practical learning experience for IWSP students. Industry partners can provide real and authentic learning environment for students to apply their knowledge in solving real-world issues, this is an excellent applied learning platform.

Acquiring and Developing Local Talents: SIT aims to develop and nurture students to become young leaders in the hospitality industry, through “talent development” in the local market. Nurturing talents is required to support the evolving hospitality industry. It is important to ensure that the positions are filled, preferably with candidates of hospitality backgrounds through talent management (Neuhofer, Buhalis & Ladkin, 2013). During the three-year study programme, students can develop strong operational skills (know-how) anchored in solid theoretical knowledge (know-why). Working closely with some strategic partners, enables companies to create plans to develop local talents. Organisations need not spend additional resources on having to train a new associate from scratch (Dario & Snezana, 2017).


Hospitality education is evolving globally and specifically in Singapore. Because hospitality education in Singapore is still considered a young programme in Asia, it is important to identify areas for improvement. Educators should proactively gain knowledge and understanding of the market needs and demands, in order to keep up a relevant curriculum design.

Collecting input and feedback from industry partners can help to enhance the practical learning experience and students’ development plan. The IWSP model facilitates opportunities for students to gain higher, deeper and comprehensive levels of learning in difference sectors or departments within the designated organization. Some organizations even offer some supervisory or management tasks for students to develop their leadership skills. Currently, different programmes and strategies can be identified by hotels to entice hospitality students to join the various hotel organisations – internship to full-time job conversions and management trainee programmes (Elhoushy, 2014).


Chen, Y., Dellea, D., & Bianchi, G. (2019). Knowledge Creation and Research Production in Swiss Hotel Schools: A Case Study of the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Education, 31(1), 10-22.

Dario, S., & Snezana, S. (2017, June 19). The Role and Importance of Internship Programs as Part of Formal Education: Students’ Perceptions – The Case of College of Tourism. College of Tourism, Belgrade. Retrieved from

Deloitte. (2018). Travel and Hospitality Industry Outlook. Retrieved from

Downing, J. J. (2017). Design Principles for Applied Learning: Bringing Theory and practice together in an online VET teacher-education degree. International Journal of Training Research, 15(1), 85-102.

Lefever, M. M., & Withiam, G. (1998). Curriculum Review How Industry Views. Hospitality Education. Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, 39(4), 70-78.

Elhoushy, S. (2014). Hospitality Students’ Perceptions towards Working in Hotels: A Case Study of the Faculty of Tourism and Hotels in Alexandria University. Retrieved from’_Perceptions_towards_Working_in_Hotels_a_case_study_of_the_faculty_of_tourism_and_hotels_in_Alexandria_University

Lim, S. M., Foo, Y.L., Loh, H. T., & Deng, X. (2019). Applied Learning in Higher Education: Perspective, Pedagogy, and Practice. Santa Ros, CA, USA: Informing Science Press.

Montgomery, T. & Spragg, T. (2017). Hospitality Industry Labor Shortage. Retrieved from

Neuhofer, B., Buhalis, D., & Ladkin, A. (2013). High Tech for High Touch Experiences: A Case Study from the Hospitality Industry. Retrieved from

Rahman, B., A., Zahari, H., & Nik, A., N., M. (2015, January). Hospitality Internships: An Employment Advantage or Perilous Experience. Retrieved from

Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority. (2006). Applied learning in VCAL, Retrieved from

Part 5 – Internship Experiences – Student and Industry Experiences


Internships are wonderful and endorsed by both education institutions and industry. However, not all internships work. Indeed, while a good internship experience can entice students to enter industry, a poor experience can drive them away. This final part of the book lets the voices of students and industry practitioners be heard. Five chapters are presented based on research conducted after the internship experience.

Chapter 18, by Hu and McKercher asks and answers the question, “do internships work?” based on a pre-post survey of students in China. Gibson, Sharma and Ellis discuss some of the unique challenges in offering internships in Fiji in Chapter 19. Chapters 20 by Burns and 21 by Tung explore both industry and students’ perceptions of internships and the skills desired based on his experiences in Ireland and Taiwan, respectively. Chapter 22 by Lara and 23 by Doudna take a different perspective and present highly personal stories by students discussing how they either took advantage of opportunities presented to them or overcame obstacles that helped them grow.

Chapter 18: Do Internships Work?


Ricky Hu Xiao and Bob McKercher

Ricky Hu Xiao, E plus Hotel Management Consultancy Co.

Bob McKercher, University of Queensland


This study asks the questions of do internships work? A paired sample survey of 222 Chinese students was undertaken with the first survey completed prior to their internship and the second one after its completion. The study revealed that overall satisfaction and job commitment declined post-internship, although it remained positive. Students’ main complaints related to failure to secure a placement in their desired departments, lack of mentoring from supervisors and being treated as regular staff but with lower pay and benefits. A number of recommendations are made to enhance the internship programme.


The rapid development of the Chinese hospitality industry has raised demand for qualified and highly skilled hospitality talents. However, the industry is finding it increasingly difficult to recruit well-trained and knowledgeable staff (Gu, 2003). In response, a number of Chinese universities and colleges have set up programs at the degree and sub-degree level. Industry though, is reported to be dissatisfied with the quality of hospitality graduates (Lam & Xiao, 2000), partly due to the lack of practical experience many graduates have. It is for this reason that most hospitality programs have added an internship component to their curriculum.

There is tension between meeting broader educational goals of internships and short-term employment needs of many hotels. Ideally, internships should be an integral component of the student’s education and training with the training component complementing class room studies (Airey and Tribe 2000) by preparing students for a career as a hospitality professional (Morrison & O’Mahony, 2003). These lofty expectations often conflict with the reality that many hotels see interns as cheap labour (Roney et al., 2007; Zopiatis & Constanti, 2007). Students are assigned to perform operational jobs where staff shortages exist, while ignoring the supposed pedagogical outcomes. It is for this reason that Roney et al. (2007) observed students believe that hoteliers accept interns solely for financial reasons.

Herein lies the challenge. Students hope internships will equip them with the skills necessary to enter into and develop their careers in the hospitality sector. But if industry sees them simply as unskilled staff hired to fill operational positions, then the risk exists that students will be dissatisfied with their experiences and may feel exploited, with the end result that the internship drives them from the industry rather than encouraging them to pursue a career in it.

This study asks the question of “do internships work?” It examines the experiences of Chinese undergraduate (degree and sub degree students) through a paired sample pre-post survey to assess their internship experiences and satisfaction levels and determine if and why it affects their future career intentions. This study aims to identify the importance of hotel students’ internship experience by comparing the differences between hospitality students’ internship expectations and perceptions as well as their career commitment levels before and after the internship.

Literature Review

Hospitality education programs have changed in many ways over the years, including the shift from strictly hands-on learning to a greater amount of theory-based material, especially at the degree level. Regardless, gaining practical experience remains a critical component to assist an individual’s success in the industry. Internships provide a student with out-of-classroom, field-based experience. Davies (1990) defined them as experiential learning where students have the opportunity to apply what they have learned in school to the real world, while also helping them to integrate and consolidate their thoughts and actions. They have the added benefit of affording students the ability to experience the less-than-ideal situations of the real world outside academia.

Hospitality education is ideally suited for internship programmes as it can provide insights for students pursuing a career in their field of interest (Lam & Ching 2007). In addition, researchers believe hospitality education should align with industry needs by ensuring the provision of sufficient practical facilities (Barron, 2008; Busby, 2005; Christou, 1999) and applied training opportunities. Walo (2001) found that internship programs help develop management competencies. Most industry recruiters strongly support internships and consider internships for the extent of experience, rather than the specific nature of the assignment (Lefever & Withiam, 1998).

Internship programs have received considerable support from educators, industry, and hospitality students. Many hospitality education institutions have sought to establish a universal standard or model, but due to the diverse nature of the hospitality industry, there is no one perfect internship program (Pauzé et al., 1989). This has led to considerable diversity among programs with some internships lasting for a few weeks, while others lasting up to a year.

The major stakeholders involved in a college-level hospitality internship are industry professionals, students, and educational institutions. Each of them contributes to the overall quality, educational outcome, and career preparation provided by an internship. Ideally, industry representatives, faculty members, and students should jointly develop an internship program. A well-developed internship program should maximize the potential to produce high-quality hospitality management graduates (Pauzé et al., 1989). As a result, a balanced effort from education and industry is needed to ensure the programs generate future hospitality talents (Casado, 1992).

Internships can deliver benefits to industry, educational institutions and students. Benefits to industry include cost-effective supplemental staffing, pre-screening for potential new hires, and partnering with a university. They connect hotels to a source of workers who can contribute fresh ideas to the industry and provide them with an opportunity to participate in the training process of their future managers. Furthermore, using interns can help hotels reduce their labour costs (Jauhari, 2001; Pauzé et al., 1989; Petrillose & Montgomery, 1998; Walo, 2001). Petrillose and Montgomery (1998) suggested that the majority of industry recruiters agree that the hospitality students’ with internship experience are highly preferred. These results are a positive outcome for both hotels and students.

Cooperative education programs are useful for educational institutions because they facilitate the closer establishment of connections with employers (Grubb, Dickenson, Giordano, & Kaplan, 1992). Other benefits for the university include enhanced community relationships, improved student retention and classroom participation, as well as updated curriculum. Students are the representatives of the institution. When an institution is well represented by a student, the institutional community appears favourable, thus enhancing that institution’s reputation. The link between education and industry can strengthen collaborative research opportunities and establish long-term cooperation relationships between industry and education (Walo, 2001). Furthermore, as part of experiential learning, internship programs contribute greatly to the overall educational process of their students (Grubb, 1995). Internships can particularly be useful in situations where educational institutions lack facilities to offer experience in areas such as food and beverage or where faculty members lack expertise. They also provide a great opportunity to fill the gap between classroom theory and practical experience (Callanan and Benzing 2004; Knouse and Fontenot 2008; Tse 2010).

Students enjoy the opportunity to explore a specified job in their desired career field. Zopiatis and Constanti (2007) observe that many hospitality and tourism students know little about the industry or its realities before their internship. An internship program can give students a brief experience of their future work environment and provide them an opportunity to practice what they have learned in the classroom (Walo, 2001). Gabris and Mitchel (1989), Petrillose and Montgomery (1998) and Zopiatis (2007) showed that students expect internships to boost their self-confidence, leadership, and communication skills. Learning opportunities are another benefit. Students are taught basic skills in the classroom. However, an internship exposes the student to in-depth application of those basic skills. Domask (2007) believes that internships can serve as a training grounds for students to learn from experts and gain practical experience.

Notably, the internship program can “help the students to test their career choice and develop important hands-on workplace skills for them” (Walo, 2001, p. 12). Furthermore, evidence suggests that many students gain employment with their internship employers on graduation (Tse, 2010). Another benefit of internships is that students who complete internship programs broaden their social network. Bonds form among peers in the intern program as they discuss their various experiences, while a student’s professional network expands to include the institution providing the internship (Tse, 2010).

However, internships are not without their challenges, for despite many benefits, not all internship programs are successful. Baron and Maxwell (1993) observed that some students developed a negative view toward the industry after completing an internship. The reasons include a lack of challenging work, a lack of management involvement (Knutson, 1989), poor compensation, lack of education, and even discrimination (Gunlu & Usta, 2009). Furthermore, as Christou (1999) asserted, both graduates and the industry are disappointed with internships’ ability to develop soft skills, such as time management, leading and motivating, personnel skills, and working on a team.

One important reason seems to be a gap between students’ expectations and experiences (Kandampully, Mok, & Sparks, 2001) leading to lower satisfaction with the placement. Expectation refers to beliefs before an experience, whereas perception refers to how people feel after an experience. The difference between pre-expectation and post experience measures satisfaction. Students may have unrealistic expectations, especially university level students, who may feel they are qualified to move directly into a management – oriented placements, in spite of a lack of applied experience. Nelson (1994) found students were most satisfied with internships providing relevant work, some autonomy, and timely feedback.

A further issue is unclear outcomes at the start of the programme. Some institutions design internship programmes with specified learning outcomes that must be agreed to by industry partners through a formal contract. These types of institutions also often have dedicated staff who coordinate the programmes and assign students to their placements on the basis of fitting the student’s professional development wishes and the partner’s specific traineeship needs. Others though simply require students to gain a certain number of hours of work experience without any specific outcomes. They put the onus on the students to organize their own placement often with unspecified goals.

As a result, satisfaction with placements is inconsistent. Busby et al. (1997) indicate that students are satisfied with their internship experience, particularly in the areas of improvement in technical skills and knowledge within their internship. Emenheiser et al (1997) noted that a majority of students were satisfied with their internship. Problem-solving ability is suggested as the most vital area for students’ improvement in the hospitality industry. Girard (1999) investigated interns’ perceptions of work, supervision, and appraisal within various hospitality organizations’ internship programs and suggested that interns are highly satisfied with their work and are generally satisfied with supervision, whereas appraisals remain an area of concern. However, Lam and Ching (2007) investigated the difference between expectations and perceptions of Hong Kong hospitality students toward their internship program and found that the overall student expectations were not met. Ju et al. (1998) also found that Korean hotel students had low satisfaction levels.

Taylor (1988) indicated that poor supervision is the most likely condition to lead to dissatisfaction and that mentor relationships provide invaluable benefits for students. Nelson (1994) stated that repetitious work with little freedom to apply and test knowledge, along with the high risk accompanying inadequate or untimely feedback, is related to dissatisfaction with supervision. By contrast, hospitality interns report greater satisfaction when they have a supportive relationship in the work setting. Fu (1999), Ko (2008) and Chiang et al (2005) highlighted the importance of hands on supervision, a clearly defined programme and clear training outcomes. Conversely, Lam and Ching (2007) argued that students’ internship perception scores are lower than expectation scores for three main reasons: lack of sufficient coordination between schools and employers, lack of opportunity to apply theories in the workplace, and unreasonable bosses. They discussed three possible reasons for such dissatisfaction. First, poor administration and coordination between schools and hotels may lead to unclear training objectives. Second, students may find it difficult to apply theories they have learned in school to work situations. Thirdly, students may not be happy with their managers.


This study investigated hospitality internship satisfaction to reveal the association between internship satisfaction and career commitment. The study objectives are to identify students’ expectations and perceptions before and after their internship, and to determine if the internship experience influences their commitment to work in the hospitality industry. A descriptive research method is adopted to gain information on the current status of the phenomena to describe “what exists” with respect to variables or conditions in a situation (Cohen, Manion, Morrison, & Morrison, 2007).

