Hotel management getting image makeover with JNU degree, new curriculum

NCHMCT’s partnership with JNU, curriculum change and a teacher recruitment exam are expected to improve quality of hospitality management courses.

While the hospitality industry has apparently recovered from the blow dealt to it by Covid-19, interest in hospitality education seems to be waning. (Image Source: Shutterstock)While the hospitality industry has apparently recovered from the blow dealt to it by Covid-19, interest in hospitality education seems to be waning. (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Sheena Sachdeva | November 16, 2023 | 12:52 PM IST

NEW DELHI: This year, at the end of even the third round of counselling for the national-level entrance test for hospitality programmes, National Council of Hotel Management and Catering Technology Joint Entrance Exam (NCHMCT JEE), more than half the seats on offer were vacant.

While the hospitality industry has apparently recovered from the blow dealt to it by Covid-19, interest in hospitality education seems to be waning. Fewer students are appearing for the NCHMCT JEE which is the gateway exam for admission to Institutes of Hotel Management (IHMs) and other undergraduate and postgraduate hotel management programmes in India. For the second year, reports have highlighted the issue of seats going vacant in these institutions.

According to data accessed by Careers360, for the third round of counselling, 7,466 seats in Bachelors in Hotel management (BSc) and 513 seats in Masters in Hotel Management were found vacant. Over 12,000 seats were on offer for admission through the NCHMCT JEE 2023.

However, efforts are on to make changes. This February, the council signed an agreement with Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) to “foster an academic collaboration”. This year onwards, students pursuing hotel management at NCHMCT-affiliated colleges will graduate with degrees from JNU. A similar collaboration was previously undertaken with Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). The council has also introduced the National Hospitality Teachers Eligibility Test (NHTET) in 2022 in a bid to improve the quality of teachers in affiliated colleges.

The decreasing number of students willing to pursue hotel management is being attributed to a variety of factors. Low respect for professionals and stereotyping and lack of industry exposure in the curriculum are among them, explained Khilesh Patel, teaching associate, IHM Raipur.

Hotel industry-relevant skills

The current curriculum in BSc has just one industrial training intervention in the second year where students have to do a four to six-month training in hotels. “Students have to work 14-18 hours with just minimal sleep during the training period with monotonous work including cleaning and cutting vegetables. This demotivates the students because it’s extremely different from what they are taught in classrooms,” explained Patel.

Sheikh Altamash, sales executive at a five-star hotel in Raipur, agreed. He said he has noticed a significant gap between industry-relevant skills and what is taught in the curriculum. Altamash recently graduated with a BSc in Hospitality and Hotel Administration from IHM Raipur. He said: “The major issue students face is that what they initially learn in the colleges and the kind of work they eventually do in hotels are vastly different.”

The bookish knowledge taught in colleges is not of much use in the practical work in hotels, stated Altamash. He added that from his class of 180 students, only 20 students were able to complete the training due to the nature of the jobs that they were asked to do in the hotels and eventually, only a few graduates were placed.

Plus, many students eventually shift to other industries like retail and operations and the attrition rate in the industry is high, said Patel. A member of the council, asking not to be named, said: “The recovery after turbulence takes time. After Covid, though the service sector of the hospitality industry has recovered, the education space will recover with time.”

NCHMCT’s partnership with JNU to revise the curriculum and offer degrees will help bridge the gap that the hotel management education space is currently facing, he added.

“This will help increase the number of students applying for JEE in the upcoming year as JNU is developing the model framework for running the hotel management institutes affiliated with NCHMCT,” he explained.

IHM Graduates: Low salary, slow growth

Students passing from IHMs are usually hired as either an operational trainee (OT) with a starting salary of Rs. 15,000-18,000 or a management trainee with a salary of Rs. 22,000-25,000. But the standards of subsequent growth and raises are low. “In most hotels, both these training programmes lead to supervisory and managerial roles but only after two or more years of experience. But the problem is that even after promotion the salaries are low. For instance, at one group of hotels, five star luxury properties, the starting salary of a manager is Rs. 40,000 and at another, also five-star hotels and resorts, it starts from Rs. 30,000. Hence, the overall growth is quite slow,” added Patel.

Further, because the curriculum teaches several other skills such as front-office management, customer sales and marketing, management, and others, many shift to other industries which offer better salaries and opportunities, added an associate professor from a private university offering hotel management in Odisha.

Hospitality: Perception and stereotypes

The hospitality industry may be associated with comfort and luxury but the services and education side of it is not treated with respect, feel experts. The professor from Odisha said: “This is due to lack of awareness in tier-two and three towns where luxurious properties are now proliferating. Middle-class families are now getting exposed to different job roles offerings at hotels and it will take time to penetrate.”

Also, the mindset is also to treat fresher graduates like free labour and make use of them in every setting, they said. Students feel that for many years after starting, they have to do “menial jobs” which are stereotyped, seen as “odd jobs” and not respected. “Many students, who have visited the hotels before joining the course, look down upon the people who serve the guests. There is a problem of mindset. Even the guests don’t treat you with respect,” stated Altamash.

The council member attributed the attrition to the availability of other, more lucrative options. “The hotel industry needs to rethink in terms of offering growth and decent packages along with work-life benefits,” he said. “There is also a lack of patience. Because the industry is more focussed on skills, freshers should not shy away from doing the menial jobs because eventually that’s how growth happens. Initially, in every sector, the start is at the elementary level.”

NCHMCT: JNU degree, teaching test

Those in hospitality hope the collaboration with JNU will increase industry and research exposure. “The new syllabus was devised recently and that has been rolled out in all NCHMCT-affiliated institutes and has been carefully scrutinised by industry practitioners. We are positive that this revised syllabus will have a long-lasting impact and will provide hands-on-experience,” the professor from council added.

On the way hospitality professionals are perceived he said: “As people become more aware of the hospitality culture, people will eventually start respecting the profession. The trends and image will change.”

Further, the industry itself is making training opportunities available. Many top hotels are introducing their own hotel management programmes. Plus, several state and central universities are introducing programmes of their own. “I foresee there will be a lot of opportunities. The introduction of JNU and NHTET – which helps select the best teachers for hotel management institutes – will help streamline the curriculum and teaching practices at hotel management institutes,” he said.

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