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Alan Machin's Blog - May 2009


Image: Blog header - May 2009

Image: Leeds Met Tourism Students

The People Who Made The Course ....


.... What It Was. And I mean the tutors and students, probably as much the students than the tutors. So that's why these photos are mainly of students. They're now spread round the country and indeed the world, doing jobs in tourism or in other industries, raising families, caring for people, doing voluntary work at home and abroad. Making an enormous contribution in a thousand ways. Since 1992 there have been over a thousand students on the course - 1,200-plus might be more accurate, though some people left early, moved to a different course, were replaced by others who came in just for a year or two. So above is just a fraction of them. The photos show people at the summer balls that used to be a feature of the course; one shows a small group in Finland on exchange for a semester; others were taken at end of course dinners and lunches. One was taken in March 2003 at the end of a tourism course reunion that attracted over 70 ex-students back to Leeds. The group with badges had just presented their report at the end of the Industrially Hosted Project module (Tourism Consultancy Ventures nowadays). Those with beer glasses were at a general course social in a crowd of 150 from across the whole course.

Image: Scarborough 07-08

Scarborough Again


With well over a hundred students joining the course each year it has been impossible to organise anything more than day visits recently. The level 1 intake of 2007, joined by students taking the Master's course, visited Scarborough.

Seen top right are the students enjoying social time in the Spa complex at the end of the day; bottom right the Master's group; bottom centre staff at lunch (L-R Stuart Moss, Trish Coll, Ruth Lefever, Alan Machin, Ko Koens and Andrew Eaglen). Bottom left - Mark Kibblewhite of Scarborough Council Tourism Department speaking to the group at the start of the day.

Image: Amsterdam and Volendam visits

Say Cheese - It's Amsterdam


This group went to the Netherlands in September 2000, the second year that Leeds Met tourism students spent time there. They were starting their final year and travelled during induction week. The visit went well but they thought it too much when the degree year was just starting.

There were trips to the 'inland' port of Volendam (shown) on the Ijsselmeer, to a cheese factory, along the canal system in a tour boat, and to some of the main city attractions.

Image: Party time in Malta

Quick Quiz Quad's Quest


Each Malta residential ended the week with a social. The Island Hotels Group Leisure Marketing Manager Trevor Zahra usually finished up dry-throated after a running a noisy quiz. This group in '05 won the big prize - a week's free stay in the country which was taken in the following year.


My photos don't include any from the York field week that ran at the same time as Malta, because I wasn't taking part in that one. Colleague Dr Nigel N Morpeth led groups of tutors and students in a week studying the city and its tourism. The York visits complemented the Malta trip in achieving the educational aims: all level students attended one or other, with a lecture/visits/work programme related to the full range of tourism modules. York was the low-cost alternative to Malta, and suited some students who had family needs meaning they had to be closer to home, and was chosen by others who were not keen on flying.

The teaching team felt these objectives for field visits to be essential. Student evaluations at the end of each trip rated the experience very highly. A phone survey and informal discussions with ex-students picked the two visits out as amongst the main highlights of the whole course.

The last York and Malta visits took place in 2006. They were replaced by a skiing week in 2007 and 2008 for winter-sport enthusiasts. Small parties of students drawn from across all levels of the course have also made journeys to the Gambia in West Africa to study tourism issues in the country in conjunction with activists there.

Image: Bickering Shield

A Culture Of Competition


Over at Bickering University (posting: 18 May) they’re busy carrying out the instruction of their university motto: Compete, Construct.. My friend there tells me that unified strategies are now out of the window. Even talk of teamwork has disappeared, not that they ever worked in teams. If managing academics at Bickering is as tricky as herding cats then the very idea of getting them to work in teams is preposterous. The nearest they can get to that, says my friend, is working in groups.

That is now the norm but with an added feature. Bickering academics form shifting alliances that they call project groups, but in reality they are acting as individuals, hunting out opportunities that they can use to their own advantage. Everyone has to have a Project, or a Program (note the spelling) or an initiative. Emails fly round enthusing about exciting developments. Meetings are told that “we can start” dealing with some situation or problem even though dedicated, hard-working people might actually have been toiling away for years trying to do just that. Bickering’s publicity machine gets into gear. Photos of smiling staff and students flick past on the university’s web site. Logos are designed. Full-colour glossy booklets are printed. Does much change as a result? My friend has his doubts. “Sometimes”, he says, “some cracking new initiative is found which puts new life into the student experience”. But more often than not the project makes little difference. “At worst it looks like the aim is to generate instant media attention. Too many projects are badly thought out. Individuals don’t involve colleagues who often have real experience and better judgement. As a result most schemes fade away and are replaced by another, equally high-profile but ultimately ineffective idea within a year or two. At Bickering we have a culture of competitive fragmentation. Individuals compete with each other rather than share objectives and efforts. If you succeed, promotion follows. If you fail, you are moved sideways into some dead-end job. I fear the whole system is breaking apart and the core educational aims no longer drive our strategy”.