A paired sample pre- and post-internship survey was undertaken. Final year students at three hospitality institutions in China were surveyed. The research framework uses five constructs: internship expectation, internship perception, internship satisfaction, pre-test career commitment, and post-test career commitment. The questionnaire was developed on the basis of relevant literature review. A pilot study was conducted with a panel of experts to clarify the items on the survey. Two versions of the survey— pre-test and post-test versions—were created for the group of students. Each questionnaire was custom designed to specifically identify key components from each sample population.

Data collection for the pre-internship phase of the study began in the end of June 2012 and concluded on June 30, 2013. During the first data collection period, each group of students was visited either at the beginning or ending of a class meeting. Instructions were read aloud to the participating students. They were informed that participation was voluntary and that all responses would be kept anonymous and confidential. All respondents were assigned codes to ensure consistency between the first and second surveys. The second data collection round was conducted for the same group of students in the middle of June 2013, which was concluded on June 20, 2013. On their reunion day after internship, the students were provided a questionnaire with instructions for answering the questions.

The study utilized a causal–comparative research design to compare the expectations and perceptions before and after internship in the same group of students. The causal–comparative design most often includes at least two groups and one dependent variable (Gay & Airasian, 2003). In this study, students starting and finishing their internship form two groups for comparison. Data were analysed using the Statistical Package for the Social Science [version 20 (SPSS 20)]. The questionnaire included multiple-choice questions, Likert scaled questions and an open-ended question regarding the students’ place of work.


A total of 222 students completed both the pre-test and post-test surveys. Almost two-thirds of respondents were female (63.1%) and more than half came from two provinces, namely Liaoning and Shandong (55.9%). A majority of them were studying at the higher diploma level (55.9%), whereas the remaining were studying at the degree level. The vast majority were aged between 18 and 22 (91.5%). Almost half (45.9%) had no working experience prior to starting their internship, with another 39% having less than three months experience.

Constructs Variables

Pre Mean

Post Mean



Satisfaction Satisfied with internship 4.35 4.06 3.04 0.00*
Satisfied with the kind of work 4.39 3.87 5.23 0.00*
Internship to convince to pursue 4.36 3.64 6.71 0.00*
Think of quitting 2.51 2.77 -1.80 0.07
Work for bad reputation hotel 2.14 2.32 -1.18 0.23
Hotel is using “cheap labour” 3.27 3.48 -1.38 0.16
Skill Development Develop new skills 4.66 4.29 4.59 0.00*
High autonomy 4.48 3.73 7.12 0.00*
Development opportunity 4.55 3.67 8.87 0.00*
Gain knowledge 4.66 4.20 5.94 0.00*
Apply knowledge into practical 4.65 3.96 7.24 0.00*
Learn language 4.65 3.96 7.95 0.00*
Higher GPA 4.61 3.9 7.22 0.00*
Cultivate willpower 4.65 4.22 5.47 0.00*
Know the practical experience 4.61 4.06 6.44 0.00*
Accumulating social experience 4.67 4.18 6.16 0.00*
Reading industrial book and magazine 4.01 3.62 2.87 0.00*
Quality of Supervision Reasonable boss 4.67 4.06 6.75 0.00*
Support from supervisor 4.64 4.08 5.73 0.00*
Careful mentoring 4.57 3.94 6.63 0.00*
Trusted by boss 4.47 3.84 5.89 0.00*
Feedback 4.52 3.84 6.21 0.00*
Structured organization 4.58 3.82 7.66 0.00*
Clear outcome 4.65 3.85 8.70 0.00*
Periodic meeting with supervisors 4.36 3.09 9.84 0.00*
Personal Benefits Fair pay 4.60 3.05 14.40 0.00*
Staff benefits 4.66 3.22 12.57 0.00*
Delicious staff canteen 4.64 3.00 14.69 0.00*
Professional Uniform 4.46 4.01 4.56 0.00*
Working Interpersonal Environment Treat as regular staff 3.72 4.05 -2.74 0.00*
Sexual harassment 4.74 4.28 5.54 0.00*
Friendly guest 4.69 3.64 10.35 0.00*
High team spirit 4.73 3.82 8.88 0.00*
Sense of belongingness 4.65 3.76 8.23 0.00*
Interpersonal environment 4.64 4.06 6.59 0.00*
Working Condition Regular shift 4.59 3.50 10.41 0.00*
No evening and overnight shift 4.27 3.07 8.90 0.00*
Interesting and challenging work 4.49 3.68 7.19 0.00*
No strong pressure 3.95 3.34 4.82 0.00*
Rotation 4.47 3.36 9.61 0.00*
Convenience Transportation 4.31 3.21 9.04 0.00*
Simple and repetitive task 3.47 3.75 -2.04 0.04*
Personal and Family Support Family support 4.50 3.91 6.13 0.00*
Personality Suitable 4.29 3.65 5.459 0.00*
Career Development Clarify career choice 4.60 3.98 6.37 0.00*
Get a managerial position after 4.43 2.94 11.20 0.00*
Good for Resume 4.60 4.10 5.62 0.00*
Build social network 4.62 4.05 6.12 0.00*
Past experience benefit internship 4.55 4.01 5.479 0.00*
Hotel is not my career 3.10 3.27 -1.13 0.25
Recommend the internship 4.07 3.65 3.41 0.01*

Table 1. Comparison of Pre-internship expectations with Post-internship Experience

Table 1 compares the results of the pre-and post-internship surveys. The 51 variables measured were grouped into eight thematic domains. Statistically significant differences were noted in 47 of the 51 tested variables suggesting a significant gap exists between the students’ expectations and their lived experiences. The only variables that did not show a difference related to two variables that students rated negatively (thinking of quitting the internship, perception of working for a bad hotel), which suggests they were working in unsuitable places, and two variables that scored positively (hotel is using cheap labour and hotel is not my career), which indicates their initial negative expectations were met.

The findings indicate that students’ perceptions changed quite dramatically after they finished their internships, and usually not for the better. Indeed, significantly lower mean scores were reported on all but two of the 47 instances where differences were noted. The only two that reported a positive change were reaffirmation that they were treated as regular staff (an essentially negative perception) and stronger confirmation of the pre-existing belief that the tasks would be simple and repetitive (another negative perception). For most of the rest, while the mean scores decreased, the students still rated them positively, suggesting the internship experience was acceptable but not as beneficial as students had hoped. Four variables changed from positive to neutral including the quality of food, working overnight shift, fair pay, and secure a managerial position after the internship, with considerable gaps recorded between expectations and perceptions for these variables.

Looking at the eight thematic domains, some notable differences could be discerned. It is not surprising that the post-test results showed overall satisfaction remained positive, but was lower than expected. Although no differences were noted for variables related to thinking about quitting the internship and having lower intention of working for a bad hotel, students remained less satisfied with their internship in terms of their experience and what type of work they did, leading some to question the suitability of hospitality as their career in future. Furthermore, students also had a stronger feeling that they were being used as cheap labour.

Skill development was another area where the results expressed equivocal views. In general, they reported learning something, but as with other aspects, the learning did not meet their expectations. They felt that they learned a language, developed their skills, and applied theoretical knowledge in a practical setting, but they also felt that they learned less practical knowledge application than expected, consequently, affecting their development opportunities.

A major concern of students was the supervision and mentoring received from their line managers. The mentoring and feedback they received from their supervisors was not as detailed as expected. In general, students felt that they did not meet with their supervisors often enough, had fewer than expected clearly defined outcomes from the internship, and received little feedback.

The general arrangement of the internship was acceptable to the students, although their personal benefits did not meet their expectations. Their pay was lower than expected, and the uniform they received was not as appealing as expected. In addition, the food in the staff canteen did not met their expectations. The primary complaint in this part is about staff benefit. As interns, the students did not receive the same benefits as regular staff, even though they were performing the same tasks.

The primary complaint from students was that they were expected to work as if they were regular staff, but at a lower pay. This could be linked with the personal benefits part about their complaints regarding their own benefits. Another complaint is students felt little sense of belonging in their internship. They generally liked the team and team spirit. Sexual harassment was not as serious as expected. However, the hotel guests that students met were less friendly than they expected.

The students felt their working conditions and their job nature was not as expected, with more shift work, rotations, and fewer regular shifts. Another reason for lower satisfaction was the feeling that they felt they were not rotated enough to gain a holistic understanding of the hotel operation. Furthermore, students felt the tasks they were assigned were not interesting or challenging, but simple and repetitive.

Disturbingly, the internship did not help students clarify their future career path. The students agreed that their internship enriched their resume and expanded their social network; however, they found fewer than expected opportunities to gain a managerial position after the internship. Notably, they questioned how much the internship developed their career.

One reason for lower satisfaction levels could be attributed to the fact that students were not assigned to their preferred departments, as shown in Table 2. Indeed, only 59 of the 222 students got to work in their chosen department, with the other 163 assigned elsewhere. For example, only five of the 40 students who wanted to work in Human Resources did so, with most of the rest assigned either to Front Office or F&B Duties. Just one of the 27 students who asked to work in Sales and Marketing did so, while 17 of the 44 students who wanted to work in F&B found a job there and less than half of those who wanted a Front Office post were assigned to those types of duties.

The study suggests, therefore, that students were assigned to places where hotel had the greatest staffing needs, rather than in placements that would benefit the student’s own career development. Not surprisingly, those students who were not assigned to their preferred placement location were far less satisfied with their internship experience than those who were.

Expected department
F&B HSKP S&M FO FIN HR Others Total
Actual Department F&B 17 4 10 19 4 11 4 69
HSKP 0 0 1 5 0 0 0 6
S&M 0 0 1 3 0 1 0 5
FO 20 5 9 36 3 20 5 98
FIN 1 0 0 2 0 1 0 4
HR 4 0 1 9 1 5 1 21
Others 2 3 5 7 0 2 0 19
Total 44 12 27 81 8 40 10 222

Table 2. Expected and Actual Working Department

Perhaps these findings also explain why most students felt they would benefit more from shorter internships. Before the internship, a slight majority of respondents (57%) felt an internship of six months or less was appropriate, with about 40% feeling internships of between six months and a year would be suitable. However, after the internship, almost three-fourths of students changed their views, stating a preference for an internship of less than six months. Notably, about 17% of the students felt that an internship of between nine and 12 months was ideal before starting the internship; however, after completing their internships, only one person still supported this view.

Does the internship affect students’ commitment to a career in the industry? Ideally a positive internship experience will either cement a student’s desire to work in the hospitality sector or convince her or him that this type of career is not suitable. Before the students started their internship, 10.4%, 60.3%, and 28.6% of the students reported low, neutral, and high commitment to the hotel industry, respectively. By contrast, after completing their internships, 16.3%, 49.6%, and 34.2% of the students reported low, neutral, and high commitment to the hotel industry, respectively. Overall, more than half the students (57%) students reported a change in career commitment because of the internship, with 63 (28%) stating that the internship improved their career commitment, while another 64 (28%) felt that the internship experience lowered their commitment.

Discussion and Conclusions

Several studies have described internships as the key part of hotel education. In addition, students prefer to join tourism and hospitality schools offering the internship components (Lam & Ching, 2007). King et al. (2003) indicated that students see internships as useful in developing competencies required to acquire their first job. As the main, or even the only, piece of experiential learning, internship is crucial in hospitality education (Petrillose & Montomery, 1998).

Do internships work? The short answer is yes to some extent but not as well as they should. Both overall satisfaction and career commitment scores decreased after the internship, but still indicated satisfaction, with mean post-internship scores for overall satisfaction and commitment both being positive. Students had three major complaints. The first complaint was that they do the same tasks as regular staff but for a lower pay and limited benefits. Using student interns can help hotels reduce staffing costs (Jauhari, 2001; Walo, 2001), and because they are regarded as a helpful solution for the hotel industry, many hotels assign them to regular full shifts. The second complaint was the lack of mentoring from senior staff and line managers. The students received limited and basic training before being placed, which was not as expected. They wanted regular meetings with their supervisors for guidance and feedback. However, they found the coaching and mentoring they received to be less than they expected. The third concern was not securing the type of the internship they want and being placed into an operational position instead. This raises confusion among students regarding whether the internship is simply a job or part of their learning process.

As a result, a gap exists between students’ expectations and the industry reality. A number of measures can be taken to narrow this gap. Redesigning internships is one step that could improve the whole experience. Current internships need to clarify the responsibilities of all stakeholders. In addition, it is beneficial for the industry to have more experienced supervisors with leadership skills coaching and mentoring people. For the ideal length of the internship, there should be a balance between the industry reality and students’ learning needs. Longer is not always better, providing the internship is meaningful.


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Chapter 19: Student Satisfaction with Hotel Management Internship in the Multi-cultural Context of the University of the South Pacific


Karishma Sharma, Dawn Gibson, Ella Bennion, and Hupfeld Hoerder

Karishma Sharma, School of Business and Economics, The University of the South Pacific

Dawn Gibson, School of Business and Economics, The University of the South Pacific

Ella Bennion, School of Business and Economics, The University of the South Pacific

Hupfeld Hoerder, School of Business and Economics, The University of the South Pacific


As the tourism and hospitality industry continues to grow at a phenomenal rate, so does the demand for highly qualified and trained people (Gailliard, 2010; Jack, Stansbie, & Sciarini, 2017). Industry recruiters today are looking for graduates with skills beyond a university degree. While most graduates are adequately prepared in relation to job knowledge, many lack the required job skills (Gursoy, Rahman, & Swanger, 2012). To suitably meet the demands of industry, educators must work with industry to source qualified graduates as future industry leaders (Jack, Stansbie, & Sciarini, 2017). Many academic curricula are now inclusive of compulsory student internships to complement traditional classroom learning. Internships help students obtain exposure to practical work environments that are limited to the classroom (Zopiatis & Constanti, 2007), put textbook theories into action, and reflect on their career paths (Tse, 2010). Students who participate in internships can obtain a good sense of what it is like to work for organisations in the industry, and acquire practical skills through hands on experience and by networking in the workplace (Collins, 2002). Tourism and hospitality interns are also an important labour substitute in fulfilling the needs of the industry.

