White Paper – The Future of Tourism, Hospitality and Events (THE) Education, February 2024


This report has been commissioned by the Association for Tourism in Higher Education (ATHE), along with the Council for Hospitality Management (CHME) and the Association for Events Management Education (AEME). 

It reports on the future of Tourism, Hospitality and Events (THE) Management education in the United Kingdom (UK), in the context of increased stakeholder pressure and shifting government policy, outlining implications on the Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE) sectors, at various levels, including funding, enrolment, progression pathways, and graduate outcomes.  It sets out to ensure that THE Management education strategy both at FE and HE levels is informed by current developments in the sector and the wider environment and is supported by government policy that advances, enhances and promotes THE subjects. It details the current educational, industry and political landscapes in the UK regions, demonstrated by data and forecasts, courses available, the challenges and opportunities and student and graduate perspectives.

Data collection

Primary data were collected via interviews and questionnaires, between July 2023 and September 2023 from a sample comprising academics, industry employers and recruiters, as well as students and graduates: 

  • A total of 57 representatives of education providers delivering THE subjects across the UK were contacted and 21 HE institutions participated in the interviews but only one of these was from Northern Ireland. 
  • In total 25 academics representing THE education in UK HEIs were interviewed, two of these being from Northern Ireland.

Tourism and Hospitality and Events Management Education Landscape

Further Education qualifications related to Tourism and Hospitality are categorised in two distinct sector subject areas:

  1. Leisure, Travel and Tourism which includes Sport, Leisure, and Recreation along with Travel and Tourism, and 
  2. Retail and Commercial Enterprise which includes Hospitality and Catering.

Data and Forecasts 

In Northern Ireland, between 2020/21 and 2021/22, there was a significant Further Education in-year enrolment increase of 21.9% (965) for the Retail and Commercial Enterprise and 10.2% increase (111) in Leisure, Travel and Tourism. However in England, there was a decline for the same period in both  – within Leisure, Travel and Tourism there was a decrease of 9.5% and a further decrease of 9.6% between 2021/22 and 2022/23. No 2022/23 data was available for Northern Ireland or the other UK areas. Further NI statistics can be found HERE

  • Appendix 1 showed the variations in undergraduate applications and acceptances between 2016/2017 and 2021/2022. Tourism Management, Event Management and Tourism and Hospitality Management showed the biggest decline in applications with a decrease of between 72% and 75%. Events Management (with Foundation year) showed a significant increase of 500% in applications.
  • Appendices 2 – 24 showed graphs displaying the trends in enrolments and achievements in different courses in the different UK regions.
  • Appendix 7 showed Northern Ireland (Leisure, Travel and Tourism):

The Future

Recommendations for Higher and Further Education Providers  

There has been a downward trend in student recruitment particularly from the EU and UK.

  • Working together with industry and wider stakeholders towards shifting the negative perceptions of THE industries.
  • A more in-depth understanding of students’ and graduates’ perceptions related to various career pathways within THE industries and the wide opportunities for career-building and career progression would attract a broader range of applicants.
  • THE curricula development and enhancement, as well as teaching, learning and assessment strategies both in FE and HE should consider a more balanced approach between the vocational nature of these programmes, integration of technical, management and scientific disciplines, and need for industry input and collaboration. A key requisite of THE curricula is to ensure bridging the skills gap which could be achieved through integrating advisory boards, round table consultations, industry panels and other forms of engagement. Bridging the skills/talent gap is an ongoing challenge and whilst academics and industry practitioners agree on the value of their collaboration, there is an opportunity for both parties to work together more closely.
  • Continuous engagement with industry, not only at the curricula design stage, but also at all stages of course/module development/enhancement. Limited industry engagement with curricula design, as well as with teaching, learning and assessment strategies provides an opportunity for education providers to develop more meaningful relationships with industry practitioners, to rethink their engagement strategy and to include more prominent industry involvement in curricula enhancement and development, as well as in authentic assessment design. 
  • A stronger emphasis on internships and field experiences and a work-integrated experiential curriculum through integration of technology -based modules, performance-based assessments, and enhanced opportunities for study abroad with  integrated placements. 
  • Curricula enhancement through inclusion of other disciplinary influences.
  • A revision of teaching, learning and assessment strategies to reflect industry needs, particularly in relation to developing hard skills and capabilities. This could be achieved through a wider adoption of authentic assessment strategies going beyond real-world, industry case studies while incorporating industry specific software and simulations and replicating real-world case scenarios.

Recruitment from international markets appears to be rising but concerns for immigration policy changes may limit international student intake – education providers could shift their focus towards the UK home market, by rethinking course marketing strategies, enhancing their efforts to showcase the value and viability of THE careers, and developing a more balanced curricula.

The future of Tourism, Hospitality and Events Management education, therefore, is shaped by a three-dimensional need for:

  • increased industry and government involvement
  • a stronger collaboration between education providers, industry professionals, industry bodies and policy makers
  • a wider recognition of the value of THE education, the significant contribution of THE industries to the UK economy, and vast career opportunities that are available for students and graduates.  
Recommendations for Tourism, Hospitality and Events Industries 

Recommendations for industry are three-fold. 

  1. There is an acute need for industry to develop more robust internship, placement, and graduate schemes that have the potential to attract and train talent from further and higher education. Consultations with education providers would benefit both parties.
  2. Stronger connections between industry and academia should be developed with the aim of bridging the gap between industry’s expectations of students’/ graduates’ skills and academics’ perspectives on what skills should students/graduates have. 
  3. Whilst research found that there are varied levels of industry engagement, two issues are of particular concern: the relatively limited involvement of industry with curricula development, and the reduced engagement with assessments. Industry could provide relevant input at a very early stage and could actively engage with authentic assessments by taking part in assessment centres, assessment panels, or by contributing to the design of industry-specific case scenarios. 

Recommendations for Policy
  • The QAA benchmark statements need to be updated, to fully reflect the speed of development in the industry and align skills development to contemporary industry requirements. 
  • OfS Graduate outcomes should be revised in relation to job roles and salary brackets.
  • A revision of Apprenticeship Standards for tourism, hospitality and events is needed to enhance opportunities for employers as well as for students to access subject-specific education. 
  • The value of THE education and the role FE and HE institutions play in producing a qualified and skilled workforce for THE industries needs to be recognised by policy makers.

The full report can be found HERE.