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Mind the gap: aligning learning and graduate outcomes through industry partnerships.

The aim of this concept article is twofold: (1) to explore the issue of quality gaps in relation to the design, delivery and value of a university-level tourism and hospitality management qualification and (2) to provide examples of how industry/academic partnership initiatives can enhance students' learning experience. Applying a services management framework, strategies for creating meaningful industry partnerships are explored using the School of Hotel, Resort and Tourism Management at Bond University, Gold Coast, Australia as a case study.

Keywords: tourism and hospitality management education, industry partnerships


Industry partnerships are frequently identified as an effective means to narrow the gap between what academe produces and industry says it wants. This 'disconnect' can result in serious consequences for four key stakeholders: current students may not acquire the salient knowledge and skills that they need to compete in a highly competitive global environment, graduates may become disillusioned about their career choice and contribute to the high cost attributed to turnover within the industry, the industry may have to spend time and money 'retraining' graduates and the status of a tourism and hospitality management degree level qualification may be undervalued.

The aim of this concept article is twofold: (1) to explore the issue of quality gaps in relation to the design, delivery and value of a university-level tourism and hospitality management qualification and (2) to suggest that engagement between industry and academe has to be a transformational experience for all key stakeholders if we hope to close these gaps. Applying a services management framework, strategies for enhancing the quality of industry partnerships are explored using the School of Hotel, Resort and Tourism Management at Bond University, Gold Coast, Australia as a case study.


When compared to Europe and the United States (US), the provision of tourism and hospitality management education at the university level in Australia is a recent phenomenon (McKercher, 2002) Craig-Smith and Ruhanen (2005) detail how tourism, hospitality and events degree programs in Australia have proliferated from just two undergraduate program offerings in the mid 1970s. Today, 39 Australian institutions offer 92 tourism and hospitality management degree programs within 30 private institutions and public and private universities (Breakey & Craig Smith, 2008, p. 103).

One possible explanation for the tremendous growth in tourism and hospitality management education relates to the rapid expansion and significance of the tourism industry to the Australian economy. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC, 2009), the contribution of travel and tourism to gross domestic product in Australia is expected to rise from 11.0% (AUD127.3 b) in 2008 to 11.8% (AUD250.2 b) by 2018. Despite the current economic downturn, the medium-term need for highly skilled tourism and hospitality managers throughout the Pacific Rim region will exceed the supply of qualified candidates. For example, Johnson (2009) predicts that China will build an additional five million hotel rooms within the next 7 years; thus, there will be a demand for international expertise to manage these operations.

Given their recent evolution, it is not surprising that tertiary tourism and hospitality management programs are experiencing growing pains as attempts are made to find the 'right fit' within the university framework. The interdisciplinary nature of tourism management in particular affects its status within the university context. Breakey and Craig-Smith (2007) track the evolution of tourism qualifications in Australia from a named degree, a named business degree or merely a major or minor within a degree. The title of the qualification has also changed in order to reflect the shift from a skills-based to a knowledge-based framework and this has contributed to the enhanced status associated with the qualification. For the purpose of this article, the term tourism and hospitality management will be used as it is most inclusive.

Where the program is housed within the university structure also appears to affect its status. In Austral-asia, degree-level tourism and hospitality management programs are housed in faculties and schools of business and law (Victoria University), business (Griffith University), arts (Auckland University of Technology), and marketing (University of New South Wales). In recent years, the trend has been to shift tourism and hospitality management programs to faculties or schools of business in order to enhance the status of the qualification through a management focus. This shift has met with mixed success. Anecdotal evidence suggests that tourism and hospitality management programs achieve higher status with key stakeholders when they are stand-alone schools (i.e., School of Hotel Administration [Cornell University]; School of Tourism and Hospitality [Southern Cross University]; School of Hotel, Resort and Tourism Management [Hong Kong Polytechnic University]) regardless of the faculty in which they are housed.

Tourism and Hospitality Management Education as a 'Pure Service' Experience

There can be no question that the business of tertiary education falls within the service sector. Given that we are in the business of selling a service, services management theory offers a means to explore where gaps might exist with regard to the quality of the service that we provide to our key stakeholders (Parasuraman, Zeithaml, & Berry, 1985).