Institutions that offer Tourism and Hospitality Management (THM) and Hotel Management (HM) programmes are on the frontlines in ensuring graduates are well trained for top level positions. The School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, soon to become The School of Business and Management at the University of the South Pacific recognises the importance of improving employability skills for tourism and hospitality undergraduates, hence the development of the undergraduate THM and HM programmes which incorporate internship courses. These internship courses aim at blending theory with practical experience through experiential learning.

The purpose of this study reported in this chapter is to explore the determinants of student performance during hotel management internship learning experiences in the multi-cultural context of the University of the South Pacific. This qualitative study of student reflections and staff facilitation of internships will determine the factors that contribute to student performance with their working and learning experiences. This study was limited to students undertaking the Bachelor of Commerce in Hotel Management. It is mandatory for students undertaking the programme to complete a one-year hotel internship, which includes three courses: TS218 Rooms Division Practical, TS303 Food and Beverage Practical and TS304 Front Office and Sales and Marketing Practical in relevant departments within an approved hotel. The proposed research has practical implications for both academics who wish to further study student internship performance, sponsors and industry professionals and also serves as a framework for successful internship experiences for future hospitality practitioners in the South Pacific.

Literature Review

Importance of Internships to the Tourism and Hospitality Industry

The relationship between tourism education and internships has been discussed extensively in the literature. Internship programmes create opportunities for closing the differences between theoretical knowledge and real life practical experiences (Fox, 2011). A well-structured internship has an important role in developing specific competencies that HM students need as part of the general curriculum (Seyitoğlu & Yirik, 2015). Internship programmes aim to prepare students to be good leaders, making sound decisions with the theoretical knowledge they would have gained during their study. According to Walo (2001), internships play a critical role to increase the students’ learning capacities through active participation in various ways such as by observing and doing. Internships assist students with developing their critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills which are considered to be essential components of a good education by providing them with real life experience (Seyitoğlu & Yirik, 2015).

Internships increase students’ chances in finding employment when theoretical knowledge is combined with competencies in experience, skill, and self-development (Busby, 2003). However, Jenkin (2001) indicated that many graduates are drawn away from the sector due to negative internship experiences. Bad internship experiences may damage the students’ images within the organisation, and may discourage students from joining the industry after graduation (Busby, 2003). Student expectations before the internship experience are vastly different in terms of their perceptions compared to their satisfaction during the internship period (Cho, 2006).

Tourism and hospitality industry employment conditions are often criticised due to their inconvenient working hours, low wages and long hours of work compared to other sectors, which results in high turnover rates (Davidson, Guilding, & Timo, 2006). Continued globalisation is increasingly resulting in cultural diversity in tourism and hospitality workplaces (Weber & Ladkin, 2010). This creates real challenges for students to interact and effectively work with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Many issues may relate to intercultural communication between the employees and managers, as well as, the employees and tourists (Grobelna, 2015). Cultural sensitivities, awareness, and understanding of cultural differences are perceived as critical issues for both tourism and hospitality organisations and educators. A student intern’s motivation towards staying in the industry could be adversely impacted due to unbearable working environment and negative attitudes of superiors (Collins, 2002). However, both the industry and educators can benefit if tourism and hospitality organisations view students as a means to create opportunities for innovations in the workplace. Student interns may create and contribute towards new concepts, and provide organisations with fresh and objective perspectives (Aarons, 2019).

Student Impressions

The study undertook a content analysis of 45 internship manuals from the Bachelor of Commerce in Hotel Management at the University of the South Pacific. Students identified five key competencies from their internship experiences, as shown in Table 1. Each is discussed below.

Employability Skills Number
Improving own learning and performance 56
Communication 41
Working with Others 23
Problem Solving 10
Application of Technology 7

Table 1: Competencies identified in the Internship Manuals

Improving own Learning and Performance

This was the most important competency acknowledged by the interns. All the interns identified the importance of specific skills or knowledge gained and learning outcomes achieved during and upon the completion of their internship. There was notable consistency with the interns in their reflections about the changes they had to embrace to complete their internship. Developing adaptation and flexibility skills was required by the interns to meet their goals. One intern expressed his need to adapt by stating:

Today, I started with my training in Front Office. Here in Laucala Island Resort, the operator, concierge and Sales & Marketing are all divisions that come under Front Office. I started off as the operator today. I went through an orientation on basic telephone etiquette, and roles & responsibilities of an operator. I was given the responsibilities of answering calls, and filling in the daily log document (R1, Male, 2019).

The interns surmised that their internships and the interaction and situations they were engaged in were the most helpful in their learning experiences. The interns found themselves more confident and competent in their role over time during their internships:

On the 4th October 2019, whilst working at reception, I’ve become competent in using terminals to assign a pre-authorisation/sale completion/direct sale on a credit card. I’ve also become competent in OPERA

When I first joined in the department, there were some challenges I faced for the first three weeks as I was new to all work on-going activities. Through motivation and a positive attitude, I was able to be flexible in taking initiative on learning new responsibilities. I now understand the real working business world reality.

By this time of my training, I was already taking calls from guests and answering their queries. Today I answered an overseas call and was able to book a 6-night room revenue. I was also able to upsell private speedboat service, private boat transfers and was able to a sell half a board meal plan. It was a deal that totalled F$35,000. I also activated routings on the booking, and used add on features on the booking as it was a 2-bedroom booking. I also created shares (R2, Female, 2019).

The interns also identified overall employability competencies that they now see within themselves. At the beginning of the internship, the interns undertook a self-assessment exercise of their employability skills developed by the Hotel and Catering International Management Association (HCIMA) now the Institute of Hospitality in the United Kingdom. Upon completion of the internships, students felt that they had better time management skills, more self-confidence, had developed the ability to make good decision, and the ability to keep calm in stressful situations.

I do believe that I have the skills and willingness to adapt to work; a mind-set that is open and ready to accept – and therefore overcome uncertainty at any time. I do believe that without adapting to change, a leader’s effectiveness is both limited and limiting because inflexibility not only precludes one’s personal growth but also that of one’s follower.

At first when I started, I always delayed the daily operation because of the amount of time I spent in checking in, checking out and billing out the guests. However, through daily practising and with the help of the staff, I was able to improve on my time management (R3, Female, 2019).

Many tourism and hospitality programmes design courses and activities to increase their students’ exposure to other cultures. Personal development such as cultural knowledge, improving language skills, and improving communication skills was a benefit for the interns. The interns also learnt about the different customs and traditions of different cultures, and how to communicate and behave accordingly:

Today I served a Chinese family of five who did not know how to speak English. It was hard/challenging to take their order. They had to use their phone to translate what they wanted into English. Nevertheless, I managed to serve them until they left the restaurant (R4, Female, 2019).


The interns valued the communication skills they acquired during their internships. All the interns learned interpersonal skills such as communicating effectively with customers and supervisors, as well as written skills such as report and email writing. The interns observed the manager’s communication style that helped them understand the value of good communication skills. The interns made observations about their manager’s communication style that helped them understand how important it was for leaders to develop good interpersonal skills. As one intern stressed:

On 9th September 2019, the front office had a meeting with the general manager because she had received numerous guest complaints the previous month. We were being reminded of the importance of communication and customer service skills (R5, Female, 2019).

Most of the interns wrote affirmative reflections about the development of their communication skills. The reflections included such statements as: “After a month of my training period, I was able to communicate effectively with my colleagues and managers”; “I have witnessed that through positive communication with my manager/director, work result is always positive”; and “I was able to improve my writing skills”.

Working with Others

The interns also reflected on their experiences with working in teams and developing relationships with their superiors and colleagues. Most of the interns’ comments were coaching and training related. The interns described their colleagues as ‘being helpful’; ‘willing to explain and clarify’, and ‘willing to answer questions’. Some of the internship experiences were not always positive and highlighted strained relations between the colleagues and students. The students indicated that due to their lack of work experience, some colleagues caused problems such as rude and insulting behaviour, inappropriate treatment by superiors, and poor communication, which in many cases young interns found difficult to deal with:

On the 20th October 2019, during my internship at Front Office and Reception, a colleague, who had deliberately made me look bad and incompetent in front of a guest I was checking in, embarrassed me. While I was checking in the guest, and when I had to take a pre-auth of the outstanding accommodation, they gave two separate cards to settle each in, since this was new for me, I turned to the colleague to ask whether I should hold the outstanding accommodation as a pre-auth or as a direct sale. She started speaking loudly and in English, saying irrelevant things that were all just confusing. It was embarrassing, I slowly apologised to the couple and advised them that I was an intern and I wanted to clarify things before moving on with the check-in process (R6, Female, 2019).

On 3 October 2019, I had an argument with another staff member regarding her till being short and she had blamed me. I was very upset. Our manager agreed to help us and showed us a slideshow on the importance of teamwork (R6, Female, 2019).

Some of the interns discussed incidents such as the above that required correcting inappropriate behaviour with either their colleagues or customers. Solnet, Kralj, Kay, and DeVeau (2009) Lodging Internship Competency Model suggests there are factors that will impact competency development during the internship. Assessment and reflection by the interns on their interpersonal skills is one of these factors. However, such negative experiences were few compared to the positive experiences of training, mentoring and coaching.

The interns also discussed their team work and developing relationships with their colleagues. The importance of teamwork was covered thoroughly in all the courses within the Bachelor of Commerce in Hotel Management. Two interns reflected their ease in working in a team and learning from team based activities:

On 25 October, while on my shift, the Front Office department was very busy and we had a lot of check-ins. Since there were only two of us we ensured that we helped each other out. We were able to check-in guests quickly and although it was busy, we made it through teamwork (R7 Male, 2019).

I did establish a good working relationship with my superiors (managers, workmates and directors). At first when I joined, I tried to be confident and to excel in their expectations of me. At first I was nervous working with them because I had no idea about the job I had temporary filled. But with their help I was able to cope and establish self-confidence (R7 Female, 2019).

The interns also expressed some of the examples of situations where they encountered challenges with a particular colleague:

On 2nd June, I was rostered with a senior colleague for morning shift. Despite the fact that she was of a certain age where she could not see clearly or remember details. I had to compromise and help her by attending to certain requests that I was qualified to complete (R8 Female, 2019).

But, these types of situations do not appear to interfere with intern’s ability to build relationships within their team. Given that all the interns gained some development in their interpersonal skills when working in a team, it was clear that this competency was highly valued by the interns.

Problem Solving

The results indicated that there were opportunities for the interns to learn problem-solving skills. The interns expressed their problem solving skills development in the following ways:

Problem solving fluency is crucial to survive and thrive in the present future. I learned that I need to be prepared for the problems that I can’t even imagine yet; and

I have learned to directly identify a problem clearly before deciding a solution (R9 Female, 2019).

Two of the interns discussed the problem-solving skills they used when presented with customer service related situations. Both interns identified similar operational challenges and expressed their reactions and solutions:

On 5 October 2019, I received a guest complaint regarding her room being wet. She was very upset and tired. I managed to calm her down and quickly looked for a room to move her to. I upgraded her room and got her a room with a good view. She was happy (R10 Female, 2019).

On March 14th, 2019 I attended to a guest call. The lady had complained about the clean-up service that was not done according to the time span they had requested. Therefore, I had to apologise on behalf of the department that was in charge of the task and made sure they received room service right away by contacting our Housekeeping co-ordinator to avoid any further issues. The room was attended to at the earliest (R10 Female, 2019).

One intern also reflected on how some employees were ‘only thinking of themselves’, which was something she needed to experience in order to learn how to respond to such behaviour. The intern described a situation where she felt it was right to report the issue:

On 11th October 2019, I had witnessed an employee from Front Office take money from the till and to give to one of her family members. I confronted the employee about her actions and she said they would bring it back in an hour. I considered her actions unethical and against company polices, so I reported the incident to the supervisor (R11 Female, 2019).

The student interns inevitably encountered problems or issues during their placements. They were relatively inexperienced and wary of problems they encountered. All the interns sought advice from their colleagues and asked for clarification. Such advice included the STHM Student Industry Liaison Coordinator (SILC) and Course Coordinator. They sought to understand the problems they faced by communicating and talking to people involved:

On the 12th September, 2019, during my internship at the Service Centre – Operation, it was my second day of training, I found it difficult to cram the numbers by heart, or to press certain keys on the console, but I didn’t hesitate to keep asking for assistance whenever I was not sure of anything. This was all on the basis of trying to relay accurate information to guests/or other callers in general (R12 Male, 2019).

On 15th June, 2019 I had incorrectly posted a bill on Opera, and I had to explain to my supervisor so that she could rectify the mistake. I was then told by my supervisor to be more careful and pay attention to detail when it came to posting bills (R13 Male, 2019).

This shows that interns acknowledged they needed help from others with more experience and that they asked colleagues for clarification when they needed to address problems (Tse, 2010). An important part of the learning process and communication.

Application of Technology

Practical skills acquired by the interns were the fourth competency identified. Unlike most generic skills, these skills were specific to the hospitality industry such as customer service; reservation skills; revenue management; food and beverage knowledge; and sales and marketing.

While being at the Sales and Marketing department, the nature of the job was very fast going and it needed a person to be flexible. From the first day I joined, I had no idea of the responsibility that was needed. Through my positive attitude and eagerness to learn new things, I was able to perform the job, which was creating posters using brand standard, liaising with our designer and team member confidently, organising and overseeing advertising/communication campaigns (R14 Male, 2019).

On the 2nd of August, I learned how to process payments. Payments were processed through our online payment link where guests fill in the authorisation form which then allows us to process the credit card as this way it is much safer. Once this was completed the payment then was processed on the EFTPOS machine. Once the payment was approved it was then posted on Opera (R15 Female, 2019).

In this digital era, communication has transformed beyond face-to-face interaction. I usually communicated using technology to deal with clients and suppliers via e-mail and telephone and Facebook chat. This helped me communicate more effectively (R16 Female, 2019).

Kay and Moncarz (2004) also identified the use of information technology as essential skills for hospitality management and leaders. However, the findings indicated that the majority of interns lacked opportunities to develop technical skills outside of the Front Office Department; Finance Department; and Sales and Marketing. Often these technical skills were taught to them by fellow colleagues or superiors rather than through structured training. There was only one account of structured training that occurred during the internship:

On the 27th July I had an amazing opportunity to be able to attend a training workshop which was organised by Spencer who came from our head office to train the front office staff, especially the guest experience makers (R17 Female, 2019).

It is important to note that while there were some opportunities to use technical skills in most departments, the interns were able to develop multitasking skills based on their work experiences.

