11 SES 12, Educational Improvement
Over the past few years several research papers and documents produced by international institutions stress the global changes, which have taken place in higher education during that last half of the century and are related to accessibility, internationalisation and supply of study programmes. The necessity of new management of higher education is also stressed, including laying emphasis on performance and quality (Tremblay, Lalancette, Roseveare, 2012; Bologna Secretariat, 2012). Learning outcomes are defined as the starting point for quality assurance (Adamson, et.al., 2010), the role of which in higher education is constantly increasing. Higher education is moving away from the concept, which predominantly stressed the number of courses acquired, the length of studies, workload of students, towards an increasing role of learning outcomes (OECD, 2012; Bologna Secretariat, 2012). However, the process of change proceeds slowly and Ministerial Communiques of Bologna process countries have repeatedly stressed the necessity of speeding up the transition towards the approach of expected outcomes (Bologna Secretariat, 2012).
Defining learning outcomes is a task of a university and a shared concern of all stakeholders (European Consortium for Accreditation in Higher Education, 2013). They must be described in a straightforward, clear manner and must be capable of being validly assessed (Ryan, 2010).
Learning outcomes means “statements of what a learner knows, understands and is able to do on completion of a learning process, which are defined in terms of knowledge, skills and competence” (Grün, Tritscher-Archan, Weiß, 2009). They may describe the change in knowledge, skill or competence or the cumulative end result of all learning falling within the scope of the qualification and programme concerned (Cullen, 2010)
Therefore, in order to define a learning outcome, it is necessary to understand what knowledge, skills and competencies are and they must be defined for the tourism and hospitality industry respectively. By including acquisition of particular knowledge, skills and competencies in the learning outcomes of a study programme, one creates a baseline for assessing the quality of the study programme.
By performing broad analysis of the term and the essence of ‘competence’, it can be concluded that competence has a multi-layered structure, which includes knowledge, skills and attitudes, and ensures implementation of a highly professional performance and the development of expert’s personality (Bassellier, Reich, & Benbasat, 2001; Connell, Sheridan & Gardner, 2003; Bird & Osland, 2004; Kuliša, 2012).
The following definitions of competence were accepted as part of the general competence profile guidelines of the EQF: ‘Professional competence’ is the ability to operate in an effective, timely and ethical manner by mobilising one’s own resources on those available in the surrounding environment. ‘Competence’ are specific activities, which enable to acquire knowledge and skills as well as attitude, which can affect these activities and responsibilities (OECD, 2004).
‘Knowledge’ includes theory and concepts and tacit knowledge gained as a result of the experience of performing certain tasks. Knowledge refers to the ability to transform information into an effective activity (Memisoglu, 2016:125-127; Tippins & Hilton, 2010, quoted by Burrus et al, 2013: 9; Winterton, 2006:7).
‘Skills’ are special qualities, which include an ability to acquire, improve and enhance theoretical capacity and knowledge as well as apply them in practice for implementing various work-related tasks (Strategically most demanded skills in future Latvia, 2013:11).
The purpose of this study is to compare the skills required in the tourism and hospitality industry of Latvia with the study programmes offered by Latvian HEIs. This allows assessing the compliance of the contents of study programmes with the existing demand, which is one of the key indicators of the quality of education.
The particular research addresses the following objectives: 1) to find and collect information on all tourism and hospitality field study programmes, delivered by Latvian HEIs, their learning outcomes; 2) to evaluate the compliance of the learning outcomes to the industry needs. The current research is a continuation of a previously conducted research regarding the tourism and hospitality industry needs (cf. Donina, Luka, 2014). In order to achieve the purpose of the current research, a qualitative research method was used. Qualitative analysis of self-evaluation (quality) reports was conducted by applying interpretivism paradigm (Saunders, 2009). The study involved an analysis of all self-evaluation (quality) reports of the study programmes of Latvia, accredited as study programmes within the study direction “Hotel and Restaurant Service, Organisation of Tourism and Recreation” (eleven in total). The descriptions of the study directions and programmes were accessed through university webpages and the Academic Information Centre and analysed qualitatively. The study direction self-assessments and the curricula could be classified as official data and records (university and college data), as well as organizational communication, documents, and records, and those include: websites, press releases, catalogues, client records etc. (O’Leary, 2010:119). The analysis was done according to the following certain steps: 1) organizing raw data; 2) entering and coding the data; 3) searching for meaning through thematic analysis; 4) interpreting meaning and 5) drawing conclusions (O’Leary, 2010:261-262). When researching whether certain knowledge or skills are provided, the authors analysed the curricula and investigated the sections describing the learning outcomes, knowledge, competencies and skills. A list of 22 keywords within 5 categories for analysis of knowledge and a list of 49 keywords within 8 categories for analysis of skills and competencies were developed. Categories were defined based on the framework, developed by Australian Government Department of Education Science and Training (2006). Additionally to the categories defined, 6 keywords for the analysis of skills and competencies were selected (e.g., ability to react quickly, positive attitude). These are the skills often mentioned in job advertisements. For the research a combination of the inductively based analytical procedures, like data display and analysis and template analysis were used. The question of the research: to what extent do the study programmes offered by universities comply with the needs of the tourism and hospitality industry?
The main value added of the research is comprehensive assessment of the learning outcomes of study programmes and their compliance with the tourism and hospitality industry needs. It gives a starting point for further evaluation of the quality of a study programme. When analyzing the knowledge provided by the study programmes, it can be seen that they meet the knowledge which employers require from potential employees. Seven out of eight Bachelor programmes and three out of four Master programmes mention the knowledge in tourism and hospitality field those graduates will have after completing the specific programme. The knowledge that is provided the least is about personnel management and the catering industry. Analyzing the skills, can be concluded, that the development of communication, team working, planning and organizing, and problem solving is represented in all of the study programmes. There were only 4 study programmes delivered by two HEIs, where skills in all defined groups were mentioned as a learning outcome of the curricula. Skills additionally required by the job market, such as ‘positive attitude’ and ‘precision’ are not included in any curricula. All in all, the representation shows a logical path – competencies and skills that are more important in the job market are represented more frequently (except positive attitude) and the least important competencies and skills are not represented at all or are represented only in a couple of cases. Comparing knowledge and skills, stated as learning outcomes in HEI with the industry needs, it can be concluded that in the current Tourism and Hospitality industry market knowledge is mostly not mentioned as very important or important for work in the industry, and this creates a mismatch between the market and the Tourism and Hospitality Management education since extensive knowledge is provided in all the study levels (Bachelor, Master).
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