As a way to clarify the distinction between the service and manufacturing sectors, Teboul (2006) distinguishes the differences between what he calls a 'pure product' (raw materials used in manufacturing a car; for example, metal and other materials comes in and a car comes out) and a 'pure service' (a customer comes in, experiences the service and a customer comes out). The salient difference is the degree of contact that the customer has with the service provider. Teboul (2006) makes an important distinction about the service delivery process: customers can be 'transformed' by the process or they can simply 'interact' during the transaction (p. 12). The quality of the interactions will determine if the participants are transformed by the experience or if they merely experience it. The transformation process occurs with varying degrees of success based on the quality of service received, the quality of the service delivery and the quality of the perceived value of the service (Figure 1).


Like the provision of any other service, gaps may exist with regard to the design, delivery and perceived value of a tourism and hospitality management education. This, in turn, may negatively affect stakeholders' estimation of the quality of the service experience. Teboul (2006) asserts that design, delivery and value gaps affect the quality of the service experience (p. 76). In the case of tourism and hospitality management education, the quality of the curriculum, the quality of the delivery and the value attributed to the qualification by key stakeholders can vary greatly based on their perceptions and expectations. Keiser (1998), in Dale and Robinson (2001), notes: 'as programmes in the hospitality and tourism industries seek greater legitimacy as a profession, it is necessary that educators be very specific about what they teach and research and which constituents they serve' (p. 31). The premise developed in this article is that industry partnerships can serve as a viable means to reduce quality gaps in the design, delivery and the perceived value of a tourism and hospitality management university qualification.

Considerable previous research has addressed the issue of quality in relation to tourism and hospitality management education. Any discussion of quality has to take into account a definition of the key stakeholders and their roles within the service encounter. Barrows and Johan (2008) suggest that the number of stakeholders for tourism and hospitality management programs tends to be greater than more traditional, university units and may include governments, industry sectors, professional associations, faculty, administrators, the university, alumni, taxpayers, high schools, students, parents, benefactors, advisory boards and others (p. 149). For this discussion, the focus will be on four key stakeholders: current students (internal customers), the university (the service provider), and graduates and employers (external customers).

Design Gaps

Design gaps within an educational context typically concern the content of the curriculum. Teboul (2006) argues that there will always be a gap between the specifications of any service offering (which he suggests are more static in nature), and the changing, fluid demands of individual customers (p. 70). In order to evaluate the quality of tourism and hospitality management curricula, we need to ask the question: 'Are the specifications appropriate and relevant for current students, graduates, and employers?'

Considerable previous research has addressed the issue of relevancy by focusing on the competencies valued by these key stakeholders (Baum, 1990; Brownell, 2007; Christou & Eaton, 2000; Chung, 2000; Chung-Herrera, Enz & Lankau, 2003; Ehlers, 2005; Kay & Russette, 2000; Nelson & Dopson, 1999; Raybould & Wilkins, 2005; Tas, 1988; Tas & Clayton, 1996; Sin, 1998; Wang & Ryan, 2007). The issue of competency-based training and development has garnered considerable debate since the mid-1960s. For this discussion, a competency is defined as 'a skill or personal attribute/ability that is required to be effective on the job--that is critical to achieving target outcomes' (Brownell, 2008, p. 138.). A review of the literature attests to a lack of consensus about common usage of the term competencies, let alone agreement about which competencies should underpin our curriculum and graduate outcomes. Competencies have been categorised as: 'generic', 'common', 'essential', 'core', 'key' and 'distinct'. The polarisation surrounding the competencies issue signifies a significant design gap and has the potential to undermine the quality of tourism and hospitality management curriculum.

Much of the discussion has focused on the merits of two competing frameworks: a generic skills framework versus a management competencies framework. Raybould and Wilkins (2005, 2006) suggest that the undergraduate tourism and hospitality management curriculum should be designed to develop students' generic, rather than managerial, skills given the vocational nature of the industry (p. 205). Baum's (2001) review of hospitality and tourism management degree curricula suggests that traditionally they have been designed to develop students' generic business skills. The argument for developing our students' generic skills is based on the premise that we need to prepare them to be lifelong learners; the underlying assumption is that they will gain the expertise that they need for management positions on the job.

