Cultivating a diverse student body

Maintaining diversity is key to delivering education with a global outlook, says Sommet Education’s Dr Pierre Ihmle in an exclusive interview with University Business

What best illustrates the student experience you are offering?

Our institutions offer a personalised learning environment where students develop themselves academically, professionally and personally. At both Glion Institute of Higher Education and Les Roches Global Hospitality Education, counselling and support begins before students arrive on campus, with our global network of education counsellors, and continues after they have graduated, through our alumni associations.

With our Swiss education model of blended practical and academic learning, we enable students to develop hands-on skills in hospitality operations (guest service, culinary arts, rooms division) and soft skills like teamwork and leadership, as well as business acumen. Students are further prepared for the transition to the workplace by our careers department, which provides one-on-one mentoring, helping students to explore career pathways, arrange interviews and find internships and graduate jobs. As a result, our graduates are highly employable, with Glion and Les Roches ranked by QS World University Rankings 2018 in the world’s top three hospitality management institutions for employer reputation.

With our Swiss education model of blended practical and academic learning, we enable students to develop hands-on skills

Finally, with a diverse student body of more than 100 nationalities, opportunities to study abroad on our six campuses and mandatory internship semesters, we provide students with unique international exposure. Our graduates emerge with excellent communication skills and multicultural awareness – soft skills that are valuable in any profession, but particularly in the global industry of hospitality.

What recent developments at your campus best show your commitment to boosting student experience? 

In response to industry demand and student interest, Glion has developed bachelor’s degree specialisations in Luxury Brand Management and International Hotel Development & Finance, while Les Roches offers specialisations in Hospitality Entrepreneurship and Digital Marketing Strategies.

We are committed to reflecting the latest industry trends in our programmes and facilities, and emerging trends such as wellness and sustainability are integrated into both academic and practical learning. For example, following major renovations in 2018, Glion opened a new wellness-based restaurant where students learn to put sustainable practice into action, as well as a new gastronomic restaurant.

Cultivating a diverse student body is key to our mission of providing education with a global outlook

We have further strengthened our practical arts offering through the hiring of several Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (MOFs), award-winning instructors in cuisine and table arts. Another recently launched initiative is our Career Day, held once per semester at both Glion and Les Roches. This event brings more than 65 companies in hospitality and related fields to our campuses, enabling students to attend workshops, meet recruiters and participate in interviews.

Are we doing enough to ensure that international students have the best possible experience? Are the potential effects of Brexit for our European students any clearer now?

Cultivating a diverse student body is key to our mission of providing education with a global outlook. International students thus make up the vast majority of our students, at around 90% at Glion and 97% at Les Roches Switzerland, with no single nationality overly represented. Maintaining this diversity is part of how we deliver an excellent learning experience, and our international origins are celebrated through student-led cultural activities and events. At the same time, programmes such as English language support courses are in place to provide students with assistance as needed. As private institutions that prepare international students for global careers, Brexit has not made an impact on our operations and student experience.

With tuition fees continuing to rise, how might students’ expectations change?

With so much content available online, today’s students see higher education as an investment of time as well as money. For this investment to be worthwhile, students expect to gain skills and experiences that cannot be obtained through books or digital media. Learning needs to translate into practical knowledge and employability. This is why we focus on providing a personalised learning experience with close faculty guidance and individual career support. It’s also why we ensure that students develop their hard and soft skills in real-world settings, such as through practical arts rotations and professional internships.

Finally, how would you sum up the best ‘student experience’?

Personalisation and standards of excellence. The best student experience should empower students with the resources to achieve their own goals by nurturing their academic, professional and personal development.