Event Studies and Event Management: On Becoming an Academic Discipline

Article excerpt

Event Management has emerged as a distinct field of study and career path, with increasing professionalism, yet its scope and boundaries are somewhat unclear and it is not connected to a disciplinary core. This paper examines its status as an academic field and discusses the process of becoming a discipline. A model is presented for defining event studies and guiding event management academic programs, and it is discussed in the context of relationships with other fields such as tourism and leisure. Implications are drawn for research, curriculum development, and professionalism.

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A unique conference was held in Sydney in July of 2000. It appears to have been the very first anywhere to focus on education, research and evaluation issues faced by the events field. Although event practitioners gather regularly at conferences sponsored by professional associations, the academic and research communities seldom meet to discuss issues and directions. The events "industry", if we can call it that, is well established in many forms such as meeting and exposition planners, festival managers, sport event managers and marketers, or entertainment producers, but as an academic field of study and career path it is quite new and immature -- so new that the focus remains on management of events without ever having established a core of event studies.

A number of important initiatives in Australia illustrate the evolution of event management to its current prominence. Australia has been increasingly successful in winning and producing mega-events such as the America's Cup, World's Fair, and Summer Olympics. Mega events in particular have generated a lot of debate surrounding their costs, benefits and planning -- especially with regard to the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Every Australian state now has an event development corporation or unit, usually with an explicit mandate to develop tourism.

There are now many event management courses and some degree programs established at Australian universities and colleges (see Harris & Jago, 1999). Research on events is being sponsored by the government, and event-specific research centres are developing. There is a cross-country initiative to identify and agree upon a research agenda for event tourism, as part of the Cooperative Research Centres program.

Similar trends are in evidence in many countries. Event Management degree programs are now established in North America, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. It is gaining status as a specialist field in Hong Kong and Korea. The universal force shaping this emerging academic field is the amazing growth of professional event management jobs and the related economic and social impacts of all types of events.

Many of the event management programs established to date are practical in their orientation, taking a "how-to" approach. This might be what students and employers want, but it can easily fall into the "trade-school" trap of avoiding difficult theoretical, methodological and ethical issues. Another academic trend is to attach event management studies to sport, tourism hospitality, arts or other subjects. Certainly they are relevant to all of these and more, but it is difficult to justify a fragmented approach when student numbers grow to the point where a generic event management course would be feasible, and even more difficult to validate from the perspective of creating a distinct academic field or discipline.

The trend to add graduate level studies in event management is interesting, as not all academics and practitioners feel it is important. Presumably the main justification is to offer those from other career paths the opportunity to get into the field without having to start from the bottom. That makes a lot of sense, as does the more academic argument of ensuring higher standards of theory and research. All new disciplines must face their professions and take a lead. …