Others, most notably Airey (1999), Tribe (2002), Airey and Tribe (2000), Lashley (1999, 2004a), argue that overemphasis on skills and competencies fails to meet the needs of students and industry. Lashley (2004b) warns: 'The tyrants of the relevant want hospitality education to be tied to 'bench mark statements' and other supposed predictors of the knowledge and skills possessed by hospitality graduates, as though they were cup-a-soup managers instantly ready on graduation' (p. 28). Brownell (2006) suggests that the development of students' generic skills is necessary, but insufficient in the preparation of global leaders (p. 309). Additional essential managerial and leadership competencies addressed in the literature include learning, teamwork, communication, problem-solving, financial/revenue management acumen, self-management, planning and organising, initiative and enterprise, technology and technical skills (Brownell, 2007; Brownell & Chung, 2001; Mayo & Thomas-Haybert, 2005; Sandwith, 1993; Williams, 2005).

The competencies debate raises more questions than answers: 'Are we preparing future workers, managers, or leaders?' or 'What are we really preparing students for?' and 'Are we preparing them for their first job, for the job they may hold in five years, for ten years out?' The answers to these questions will continue to fill volumes of academic journals, but are academics best qualified to answer these questions? Lashley (2004a) argues that 'tyrants of the relevant do not always know what it is that they do not know. Their perceptions of the skills needed and the qualities required of managers are limited by the boundaries of their own knowledge' (p. 42). He suggests the role of educators is to make sound judgments about the curriculum content based on our expertise, experience and research.

Industry could, and has, made the same accusation of tourism and hospitality management academics: perhaps we do not always know what it is that we do not know. This claim is substantiated by the fact that many hospitality and tourism academics have limited recent workplace experience. Industry partnerships offer a viable means to extend knowledge boundaries and improve the quality of tourism and hospitality management education through shared knowledge.

Delivery Gaps

In addition to gaps associated with the design of the curriculum, quality gaps also exist in the delivery of tourism and hospitality management education. Teboul (2006) suggests that delivery gaps occur when employees fail to provide a quality service experience (p. 71). The delivery of any service, including education, may be of high or low quality. The issue of quality in relation to the service delivery of tourism and hospitality management education begs the question: 'for whom, by whom, in what guise?'

As key stakeholders, the needs of current students affect our decisions about the delivery of tourism and hospitality management education. The program delivery gap can, in part, be attributed to the increasingly diverse student cohort. This is becoming an increasingly relevant issue as a result of the dramatic increase in the recruitment of international students to study in Australia. Lashley and Barron (2005) identify that Australia has the highest proportion of international students to domestic students among the major English-speaking destinations popular with international students (p. 24). Airey (2006) questions the extent to which the education truly meets the needs of its student audience who are increasingly fee-paying, who may come from a wider range of social backgrounds and are increasingly international (p. 554).

Quality issues related to the mode of delivery (face-to-face versus online delivery for example) cannot take into account the special needs of a highly diverse student population who have different learning styles and preferences. For example, many tourism and hospitality management students undertaking tertiary level study do not fall into the traditional school-leaver category; as such, there is a risk that the quality of the program delivery may not adequately meet their needs or expectations. Barrows and Johan (2008) suggest that, given the increasingly diverse student cohort, hospitality and tourism academics need to consider changes to everything from entrance requirements (which might focus more on work experience than grades), program delivery methods, program duration, scheduling of courses/modules, curriculum mix and degree of choice within the curriculum (p. 148).

With regard to the issue of who delivers the education, and in what guise, quality can be affected by the qualifications and experience of the educators. Hospitality and tourism management educators in private institutions frequently have extensive industry experience but typically do not engage in applied research. Universities require research-qualified staff, yet many hospitality and tourism management academics have limited or recent industry experience--hence the need for industry engagement to enhance the quality of the service delivery.

The quality of the program can also be affected by the structure and mode of the service delivery. Traditionally, tourism and hospitality management programs have been structured in one of two ways: as 3- or 4-year academic programs that may or may not include a work requirement component (the UK and US model) or the sandwich approach that requires students to study as well as gain work placement for set periods of time during the course of their programs (the Swiss model). Within Australia, a number of private institutions (for example, Blue Mountains Hotel School) deliver degree-level programs using the sandwich model. Busby, Brunt, and Baber (1997) argue that the benefit of sandwich placements is that they allow students to experience employment and, where appropriate, accept responsibility for the completion of tasks and the supervision of others; to obtain insight into management and management methods; to gain greater maturity and self-confidence; to be involved in the diagnosis and solutions problems; and to develop attitudes and standards appropriate to career aspirations (p. 106). The public and private universities deliver tourism and hospitality management programs within the traditional semester structure and pregraduation work experience is typically gained through summer placements or part-time casual work.