I am glad that I have the multitasking skills I was taught on my internship. For example, I spoke on the phone dealing with customers and at the same time sent e-mails to different suppliers (important documents) (R18 Female, 2019).

Supervisor Intern Evaluations

The supervisors who submitted evaluations of interns’ performance generally wrote positive and encouraging comments about their overall employability skills development and performance. All the supervisors indicated that they would welcome more interns from STHM. Their comments reflected appreciation for the interns’ contribution, observations of their strengths, as well as recommendations for future development and learning. The Front Office Manager from one of the internship locations stated:

The student performed very well in the front office department. Very good feedback from all managers and supervisors. Well done!

Another internship supervisor stated:

The student has shown that she has potential. Should she return I would suggest that she be more dedicated to attendance on her rostered days. More exposure with the Duty Managers will enable the student to gain more experience. She does not require improvement, however she is highly emotional, which is a good thing because she always tells us what she feels. The student was a great team player and a very good worker. Glad to have her in the team. All the best in the future (R18 Male, Supervisor, 2019).

The supervisors’ comments indicated that the interns were successful in achieving some level of skill development, particularly in areas that were consistent with desirable hospitality employment competencies such as the ability to work in a team, willingness to learn, and ability to communicate effectively. Two other supervisors provided a more balanced evaluation of the interns:

Compared to all the interns that I have trained, and have been through Front Office, she really picked up quickly but fear of making mistakes sometimes kept her back, and receiving complaints from guests or colleagues was what she feared at times. However, this comes with time and experience, but so far excellent work (R19 Female Supervisor, 2019).

She needs to concentrate more on time management and has to adopt the habit of seeking permission from supervisors when performing tasks beyond her limitations. Also to improve on her listening ability when given instructions (R20 Female Supervisor, 2019).

The main weaknesses that were indicated by the supervisors were interns lacked the confidence to handle guest complaints; issues with punctuality and time management; and they needed help with stress management. The supervisor evaluations provided some insight into the contributions made by the interns, areas of improvement, as well as potential employment opportunities for graduates.


It is a concern that student performance during internships is often compromised. Although the success of the internships is determined by the organisation, the academic institution, and the student, identifying what knowledge and skills the students have learned, gained, and achieved upon the completion of their workplace experiences is crucial in ensuring successful internships (Tse, 2010). The objectives of the study were:

(1) To examine the academic and internship performance of students in terms of employability skills, and

(2) To determine the significant relationship between the academic performance and the training performance of interns.

Objective One

The main findings of this research were in line with the literature that analysed how internships were beneficial for students (Aarons, 2019; Gault, Leach, & Duey, 2010; Seyitoğlu & Yirik, 2015). The internship enabled the students to develop generic and specific skills, while gaining work experience. Gault, Leach, and Duey (2010) posited that the most desirable employability skills when hiring new graduates were:

Communication skills (oral presentations, proposal writing and written communication), academic skills (analytical skills, computer applications, creative thinking, information search and problem solving), leadership skills (leadership/teamwork and relationship building) and job acquisition skills (résumé writing, job interviewing and job networking) (p. 47).

The interns reflected on numerous opportunities in the internship manuals to develop their employment skills related to improving their own performance, communication, working with others, problem solving, and numeracy. These findings were significant because competencies were aligned with the concept of ‘workplace readiness’ for the tourism and hospitality industry. (Meuter, Bitner, Ostrom, & Brown, 2005).

All the interns reflected on their positive experiences and the challenges they faced during their internships. Consistent with the findings of previous studies (Gault, Leach, & Duey, 2010; Seyitoğlu & Yirik, 2015), communication, using ICTs, problem solving, teamwork, time management, leadership, having good judgement, taking the initiative, being adaptable, and assuming responsibility were some employability skills that have been extensively practised by the interns during their placement. The interns also faced many challenges which included their struggle with learning new knowledge, the changes required by them to adapt to new roles, taking on duties during the internship, negative attitudes from other work colleagues who did not have tertiary qualifications and poorly trained supervisors who had a negative impact on the internship experience (Seyitoğlu, 2019). The majority of internship supervisors stated that interns were an asset to their organisation, and ranked them medium to high on achieving employability skills, whilst acknowledging more learning and work exposure would increase their prospects of employment.

Objective Two

The qualitative data showed that student interns did not see their classroom learning as complementing their internships, but rather reinforced the additional learning of new skills and competencies. Studies have examined the performance of tourism and hospitality students, through internships. Blair and Millea (2004) evaluated the impact of internships on student grade point averages and found that work experience had a significant impact on the outcome. Petrillose and Montgomery’s (1998) exploratory study analysed the connections between curricula and internship practices and found many positive outcomes. International internships may prepare students better for their chosen career. Unfortunately, the cost of international internships has meant that STHM has only had two, one to China and the other to Singapore.

The findings also provided evidence that employability skills and competency developments prepared graduates to work in tourism and hospitality and other service industries. Workplace practicals have taken greater prominence in curricula (Blair & Millea, 2004). Baker, Caldicott, and Spowart’s (2011) case study of an Australian university found their students to be better equipped for the workplace and enhanced learning opportunities due to their curriculum design integrating workplace practices. Solnet, Kralj, Kay, and DeVeau (2009) examined the development of competencies of lodging students. Robinson, Ruhanen, and Breakey (2016) analysed the reflective journals of food and beverage students in Australia. Lau, Jones, Ng, and Shum (2012) studied the learning experiences of events management students. All these researchers have examined how practical learning has impacted student development in different vocations and shared the same conclusions.

The research findings also indicated that internships were benefical to the students’ knowledge, skill development, self-confidence, and motivation. Yiu & Law’s (2012) study had similar findings namely, that experiential learning encouraged deep learning for students. Moreover, Lee (2008) compared hospitality students’ perceptions of learning through assignments and internships. The findings revealed that the students developed a number of different skills which not only impacted their career expectations, but also their ability to adapt to change due to experiential learning in the workplace. Interestingly, course coordinators observed that on return for their last year of study, interns raised the level of discussion in tutorials by sharing their internship experiences with those students who undertook double majors and did not do the one year internship programme.


The main findings of this study were that an internship in the hospitality industry developed generic and specific tourism and hospitality management skills required in the workplace and also enhanced the students’ motivation, self-confidence and urge to persevere and learn more whether their experiences were negative or positive. The study illustrated and confirmed the benefits of internships in terms of nurturing students’ abilities. Furthermore, as discussed in Table 1, the five competencies of Employability Skills bridged the gap with formal learning at The University of the South Pacific and their one-year experience and prepared these students for employment in tourism hospitality and other service industries such as banking, retail, insurance and education.


Aarons, J. (2019). Evaluation of hospitality curricula, industry skillset expectations and student preparedness. Nova Southeastern University.

Baker, L., Caldicott, J., & Spowart, J. (2011). Cooperative and work-integrated education in hospitality and tourism. In R. Coll, & K. Zegwaard (Eds.), International handbook for cooperative and work-integrated education: international perspectives of theory, research and practice (pp. 219-228). Lowell, MA: World Association for Cooperative Education.

Blair, B., & Millea, M. (2004). Student academic performance and compensation: the impact of cooperative education. College Student Journal, 38(4), 643-653.

Busby, G. (2003). Tourism degree internship: A longitudinal study. Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 55(3), 319–334.

Cho, M. (2006). Student perspectives on the quality of hotel management internships. Journal of Teaching in Travel & Tourism, 61-76.

Collins, A. (2002). Gateway to the real world, industrial training: Dilemmas and problems. Tourism Management, 23, 93-96. doi:10.1016/S0261-5177(01)00058-9

Davidson, M., Guilding, C., & Timo, N. (2006). Employment, flexibility and labour market practices of domestic and MNC chain luxury hotels in Australia: Where has accountability gone? International Journal of Hospitality Management, 25(2), 193–210.

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Gailliard, F. (2010). The hospitality industry. The Black Collegian, 28(2), 95.

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Lee, C. (2008). Increasing student learning: a comparison of students’ perceptions of learning in the classroom environment and their industry-based experiential learning assignments. Journal of Teaching in Travel & Tourism, 7(4), 37-54.

Meuter, M., Bitner, M., Ostrom, A., & Brown, S. (2005). Choosing among alternative service delivery modes: an investigation of customer trial of self-service technologies. Journal of Marketing, 69(2), 61-83.

Petrillose, M., & Montgomery, R. (1998). An exploratory study of internship practices in hospitality education and industry’s perception of the importance of internships in hospitality curriculum. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Education, 9(4), 46-51.

Robinson, R., Ruhanen, L., & Breakey, N. (2016). Tourism and hospitality internships: influences on student career aspiration. Current Issues in Tourism,, 513-527.

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Chapter 20: Stakeholders Voices - The Integration Gap: An evaluation of work-integrated learning in professional practice


Kevin Burns

Kevin Burns, Dundalk Institute of Technology


Increasingly, programs in universities are being positioned as exemplars of ‘higher vocational education’, with expectations that graduates will enjoy smooth transitions into professional practice. Aligned with these expectations, is the need to provide authentic work-integrated learning (WIL) practice, and with these being effectively integrated into the higher education curriculum. While WIL attempts to address this issue, it is questionable how successful this really is if students are not adequately prepared prior to their placement. This chapter highlights the issues involved and explores them through a qualitative evaluation from the perspectives of key WIL stakeholders within a higher education hospitality department in Ireland. Findings revealed that both university and employers need to enhance curricula and pedagogic practices to ensure authentic experiences, integrative learning and alignment.


The fundamental purpose of quality higher education is to enhance the skills of students and ultimately to prepare them for employment after university (Harvey & Green, 1993). Today’s tertiary institutions, including universities, are in transition where greater emphasis is placed on systems with close industry partnerships. Increasingly both industry and government are seeing the purpose of universities as ensuring that graduates are “job-ready” when they graduate. Higher education institutions, in turn, must respond to demands for practical, real world education that is relevant, current, and translates theory to practice. To address this outcome, higher education institutions are embedding work-integrated learning (WIL), or practical placements into the curriculum to provide students with an authentic learning experience. WIL is acknowledged as developing generic or professional skills and improving the employability and work readiness of students (Patrick, Peach, Pocknee, Webb, Fletcher & Pretto, 2008), with the professional nature of Hospitality studies ideally suited to such practices (Smith, Clegg, Lawrence and Todd, 2007). While accepted as an important feature of many programmes, surprisingly little research has examined their effectiveness.

This chapter reports on a study that sought to evaluate how WIL ready students are for placement, identify the gaps that exist between current provision and stakeholders’ expectations, and ascertain and integrate key indicators for good practice to strengthen and improve work integrated learners’ employability. Its objectives are to identify gaps that exist between pedagogical provision and stakeholders’ expectations in preparing students for their placement. The study concentrates on the WIL programme at a hotel management school in Ireland, based in a progressive higher education institution. This Institute and Hotel School have offered work-integrated learning (WIL) programmes over the last 15 years. The chapter begins with an initial discussion on the concept of WIL, followed by a review of the components of WIL (cooperative education, design and evaluation). It outlines the triangulated research design and presents the findings. A review of these findings informs a discussion based on an integrated approach to evaluation and continuous improvement. The conclusion draws together the key findings and identifies future areas of research on this topic.

Literature Review

The inclusion of WIL into the undergraduate course curriculum is based on the premise that practical placements provide an opportunity for students to integrate theoretical knowledge with the informal knowledge gained through immersion in a professional context (Bates, 2008). Essential to successful WIL experiences is reciprocity or mutual benefits for the student, institution and the workplace host organisation (Fleming, McLachlan, & Pretti, 2018). Learning through experience takes many forms ranging from cooperative education and work-integrated learning with their focus on praxis (Habermas, 1973), to work readiness programmes (Watts, 2006), practicums, internships and practice clinics (McAlpine & Weston, 2000; McNamara & Field, 2007; Billett, 2009). These approaches were succinctly captured in the definition of work-integrated learning (WIL) offered through an Australian Learning and Teaching Council as:

An umbrella term for a range of approaches and strategies that integrate theory with the practice of work within a purposefully designed curriculum (Patrick et al., 2009, p. iv).

Learning through experience within a purposefully designed curriculum has a long history in higher education, with sandwich programs said to be offered in the United Kingdom as early as 1840 and cooperative education programs first offered in the United States in 1906 (Haddara & Skanes, 2007). Its popularity has grown in recent years as higher education institutes claim their graduates are ‘work-ready’ and employers expect universities to produce graduates who are fully employable (McIlveen et al., 2008).

A key aspect of WIL/cooperative education following on from Boud & Falchikov (2006) is the notion that it entails the integration of knowledge and skills gained in both the tertiary setting and in the workplace. It is the integration aspect of WIL that distinguishes it from workplace learning (Boud, 2000). Integration involves the student taking what he or she has learned in the workplace, and relating it to, or incorporating it into, the next phase of academic learning upon returning to the university. Conversely, theories learned in the classroom are integrated into practice during the student’s workplace experience (Van Gyn, Cutt, Loken & Ricks, 1997). Importantly, it involves far more than work. Instead, it is an educational process (Yorke & Knight, 2006) that is aligned with other learning outcomes (Kolb, 1984).

As a result, learning outcomes of the placement need to have academic merit to be of value to all stakeholders. This more comprehensive and inclusive approach to work-integrated learning reflects what Orrell (2004) describes as a ‘transformative stakeholder ethos’. Unlike the ‘value added ethos’ which emphasizes short-term returns for the organisation and instrumental training for the student, the ‘transformative stakeholder ethos’ emphasises learning and adopting a long-term view which seeks benefits for all parties (Orrell 2004). Potentially, this ethos exemplifies learning organisations and leads to authentic, on-going, transformative partnerships integrating work, curriculum and research (Orrell 2004). This observation highlights the importance of clarity of intentions and expectations of outcomes as an essential basis for curriculum design, assessment processes and evaluating regimes. Murphy and Calway (2008) suggest the purposes of WIL are to engender work readiness, dispose students to lifelong learning, promote of human and social potential, internationalise thinking, transfer knowledge and enable career development.

