By Angela Jameson
Industry leaders have launched a last-ditch bid to protect funding levels for degree courses in catering and hospitality.
Garry Hawkes, president of the British Hospitality Association (BHA), led the protest, saying that proposed changes in higher education funding threatened the provision of training kitchens and restaurants.
In an open letter, published in Caterer, Mr Hawkes and other leading industry figures called on their colleagues to lobby an incoming Government on the issue.
The threat to practical teaching comes from a new higher education funding formula, to be implemented in England in 1998-99. It means universities could receive up to £1,300 less per hospitality student than in the previous academic year, industry leaders claim.
Catering and hospitality training, previously categorised alongside laboratory-based science and engineering disciplines, is now categorised as "other high-cost" and its students will receive less money than the former group.
"The danger, if the level of funding is reduced, is that some universities will move away from teaching the practical side of the business altogether," said Professor Peter Jones, head of service industries at Bournemouth University.
Next week a delegation from the industry will meet with Professor Brian Fender, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFC), to persuade him that hospitality has unique needs.
Although HEFC figures show that hospitality and catering management courses cost on average more to provide than many science and engineering courses, hospitality looks set to miss out on extra funding promised to sciences.
"We must convince the incoming Government. They must look to future job requirements. This is a growth industry from which one in five new jobs are supposed to come," said Bob Cotton, chair of the BHA's contract catering forum.
Peter Conway, chief executive of the Restaurateurs Association of Great Britain, said: "These proposals cut back training for people who would actually get jobs if they had it. In some areas up to half the jobs advertised remain unfilled."
Hospitality training has recently been hit by a number of threats. Funding for partnerships between employers and colleges is under the spotlight and an axe hangs over the long-term government subsidy for some NVQ courses.