The Value Gap

The third gap, and perhaps the most significant, concerns key stakeholders' perceptions of the value of a tourism and hospitality management qualification. Value judgments are highly idiosyncratic; they are determined by the eyes of the beholder. In relation to the value of a service, Teboul (2006) argues:
 Value is what customers say it is, and their perception is their
 reality. What they do not perceive has little value in their eyes,
 and they are not willing to pay for it. Value is the ratio between
 perceived benefits and perceived sacrifices (for example money,
 time and effort). (p. 72)

Previous research into students and graduates' perception about the value of a degree qualification (Brien, 2004; Kelly-Patterson & George, 2001; O'Mahoney, McWilliams, & Whitelaw, 2001) suggests that the value of a tourism and hospitality management degree-level qualification varies considerably depending on the recognition of the degree by industry, the reputation of the academic program and students' ability to find meaningful, well-paid employment.

The value of a business qualification at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level is widely recognised on a global level; the same cannot be said to be true of a tourism or hotel management degree qualification. While there is far greater recognition of the value of a degree-level qualification in some regions of the world, notably Europe, USA, and parts of Asia, employers in other regions such as the UK, the Middle East, and Austral-asia continue to be sceptical about the merit of hiring employees with degree-level qualifications (Kim, 2008). In Australia, if starting salaries of tourism and hospitality management graduates are an indication of the value given to their qualification, we can see a discrepancy. For example, in 2008, the median starting salary for an assistant hotel manager was AU$42,000, whereas the median starting salary for an assistant human resource manager in a bank was AU$48,000 (Anonymous, 2009).

Why? One explanation may be the fact that only 36% of senior hotel managers in Australia hold a degree-level qualification (Raybould & Wilkins, 2005); thus, they may not value what they have not experienced. Teboul (2006) argues that perception is shaped by one's filters and biases and is not a rational process (p. 72). Industry scepticism about the value of a degree qualification may result from an individual's frame of reference ('I don't have a degree and look where I got'), confirmation of their previous experience ('we have to start from scratch to retrain them'), and the tendency for them to overgeneralise and categorise ('they think they can walk in with a piece of paper and be a manager tomorrow'; Teboul, 2006, p. 74). Thomas et al., (2000) found managers' perceptions regarding the value of a degree were influenced by their own experience; for example, managers without qualifications were more likely to accuse graduates of wanting to be promoted too quickly and of being unwilling to learn the business (p. 417).

Another reason for the lack of recognition of the value of a degree-level qualification among industry managers may be a result of little, if any, substantive industry involvement in the design, development or review of tourism and hospitality management curricula (Crispin & Robinson, 2001; Solnet, 2004; Solnet et al., 2007). Misperceptions abound as a result of limited interaction between academe and industry; academics are accused of valuing theory and ignoring application, while industry is accused of undervaluing theory and academic study. Industry partnerships are one means for breaking down these misperceptions in order to best meet the needs of all stakeholders and enhance the value of degree-level qualifications.

Can Industry Partnerships Help to Close Quality Gaps?

Mirroring the rapid changes within the global tourism and hospitality industry, tourism and hospitality management education continues to evolve to meet the demand for highly skilled employees. The design, delivery and value gaps discussed in the previous section are a result of this rapid shift. Unless we employ viable strategies for closing these gaps, we will continue to perpetuate misperceptions and fail to meet the expectations of all stakeholders involved in the service delivery.

Effective industry/academic partnerships are a means to transform key stakeholders' perceptions and expectations and enhance the quality of the design, delivery and value of a tourism and hospitality management qualification. The School of Hotel, Resort and Tourism Management (HRTM) at Bond University on the Gold Coast, Australia serves as an appropriate case study in which to examine the role of industry partnerships in that it is the newest player in a well-established field. Housed in the Faculty of Business, Technology and Sustainable Development, the School was launched in January 2009 and offers undergraduate and postgraduate tourism and hotel management degree programs. The strategic decision to establish strong industry partnerships from the outset has been a key differentiating factor for the school, but the success of these initiatives can only be measured by the benchmark set by other Australian and international tourism and hotel management programs.

Industry Partnerships and Program Design

Industry involvement in the design of tourism and hospitality management curricula benefits all key stakeholders, but this engagement needs to be strategic, systematic, and provide value. Three examples of industry engagement in the HRTM program design process include the creation of two industry advisory boards, the development of problem-based learning cases used for instruction and assessment and the creation of opportunities for students and academic staff to engage in applied research.

