Top Businesses Looking for Hospitality Graduates

Prospective university students in the UK believe the best way to a successful career is the academic degree from a top university. Vocational degrees are viewed not as a route to management, but rather to the first rungs in the industry.

Which is odd since top recruiters are heading to hospitality schools to seek out future managers and executives.

This global industry provides around 8.7 per cent of worldwide employment – the World Travel and Tourism Council, estimates by 2023, nearly one in ten jobs will be in hospitality.

What’s even more surprising is the UK education system’s slow response. The Swiss have the three best hospitality schools but many countries offer a good range of hospitality and management courses.

Encouragingly, Oxford Brookes hospitality school was ranked eight in a survey of the top 10 International Hospitality Management Schools in the World by TNS last year.

Yet according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, last year fewer than 8,000 students chose a first degree in a hospitality or hospitality management related course; postgraduate figures – 2,445 – were low too.

Students’ perceptions matter. “A lot of my friends think that I’m doing four years of education to learn how to wait tables, which is of course not the case,” says Catherine Demont, a 23-year-old BSC Hospitality Management student.

She is one of the few British students at Les Roches International School of Hotel Management in Switzerland. “There’s a very small number of English employees in hospitality.”

Catherine opted for Switzerland as she found “at home that [hospitality] is sort of misrepresented. This view that it is not as prestigious as something more academic.

“In this economic climate it’s a fantastic thing to do; my employability is much higher … and it’s a great opportunity for you to meet with people and network on a national and international scale. I think that gets lost a little bit in translation so I think that’s a shame.”

Similarly, Oliver Darrington a 20-year-old British student does not regret coming to Les Roches, having convinced his dad about choosing hospitality and not geography at Durham.

The Swiss hospitality tradition may extend to London. Since Glion opened a Roehampton University branch last August top recruiters have come knocking.

Hospitality schools generally report a growing interest from shops and banks. “What many people don’t understand is that this is a business degree – with a customer service focus,” says Maria Alexandra Velez, from Laureate International Universities.

What is becoming known as ‘the experience industry’ – from luxury shopping to elite hotels – expects social skills. “Luxury retailers look to train staff in customer service and recruit hospitality students for this reason,” says Makrina Hernandez from Les Roches’ Marbella school.

JP Morgan, Bloomberg, Louis Vitton, Shangri-La and Disney Land have all recently recruited from Switzerland’s top schools: Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne; Glion Institute of Higher Education and Les Roches.

Peter Lugosi, from the Oxford School of Hospitality Management (OSHM) believes UK universities wrongly identify hospitality as less prestigious. Among a number of factors, fewer teaching staff have doctorates, an indicator used to rank institutions.

Yet some institutions continue to thrive. Doctor Lugosi highlights the OSHM at Oxford Brookes, the only independent, dedicated school of hospitality in the UK, as a case in point. “Applications and numbers continue to grow, despite the rise of entry requirements,” he said.

“Student employability rates and graduate earnings are comparable with business and management graduates … and OSHM’s research is internationally recognised as world leading.

The industry generated over 1,700,000 jobs in the UK last year, a number expected to rise to over two million by 2024. With so much potential, it seems a shame that British graduates are under-represented within the industry.


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