At a time when other universities are scaling back on hospitality education, Ulster University is taking a radical new approach, placing it front and centre, to ensure its provision is relevant to the needs of students, industry and society.
Located on Ulster University’s new Belfast city-centre campus, facing St Anne’s Cathedral, Academy will incorporate a state-of-the-art restaurant, culinary school, beverage school and conference and meeting facilities. As well as giving students hands-on experience, it will provide comprehensive practical support to entrepreneurs, be an open-access learning and cultural centre for the public and will contribute to the ongoing development of Northern Ireland as a food and drink destination.
Innovative and Immersive Education
Academy restaurant will be a fully commercial enterprise, open six days a week to the public and as a venue for private events. Its menu will showcase the very best local, seasonal ingredients and it will provide a platform for promoting artisan producers from across Northern Ireland. Whilst it will be run as a successful business, its primary purpose will be the provision of innovative and immersive education, which will enhance students’ skills and better prepare them for their future careers.
Students will obtain hands-on experience in a ‘model’ business, supervise others, apply their knowledge of various management disciplines, analyse business performance and build relationships with local suppliers. They will be active participants in a values-based business, committed to enhancing the status of hospitality employment and to supporting local economic, social and cultural development.
Addressing the skills deficit
Ulster University’s significant investment comes at a time when the hospitality sector has experienced unprecedented challenges. With the covid pandemic resulting in pubs, restaurants and venues closing for almost fifteen months, and Brexit limiting the availability of skilled staff from across Europe, the industry has faced a ‘perfect storm’. Many businesses have stopped trading, whilst others have struggled to survive, and although restrictions are now being lifted, hospitality is confronting severe labour shortages. Throughout this period the sector has shown tremendous creativity and resilience, with many adapting their products and services to suit the new environment, whilst also making altruistic contributions to those facing food poverty and isolation.
Building on its long track record of providing the hospitality sector with skilled graduates who have the potential to progress to management and leadership positions, as well as to become business owners, Ulster University Business School is determined that the launch of Academy should have a tangible impact on the hospitality industry. Pre-pandemic the hospitality industry in Northern Ireland was booming, contributing approximately £2 billion to the local economy and sustaining thousands of jobs. The sector will be key to Northern Ireland’s recovery and graduates of Ulster University will play a significant role in shaping its future.
Reflecting Ulster University’s strong sense of civic responsibility, Academy will make a significant contribution to local social and economic development and to the ongoing transformation of Northern Ireland. It forms part of a new campus, located in North Belfast, on the borders of historically troubled and deprived areas. By widening access to education and extending learning opportunities to local people, including children and teenagers, Academy will play its part in community regeneration.
Academy will be used to encourage school leavers to apply to Ulster University to study hospitality, particularly those who might not otherwise have considered attending university. Through an ambitious project funded by the Antonio Carluccio Foundation, the university has started to engage with a much broader community of pupils and teachers in a range of Northern Irish secondary schools, to promote education and careers in hospitality.
As well as ensuring Ulster University better supports local students and industry, Academy will enhance the university’s international presence and reputation. It intends to strengthen its overseas academic partnerships and establish Northern Ireland as an international destination for hospitality education. Academy will also serve as a venue for international events.
As an example, in April next year it will host Gastronomy Summit 2022, a gathering of practitioners and academics, focused on the development of food, drink and hospitality destinations in ways that deliver benefits to local communities. Over three days of keynotes, discussions and social activities, delegates will consider how to achieve lasting community regeneration, particularly in locations that are facing significant economic and social challenges.
Professor Una McMahon-Beattie, Head of the Department of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Ulster University commented:
“At Ulster University we have a long track record of excellence in hospitality education, with many graduates going on to work in some of the world’s most prestigious restaurants and hotels and setting up their own successful businesses. Through our innovative teaching methods and hands on practical experience we inspire passion and commitment in all our students. As we launch Academy as our new educational hub we will have a renewed focus on equipping students with skills that help them progress in their careers and make a significant and positive contribution to society. Hospitality is central to our economy, culture and identity – and it is our talented graduates who will shape the sector’s character and success.”
For more information or to book a table, check out the Academy website