He’s looking for openings at Careswell University where they do things better.

Image: Final night social - Malta residential

Karaoke Carry-On


Right from the first Malta residential final-night socials were a famous fixture. At the original event in 1997 two tutors, who shared a birthday during the week, were presented with a cake specially decorated for the occasion. Everyone went to a local restaurant for dinner and the manager supplied plates for the cake to be eaten as the desert. Karaoke followed, and who can forget (though we keep trying) the performances of 'New York, New York' and 'I'm Too Sexy For My Shirt' which was chosen for me by some of the lads.

Local clubs were used as the venue for the social whenever we stayed in St Julians. Later, when based at the Bugibba Holiday Complex a meeting room was used and the hotel group's Leisure Marketing Director, Trevor Zahra, ran a general knowledge quiz each year. Then the bar was the scene of karaoke sessions like the one above, other hotel guests joining the party.

Image: New Reoprts: History Going With A Bang

New Reports: History Goes With A Bang


The one o'clock gun at the saluting battery overlooking Valletta's Grand Harbour in Malta; the "On Guardia" military drama at the nearby Fort St Elmo; a visitor fires a gun at Fort Rinella; and the underground Armstrong gun emplacement at Fort Rinella.

Image: Pictures from Malta

Photos from Gozo


Always a popular day out from the main island of Malta was to take the ferry across to Gozo and tour the island with a guide. Tutor Isabell Hodgson (bottom right)is seen chatting to students in the church at T'a Pinu. Here, members of the congregation have placed tokens and photos connected with ailments and injuries that they are giving thanks to God for having cured or relieved. The church is also seen top left and is the setting, bottom left, for the group photo. Gozo's Azure window is top middle. The students top right are gazing thoughtfully at the view from the ramparts of the citadel in Victoria, the island's capital, known to Gozitans as Rabat.

Image: Careswell Shield

The Fastest Chair In The West


No, nothing to do with aircraft ejector seats or space shuttles. Let me explain.

Mention of the University of Bickering (18 May) reminded me of a university I don’t really want to think about except with the kind of despair reserved for those retiring from the rat race. I would rather spend time contemplating the achievements of some other good friends at a different institution – the University of Careswell. It isn’t a million miles from the Bickering sausage factory. (Funny, that: Bickering owes its origins to Edwardian England’s favourite meat products … but that is another story).

Careswell is one of those which was founded as a college in the 1920s and later became a polytechnic but which, with new steel and glass modernist towers, was enlarged in the early 1960s. Yet it isn’t a brutalist concrete-render place looking like Hitler’s Atlantic Wall. It happens to have plenty of brick in its towers and no dirty pebbledash anywhere. Steel columns and pale grey or blue panels are plentiful, but they’re kept clean. There are also rules against sticking posters or paper sheets of any sort on the windows. That upsets the Arts and Culture people who feel they have a right to express themselves in whatever way they think right, but tough, the University community feels that the outside view of its buildings is in the ownership of everyone, including passers-by, and art-room collages are out.

But back to the high speed chair. It’s a woman. She is a academic who manages many people and programmes and no-one would call her a piece of furniture of any description. Not that anyone would think of her as anything like a feminist in the sense of being a staff room politician or activist. She couldn’t be – she actually achieves things. You might not think she looks or sounds like an academic, even. More than one admirer of her style has identified correctly that she has a background in a non-academic organisation where management was a professional occupation with proper training and procedures. I was told that it was not a commercial operation either, but a branch of the Civil Service.

This lady’s name is Joanne Lake. She is an Associate Dean in the Faculty of Community Development. This Faculty comprises a number of Schools including a group which come under Jo’s control including the School of Visitor Service Management and the School of Educational Tourism. Which is, of course, why I find the Careswell set up appealing. It has a firm foundation in existing industries and activities but it has a vision of a future which is quite inspiring.

The Careswell Faculty wasn’t created by Joanne Lake but by others higher up the hierarchy or long gone from academia. Some of those people knew how much successful educational development relies on competent managers who can deliver results while themselves sharing the same future vision. Which means serving the needs of the key people who produce the results – the teachers and students who work in the classroom, in the library and at the screenface. So Jo has always made it one of her principal tasks to avoid gaudy projects which turn out to be full of nothing like a cheap Easter egg wrapped up in shiny metal foil. Once opened there is nothing of value inside.

