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Assessing work-based learning on tourism and hospitality programmes in Irish higher education – the view from three main stakeholders (students, industry, HEI staff)

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • John Carty
Publication date12/11/2021
Number of pages182
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The tourism and hospitality industry has been at the forefront in partnerships with higher education for many years and a key feature of this relationship is work-based learning, which sees students enter industry-partner workplaces as part of their study. The main issues with work-based learning are the lack of consistency across and within higher education institutes, the tensions that exist
between the stakeholders and the changing higher education sector that is impacted by a neoliberalism agenda and marketisation, resulting in a push for employable graduates. The Covid19 pandemic and negative industry image present challenges for higher education and tourism and hospitality, whilst the work-based learning power imbalance has also led to an attitude of servitude
from higher education institutes towards industry.

The research utilises the community of practice theoretical framework and a case study approach to investigate these issues in an Irish context by assessing work-based learning from the viewpoint of three key stakeholders: students, industry and higher education institute staff. Fifty-seven surveys were conducted with students at one higher education institute and 20 semi-structured interviews
were conducted with higher education staff (n=13) and tourism and hospitality industry professionals (n=7).

The main finding of this research is the variety and inconsistencies that prevail within and across higher education institutes regarding work-based learning, fragmented partnerships and the opportunities and challenges of assessment. Resourcing work-based learning was found to be a significant issue that attracts high costs for higher education and industry partners, but research shows evidence of low investment. Assessment of work-based learning varies greatly, and a more consistent approach is suggested for the sector, with special attention given to the role of industry and the scheduling of assessments to allow for more meaningful and consistent work-based learning experiences. The research recommends a refocusing of work-based learning on the learner and
presents the Learner Focused Work-Based Learning Framework to create more effective partnerships and address consistency across the landscape, overseen by a national oversight group.