Ulster University’s new Academy signals major investment in hospitality education

Donald Sloan (Chair, Oxford Cultural Collective), who chairs the Project Steering Group, reports on the most significant investment in hospitality higher education in the UK in many years.

Ulster University Business School is set to launch Academy: the Centre for Food, Drink and Culture, an educational hub that will further strengthen hospitality and culinary arts management as two of the University’s flagship areas of provision, as well as making a significant contribution to the hospitality sector in the UK and internationally.

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 enhanced Belfast campus, 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.

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. 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.”

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’.

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.

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. For more information on Academy and how to book, please visit: www.academyrestaurant.co.uk