And that’s why she was described by a colleague as ‘The fastest chair in the west’. When she was appointed there were few others with her style of running meetings. Agendas were fixed. There was seldom Any Other Business allowed – everything had to be on the agenda so people had time to consider their positions. The agenda showed the timings allocated to each discussion, with a clear finishing time for the meeting also announced in advance. Her leadership was clear and decisive, yet it was the rest of the group round the table who were really reaching the decisions with Joanne Lake making sure people had their say without going on too long and that everything was in line with policies agreed higher up the chain. At first some staff had disliked the self-indulgent talking shops being abolished. They each wanted their say on every issue so they could feel they were justifying their existence. It was Jo Lake who made sure meetings met their intended purpose, and that was one of the things that marked out the successful way that her teams achieved great results – for the benefit of the educational experience of everyone.

Image: Exploring Malta and its people

Malta: Proper Field Work


It isn't enough to be taken to see places through a coach window or by sauntering along on foot. There has to be engagement. These photos - above - show (top left and clockwise) students interviewing local people on Gozo about attidtudes to tourism; others talking with a trainee guide from the Malta Institute of Tourism Studies who had been showing them round Valletta; students sampling Gozitan wine, cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and other foods in Fontana, Gozo; and some more fending off a persistent postcard seller at the Azure Window, Gozo.

Image: Marsaxlokk - Leeds Met students' visit

Sense Of Place - Malta


On any time spent abroad the chance to explore new places is an essential element. What would be the point of going to the middle of France, for example, to engage in adventure training which does not allow for interaction with the local community? The transport costs alone would be completely wasted. The students above had time to look round the open-air market in Marsaxlokk, see the local Maltese lace on sale and sample the Maltese liqueurs. Yes, we know which they bought most of. Actually, it was the local wines also on sale in the village. It so happens that this attractive bay with its fishing boats provides a good example of the issues in tourism planning and development. The need for electrical power and a container port meant that Malta had to compromise the character of the coastline here and build both opposite the village. There might be mixed opinions about the result. What should be uncontroversial is that the communities' needs - village and country both - must come before those of the tourist. These students had heard the background lectures. In the actual place they could see the siutation for real and judge for themselves the pros and cons and the results. Given time - and a certain amount of assignment work as a motivation - they could gather the opinions of local residents and make some very intelligent observations. So it isn't isn't enough to give a talk and spend half an hour walking round with a guide. If they are to travel to understand about distant people and places, students on residentials have to be working within a properly constructed framework of activity.

Image: Malta residentials

Revisiting Malta


Leeds Met Tourism students took part in nine residentials in all between 1997 and 2006, with over four hundred participating in total. Here is the first batch of pictures recalling those visits. There was a full lecture programme on each with speakers from the University of Malta, the Malta Institute of Tourism Studies, government agencies and conservation groups. Here, from top right, Alan Vella (Malta Environment and Planning Authority), Tania Sultana (Malta Tourism Authority), Vincent Zammitt (MITS) and George Farrugia, one of Malta's tourist guides (at Ggantija Temples). Visits and some challenging individual and group work were all packed in with many evenings involving working sessions, too. Remember having to work in groups composing and performing a promotional jingle for Malta? With music?

Image: Scarborough visits

More from Scarborough


From the photo album today: clockwise from top left - a group of students outside the Bedford Hotel during their residential in the town; Peter Smith, manager of the Sea Life Centre, talks to a group; rangers in the North Yorkshire Moors' Dalby Forest explain their strategies on conservation and sustainability; a traditional-style photographic board being used at the former Millennium Heritage Centre.

Click here for a BBC report on Malta's efforts to conserve the Mnajdra Temples

Image: Bickeringham Shield

News From Bickering


I mentioned that august institution the University of Bickering the other day. It seems that some of you have not come across it before. That’s a tad surprising since it has represented the essence of modern higher educational life for since its foundation as a full university almost a hundred years ago. Up the M1 and left a bit, as a waggish southerner described it. Or down the A1 and right a bit, och aye, as a more northerly Briton said.

Anyway, my long-suffering friend at Bickeringham brought me up to date with their latest expression of academic altruism. It seems that their Head of Commerce, Jonathan Golightly, has set out the Bickering position on Intellectual Property Rights. Anything written in the University’s time (an interesting concept in education at any level) by one of its staff, especially academics, belongs to the University. And any photographs, artwork, maps and plans, creative writing and artefacts, anything at all, really, also belongs to them. If an academic writes a book or research paper the content belongeth to Bickering (whatever the publisher might think, silly people). If the book, paper etc is modified for a future edition the University must grant its permission by approving what is included. Oh, and by the way, said academics ought to send me the draft material of any new book so I can approve it on behalf of the University. All intellectual property rights therefore belong to Bickering Uni which will therefore be able to benefit from any commercial opportunities which might accrue.

