Hospitality Degree Programs in Australia: A Continuing Evolution

By Breakey, Noreen M.; Craig-Smith, Stephen J. | Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, August 2007 | Go to article overview

Hospitality Degree Programs in Australia: A Continuing Evolution


Breakey, Noreen M., Craig-Smith, Stephen J., Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management


Hospitality management degree programs have changed significantly since they were first introduced in Australia over 30 years ago. This article reviews the development of these undergraduate degree programs in hospitality using a combined macro and micro approach. First, at the national level, this study reviews the provision of degrees in hospitality, identifying the macro-level changes that have occurred in the hospitality program landscape since the mid 1970s. Second, at the program level, this study analyses the evolution of one of the longest running hospitality management programs, offered by The University of Queensland. This review identifies the underlying reasons for micro-level hospitality program changes in Australia, and relates these changes to the broader context of higher education evolution, hospitality industry development, and student expectations.

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Hospitality degree programs have grown and matured rapidly despite hospitality education being a relatively new academic pursuit (Williams, 2005a, 2005b). Overall, the growth of the Australian programs has followed a natural growth curve, with a very slow beginning in the mid 1970s, followed by accelerating growth in the 1980s, and then massive growth through the 1990s and into the present decade. 'The combination of rapid growth and the continually evolving nature of the industry resulted in hospitality and tourism programs that differed widely in their philosophies and approaches' (Williams, 2005a p. 71). This is evident in Australia at both the macro national level and the micro program level.

At the national level, a study of the 20-year evolution of all undergraduate degree programs in hospitality and tourism on offer throughout Australia was conducted by Craig-Smith (1998). The review identified a variety of different types of hospitality programs with a total of 15 programs offered at 13 institutions nationwide in 1997. A subsequent review was undertaken for 2007 to outline the significant changes that have occurred over the past decade, and to provide a picture of how hospitality degree program types and offerings have developed over the past 30 years.

To be classified as a hospitality program for the purpose of this research the program had to incorporate hospitality, hotel and/or catering in the title of its degree or major. Furthermore, the same program may be offered at multiple campuses. For example, the Australian Catholic University offers the same program in three states. For the purpose of this Australia-wide research, however, such a program is only counted once. It is recognised that the number of program offerings is therefore higher than the number of programs. As a result, a review of hospitality degree programs in a particular region or state would need to consider the number of program offerings.

Owing to the number, and variation, of hospitality degree programs offered over the past three decades, this article provides a snapshot of the main trends. This article analyses and examines the program situation for each decade and identifies the number and type of hospitality programs and the institutions involved for each 10-year period.

At the program level, the analysis of the development of The University of Queensland degree illustrates the evolution of program philosophy from its food and catering origins to a combined tourism and business focus. In addition, there have been a number of other significant changes to the program. Internal changes included program length, course number and type, elective course choice, work experience, and honours provision, while external influences included the number of competing institutions, and government policy.

The authors expect that this process of evolutionary development will continue into the future as hospitality management programs are a product of the ever-changing nexus of internal university circumstances, the state of the hospitality industry, and the needs of students, in the context of wider social and political change. …

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