Despite the recognised benefits of work‐integrated learning programs, debate seems to emerge regarding the assessment of learning outcomes. Ideally, assessment tasks should engage students with their professional practice, and furthermore add to building graduate attributes required within the professional context (Boud & Falchikov, 2006). A frequently mentioned method of work-integrated learning assessment is engagement in reflective practice (Boud & Falchikov, 2006). The work of Schon (1987) has gained prominence in nursing education, for example, where reflective practice is a core element of all courses. Schon argues unless students reflect on their progress, they will not learn to correct their mistakes and feedback will become merely a systematic activity. Others suggest using a triangulated approach (Hay & O’Donoghue 2009), whereby students, placement co-ordinators, and organizational supervisors also reflect on the competencies gained. This cooperative approach requires a degree of planning and structure so that the curriculum is aligned correctly which, is an important role in creating the conditions for the student to learn (Biggs & Tang, 2007). Poorly aligned curricula have the consequences which may lead to weakly integrated (or not integrated) disciplinary and practical learning, unorganised experiences for students, and ill-prepared academic and workplace supervisors.


The study reported in this chapter employed an informative qualitative framework involving an evaluation methodology. As Plewis and Mason (2005 as cited in Cohen & Manion, 2011) suggest, evaluation research is, at heart, applied research that uses the tools of research in the social sciences to provide answers to the effectiveness and effects of programmes. Focus groups and semi-structured interviews were to answer the key objectives of:

  • Evaluating how WIL ready students are for placement;
  • Identifying the gaps that exist between current provision and stakeholders’ expectations, and;
  • Ascertaining and integrating key indicators for good practice to strengthen and improve work integrated learners’ employability.

The author lectures in a hospitality department and was the academic coordinator for the WIL programme. His work involved, securing and facilitating work placements, providing support in the delivery of pre-placement workshops, building and maintaining relationships with the various stakeholders and offering career advice. The WIL placement consists of a six-month mandatory WIL period in Year Two of the programme, where students work with one organisation. All students have access to a series of pre-placement seminars and activities to develop their work-readiness skills. The topics covered here include curriculum vitae and cover letter preparation, understanding employers’ expectations regarding employability skills, developing interview skills with a mock interview for each student and a session on ethics, attire and code of conduct.

Focus groups and semi structured interviews were used with participants selected by purposive sampling. A total sample of 34 people participated. Current students were contacted through general class-wide email requesting participation. Graduates received individual emails outlining the research objectives. Staff and industry representatives also volunteered. All participants were informed of the overall purpose of the study, the focus group/interview’ design, outlining the content and structure, that participation was voluntary and that they had the possibility of withdrawing at any point in time. Prior to the proposed research being carried out ethical approval was sought from the University Ethics Committee, including the principles of informed consent, privacy and confidentiality.

The sample description is as follows:

  • 10 undergraduate students (UG) who discussed their experiences in terms of their teaching and learning experiences at both the university and in their work placements.
  • 12 recent graduates (RG) who graduated from one to three years previously and who discussed aspects regarding their teaching and learning experiences at the university and how it prepared them for employment;
  • Six (6) school practitioners (SP), comprising of academic, management and placement office staff who provided insights from their experiences of being directly and indirectly involved with student WIL placements.
  • Six (6) employers (E) to ascertain their views on WIL placements experience.

All focus groups and interviews were audio taped with the consent of all interviewees and focus group participants. The interviews were transcribed from the tape recordings and the responses were the object of an actual analysis with the purpose of acquiring general patterns in the responses. The data proved to be rich. Thematic analysis was used to summarise and clarify themes from the data. The researcher and moderators reviewed the transcripts and independently coded the data. Summary tables were established and cross referenced. Codings were then discussed, with differentiating concepts recorded and agreed upon. Finally, coding was cross referenced for validity and reliability. Subsequently, the material in each theme was concentrated. The analysis generated many and detailed findings on stakeholders’ experiences and understandings of WIL (Jones et al., 2009). For the purpose of this research emphasis is placed on those findings that held special relevance to matters of readiness for WIL. The results section reports the findings, and discusses main themes developed from the thematic analysis.


Three major themes emerged from the combined focus group discussions, semi-structured interviews, reflections and researcher notes. The findings were themed and categorised under the headings value, practice and critique. These findings are further enhanced through the use of key stakeholder quotes.

The value findings (Table 1) are similar to those found in a national scoping report in Australia (Patrick et al., 2009). Students were enthusiastic to assist a real business and better understand how it operates. The value from the educator perspective concurs with the work of Boud (2001), Cates & Jones (1999) and Patrick et al. (2009) where WIL opens up opportunities for employer involvement in curriculum development and a way of attracting new funds and enhancement of the reputation. Student realisation that their WIL placement was so beneficial, as illustrated by the following quotes:

I wasn’t expecting to be given so much responsibility and there was a lot of pressure involved. I never thought I would be so valued on work placement, they treated me like a member of the team, and it was great. (UG)

Being able to complete a project of international significance gave me a real sense of achievement, to see it televised was the icing on the cake…. (UG)

Moving to the United States for 8 months was a massive experience for me initially: working with a global corporation with so many different nationalities, working at events with 1000 attendees was an amazing experience, the WIL placement focused me. I am now working for another international corporation in the Event sales department. (RG)

From the employer/ educators’ perspective the benefits were:

I see it as growing future employees. In previous years, we have been able to employ students who have been on placement and it is a good way to get to know them…. (E)

I feel WIL is valued by the School, and all levels in the University. This application of theory to practice, students achieve a deeper learning as a result of collaborative involvement between the employer, the students and engaging in a real project… (SP)

Getting students experience in the workplace is often very motivating – especially for students who aren’t necessarily the highest achievers. That’s why we have seen more courses taking up WIL … as a mechanism to retain and let students see they are going somewhere… (SP)

Table 1. Summary of the value of WIL for the various stakeholders – students, employers and universities

  • Key themes identified: Real world learning, confidence building, career development and integration.
  • Academic benefits include improved: learning, problem solving, motivation to learn, retention, ability to earn money
  • Personal benefits include increased: autonomy (moving away from home), self-worth, sense of purpose, self-confidence, initiative, teamwork, cooperation, relationship building
  • Career benefits include aid with: identification and clarification of career options, career decision making and planning, employment opportunities
  • Skill development benefits include increased: competence, technical knowledge and skills
  • Cost effectiveness in hiring: hire motivated/ enthusiastic new employees, screen students for permanent employment, bring new knowledge into organisation, helps company meet affirmative action goals, co-op students hired usually remain with the company longer and progress faster than regular hires
  • Partnership: research and interactions with college/ university
  • The off-campus WIL experiences were considered the best place to improve behavioural skills that are also considered transferable skills
  • WIL programmes were viewed as useful marketing and recruitment tools and to enhance University reputation.
  • Some faculty saw wider ‘value’ in that work placement experiences can contribute “Links with local industry also brings feedback and perspective to what we are doing in our undergrad teaching.”
  • Producing more employable and work-ready graduates – Government agenda
  • Student recruitment and enrolment: improved academic performance, employer involvement in curriculum development and content, driving force in attracting new funds.

The findings of this study with reference to practice (Table 2) are consistent with those reported by Boud & Costley (2007) where WIL programmes generally require a different set of practices for learning facilitation and learner support than are appropriate to taught programmes or conventional degrees. The role of the academic coordinator often moves, on the one hand, from being a teacher to being both a facilitator and an expert resource to, on the other hand, from supervisor to advisor or academic consultant. Most students expressed positive opinions about the value of their work placement. They acknowledged that work placement entailed a steep learning curve, according to many. Of course, work placement was not a happy experience for everyone. Expressed difficulties related to mundane work tasks, absent supervisors, troubles with other staff and balancing placement commitments with other life demands. Some began to discount the value of university learning and were critical of how little it had prepared them for the realities of the workplace. The findings presented here are consistent with those identified by Coll & Zegwaard (2006) in that business employers rank ability and willingness to learn as the top desired competency for students.

Stakeholders’ evaluation of current practice as illustrated by the following quotes:

I don’t think there should be any course without placement, its fundamental and I believe it the University’s responsibility to ensure WIL is on every programme. More industry specific knowledge prior to placement would enhance the student experience… (E)

I feel my placement wasn’t really related to my course, when chatting with friends from my class I felt I was missing out on the experience of practising things more relevant to my course. The work was repetitive and at times boring… (UG)

The language to use when talking when in the workplace was a skill I felt in needed… (UG)

From memory, assessment was somewhat hazy, no specific goals or benchmarks; I feel the preparation by the university for placement needs to forge greater connection between the students’ professional competence and their abilities to be reflective practitioners… (RG)

From a WIL coordinator in a large Hotel Corporation, I deal with over 100 placement students. We want students to immerse themselves, embrace the entire experience. They need to show initiative and be proactive, and if they don’t understand, ask for help … I also believe students need help … Possibly from the school on their overall professional attitude … They need to learn how to ‘talk’ to different people … put themselves in the customer’s shoes, they need to leave the student persona at the door and see themselves as a member of staff, conduct and appearance etc… We host a full induction and we identify clear expectation on their behaviour before they undertake any work … (E)

It’s the ‘Ah-Ha’ moments in work that makes you connect theory with practice … I reflect back now and regret not engaging in my work placement more. (RG)

Table 2. Summary of the practice of WIL for the various stakeholders – students, employers and universities

  • Pre-placement module relevance
  • Intimidating work environments
  • Confidence
  • Application of academic knowledge to the workplace.
  • Pre-placement – challenging and daunting
  • More concentration on skills development
  • Self-confidence in communicating with clients.
  • Stressful experience – abandonment
  • Learning from supervisors and work employees
  • Separating the on-campus and on-placement learning
  • WIL experiences “make a lot more sense”
  • ‘Ah-Ha’ moments
  • Lectures’ interest
  • Confused, puzzled and frustrated with level of contact with University and assessment strategies
  • Motivation
  • Not familiar with what pedagogies are used on campus.
  • Academic supervisor aided in getting a qualitative ‘feel’ of how placement was going for all stakeholders.
  • Learn how to talk
  • Industry knowledge weak.
  • Exposure to a wide range of tasks and activities
  • Facilitated learning.
  • Behavioural skills; such as self-confidence and communications skills, multi-tasking, prioritising and time management, along with an understanding of workplace culture.
  • Integrative learning– assessment, constructive alignment and cognitive authenticity
  • Hidden Curriculum
  • Duration
  • Reflection not embedded in the curricula.
  • University education at risk of being undervalued.
  • Lack or recognition of the Value of WIL with regards allocated resources.
  • WIL a window dressing activity – Government agenda.

The findings presented in Table 2 and the selected quotes from stakeholders presents an argument that student’s need a certain level of behavioural skills prior to starting their WIL placement. Moreover, it cannot be assumed that the development of such skills can be left entirely for the WIL component of the degree. The majority of participants who attended the focus group came from ‘Gen Y’. The key behavioural attributes that characterises Generation Y include their cynicism towards older generations among others. They also display different approaches to learning with a desire for immediacy (Nimon, 2007) and a strong preference for flexibility of learning options. This research reflects the lack of self-confidence in communicating with customers among this age group.

All stakeholders referred to the strategies and challenges of integrative /corporative learning in practice. The importance of authenticity is highlighted in the literature by Patrick et al. (2008) where the quality of work placements depends on students having ‘real-world’ work experiences. It is this authentic experience that needs to be aligned and integrated based on Biggs’ (1996) notion of the constructive alignment of learning objectives with teaching and learning activities (TLAs) and assessments. This alignment reflects the literature notably, Boud, Falchikov and Bates (2008) who state combination, assimilation or connection of theory and practice are the core intellectual activities for students on WIL placements. The issue of support is identified by all stakeholders involved in WIL practice. There is a clear need to measure and evaluate the integration of support services in WIL curricula, both at the university and within the workplace, which may help to alleviate the stress and/or improve the learning process as highlighted by Keogh et al. (2007).

Such findings point towards the need for better preparation of students for WIL, hence, the final theme ‘critique’ (Table 3) targeted what stakeholders expressed would better prepare students to be ‘WIL ready’ and graduates in turn to be ‘work ready’. The critique is greatly enriched with the views and reflections of the recent graduates. All focus groups prioritised five key actions for improvement to the process of preparing student for WIL placement.

Table 3. Summary of the critique of WIL for the various stakeholders – students, employers and universities

  • Embed critical reflection into the programme.
  • Managing expectations – employer expectations.
  • Attitude/motivation, encourage student to gain relevant industry experience in year 1
  • More focus on personal development planning (PDP) in year one.
  • More focus on industry relevant modules – prior to placement
  • More defined learning contracts and realistic expectations.
  • Duration and timing – year long is ideal from industry perspective.
  • Greater emphasises on negotiated learning – one size does not fit all.
  • Reflective practice and general professionalism – looking at the bigger picture.
  • In-house training for WIL supervisor
  • Inviting staff and graduates from industry to talk about their experiences – PDP
  • Assessment and reporting – electronic portfolio and oral presentations
  • Embedding critical reflection and WIL into the curricula an integrated approach.
  • Pedagogical requirements – greater resourcing and recognition needed.
  • Make WIL more competitive – only the good go on International WIL placements.

The findings from the critique theme varied with each stakeholder. However, the findings also raise questions about the quality of the educational design of work placement. The pertinent opinions arising from the critique concentrated on educational design and implementation of WIL in the curricula. A brief summary of the recommendations are as follows:

  • Engagement is a crucial part of co-operative education and universities must actively engage employers as integral and equal partners. Universities must engage with employer in the design and particularly in aligning curriculum that has practical, experiential and ‘real world’ relevance for students.
  • University education is only the first step in career development. Learning is a lifelong process and WIL is only the beginning for many undergraduates.
  • Ensuring alignment of learning objectives, workplace activities and assessment should produce effective, relevant, meaningful and intended learning outcomes for all stakeholders, especially students.
  • Interpretation of and reflection on the experience of WIL and application of knowledge in context should be at the heart of the learning experience.
  • Effectively managing aspects of the curriculum that indirectly supports student learning.
  • Implement a Professional Development Program (the ‘PDP’) into the degree programme, designed to systematically develop students’ learning, employment and generic skills and which supplements their theoretical studies.

Conclusion and Implications

Drawing together the key aspects of this research, WIL education is a most effective tool when it comes to co-operative education. Obviously, this activity goes beyond completing a placement or earning some credits through a company project. Students expected to feel that they belonged and believed they could make a contribution to the way the team functioned. This chapter illuminated that traditional universities and higher education authorities have embraced WIL as an effective educational tool. Yet, the truth reveals that its success depends on the practice of integration. It is hoped that the findings from this study will be transferrable across a range of WIL programme in the University context, and may assist students, academic and employers in developing and enhancing the current WIL programme.