It’s an interesting set of ideas raising all kinds of issues, not least the staggeringly innovative belief that academics actually get time between 9 and 5 to write anything beyond new module schemes of work, course approval applications, funding applications, meeting minutes, assignment feedback, 84 email replies to students have all asked the same question about what will be in the next exam; references for ex-students who left five years ago, rough analyses of how they spent their time last semester, and so on and so on. Since academic writing usually has to be done at home the 9 to 5 concept deserves further examination if it is to be used as the basis for a legal statement of rights.

All of which makes me sorry for my distant friend and grateful that more sensible, respected institutions don’t take these lines. And that unlike the University of Bickering, incidentally, they don’t try to move sideways or even make redundant those people who express dissenting views.

Image: Scarborough composite

Scarborough Turned The Tide


For several years starting in 1992 all first year students spent some days in Scarborough studying and socialising. All students used to complain about it being cold (it was late October) but also said it marked the point at which they got to know most people in their groups. Some years it was a three-night stay, some a two, and in one year (1999) it stretched to four and everyone got back to Leeds exhausted. Generally, of course, due to the hard academic studying they had done. The visit turned the tide from students feeling a bit lost within their new educational setting to them feeling part of a course in which they knew their new colleagues and staff.

Like all residentials in the first twelve years of the course the Scarborough visit contained lectures, workshops, visits, group activities and individual project work related to course modules. Sue McKellen introduced beach games as a way of students getting to know each other. They worked well, and also attracted quite a bit of interest from local people and other visitors wondering why students were skipping in lines using a long rope and directing each other around lines on the beach using only whistle signals. In the evenings workshops were held when students had to prepare, then present, their ideas for management projects using Scarborough's tourist attractions. It is believed that after that several students gathered for philosophical discussions in a local pub ... or something. there were trips to Whitby and the North York Moors' Dalby Forest, and one year to Goathland where 'Heart Beat' was filming before taking the steam train back to Whitby.

The Bedford Hotel, managed by the redoubtable Mrs Bingham, was the base for these excursions. Alas, it is no more, having been converted into self-catering apartments. And the first-year residentials are no more. Scarborough could not cope with our numbers, even though in one year we ran three two-night visits with successive student groups. Other ideas had to be tried, but in recent years only one-day excursions have been run.

Image: Awards Ceremony 2008

Celebrations - 2008

16.05.09 (2)

So far - the most recent group to receive diplomas and degrees - July '08.

Image: Awards ceremony 2007

Celebrations in 2007

16.05.09 (1)

The Diploma and Degree students after receiving their well-deserved awards in July 2007 at the Headingley Campus.

Image: AM Party

Image: AM Party

Image: AM Party

Image: AM Party 4

Party People


Not really the retiring sort ... celebrating, socialising and networking. Around a hundred students, alumni, staff, friends and family gathered last night at Headingley's Original Oak before the academic year closes and current students depart for other things. It was officially Alan's pre-retirement party but brought back the kind of social for the Tourism Management course that hasn't been seen in recent years.


Urban Myths - Electronic Hotel Door Keys


Last week I received one of those self-important and excited emails warning of the Death of Civilisation. Well, OK, it was about the latest threat to Society As We Know It. Sorry: I'm getting self-important and excited again.

In large red and blue letters the email told me that those electronic swipe cards used as hotel door keys were loaded with personal information about me whenever I register at the front desk. Recorded on the magnetic strip was not only my room number but my full name, part of my address, my credit card number and my credit card expiry date. Don't give the card back in, shrieked the email - my personal info would only be erased when the card was issued to a new customer. Cut it up! Destroy it!

There must be a module at the University of Bickeringham - in the creative writing degree course - on how to write panic-spam. Use large type faces! Employ patriotic, eye-grabbing reds and blues on plain white backgrounds! Make sure every sentence is little more than a simple phrase! Put an apostrophe at the end of every sentence! If! not! every! word!! More than one!!

It all looked highly unlikely. I actually deleted the thing, which is what I always do. Then I thought that I would make sure. The insidious thing about panic-spam - which must be part of the effect the panic-spammer hopes to achieve - is the lingering doubt that they might be right. The trouble with deleting every one is that you never actually prove any of them really, really wrong! (Sorry, can't do that in red and blue).

So I sent a message describing what the email had claimed to an old friend who is a director of a group of upmarket hotels. And here is his reply:

"HA HA HA...that is a myth Alan...you can put your mind at rest LOL...Hotel room door cards have a unique 28 alpha numeric code which is relative to the door lock only and is in no way linked to the guest's profile occupyng the room at the time. Otherwise if it was linked to the guest profil it mean that my master card which gives me access to every door in the building would need to have a 1GB memory built in :-)"

So there. Ignore panic-spam emails! Destroy them! Cut them up with very sharp scissors! Send this to all your friends NOW! Save the world ... or at least our collective sanity.

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