While there is widespread recognition of the importance of developing strong strategic partnerships, the issue of who is responsible for driving these initiatives is rarely addressed. Solnet et al. (2007) identified one challenge of managing and administering industry engagement by noting that academics frequently only have contact with industry personnel at relatively low levels of the organisation. In order to avoid this pitfall, the School of HRTM created two advisory boards: the Executive Advisory Board and the Regional Advisory Board.

The Executive Advisory Board, which meets twice a year, is comprised of leaders at executive level including corporate level vice-presidents of international hotel chains, airlines, cruise lines, banks, hotel brokerage firms, airports, nature-based attractions and industry associations. The role of the Executive Advisory Board is to evaluate the quality of the curriculum, to serve as mentors for students and to support the school with tangible outcomes such as awards and scholarships. The primary purpose of this partnership is to assist the school at the highest level, frequently on an international scale, with the recruitment and placement of students both during and after their studies.

The Regional Advisory Board is comprised of senior managers including general managers of international hotels chains located on the Gold Coast, industry association representatives, regional tourism body representatives and industry leaders from the convention, events, theme parks, casinos and airline sectors. Regional Advisory Board members also serve on functional subcommittees (finance, marketing, human resource management, sustainability and IT). In this capacity, the Regional Advisory Board members play a critical role in evaluating the quality of the course content on an ongoing basis. Regional Advisory Board members also participate in a range of School of HRTM activities throughout the year: industry panels, guest lectures, site visits and secondary school visits.

A year before the first class was taught, over 30 senior industry partners were actively engaged in the HRTM curriculum design process. Solnet et al (2007) and Crispin and Robinson (2001) suggest that tourism education could be enhanced significantly if employers played a role in the design and delivery of the tourism curricula (p. 68). Dale and Robinson (2001) encourage academics to 'invite practitioners to become members of course development committees, thus ensuring advice and guidance on skill shortages and emerging areas within tourism that require expertise' (p. 34). As a result of this consultative process, the board members and their organisations are now vocal champions of the school; more importantly, their perceptions regarding the value of a degree-level qualification has changed as a result of being actively involved in creating the curriculum.

A second example of industry engagement with course design involves the creation and use of problem-based cases to enhance students' ability to make decisions and manage themselves and others. Problem-based learning has received considerable attention as a means to increase students' knowledge, implementation ability and awareness and sensitivity. Barrows and Johan (2005) report the use of cases studies, 'live projects', and group work are effective in developing students' analytic and problem-solving skills (p. 154). Brownell and Jameson (2004) argue that the value of problem-based learning is that it combines theory with practice. Their research suggests that problem-based learning increases students' knowledge (cognitive outcomes such as enhanced factual knowledge), increases students' ability to implement (behavioural outcomes such as the ability to conduct business research) and increases students' awareness and sensitivity (affective outcomes such as increased ethical awareness) (p. 558).

Applied research is the third example of how academe can involve industry in the creation of new knowledge. During the past 18 months, The School of HRTM has compiled an industry database of over 500 individuals from all sectors and at all levels within the Australian tourism and hospitality industry. All academic staff within the School of HRTM conduct applied research that informs their teaching, but they also work closely with postgraduate students and industry partners to identify relevant industry-driven research topics in conjunction with The Capstone Project. The Master of Hotel and Resort Management and Master of Tourism Management postgraduate students, under the supervision of the academic team, are required to undertake applied, workplace-based research projects in this subject. As the title suggests, the aim of this subject is provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate their critical thinking, managerial, technical and communication skills through the completion of an applied project. The assessment for this subject includes a substantial written report and an oral presentation. The host industry partner attends the presentation and provides feedback to the academic who is responsible for assessing the project.

Industry Partnerships and Educational Delivery

Given the applied nature of the tourism and hospitality industries, it is critical that the delivery of knowledge is shared between academics and practitioners in formal and informal settings. Sigala and Baum (2003) assert industry partnerships provide opportunities to enhance the quality of the curriculum through a collaborative process. Within the School of HRTM, a range of formal and informal learning opportunities are organised to ensure that industry professionals play an important role in the knowledge delivery process. The formal activities currently include participation in the Industry Expert Guest Lecture Series and Tourism Day (T Day) and Open Day events.