The triangulation of the research data findings across all key stakeholders emphasises the gap in practice of integration that exists, which refers not only to the support the student receives regarding the work-experience itself but even more so in how a student is taught the process of reflection, applying analytical skills to real life situations and subsequently being stimulated to enrich the classroom environment with their real life experience. The research reveals how assorted contexts met by various students, academics and employers give them different conditions for learning and opportunities for integration. Support and resourcing by academic institution is critical to WIL success. It identifies the need for structured, permanent dialogue between employers and educators. It is only through this type of successful engagement will result in our ability to redefine cooperative education as a lifelong, on-going process, where students never really leave the university. Fundamentally, the sharing and assessing of knowledge on WIL programmes is mutually beneficial to all key stakeholders. Academic credibility for university is imperative: therefore, universities and higher education providers should be as conscious of its credibility with regards employers. This holds very true in the international hospitality sector whereby employer credibility is of equal importance.

The comprehensive triangulated collection of data for this study considered different stakeholders. The findings capture the experience of all stakeholders involved in work placement. Programme teams need to map activities and assessments that currently take place throughout the degree prior to placement to ensure students are WIL-ready and graduates in turn are work ready. At the department level, more focus is required to enrich career/personal development planning (PDP). Here providers need to think globally and encourage international opportunities for students to reflect and experience global work opportunities in the real world. Greater fostering of lifelong learning and connection with graduates to return in various roles is also important. Graduation is only the moment when ‘work-integrated learning’ shifts its emphasis and becomes ‘learning-integrated work’.

The success of WIL, PDP and lifelong learning are all influenced by the hidden curriculum defined by Margolis et al. (2001, p. 6) “as the elements of socialisation that takes place in a school, but are not part of the formal curriculum content.” The hidden curriculum is very evident in hospitality departments/schools and faculties, where norms, values and beliefs systems are embedded into the curriculum, classrooms, imparted to students on a daily basis and social engagement of students with employers and academic stakeholders. Further areas for future research from the data: the exploration of relationships between aspects of the hidden curriculum ‘process’ and the resulting ‘products’ (i.e., the student learning outcomes and satisfaction): another area worth investigating: stakeholder views on employer credibility versus academic credibility. Figure 1 summarises all key terms identified in the research paper.

In summation, work-integrated learning will enhance Universities and graduates, and in turn the business community. The success of this integration will, to a large extent, be determined by the capacity of both stakeholders to co-create a dynamic and flexible strategy for engagement.

Figure 1 Conclusion summarised


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Chapter 21: Hospitality Practitioner Satisfaction Factors to Interns and an Internship Program in Taiwan


Yi-Fan Tung

Yi-Fan Tung, Department of Leisure Industry and Health Promotion, National Ilan University


This chapter aims to discover hospitality practitioner satisfaction factors affecting interns and internship programs in Taiwan. A qualitative approach is adopted using in-depth semi structured interviews. The study revealed three main hospitality practitioner satisfaction factors for interns that included work ethic, team work, and initiative. In addition, the three main hospitality practitioner satisfaction factors for internship programs emerged that included cooperation, duration and mentoring. The findings of this study will benefit interns, university internship programs and hotel practitioners.

Keywords: Hospitality practitioner, Satisfaction, Interns, Internship program


Taiwan offers two types of universities, traditional general universities and more specialised universities of science and technology. According to Huang et al (2008: 3) the general university model follows the “orthodox-education system” combines academic research, undergraduate teaching, extension course and social service. The science and technology university system has a stronger focus on technical education and research in order to continue to ensure the continued sufficiency of manpower to meet the economy’s demands. Both types of universities offer tourism and hospitality programs and both recognize the importance of practical training for students. As a result, almost every university develops internship programs and requires students to finish them before graduation. Generally speaking, the duration of internships in most general universities is either two to three months of full time employment taken over the summer, or 320 hours of part-time employment taken over the course of a year. Internships in universities of science and technology are typically longer, lasting from six months to one year as a full-time employee.

Internship programs involve three parties: students, schools and industry partners. Successful internship programs benefit all three. However, these three parties may view the benefits differently, and have different expectations and perceptions (Beggs, Ross, & Goodwin, 2008; Beggs, Ross, & Knapp, 2006; Yiu & Law, 2012; Waryszak, 1999). The differences between expectations and perceptions could lead to a satisfying or dissatisfying experience (Lam & Ching, 2007). In order to fulfil the benefits of all, students, schools and industry partners’ expectations, perceptions and satisfactions toward internship need to be understood and taken consideration.

Some studies have explored and examined internship from students’ perspectives. Jenkins (2001) stated that students often perceive internship programs as poorly organized and unstructured, and complain about the quality of their experiences. Beggs et al. (2008) revealed that students and industry practitioners had significantly different perceptions regarding intern skills, the role of the intern, responsibilities that interns should be given, and factors to consider in selecting an internship. Luo and Lam (2019) discovered that work experience, monetary benefit, human resource policies, language and time are important factors determining the satisfaction or otherwise of students towards coop programs.

Little research, though, has focused on industry partners’ perspectives toward interns and internship program. Fong, Lee, Luk, & Law (2014) suggest the need exists to investigate industry practitioners’ perspectives on internship, in order to detect problems to improve the design and execution of internship programs. This study fills that gap by discovering hospitality practitioner satisfaction factors for interns and internship programs in Taiwan. Moreover, it seeks to focus on drawing out factors and suggesting practical actions arising from them.


This research adopted a qualitative approach using in-depth, semi structured interviews (Bryman, 2016). Hospitality practitioners’ expectations, perceptions and satisfaction were summarized and quotes were used to illustrate key themes. The most important consideration in qualitative sampling is the ability to describe the salient characteristics of respondents and not to focus on trying to gather a ‘representative’ sample or scale (Holloway & Galvin, 2016; Ritchie, Lewis, Nicholls & Ormston, 2014). Therefore, purposive sampling selection was adopted to identify managerial-level hospitality practitioners who were involved with industry internships in a wide range of sectors. The interview questions were based on the following research objectives:

(1) What are your expectations for interns and internship programs?

(2) What are your perceptions for interns and internship programs?

(3) What are your satisfying/dissatisfying aspects of interns and internship programs?

(4) Any suggestions for interns and internship programs?

One-on-one face-to-face interviews were conducted with hospitality practitioners either at their hotels or on the National Ilan University campus during September and October 2020. Each interview lasted approximately 20 to 30 minutes. The researcher asked questions to clarify during, before or after the interviews to capture every aspect, verbal or nonverbal, of the interviewees; constant comparison method was systematically records, codes and analyse data (Glaser & Strauss, 2017). Data saturation was reached after 20 interviews. The interviews were recorded and transcribed for content analysis.

Findings and discussions

The results of the interviews with hospitality practitioners are now presented, drawing on three key factors and using illustrative quotes to amplify hospitality practitioner’s points of view.

Characteristics of Interviewees

The 20 interviewees were hospitality practitioners in a wide range of sectors from five upscale hotels. They included one resident manager and two assistant general managers in the executive operating committee, two managers and three assistant managesr from human resource departments, two managers, one assistant manager and one captain in food and beverage departments, one executive housekeeper, two assistant executive housekeepers and one captain in the housekeeping department, and two managers and two assistant managers in the leisure and recreation department. Table 1 presents the position and number of the respondents.

Table 1 Positions of the Interviewees

Position Hotel A Hotel B Hotel C Hotel D Hotel E Total
Executive operation committee (EOC)

Resident manager (RM)



Assistant general manager (AGM)




Human resource (HR)

Manager (M)




Assistant manager (AM)





Food & beverage (F&B)

Manager (M)




Assistant manager (AM)



Captain (C)



Housekeeping (HK)

Executive housekeeper (EH)



Assist. executive housekeeper(AEH)




Captain (C)



Leisure & recreation (L&R)

Manager (M)




Assistant manager (AM)











Hospitality Practitioner Satisfaction Factors to Intern

Participants were asked to identify the key qualities desired in interns. Three main factors emerged including work ethic, team work, and initiative. Table 2 lists these main factors and their corresponding subthemes. Taking the job seriously was identified most frequently by respondents. Practitioners appreciated interns who adjusted their mentality to work mode and were willing to assume work responsibility from the day-one of internship. Front-line managers such as a restaurant assistant manager and captain especially cared about punctuality and attendance and valued those who always worked on time and got ready before the shift. By contrast, interns who thought of the internship as nothing more than a requirement for graduation, caused dissatisfaction for everyone.

The second most frequently mentioned factor was teamwork. Hospitality work requires collaboration among a group of people who need to work as a team. Further, the job position is hierarchical with reporting lines showing order and responsibility. Interviewee 18 made the astute observation that interns were “expected to learn how to follow, in order to learn how to lead.” Practitioners especially appreciated interns who took their advice, as it made them feel rewarded and increased their satisfaction of advising interns (Interviewee 20). In the hospitality industry, staff work closely with each other and require a high degree of collaboration. As a result, Interviewee 5 stated interns were expected to have good communication skills with peers and supervisors in order to get the job done well. Good communications’ ability influenced job performance which in turn influenced the hospitality practitioner’s satisfaction with the intern.

Initiative was the third most frequently mentioned satisfaction factor. Hospitality practitioners looked for interns to learn skills and knowledge eagerly around their work because it would help them do a better job. Interviewee 6 said “I like interns who show interest in the details of job and a desire to learn from me.” Interns were expected to take action autonomously to facilitate their peers and managers without asking for help. Interviewee 19 said “I appreciated the intern who was willing to assist peers voluntarily.”

Table 2 Results of content analysis on satisfaction factors to intern

Theme Subthemes EOC HR F&B HK L&R
Work ethic Mentality, readiness to work 1 2 1 1
Work responsibility 1 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1
Attendance 1 3 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Teamwork Follow the leader 1 1 1 1 1
Listen to advice 1 2 1 1 1
Good communication 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Initiative Eager to learn 1 2 1 1 1
Take action autonomously 2 1 1 1 1 1 1

Hospitality Practitioner Satisfaction Factors to Internship program

Participants were then asked to identify key success factors for internship programs as a whole. Again, three main factors emerged, including cooperation, duration and mentoring. Table 3 lists these factors and their corresponding subthemes. Cooperation was the most frequently mentioned satisfaction factor. All interviewees from human resource departments and senior managers mentioned that establishing school partnerships needed a lot of effort. Therefore, they sought long-term school partnerships rather than short-term ones. Instead of establishing new relationship with internship programs, they preferred to work with programs where they had past experience of cooperation. In addition, building a dialogue channel or platform between the school and the industry partner led to higher satisfaction for hospitality practitioners. Interviewee 19 stated that “I like to have periodical meetings with school internship program leader or supervisor to report and discuss the situation of interns. It would help us to solve some issues and improve learning and performance of interns”.

Duration of internships was the second most frequently mentioned factor. Many interviewees mentioned that they liked longer duration internships of up to one-year more so than summer internship programs. Interviewee 12 stated that “if we had choices, we would choose one-year or longer internship program only. The summer internship program is simply too short. Students cannot learn much in a couple of months and would not help us much.” Hospitality practitioners would pay more attention on the one-year interns than the summer interns. Increasing the duration may also improve their attitude toward internship programs.

The third most frequently mentioned factor was mentoring. Interviewees stated that they expected internship programs to prepare interns and make sure interns were ready before internships. Interviewee 17 stated that “a lot of interns are just like a piece blank paper. Many lack common sense. I do not think that school did a good job to prepare their students to work in industry, both mentally and professionally. This puts a lot of responsibility and pressure on us”. Hospitality practitioners appreciated that school internship program supervisors provided intern counselling during the internship, for it would comfort and stabilize interns and decrease the pressure on hospitality practitioners.

Table 3 Results of content analysis on satisfaction factors to internship program

Theme Subthemes EOC HR F&B HK L&R
Cooperation Long-term school partnership 1 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Communication mechanism 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Duration One-year duration internship 1 1 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Mentoring Before internship mentoring 1 1
During internship mentoring 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

Conclusion and implications

This study discovered several hospitality practitioner satisfaction factors for interns and internship programs in Taiwan. Based on the interviews with staff from various departments in the hotel sector, three main factors emerged that affected hospitality practitioner satisfaction with interns: good work ethic, teamwork, and initiative. Three other factors influenced a satisfactory internship program: a high level of cooperation, duration and mentoring.

This research makes several important contributions. To begin, it is one of the few studies that has focused on the needs of industry. The findings may facilitate future research to build models or conceptual frameworks. In addition, it may benefit interns by having them be able to understand factors which are of concern to hospitality practitioners. Interns need to pay attention to work ethic such as work responsibility, attendance and mental readiness; teamwork such as following the lead, listening to advice, and communicating well; and initiative such as being eager to learn and taking action autonomously. The findings serve like a guideline and reminder of attitude and behaviour for interns.

In addition, these findings may also facilitate university internship administrators to advise students before and during internship. Internship administrators need to maintain a healthy and enduring relationship with industry partners since establishing a new partnership is harder than maintaining an existing one. Moreover, maintaining proper communication mechanism between industry and school partner are good for a health and lasting partnership, as practitioners appreciate periodical communication to report intern situations and solve intern issues to each other.

The findings suggest one-year duration internship is more popular than short or summer internship for hospitality practitioners. Hospitality practitioners perceive longer-term interns are more productive and accountable. Moreover, they can be treated as full-time staff, enabling practitioners to make more of an effort on intern training and giving them more responsibilities on long-term interns. Given, this model is not adopted in many universities, though, the finding suggest there is a need to adjust the curriculum to develop longer duration internship.


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Chapter 22: Finding the Value in Professional Work Experience


Ann Lara

Ann Lara, Cal Poly Pomona


While in real estate it may all be about location, in the field of hospitality it is all about the experience. Academic learning, while valuable, is not typically enough to secure a management position in the field of hospitality upon graduation. Work-integrated education through the form of internships, part-time jobs, full-time jobs, externships, seasonal work and volunteering are just some ways students may gain experience to be competitive in the current job market. This chapter examines the value of work experience through a case study of an individual student at a large public university who showed a great deal of ambition and determination to work during her studies to help define her own career path. It provides the reader with an example of how one can combine academics, co-curricular activities and part-time work to optimize one’s educational experiences.

Introduction and Literature Review

The question of “what do you want to be when you grow up” is one that is asked of almost every child, adolescent and young adult. Career and college education can start as early as preschool. With so much focus put on career and educational attainment throughout the years, why is that so many young adults feel so unprepared to begin their careers despite the entirety of the internet there to guide them? Couple this feeling with recent headlines that decry the death of the necessity of a college degree (14 Companies That No Longer Require Employees to Have a College Degree, n.d.) for top-paying jobs, it is understandable why students are confused about what they need to achieve to be career-ready.

