Wawasan Open University (WOU) was presented with the opportunity to spearhead the initiative of improving the quality of tourism and hospitality-based education, especially among the open universities.
This development came about following a visit to WOU by Associate Prof Dr Wong Kong Yew, a tourism economist who is also President of the Malaysian Centre for Tourism and Hospitality Education (MyCenTHE).
The MyCenTHE project was created under Entry Point Project 10, which is one of the 131 projects initiated and funded under the Malaysian government's greater Economic Transformation Programme (ETP).
According to Dr Wong, ''WOU and MyCenTHE share a common vision of providing affordable and accessible education to all Malaysians.''
The meeting with Dr Wong was attended by WOU's Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) Prof Dato' Dr Ho Sinn Chye, Dean of School of Business and Administration (SBA) Prof N V Narasimham, Acting Dean of School of Foundation & Liberal Studies Dr Nagarajan Subramaniam and SBA course coordinator Lilian Yap, as well as the academic staff from DISTED College comprising its President Dr Koo Wee Kor and School of Hospitality lecturer Ravichandran Sellakannu.
''The central focus of MyCenTHE is to increase workforce productivity and job attractiveness by equipping at least 50% of Malaysia's tourism and hospitality staff with diploma level qualifications through collaborative cluster-based partnerships formed between domestic public and private sectors,'' added Dr Wong.
The Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) approved programmes under each cluster will offer two-year work-based learning (WBL) diploma courses that combine theory with extensive workplace exposure. Students would find this learning approach attractive not only in terms of learning experience but also more affordable. This is because the two-year diploma courses involve industrial training of up to 11 months at hotels and resorts managed by participating industrial partners thus allowing students to earn and learn at the same time.
As to the role of WOU, Prof Ho commented: ''WOU will look into ways to work together with MyCenTHE for example in terms of course material or ODL expertise on modules delivery from diplomas to academic degrees.''
The visit by MyCenTHE to WOU and DISTED paves the way for greater partnerships to enhance accessibility of the people to the tourism and hospitality programmes in universities towards meeting the needs of the tourism sector which is expected to grow threefold by 2020.