HRH The Duke of Kent described Wivenhoe House, home of the Edge Hotel School in Colchester, as "unique" when he opened what is the UK's first hotel school where degree students combine their studies with work in a commercial luxury hotel.
"I hope no one underestimates the importance of vocational and professional training in this field," he told the students attending the opening ceremony.
A partnership between the University of Essex, its academic partner Kaplan, and the Edge Foundation, the Edge Hotel School welcomed its first students in June and July, allowing them to be involved in opening a new hotel.
Andrea Tye, 28, from Tiptree, Essex, who is studying for a BA in culinary management, said: " At the moment I am still really living the dream, everything I could have possibly have wanted in terms of a course and work experience is here."
Martin Kilgariff, 20, from Folkestone, Kent, who with Tye showed the Duke around the public rooms and two of the bedrooms, said: "He found the whole idea of the Edge Hotel School extremely interesting. He was very keen to know of my experience in the hospitality industry."
Students of the Edge Hotel School are working towards fast-track, two-year degrees, by combining academic study with working in all areas of the hotel and restaurants, supervised by industry professionals. The hotel school curriculum has been developed in collaboration with employers and industry leaders and with industry needs in mind.
The 18th-century Wivenhoe House has undergone a £10 million-plus refurbishment, restoring it to its original Georgian grandeur.
The Duke of Kent met representatives of the three partners involved in establishing the Edge Hotel School, unveiled a plaque and signed the visitors' book, before having lunch in the hotel's Signatures restaurant, prepared by executive chef Paul Boorman.
By Janet Harmer
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