One example of industry-based delivery is The Industry Expert Guest Lecture Series, which is an integral component of the required subject, Introduction to Hospitality and Tourism Management. Each week, a senior manager from one industry sector (accommodation, airlines, cruise lines, convention centres, tourism operations, travel, casinos, tourism associations and government tourism organisations) speaks to the students about the challenges and rewards of working in that sector, followed by a question and answer period. Each student then has the opportunity to have lunch in the University Club with one guest speaker after the presentation. This interaction allows potential employers to meet HRTM students during their first semester and it gives students the opportunity to network with industry professionals and participate in a business luncheon.

Another example of industry participation in the delivery of knowledge is the school's Tourism Day (T Day) and Open Day events. Blomme et al. (2009) argue that interventions should be extended to the secondary school system where students' pre-entry expectations are developed (p. 6). T Day and Open Day provide secondary school students the opportunity to interact with industry professionals so that they can make informed decisions about a future career within the global tourism industry. T Day is held three times a year and involves a full program of activities held on campus with the aim of informing Year 11 and Year 12 students about career opportunities within the tourism industry. Industry participation for this event includes a panel discussion where industry leaders share information about their career paths and the opportunities that exist for careers within the industry, as well as networking opportunities during breaks and lunch. Advisory Board members also participate in Open Day activities as a means to demonstrate industry support for the academic HRTM programs.

Industry Partnerships and Value Creation

As noted earlier, key stakeholders' perceptions regarding the value of industry partnerships are influenced by the degree to which their expectations are met. Industry partnership initiatives provide opportunities for the transformational process to occur and can reap substantial benefits for key stakeholders (students, staff, graduates and the industry). Building a strong relationship between academe and industry takes time, but the strength of the relationship between a hospitality program and the industry is one measure of the strength of the program (Barrows & Johan, 2005, p. 155).

The Value of Industry Partnerships for Students

Students' perceptions about the value of industry partnerships are influenced during three distinct phases: on pre-entry into the program, during the course of their studies and after graduation.

Industry partnerships can reduce the gap between students' pre-entry expectations and the realities of what they find when they enter the workplace. Blomme et al. (2009) suggest that pre-entry expectations are frequently not realistic (either too positive or too negative), in part because employers do not generally provide information to potential students (p. 4). Industry participation in T Day and Open Day programs are examples of how secondary school students can be engaged before they enter the program. As the program grows, an interview with an industry professional will be an integral component of the student selection process.

During their course of study, HRTM students benefit from regular contact with industry professionals. In addition to the Industry Expert Guest Lecture Series, the Manager for a Day program, and the Capstone Project subject, HRTM undergraduates also have to complete a 400-hour work requirement for graduation. Williams (2005) outlines that various models related to work requirements within tourism and hospitality management programs include work that is structured or unstructured, is supervised by academic staff or unsupervised, skills-oriented or management-oriented and offered for credit or not for credit (p. 74). Despite the different approaches, relevant work experience is widely valued by industry whatever form it takes. HRTM students are assisted in finding casual employment through industry partners and many students work more than 400 hours during their course of study. Furthermore, all HRTM students are required to participate in an exit interview with an industry leader and the Head of School upon completion of the program as a quality feedback mechanism.

The Value of Industry Partnerships for Graduates

As key stakeholders, graduates benefit from the school's industry partnerships. As consumers of the service, they may be best prepared to evaluate the quality of the program. Previous research has shown that graduate satisfaction affects the reputation of the school. Graduates benefit in the short term and long term as a result of the school's strong industry partnerships (Richardson, 2009). The short-term benefits include full-time employment opportunities upon graduation. The long-term benefits include access to an ever-growing alumni network. Industry's perceptions about the quality of the program and its graduates will affect their hiring decisions; therefore, in order to best meet the needs of graduates, the school needs to continue to establish and maintain strong industry partnerships. As ranked by the Good Universities Guide (2009), Bond University received five stars for positive graduate outcomes, graduate satisfaction, graduate starting salaries, teaching quality, staff to student ratios, staff qualifications and getting a job.

Value of Industry Partnerships for Academic Staff

Industry partnerships are also beneficial for academics as they provide research and professional development opportunities. Jayawardena et al. (2003) suggest that academic staff can form relationships with industry partners through professional networks, industry forums and conferences, joint research projects and management development programs (p. 312). Ongoing engagement with industry is an integral component of the school's educational mission. All School of HRTM academics have international industry experience and ongoing professional development through industry involvement plays an important role in the staff recruitment and promotion process.

