Reflections on tourism higher education: Innovation and Change


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The present presentation provides some intensely personal reflections about the past, present, and future of tourism higher education, with special focus on India. The presenter highlights forces of continuity and change in the historical development of tourism education. In addition to more trivial issues such as curriculum design, instruction, and campus placements, deeper currents that manipulate the system such as authority and dogma are touched upon. Special mention is accorded to the historical factors that resulted in the current state of institution development and the future outlook. The presenter worked as a faculty member in one of the Central Universities of India teaching tourism before he migrated to the United States six years back, which gives him the unique vantage point of an ex-insider. While no grand design is offered as a panacea, it is hoped that the discussion contained here will help clarify the issues better, which is the first major step in identifying meaningful solutions.

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Reflections on tourism higher education: Innovation and Change

  1. 1. Innovation and Change in Tourism Higher Education With special focus on India Key paper presented @NITHM Conference, October 2013 Babu P George, PhD
  2. 2. Using Research to Shape Tourism Education Policy  The utilization of research based knowledge promises greater success in achieving objectives for a rich and prosperous society – Toffler.  A very recent phenomenon  In response to an increasing number of tourism educational programs failing one after another  “It is difficult to get decision-makers to listen to us”, says many educational researchers    Except when such research is carried out at the explicit direction of the decision makers who have vested interests in the outcome Also, there exists fragmentation at the policy making levels (who should make tourism educational policy? Ministry of HRD, Tourism, Culture, or Environment?). Educational policy tend to show governmental priorities for businesses (unfortunately?)  E.g.: Notions of competition, markets, and quality assurance, commonly associated with industry and commerce, are reflected in tourism higher education policy. Key paper presented @NITHM Conference, October 2013
  3. 3. A Brief History of Tourism Education  In many countries, tourism education evolved from trade schools and polytechnics   Historical focus on skills (knowledge utilization) than knowledge creation (research) or knowledge sharing (education). Historically, tourism education has taken a very slow start, followed by abrupt (unsustainable) expansion, …and then?  Lack of direction? Premature death? Absorption by other disciplines?  In the US, tourism education started in „home science‟ schools, later absorbed by b-schools.   Independent existence of tourism schools is rare unless there is significant local industry support. Early movers overcame „decline‟ by internationalization  Australian universities either  Went overseas (direct export or via partnerships)  Promoted home campuses overseas (via educational fairs, edu consultants, etc) Key paper presented @NITHM Conference, October 2013
  4. 4. Tourism Education as a „Product‟  Difference in the lifecycle stages of the “tourism education product” In terms of popularity In terms of „disciplination‟ Key paper presented @NITHM Conference, October 2013
  5. 5. History of Tourism Knowledge  Early studies featured mostly economic prospects of tourism, emphasizing its benefits.  Note: Sociologists had identified the leisure class‟ before this.  Gradually, this unilateral economic view gave way to a wave of studies focusing on the sociocultural aspects of tourism and brought the benefits of tourism under scrutiny.  Thirdly, research then focused on alternative forms of tourism development which were potentially sustainable, with minimal unwanted consequences (this marks the beginning of growing out of disciplinary boundaries). Source: Jafari, J. (1990). Research and scholarship: the basis of tourism education. Journal of Tourism Studies, 1(1), 33–41. Key paper presented @NITHM Conference, October 2013
  6. 6. The Drive Behind Mainstream Initiatives  Keep the industry abreast with the latest technology and trends.  Increase the availability of qualified replacement staff at all times.  Raise the image of careers in tourism.  Staff new and growing tourist industry(ies).  Respond to tightening employment regulation.  Reduce foreign labor. Source: Amoah, V. A., & Baum, T. (1997). Tourism education: policy versus practice. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 9(1), 5–12. Key paper presented @NITHM Conference, October 2013
  7. 7. Confusion about target markets and nomenclature  Tourism graduates are often recruited by non-tourism employers  Likewise, tourism industry also recruits non-tourism graduates   Industry doesn‟t know the curriculum content or preparation Most common degree titles are Tourism Management and Tourism Studies.  Mostly prefixed with terms such as „international‟, „global‟, etc.  some amalgamate their titles with leisure, recreation, sports, and/or hospitality.  Variety in terms of BS / BA / MSc/ MA/MBA  Vocational Vs. Academic focus  Such variety confuses the students and the employers alike!  An unanswered question: should tourism degrees enable students to seek employment outside of the industry? Key paper presented @NITHM Conference, October 2013
  8. 8. Lack of Accreditors … or, Credible Accreditors  Until recently, tourism education suffered from domain-centered accreditors  In the US, AACSB, ACBSP, and IACBE accredited tourism programs   Hospitality programs has somewhat better known domain centered authenticators    TEDQUAL has not taken off CHRIE No agreement even about whether certain courses should be „core‟ of the tourism curriculum The lack of a centralized quality standards controller actually helped in nurturing the most needed diversity for tourism education Key paper presented @NITHM Conference, October 2013