Before entering the hospitality field, students must be equipped and ready to learn about conflict resolution, professional etiquette, time management, customer service skills, communication, dress standards and leadership through their employment journey. Helping students understand the link between their employment and the benefits they can gain is essential if they are to be able to leverage their experience successfully in the future. Work experience is key for students to be successful. Students must enhance their portfolio of skills and experience during their university years while gaining relevant work experience in their discipline (Wilton 2012). The hospitality industry is vast and varied, many entry-level jobs do not require even a high school diploma, making it easy for students to qualify for them.

Work experience is just one component of the vast college experience. Co-curricular activities, clubs, organizations, trips and more are often at the centre of the fond memories students carry with them after college. We know that co-curricular activities are important for providing opportunities to work on skills like teamwork, leadership and other essential career competencies (Kumar & Arockiasamy, 2012). Looking at the correlation between the value perception of co-curricular activities and personality traits like self-esteem, independence, self-acceptance and self-disclosure, we can see that co-curricular activities can boost an individual’s potential in proving student’s development in key essential skills. By blending co-curricular with academics, the university can develop the personality of the whole student, while having a large impact on the student’s interpersonal skills and personality development. This point, furthered by Mulrooney (2017), means helping students understand the value of co-curricular activities will help them towards the ability to be able to demonstrate the key essential skills required by employers.

Furthering the value of co-curricular experiences on future employment outcomes, Irwin et. al (2019) add that while some variation occurs across different types of activities, 65% of employers surveyed said the co-curricular experience was valued. Less than 50% of students and graduates reported using these activities as a strategy to increase their employability, a lost chance to sharpen the soft skills that makeup career readiness. Students must get the skills they need for the positions they are seeking, including soft skills, through their experiences inside the classroom, outside the classroom and through entry-level positions.

Olivia’s personal journey

The main case in this chapter present’s ‘Olivia’s’ personal journey. It is written in first person as it expresses the path she has taken during her academic career.

As a senior at a large public institution in California, I count myself lucky to be where I am. I come from a hard-working and loving Mexican family of four. My father is a tile craftsman and my mom an elementary school librarian. Growing up my family did not have a lot of money but with help from my extended family and friends we managed to keep afloat. Education was always a priority and a college education one day was always an expectation for me. As only the second person in my family to attend college, I am the first to pursue a degree in Hospitality Management. I became a hospitality management major because of my love of travel and the magic I feel when visiting hotels and exploring new places. After an internet search of “hotel college degrees” led to hospitality management, I searched local public universities for the major and applied. When I was accepted, I was excited to begin to explore hospitality, but nervous about the course load, making new friends and getting involved in a new school.

Practical Learning

As I began my first-year, I jumped in feet first to co-curricular activities. Joining several clubs, I became highly active in student organizations. Leveraging the skills learned as part of these co-curricular activities, I was able to secure several part-time positions in the hospitality field. Work coupled with a full-time class schedule was a lot to manage but I made it work through organization, grit and determination. During my first year in college, I attended an industry immersion trip that crystallized for me the love of travel and adventure. It was a trip with the first-year group I was a part of to Seattle, Washington and it was my first-time traveling without my family. When I arrived in Seattle, I gained confidence as I navigated the ground transportation network, found the hotel to meet up with the group and walked around exploring when I had free time. Through a series of tours with alumni at hospitality venues all over the city, I fell in love all over again with the major. I knew I had the right major, but still found I needed some additional supports to find success during my time at college and beyond.

The first hospitality position I had in college was as a banquet server at a regional event centre. With the hours concentrated on the weekends, I took on a position as a promotional assistant at a professional sports stadium, as well as assisted with on-campus sporting events to round out my hours and assist with needed income. When a position came open at a restaurant inside a local resort, I leveraged my food and beverage experience from the event centre into a hostess, then food runner position. I longed to experience the front desk and when no positions were available at the resort, I leveraged my resort experience in the restaurant to join a national select service chain at the front desk.

Co-curricular activities and clubs have been another source of inspiration me. These experiences helped me find great jobs for work experience, as well as expand my professional network. Opportunities to travel and visit beautiful locations throughout North America were provided as part of the offerings available to me and the students involved in these student organizations. It was through traveling and visiting different types of hotels, restaurants, private clubs and attractions that I have been able to expand my knowledge of the types of jobs available in the hospitality industry and learn about different cultures.

Counted among my greatest achievements are receiving scholarships and a sponsored trip to Seattle, Washington. The trip was organized by a first-year experience club and I found so much value in it, I stayed on as a Peer Advisor to assist students in subsequent years. With this leadership experience, as well the work experience that many industry scholarships rely on, I was able to win scholarships from multiple professional organizations. This money has helped fund my education, with my work and co-curricular experience at the core of the scholarship essays.

This position at the select service chain hotel has provided a wealth of experience, knowledge and challenges. When recent budget cuts led to cutbacks in staff, I took on more and more duties that a traditional front-desk agent would not usually complete. This additional experience, while initially undesired, made me more marketable for positions in the future. The extra workload kept increasing and when management began to schedule me against my availability every week. Deciding to move on from that position was a difficult decision, but once it was made, I was unstoppable. I started relying on my networks and skills I learned from my coursework and co-curricular activities. All this during a bout of record-high rate of unemployment in the hospitality field and I was able to secure two offers, in both cases beating out many applicants.

Having multiple jobs and no way to get there, my mom, dad and brother played a large role in my success by providing me with transport to and from my jobs and school. Living in the suburban sprawl of Southern California, there is little to no public transportation. Factor in the hours that my shifts are, there was no way I could physically get to all the places I needed to be without them. Not being in the financial position to purchase a vehicle, I relied heavily on them to help me. Transportation time was also homework and nap time, as my schedule was full of working, co-curricular activities and classes.

Another challenge was getting a professional wardrobe. One resource that made a big impact was the Clothes Closet at the Career Center. The Clothes Closet provides free gently used professional clothing to students on campus. Items are donated by faculty, staff, employers and the community. Students can take a limited number of pieces each semester to keep. Before going to the Clothes Closet, I felt anxious for interviews because I did not own a blazer and did not have the financial means to obtain a professional clothing wardrobe. The Clothes Closet gave me access to free professional clothing items like jackets, blouses, slacks and more. The professional clothing that was provided to me from the Clothes Closet helped me showcase my professional personality through my wardrobe and helped secure positions in the hospitality industry.

My supportive family played a large role in my success, from transportation to preparing meals. This helped free up time for me to focus on the part-time jobs I held in the restaurant, hotel, events and sporting events industries. My ability to speak fluent Spanish has greatly helped me move forward in my hospitality career in the Southern California market. Being able to communicate with guests and employees in their preferred language has enabled me to gain the trust of those around me and provide clear communication.

The latest career move was to return the front desk at the resort that I was previously employed at was fuelled by my personal desire to give back to my community. I will be working the front desk, but I also have the added benefit of training with human resources to join their team within the next six-months. The four-years of work experience I have gained places me in an optimal position to pursue a career in the field of human resources within a hospitality organization when I graduate.

The desire to work in human resources stems from wanting to help the community of housekeepers, kitchen workers that are primarily Spanish speaking in Southern California. Often human resource professionals do not speak fluent Spanish and I have translated on many occasions for those at work. By providing them knowledge and information, they can support their families better and become better employees. The work experience, combined with the knowledge, skills and abilities I gained from co-curricular involvement is key to my success in my post-graduation endeavours.

Reflections and Recommendations

The author of this chapter now offers some reflection on the case and lessons learned.

From an educator’s perspective, Olivia’s experience in college was as close to ideal as it gets for many students. Even though her family was not able to provide much financial support, they provided her with a huge amount of emotional support throughout her journey. Importantly, she got involved and made sure the opportunities she wanted became available to her through hard work, dedication and commitment. Her co-curricular experience and work experience have continued to evolve and grow over time. She has many options for her future career path and it is in large part due to the work she has already put in.

The year Olivia joined the college, the first-year student group was just getting started. Putting together this group as the faculty support, it was a challenging first year as she was one of only 8 students that year that attended all the meetings and events that happened throughout the year. Today, that same group attracts close to 30 students each year. It is important to ask, what was the drive for Olivia to take a chance on this fledgling organization? The Roman philosopher Seneca is quoted as saying “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. Helping engage students to prepare for making their own luck is at the heart of our work as educators. Her preparation met an amazing opportunity and she created her luck time and time again.

This theme carried her throughout her college years. Working with students, it is our position to push them to become their best self. For Olivia, when one position did not offer enough hours, she added another one. When she wanted to shift into hotels, she translated her food and beverage experience into a hotel food and beverage department. She continued to create and author her own experience by consistently showing up and putting in the work. As much as it would be easy for us to say Olivia is one of the lucky ones where everything always works out for her, the answer is far from it. Between the ups, there are plenty of downs, but a steadfast resolve to continue to do better and grow keeps her moving in the right direction.

Leaning on faculty and student services professionals is an important ingredient in the recipe of success for any college student. Faculty and the student services professionals work together at the college to support students and their goals. Student services professionals can provide the tools needed to help students achieve them. Importantly, there is no need to reinvent the wheel each time a student needs help. They have seen it all before and have figured out what tips to give to help students through it. Olivia was lucky in the fact that she had been advised and had the follow through to rely on these individuals and ask for advice, support and encouragement. The resources faculty and student services professionals offer to every student enrolled at the college are there to support their success. Students should make it a critical task of every semester to seek out these folks and take into consideration the resources they provide.

Finally, we can help students to be ready for whatever adventures come their way. We must stress to students that you never know what direction a part-time job will open for you, the volunteer experience you signed up for, or how the interview will turn out. No job is too small, no title is too low, hard work is hard work and the hospitality industry appreciates and recognizes those who put their time in to learn critical knowledge, skills and abilities. Working and being involved on campus teaches the critical career competencies that are required not only today but for the future. College is more than coursework; it is a series of experiences and opportunities that will shape the rest of your life.


The hospitality industry is like no other industry on earth. It exists in every corner of the world, has vastly diverse opportunities in many different segments of the market and continues to evolve. The opportunity to receive a degree in this field is an exciting chance to bring a lifetime of happy memories for those you serve. College coursework while critical is just a small portion of what is needed to become successful in the field when you graduate. Research shows work experience, as well as co-curricular experience, is not only nice to have, it is essential to the success of the graduate when seeking a post-graduation position. Olivia is one of the lucky ones that she unlocked this magic her first semester in college, but it is never too late to join in on gaining these essential skills that are highly sought after by hiring managers. If you are in your first semester or last, take the time to develop the relationships, the work experience, co-curricular involvement, the work you put in will come back to you many times over.


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Irwin, A., Nordmann, E., & Simms, K. (2019). Stakeholder perception of student employability: does the duration, type and location of work experience matter? Higher Education, 78(5), 761–781.

Kumar, G. N. S., & Arockiasamy, S. (2012). Research Papers Parental Influence on Psychological Value Perception of Co-Curricular Activities : It ’ S Links With Improving. 6(1), 2012.

Mulrooney, H. M. (2017). Exploring participation in co-curricular activities among undergraduate students. New Directions in the Teaching of Physical Sciences, 12(12), 1–10.

Wilton, N. (2012). The impact of work placements on skills development and career outcomes for business and management graduates. Studies in Higher Education, 37(5), 603-620.

Chapter 23: Holistic Practicum Integration and Development of Soft Skills


Simone Doudna

Simone Doudna, Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, University of Houston


Holistic Practicum Integration is the concept of incorporating both personal and professional development components within the practicum job training program. By integrating these factors, students acquire a well-rounded model for achieving success both academically and in the workplace. This multifaceted model strives to highlight the distinct advantages of incorporating career success predictors such as Emotional Intelligence. In addition, other factors such as developing grit and a growth mindset support the demands of 21st century employability skills.


Many versions of practicum are applied successfully globally. The common thread that binds them is the ultimate goal of developing a robust model of work experience for career success. However, regardless of all the unique aspects of experiential learning or the 1000 hours of work experience required as part of the practicum course requirement at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, one thing remains unwavering: the stipulation for soft skills. Skills such as emotional intelligence, grit and a flexible mindset are tools to be truly successful in one’s career path.

With this in mind, how can we maximize practicum applications so that students are as marketable and as professionally prepared as possible for their future? Which specific skills enhance work experience and also catalyse gainful future employment for our candidates? The answers to these questions revolve around the concept of fostering emotional intelligence, grit and a flexible mindset.

Additional factors impacting student achievements in their career fields are practices in mental wellness, mindfulness, developing a strong personal brand and conquering time management. When these skills are harnessed collectively, the practicum experience delivers students with attractive employability traits, and supports long-term accomplishments in their careers. Too often these soft skills are overlooked, and we observe students struggling with both academic and work performance as a result.

Some of the steps taken along a career path beginswith personal assessments on each student. FOCUS2 and Myers Briggs are two unique resources offered to all students to begin the journey of self-discovery. Incorporating Emotional Intelligence (EI) assessments and developing an action plan to increase EI is recommended, as is the development of each student’s personal brand. Thus, they simultaneously pursue their academic goals while connecting with their career path.

This chapter will explore three factors which have shown to influence student success dramatically with valuable insight into success predictions. These are Emotional Intelligence, grit and a growth mindset.


What is Emotional Intelligence and how do we apply it as a predictor of student success academically and in practicum applications?

Daniel Goleman (1998) describes Emotional Quotient, a synonym for emotional intelligence as “managing feelings so they are expressed appropriately and effectively, enabling people to work together smoothly toward their common goals” (p. 7). Goleman’s pioneering publication on Emotional Intelligence overturned preconceived notions of the power of emotions. Goleman advocated for greater attention to classes in “social development,” “life skills” and “social and emotional learning” (Goleman, 1998). Perhaps the concept of “Self Science” can serve as a backbone for the practicum. His work parallels other research that shows that IQ, natural talents and superior abilities are often not predictors of success (Duckworth, 2007). In his book Working with Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman (1998: 19) cites the Harvard Business School research that determined that “EQ counts for twice as much as IQ and technical skills combined in determining who will be successful”. He points out the article reports that 80% of competencies that differentiate top performers from others are in the domain of Emotional Intelligence.

