ALTC Project

Building a Stronger Future: Balancing Professional and Liberal Education in Ideals in Tourism and Hospitality Education

Jan 2012

An ALTC funded national project sought to clarify what constitutes a tourism or hospitality degree in Australia and exactly what such degrees should deliver. This issue has received considerable attention in a number of countries with significant debate over issues such as core knowledge requirements and accreditation.

While the project is Australian-focused, it is relevant to anyone interested in understanding more about the global context of tourism and hospitality education. The final project report, four issues papers and other information can be accessed at the Building a Stronger Future website.

The project received strong endorsement from the Office for Learning and Teaching: “Congratulations on this landmark project, which makes an unmatched contribution to this ‘discipline’ area.  I have enjoyed reading the final report, the excellent evaluation report and the issues papers very much.  The documents give a clear and unblinking account of your ‘discipline’ and of the project’s exemplary operation.   I really liked the way you engaged such a huge group of institutions through the use of project champions.”


The question of what constitutes a tourism and hospitality (T&H) degree has received considerable attention in a number of countries with significant debate over issues such as core knowledge requirements and accreditation.

In Australia, despite having a range of well-established and internationally recognised degrees for over 20 years, there has been little debate or clarity over what constitutes a tourism or hospitality degree, or exactly what such degrees should deliver. The aim of this project is to map the T&H education curricula including core knowledge requirements and the pathways that students can take within the curricula space (e.g. from professional/vocational education to liberal education) in order to clarify what constitutes T&H education in the higher education environment. It necessarily includes consideration of relationships with leisure, events and convention management, sports, social science, environment and other related areas of study.

The project is underpinned by a commitment to establishing collaborative dialogue between industry, higher education and the academic community about the future of tourism and hospitality education and practice. It also responds to a raft of policy developments that are having transcendental impacts on international and Australian higher education environments. The project is founded on respect for the diversity of tourism and hospitality degree offerings and the independence and autonomy of higher education institutions, and responds to the growing need for a collective vision for T&H higher education.

Project Outcomes

Mapping the Tourism and Hospitality curricula space to:

  • Inform strategic decision-making about T&H education
  • Inform curriculum content, graduate skills and knowledge requirements of graduates from within these various pathways
  • Provide information for the growing diversity of the student body by informing students about the T&H curriculum that can be used to assist in decision-making about a range of issues including pathways, work integrated learning (WIL) and employer expectations
  • Inform discussions about T&H accreditation.


The two-year project involved four key overlapping and interconnected tasks:

  1. Establish a collaboration framework: This collaborative consultative framework adopted a networked approach to data collection and information dissemination. The project team established a network of project ‘champions’ at each university that offers a T&H degree program. The role of the champions was to assist in data collection via an established survey methodology. Opportunities for research papers derived from this data are available for the champions.
  2. Literature review and desktop analysis: A literature review of current factors affecting higher education and their impact on T&H education was undertaken. An analysis of overseas trends and directions was undertaken and information about current T&H degree offerings was collected and analysed.
  3. Data collection: The project involved the use of surveys of industry stakeholders, T&H educators and students. Interviews were conducted with university managers.
  4. Information dissemination and guidance: Discussion papers and preliminary results were released throughout the course of the project and opportunities to disseminate and generate discussion and feedback were sought in conferences, industry forums and via the ALTC and CAUTHE websites.

The Project Team comprised a range of researchers in four universities across Australia, and was supported by an international Reference Group who provided assistance and direction to the project. A group of Project Champions was enlisted to help with collaboration and consultation.

About the Project Team

The project brought together a number of senior and influential people across Australia from a range of vocational and liberal education tourism and hospitality education programs to collaboratively address these issues.

The members of the project team were:

  • Associate Professor Dianne Dredge, Southern Cross University
  • Dr Pierre Benckendorff, University of Queensland
  • Ms Michele Day, Southern Cross University
  • Dr Michael J. Gross, University of South Australia
  • Ms Maree Walo, Southern Cross University
  • Mr Paul Weeks, Sydney Hotel School/Southern Cross University
  • Dr Paul A. Whitelaw, Victoria University

About the Reference Group

A reference group was comprised of members with considerable experience in T&H education and knowledge of the changes taking place in the higher education environment. The role of the reference group was to provide critical feedback at various points in the project’s development.

The members of the project’s Reference Group were:

  • Associate Professor Perry Hobson, THE-ICE/Southern Cross University
  • Professor Bob McKercher, Hong Kong Polytechnic University
  • Mr Euan Robertson, Tourism and Transport Forum
  • Professor Pauline Sheldon, University of Hawaii
  • Professor Janet Taylor, Southern Cross University
  • Professor John Tribe, University of Surrey

External Evaluator

  • Professor David Airey, University of Surrey, evaluated the project