  9. 9. Problems in Teaching Tourism  “The most wide-ranging industry in the world, in terms of disciplinary contributions required to understand it”  “The most culturally diverse industry in the world, in terms of guests and hosts involved”  “The most politically charged industry in the world, in terms of interstakeholder strains”  “The most neglected industry in the world, in terms of developmental priorities” Key paper presented @NITHM Conference, October 2013
  10. 10. Education for Tourism Policy Makers  Important because, among other things, they influence tourism educational policy for others  Almost no attention being paid to the training and educational needs of tourism policy-makers.  Stress has been on providing vocational training for lower level employees in government   Training programs for immigration staff, guide training programs, etc Training for tourism policy makers should academically based, not procedureprotocol based, noted long back by Jenkins (1980). Source: Jenkins, C. L. (1980). Education for tourism policy makers in developing countries. International Journal of Tourism Management, 1(4), 238–242. Key paper presented @NITHM Conference, October 2013
  11. 11. India-specific Problems  Ambiguity about institutional vision-mission  Constituency Disputes   Interdepartmental tussles   Program hosting Ideological wars Typical profile of a tourism student  Underrepresentation of the work-experienced students  Studies show students with just 1-2 years of experience make a lot of difference in business learning; long years of experience has diminishing marginal utility.#  Career issues for tourism graduates in India  Industry-institute interfacing problems  How do we know what we do that we claim to do?  Lack of scientific approaches to assessment Key paper presented @NITHM Conference, October Business #Source: Rethinking the MBA. Harvard 2013 Review. Retrieved October 21, 2013, from
  12. 12. The Internet as „Destabilizer‟ – Education not exempt!  Brick-n-mortar classroom based instruction is no longer the holy grail  Hybrid, fully online, and MOOC options   Economies of scale and scope A global degree without leaving your doorsteps!  Or, only part-time abroad  Virtual industry visits and internships, too  Getting a „degree certificate‟ has become less important  „Webification‟ is not merely digitizing content   It requires understanding of the underlying cultural drives Educator‟s role as knowledge sharer is almost gone!  Increasingly important role as information complexity / overload reducer  Also, role as content creator for open-audiences   “Share and thou shalt receive” The increasing weightage of faculty research for faculty competency measurements Key paper presented @NITHM Conference, October 2013a  “Active learning” as strategy to reduce the blind assault by technology
  13. 13. The Three Domains Model of Higher Education by Dale & Robinson (2001) and Improvisation by George (2013)  Model identifies a wide range of (conflicting) issues in curriculum design  But misses target when there is need to classify programs by academic, professional, vocational, and entrepreneurial  Also, silent on the issue of Academic rigor Vs. Practical relevance Source: Dale, C., & Robinson, N. (2001). The theming of tourism education: a three-domain approach. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 13(1), 30–35. Key paper presented @NITHM Conference, October 2013
  14. 14. The Uncertain, Fluid, New World  THREE FOUNDATION PRINCIPLES OF PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION FOR 21St Century   Knowing (Knowledge), Doing (Skill), Being (Developing sense of personal identity and purpose) We should prepare our graduates to face:  Globalization   Interdependence   Connectedness is cool, but „loss of sub-system autonomy/control‟ Technological revolution(s) / Disruptions   Flat world, but not the death of cultures No more continuous „waves/cycles of change‟ Demographic shifts  Migration, ethnic-racial-mix shifts, etc    Complex market forces … among others. HOW?  By developing adaptable workforce(s) Key paper presented @NITHM Conference, October 2013  Technologically and culturally adaptive
  15. 15. The Increasing Need for B-School Based Tourism Programs  There‟s more of an opportunity to make positive changes through business than ever  Business has become the single greatest definer of life  Leisure, recreation, and tourism have become the key icons of consumption  Business School based tourism programs are best suited to impact a world defined in terms of business  But, business is not, or should not be, life  Bring life to business!   Bring life to business by developing business leaders who are life-filled! Existing B-Schools where built for an era meant to “bring business to life” than to “bring life to business”  This calls for fundamental reorganization of business educational programs in tourism as well  A fusion of tourism domain knowledge with business, arts and sciences, and technology  Ethical training that emphasizes integrated thinking, broad perspectives, and cultural awareness, along with specific expertise  May be, October 2013 Key paper presented @NITHM Conference, it is a good better.  idea to mimic medical schools. The more the fieldwork / action learning, the Already, some advocate for insisting MBAs to take oaths before they could practice
  16. 16. Two New MBA Models: Rethinking MBA for Tourism Schools  Carnegie Melon Flex MBA  Online+In-person+Independent Learning  Short classes, not MOOC style  Typically, 32 months duration  Roughly 7 week long mini semesters    “Access weekends”, typically the last 3 days of the mini-semester for in-person residency   2 courses per mini semester Flex MBA will have 10-20 courses, in accordance with the prior preparation of the learners Rutgers Mini-MBA  Twelve 3-hour modules on a narrowly defined professional area. Must attend a Minimum of 10 sessions to earn a certificate. Key paper presented @NITHM Conference, October 2013 
  17. 17. Questions? Perspectives? Discussion? Google Scholar Profile Key paper presented @NITHM Conference, October 2013