A recent Malta Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS) initiative, in collaboration with Haaga Helia University of Applied Sciences (Finland), will help build the professional capital of its lecturing staff. Academic staff competences are crucial to ensuring that vocational learners are equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills and competences for the future.

To develop a customised up-skilling programme for academic staff, ITS developed a process to validate informal and non-formal learning. The process was modelled on the recently published European guidelines by CEDEFOP (2015) and consisted of a number of iterative steps as shown below.

Validation process phases

  1. Information about validation
  2. Establishment of necessary prerequisites
  3. Documentation procedures
  4. Coordination tasks
  5. Guidance on an individual basis
  6. Mapping of competences
  7. Assessment
  8. Follow ups

Throughout each phase of the process, the individual (in this case the academic member of staff) was at the centre. A set of quality indicators were developed to benchmark the competences of academic staff gained through informal and non-formal learning. A variety of validation tools, including self-assessment reports, interviews and documentation analysis, were adopted to determine the identification of current skills and gaps. The key results of the assessment determined the need to improve skills in several domains, to build both the technical and the pedagogic capacity of academic staff:

  • global and local business know-how;
  • strategic mindset and thinking;
  • forecasting, risk evaluation;
  • services, marketing and sales;
  • operating in virtual environments;
  • leadership and management;
  • entrepreneurship;
  • research, development and innovation;

Following this validation process, a customised programme leading to a top-up degree programme in hospitality management was developed by Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, Finland.

The degree programme provides staff with competences in hospitality services. The overall objective of the programme is to enable the staff to develop a hospitality management mindset, and to create and design services and experiences while connecting them with business opportunities.

The programme takes a student-centred competence-based approach to learning, with a modular curriculum that aids development of knowledge, skills and attitudes critical to achieving success in an increasingly competitive environment. It enables participants to bridge theory and practice, providing them with a strong balance of conceptual and experiential learning opportunities: local and international internships, projects and other activities that address real-life challenges. Participating staff will gain expertise in three areas: service management, restaurant management and international culinary management.

In each of the specialisation areas, learners will learn how to process ideas and apply knowledge in a work environment while maintaining responsible business awareness. They will be able to set up business strategies and design innovative hospitality, restaurant and experience concepts within a fast-changing international networked environment. They will also develop the aptitude to handle different tasks in supervisory, managerial, consulting, planning and development positions. 

Graduates of this programme are expected to complement their existing knowledge with solid foundations of each of the available lines of study, and be able to deepen and strengthen it through academic resources, such as research methods and a thesis.