So we now know (maybe what we have always been thinking) that the most intelligent employees may not necessarily be the top performers. The distinguishing factor remains in each individual’s emotional quotient. This is encouraging for most, since we can cultivate our EI and hence we can influence the outcomes of not just career goals, but personal and health goals as well.

A persuasive argument can be made to relate emotional intelligence with predicting leadership. The study distinguishes candidates with specific traits such as “assertiveness, optimism, independence, flexibility, social responsibility and argues that these characteristics can be predictors of 21st century high potential leadership” (Prepays, 2007). This author illustrates how these skills are highly influential in career success. Therefore, in order for us to guide our students to be the high potential leaders for tomorrow, we should work far beyond simply attaining a quantifiable number of work hours. Our focus should be on cultivating and consolidating intangible soft skills into the experience.

The importance of EI over IQ has become an area of fascinating complexity. With evidence leaning towards EI as a more influential factor in career success, this again is good news for most. IQ is a cognitive measure, whereas EI can be learned, developed and improved. In his book The Millionaire Mind, Stanley (2000: 13)writes “GPA scores were 2.92 on a 4.0 scale for millionaires interviewed and SAT scores were 1190 on average.”

Jennifer Chan also states (2007: 8) “there’s even some evidence of an inverse relationship between high academic achievers and the ability to generate money. If you performed well in school, you excelled at working within an established system. Self-made millionaires who were terrible in school often had to overcome adversity, which led to them becoming tenacious, self-reliant, and willing to take financial risks”. Chan highlights which factors self-made millionaires identified which lead back to EI as the main factors in their success. So can we influence student behaviour to generate wealth, abundance and success without factoring in GPA’s, SAT scores and general IQ levels? According to the research, it is abundantly and encouragingly clear.

Can we predict which of our students are high potential leaders? Is it based on the internship they received? Perhaps it is based on how many work hours they accumulated throughout their tertiary education? On the contrary, research done by Dries and Pepermans (2007) showed soft skill attributes of assertiveness, independence, optimism, flexibility and social responsibility as the attributes that define future leaders. This is consistent with other findings for leadership traits.

“Soft skills are especially relevant as you grow into management roles and lead others in the day-to-day operations and decisions of your company,” wrote Marcine Johnson (as cited in O’Brien & Boyle, 2019: 58), a former dean of the IMA Leadership Academy. More recently, O’Brien and Boyle (2019: 58) note a study published in Management Accounting Quarterly concluded that interpersonal skills-including demonstrating respect, active listening, building trust, relationships, and rapport, demonstrating emotional self-control, and relating to people of diverse backgrounds-were the most important soft skills for career success at all levels.

A final example of a research study by Shutte et al. (2007) showed the relationship between EI and mental health and physical health. Their investigation delves deeper in bridging the relationship between emotional intelligence and one’s own mental and physical health and demonstrates the impact of EI on these important issues.

The second factor that has influenced student success and can be related to overall personal and professional success is Grit.

Grit is defined as “working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity and plateaus in progress” (Duckworth et al., 2007: 1087-1088). Duckworth proposes that the secret to outstanding achievement is actually not talent, but a tenacity and focused persistence called grit. She asks the question ”Why do some people succeed and others fail?” Duckworth argues why talent is hardly a guarantor of success. Rather, she states other factors can be even more crucial such as identifying our passions and following through on our commitments. Tenacity breeds reward. Likewise, similar studies have shown that grittier students handle adversity more successfully (Vandewalle, 2012). Thus, gritty students tend to approach challenges with a marathon perspective versus a short term sprint, ensuring they have the mental stamina to cope with adversity along the way. They focus on the journey instead of just getting to the finish line. Most importantly, and reassuring on all fronts: Both EI and grit can be learned and are mutable.

Finally fostering a Growth Mindset is a predictor of student success.

“Those individuals with fixed mindsets are constrained by their thoughts, which they surrender to believe are carved in stone. It is what it is. In contrast, individuals with a growth mindset believe that they can develop their intelligence over time” (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007; Dweck, 2007).

Students with a growth mindset meet difficult problems with undaunting fervour and handle setbacks much better than those with a fixed mindset of yielding to sentiments of futility and hopelessness. In order to encourage our students to have a growth mindset, we should have a culture of risk taking. Such a culture paves the way for mistakes to be approached as useful tools to rethink and transform facets of our perspective. The concept of “Yet” fosters a growth mindset in which perseverance is the driver for ultimate success, as opposed to innate talent or a high IQ. Too often students abandon their areas of career interest at the first signs of perceived failure. If we channel the power of “Yet” into our thoughts, could our culture not be reimagined into one of career longevity, sustainability, and ultimately higher retention rates?

Carol S. Dweck (2007) has done extensive research on a growth mindset and brain plasticity. She purports that by giving students learning tasks that tell them that they can be as smart as they want to be, we open the doors for students to have a chance to be resilient, and foster a growth mindset which leads not just to short-term achievement but also long-term success.

Reflections and Case Studies

Practicum 1 and 2 (now rebranded as Professional Development and Hospitality Internship respectively) require a cumulative total of at least 1000 work hours, coupled with milestones of digital badges which students earn along their academic path. Having identified the common threads (emotional intelligence, grit and a growth mindset) to promote student success, we will illustrate these factors with three actual case studies. In each of these cases, EI, grit and a flexible mindset are consistently observed as the key factors for achieving both practicum requirements and for students’ future careers. The chapter explores impediments that can impact student retention rates if not effectively addressed. With respect to achieving practicum requirements, these hindrances also prove to be obstacles that tenacious students conquer to fulfil their work experience requirements.

Let us examine examples of how students can overcome adversity derived from hospitality internships and jobs.

Case 1: Not only was Nate forced to surrender his coveted Las Vegas internship after a few weeks, but he also had to repeat the entire practicum course due to personal adversity. He needed a solution to fulfil the practicum requirements and complete his degree.

Case 2: Both Camilla’s sense of smell and taste had been compromised after an accident, which then ultimately threatened her future as a pastry chef. Yet, with so many other positions in hospitality she could have pursued, her passion was to persist in the culinary arts.

Case 3: Due to medical reasons, Maria was limited in her choice of hospitality work experience. She explored many internships that she was otherwise qualified for, and remained steadfast about staying in hospitality, but just needed to find a suitable resolution to cope with her medical circumstances.

What do these three individuals have in common? Although they may have very diverse backgrounds, and ventured on very different career paths, the leitmotif is evident: a dose of adversity compelled them to harness their emotional intelligence, and respond with grit, perseverance and a flexible mindset.

Nate’s story

Nate was a social, eager freshman when he started his hospitality internship. Within a few weeks he noticed something inexplicably wrong after collapsing at work. He returned home to a variety of tests and was ultimately diagnosed with Renal Nutcracker Syndrome (NCS). Nate’s symptoms were quite severe, including blood in the urine, orthostatic proteinuria, flank pain, abdominal pain and chronic fatigue syndrome. With a full course load of 17 hours, he sought to balance his academics while trying to demystify this rare disease that turned his world upside down overnight.

Numbness and circulatory issues left Nate unable to drive to classes on some days. Somehow he persisted. He did his best to simply catch up when it was unrealistic to attend class. And yet, it didn’t always suffice. He simply wasn’t able to meet some of the requirements for Practicum given his circumstances. By refusing a medical withdrawal or exception, Nate’s approach was to fight harder to earn a passing grade the next time, a clear demonstration of a marathon mindset with sustainable mental stamina. This was his raison d’etre. Giving up was not an option.

With his internship coming to an abrupt halt, Nate sought solutions to repeat the course successfully. It was no coincidence that when he reached out to his previous recruiter, he was offered another fighting chance to return the following summer and experience his full hotel operations internship. Why was this desirable spot not allocated to a new and deserving candidate instead? His EI ability to build confidence and trust opened the doors for that offer. His sense of optimism and his commitment to the internship were factors that led the recruiters to the decision for his return in a year. Not only was he able to complete all the professional development workshops when repeating practicum the following year, but he also exceeded the work experience required for practicum despite his disabilities. The concept of grit in maintaining that long term interest over years is evident in his commitment to succeed.

Nate has since graduated, and shortly after graduating, he was offered a position in renewable energy. He was able to navigate the complexities of his emotional and social intelligence to attain his goals in a new organization victoriously. Nate’s career success continued for 5 years at which point he explored a wild childhood dream of acting. After a year of pro bono work, he auditioned in a worldwide casting for a role in an upcoming Amazon miniseries. The outcome? He is now in the early stages of preparing for filming, and consistent with his first internship experience he has the option to return in the future. Nate’s EI traits such as optimism and building confidence have been demonstrated to pay off large rewards.

Nate personifies the tenacious perseverance required to complete practicum and sustainable career goals. For Nate, Mohammed Ali’s mantra of “if my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it, then I can achieve it” applies.

Camilla’s story

It seems that each generation is faced with even more adversity and hence grit becomes a necessity for student success. This is especially true in Practicum as grit is a tool that drives accomplishment both in the workplace and an academic setting. In Camilla’s case, she demonstrated a relentless courage in her choice of practicum work hours, a determination recognised in thousands of hospitality students in this degree program.

Camilla was a very driven sophomore, juggling a full course load, full time work as a pastry chef, and a devoted single parent to her four year old daughter. Already Camilla was poised to triumph over obstacles. At first glance, how can students like Camilla commit to these arduous lifestyle demands? Passion and self-motivation are critical traits. Moreover, when we incorporate a full dose of disabilities, time challenges and financial disruptors to this mix, can we still succeed in fulfilling practicum?

In Camilla’s case, it is a resounding yes. During her junior year, Camilla ventured to Austin to attend a music festival. As she strolled along carefree that night, without warning, a vehicle blew by a barricade in the wrong direction and plowed through terrified pedestrians. Tragically, four people lost their lives in a moment that night. Dozens more were injured. Camilla was one of the injured. She suffered traumatic head injuries, a torn carotid artery (which then resulted in a stroke) fractured ribs, two torn ligaments in her knee, and a fractured femur. Side effects of her stroke included homonymous hemianopia (blindness in left peripheral vision of both eyes), and to her utmost despair, loss of senses in both taste and smell. After being in an induced coma for about three days, she remained in the hospital for a month, affecting her finances and academics even more.

Camilla resiliently bounced right back into her academics once she was able to do so. By spring, she had surpassed her personal and academic goals. However, as side effects from her accident, she struggled with a loss of both her sense of taste and smell, coupled with her peripheral vision which was now impaired. Did these disabilities hinder her work goals? On the contrary, she instead gravitated to a resolute culture of risk taking. With her culinary passion as a driving force, she accepted a position in the spring as an Executive Pastry Chef.

Without revealing her disabilities, she harnessed her emotional intelligence, collaborated with team work, listened, learned and responded, and discreetly adapted to her physical disabilities. Teamwork was integral to her success at work. She recognized her limitations with tasting and smelling, and depended on her team to make these vital decisions. When baking her favourite dishes, she would solicit the opinions of her team by constantly asking for advice. Conversations like “Do you think we need more vanilla? Is this too salty? Should we add more lemon zest?” became the hallmark of her success. Trust, mutual respect and the ability to ask for help were the backbone of teamwork when accommodating her disabilities. With a loss of those senses, her awareness of visual cues was enhanced. Of course there were days when visuals weren’t enough. Scorched pastry crème may look great, but smells dreadful! Generally, her ability to detect small changes in consistency and texture led her to safely modify recipes. Her growth mindset was yearning to flourish as a pastry chef. And so she did. Her self-awareness was grounded in a confidence that may seem irrational to those with a fixed mindset.

Her challenges with fulfilling the practicum work requirement were averted through risk taking and having grit. Camilla successfully led the pastry team for five years and is now entwined in her new passion: marriage and family life, with the goal of opening her own business venture in the future.

Maria’s story

Our final case study encompasses traits of EI, grit and a growth mindset. Maria’s medical challenges limited her employment options to a 9-5 job with no travel. Given that hospitality is a 24/7 business, how can you gain the practical experience required with such limitations? Apart from the hands on experience of hospitality operations, how could you acquire leadership skills and develop your EI in work experience as a student with these limitations?

Let’s explore Maria’s circumstances. Born conjoined to her twin sister over 25 years ago, at a time when there was very little information or success rates on these surgeries, Maria led a comfortable life. However, during her junior year, she was diagnosed with malnutrition due to inflammation in her intestines. As a result, Maria was immediately admitted to the hospital where she began IV nutrition. This continued into an 18 month routine of nightly IV nutrition, ranging from 12 hours every night, gradually down to 8 hours a day, four days a week. This was hardly your average college student’s nocturnal activities! It certainly mirrored the marathon perseverance illustrated in grit. She remained steadfast in her belief that she had the ability to juggle both her health issues and her academics while continuing in leadership positions at college.

Inevitably in hospitality, Maria was invited to many socials at the college. As the president of an honours society, she spearheaded event planning for functions, but had no choice but to turn down these events and other invitations as far as Switzerland because of her restrictive new norm. These challenges were met with quiet optimism, a positive attitude and a fervour for even more experience.

In fact, although she had completed Practicum 1 and 2, Maria wanted to gain as much work experience as possible to have the most marketable resume possible. She pursued several exciting hospitality internships but they required travelling to different locations or working flexible shifts. Since her nightly IV routine was an 18 month process, her internship options were limited. Through serendipitous circumstances, Maria interviewed and accepted a position as one of the very first undergrad teaching assistants: for practicum!

Maria was now fully engrossed in the hospitality world through a macro lens, with accelerated learning on internships, placement requirements, and even delving into practicum requirement trends globally. Upon graduating, Maria fully immersed herself in the hospitality industry, working in the audio-visual field.

Although an administrative ( and academic) position was not her first choice, Maria’s experience as a teaching assistant stimulated her EI growth, time management skills, built trust and respect with her peers, fostered active listening, empathy and so many other soft skills that define the leader she is today.


As seen with these cases, practicum success begins with developing soft skills. With mounting research drawing consistent examples, our academic compasses should point towards integrating emotional intelligence or self-science as the foundation of our practicum program. In addition, creating awareness of, and development of grit and growth mindsets have proven to be predictors of long term sustainable career growth across demographics such as age, gender and socioeconomic barriers. As we design future models for Practicum, we acknowledge that the competencies required for long term success extend far beyond the hourly work experience. The true essence of practicum revolves around executing a holistic approach incorporating soft skills and a culture of risk taking.


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