Educating the future: event management courses

University of Westminster

University of Westminster has 20 years of expertise in tourism education and research, providing tourism studies at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. In the 2011 Guardian rankings, it was placed in the top 10 list of UK universities offering tourism degrees.

The Centre for Tourism Research offers a range of tourism and event courses and has a number of PhD students completing tourism-related research. The Tourism and Events BA Honours course is designed for students who have an interest in the tourism sector generally and are keen to focus on the burgeoning field of events management.

CN talks to the University of Westminster’s Senior Lecturer in Tourism and Event Management, Simon Curtis, on how this year’s intake is shaping up:

How does this year’s intake of event management students compare to the last?

We teach Events Management at postgraduate level, established for some eight years now, and as part of a combined degree with tourism at undergraduate level, introduced for the first time this year.

The postgraduate degree is always popular and fills places. We have an intake of approximately 25 each year, as the degree uses seminar based learning. It’s the first year of intake for the undergraduate degree; we targeted 20 students and have exceeded this by two which has delighted us.

Do students want degrees in specific areas of event management?

At postgraduate level, our particular niche is our emphasis on three things: the significance of corporate and business events, often overlooked in other event degrees; an emphasis on management skills and exploring the link between events and the tourism industry/visitor economy.  
At undergraduate level, the three-year degree allows us to give students a rounded education in all aspects of events but our niche is that we set events in the context of the wider tourism industry.
 
How is the course material changing to suit the needs of the market?

Our teaching team is a mix of academics and practitioners and we also use visiting speakers to talk about particular events they are involved in. Our teaching is seminar orientated and assignments are practical as well as academic. London presents the perfect stage in which to study events and conferences with cutting edge venues and events to visit and experience.

Do your courses include a practical unit or internship for students to gain experience while still at university?

At postgraduate level, we have introduced a module which involves students working in teams, delivering a project at the specific request of one of our industry partners.

Are your lecturers previous event managers?

Yes, we have an experienced destination manager who oversaw a festival programme as part of his destination remit; we have a visiting lecturer who is a part-time conference organiser specialising in the finance and maritime sectors and another who owns her own conference agency.

How are courses changing over the years?

They have become more practical and more interactive but we have retained a robustness to the course and have worked hard to ensure that event students, who tend to be quite practically-minded and organised individuals, appreciate the wider context and strategic role which events can have, both in facilitating knowledge exchange and, in the case of festivals, contributing to local identity and community pride.

How do you choose the material?

We create course material by selecting from the body of knowledge written about Events Management and synthesising this with our own experience of developing, planning and managing events.

Do you think education is the way forward?

Education should always have a practical element though it can only partly replicate the experience of event delivery. What it will ensure though is that individuals have a rounded appreciation and understanding of the objectives of events and how to evaluate them properly.

What is the general make up of students?

For the new undergraduate course, I would estimate 25 per cent are international, 70 per cent are from A Level, with 30 per cent having worked for a year and 65 per cent are female.

On the postgraduate course, the average age is mid 20s, 75 per cent international and 70 per cent female.

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STUDENT OPINION

“When I first decided to study events, London was the first city to come to mind. With the Olympics, as well as numerous other events happening every day, I knew I would gain valuable experiences.

“While searching for a course and school, the University of Westminster stood out. The University’s website offered all I needed to know as an international student about the course and modules and I was in constant contact with the University while making my decision.

“Due to my experiences at Westminster, I am now preparing to enter a career as an event planner, and will hopefully work with media events.”

– Laurie Nothstine, Events and Conference Management MA, University of Westminster
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Manchester Metropolitan University

Through its Event Management course, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) aims to produce graduates with creative and strategic minds who are equipped to organise a wide variety of events.

In addition to academic study, students are given the opportunity to put thinking into practice by working on live events projects.  

Recent graduates of the course have progressed into careers in the licensed retail, entertainment, conferencing, sports and hotel industries.

CN talks to MMU’s Senior Lecturer in Events Management, Sehar Graham, MBE about how the university is preparing the next generation of event professionals:

How does this year’s intake of event management students compare to the last?

The 2012/13 intake for events management is 145 and for the academic year before it was 170, but it is worth noting that this year students will pay £8,000 in tuition fees compared to the previous £3,290.

Do students want degrees in specific areas of event management?

Our research has shown that students would like the option to specialise in one area of events. From 2013/14, students will be able to select an optional unit to study on topics such as Events and Multimedia Technology, Sports and Events, MICE, and Celebration Events.

What issues are covered in the courses?

Sustainability is a major driving force in events, especially as London 2012 followed BS8901, the British Standard for Sustainable Events Management, during the Games. Health and Safety and Risk Management remain the main area of legislation that is covered. First year students cover this with law being taught by a qualified law expert.

Do your courses include a practical unit or internship for students?

Event students can either take the three-year degree or decide to take an additional placement year. Two dedicated event lecturers work on sourcing paid placements for our students. Placement opportunities for students are available throughout the world, and we have students in Canada,
USA and Spain as well as in London and Manchester. This Olympic year has seen some of our students working at the Games themselves.

In their first year, all students are part of an events volunteering programme, working throughout the city on events such as The Manchester Food and Drink Festival, BUPA run and the Manchester Irish Festival. In their second year students create a live event working with one of our many industry partners to create a fundraising event from a budget of zero. Last year these events generated over £14,000 for good causes.

Do you think education is the way forward for an industry like this?

The way events management is taught at MMU is that all academic theory and frameworks are supported by practical work experience in the form of volunteering, interns, creating live events and placements.

Event Managers are responsible not only for creating an event experience, but also for delivering a budget and ensuring the health and safety of visitors. You would not have an untrained doctor performing surgery, so why have an unskilled Event Manager.

What is the general make up of your students?

The majority are home students with a small percentage from overseas.

We have recently seen an increase in mature students applying. Around 70 per cent of our students are female.   

This was first published in the October 2012 edition of Conference News. Any comments? Email conferencenews@mashmedia.net

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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