In addition to regular contact with industry professionals through the advisory board meetings, guest lectures and T Day and Open Day activities, the School of HRTM has taken a strategic decision to actively engage with industry through industry association memberships (for example: Pacific Asia Tourism Association [PATA], ICHRIE, EuroCHRIE, APacCHRIE, Tourism Transport Forum [TTA], Queensland Tourism Industry Council [QTIC], Australian Tourism Export Council [ATEC], Tourism Industry Careers Association [TICA] and Gold Coast Tourism). There is value for all key stakeholders as a result of regular engagement with industry through professional organisations; therefore, the considerable membership fees are offset by the benefits.

Value of Industry Partnerships for Employers

Perhaps the greatest reward of industry/academic partnerships is the opportunity to alter potential employers' perceptions regarding the value of hiring graduates with degree-level qualifications. Best practice suggests opportunities have to be created for industry to engage with students frequently and throughout the course of their study. The Assessment Centre run by the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University for the Master of Management in Hospitality (MMH) students is an excellent example of how students can engage with industry prior to the commencement of their studies. Brownell and Jameson (1995) and Brownell and Chung (2001) outline the benefits that MMH students receive as a result of their immersion in a 3-day assessment with industry prior to the commencement of their studies.

The creation of formal mentorship schemes is another effective means of strengthening industry/academic partnerships. HRTM students have the opportunity to participate in the school's Manager for a Day Program. Prior to the students' on-site visit, the host management team identify appropriate managers to serve as mentors. Using the university intranet, HRTM students have access to a roster of organisations participating in the programs each semester. Students are selected to participate on the program through a competitive process. Prior to the onsite visit, students are contacted by the industry mentor via email and receive a copy of his/her position description. The students then spend the day 'shadowing' the manager. The objective for this activity is to allow students to make industry contacts, to observe the range of activities that a manager engages in on a daily basis and to enhance their knowledge about industry operations. Allowing time for reflection, students then submit a short report outlining what they learned from this experience, which is posted as a blog as a reference for all HRTM students and participating industry partners. As a means to provide ongoing support, the industry mentors agree to engage with the student via email correspondence for the remainder of the student's course of study.

In the near future, the School of HRTM hopes to implement an Industry Leader Sabbatical Program similar to the Executive in Residence Program at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University. The benefit for the industry leader is the opportunity to undertake further academic study; in return, he/she will serve as a mentor to HRTM students and staff, provide a public seminar for industry, assist with student exit interviews and provide feedback to undergraduate and postgraduate students completing The Capstone Project subject.


Like any other service, the quality of tourism and hospitality management education is reliant on three factors: the quality of the curriculum, the quality of the delivery and the perceived value of the qualification by key stakeholders. What is required is continuous improvement to reduce quality gaps, the efficient and effective use of all available resources and the ability to differentiate your product from that of your competitors.

It has been argued that effective industry/academic partnerships can reduce design, delivery and value gaps. To date, many hospitality and tourism management programs have struggled to achieve status parity, both internally and externally; far too often they have been undervalued both within and outside of academe. Given the increasing global demand for industry leaders, we cannot afford to ignore the quality issue. Sigala and Baum (2003) warn that the status of tourism and hospitality studies will remain unchanged unless both industry and academia work together to develop highly skilled managers (p. 374.) Barrows and Johan (2008) recommend that tourism and hotel management programs need to focus on the delivery of quality education, engage in applied research and develop strong ties with industry to further professionalise the industry (p. 161).

Industry partnerships have been identified as a vehicle to positively influence the perceptions and expectations of key stakeholders in the delivery of tourism and hospitality management education. Using a number of best practice examples, a range of international industry partnership initiatives designed to facilitate engagement have been identified. Previous research suggests that strong links between industry and academe are essential in order to best meet the needs of all stakeholders involved in the educational process. The issue of quality in relation to these partnerships has also been addressed; high quality partnerships result in participants not merely experiencing the interaction but being transformed by it. Active industry engagement during the pre-entry phase, during the course of study and after graduation has been offered as a means to close quality gaps--but further research is needed to determine if, and to what extent, key stakeholders' perceptions and expectations are affected as a result of this interaction.

DOI 10.1375/jhtm.16.1.130


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Elizabeth Roberts

Bond University, Australia


Elizabeth Roberts, School of Hotel, Resort and Tourism Management, Bond University QLD 4229, Australia. E-mail:
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Author:Roberts, Elizabeth
Publication:Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management
Article Type:Case study
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jan 1, 2009
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