Saturday, September 30, 2023

Work begins to develop a master’s program focused upon sustainability in themed entertainment business

After being awarded by the European Commission under the “Erasmus Mundus Design Measures” framework on November 23-24, 2022, the IDEAS (Innovative Design of themed Entertainment and Attractions for Sustainability) project has started with a meeting of the promoter partners at Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Catalonia, Spain. The aim of the IDEAS project is to design a joint master program to educate students towards senior and executive level management positions in the themed entertainment, theme parks and attractions industry with a strong focus on international business management and sustainability.

The currently involved universities participating in the IDEAS project consist of Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Spain (URV, coordinator, lead beneficiary), Breda University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands (BUas) and Université Côte d’Azur (UCA) in France. In addition, several non-academic institutions related to the themed entertainment and attractions industry are supporting the IDEAS project from its inception. They are the International Attractions and Amusement Parks Association (IAAPA), the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA), PortAventura World Parks and Resort, Efteling, the Musée Océanographique de Monaco, the Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins, the Réserve des Monts d’Azur, Marineland Antibes, Fragonard or the Musée Masséna.

According to the plan approved by the European Commission, the three involved universities have to design a joint master program related to the theme park, entertainment and attractions industry, including the setting of an international training framework between them, the definition of the teaching contents, the strategy for the accreditation of the master program by national university and education agencies, the development of a network of industry partners, the exploration of the participation of other potential associated academic and non-academic partners and the deployment of communication, promotion and dissemination tools. After the end of this process in November 2023, the three promoter universities will submit the resulting designed program to the Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters framework call.

Academic coordinators of each university, Salvador Anton Clavé, from the URV; Klaus Hoven, from BUas; and Jean-Christophe Gay, from UCA, together with other academic and universities representatives and technical staff related to academic quality, programs accreditation, and financial management have discussed during the kick-off meeting about the requirements needed to elaborate a draft joint partnership agreement for the master program as well as about program objectives, teaching/training activities and competences and learning outcomes. They have also started to set up the working plan to define the detailed structure (mobility track, modules, internship(s), master thesis, other academic activities) of the program and potential partnerships with the industry in the teaching/learning process.

As the European Commission’s evaluation report of the project highlights, one of the important strengths of the IDEAS proposal is the support that it has received from the industry from its inception. Actually, the working plan approved by the European Commission, which was highly valued with a score of 97 out of 100 points, not only demonstrates its suitability but also its social, economic and industrial relevance and impact and includes at least two meetings with non-academic institutions related to the themed entertainment and attractions industry during the preparation period.

The discussion with industry representatives has started during the kick-off meeting with the participation of the two external consultants of the project, Klaus Sommer Paulsen (AdventureLAB, Denmark) and Coen Bertens (Coen Bertens Consultancy, Netherlands) and of IAAPA representatives such as Tom van Liefferinge, Education Manager at IAAPA Europe, Middle East and Africa. Paulsen thinks that “this project will help define a program that will help innovate the experience industry forward on a European and international level”. In his words “something special is being developed here that will not just meet the needs of attractions now and in the future but raise the bar of leadership skills across all associated industries in leisure, entertainment, museums and tourism.”

Van Liefferinge, states that IAAPA “strongly supports the development of the IDEAS project because it addresses the need for skilled workers in an ever-changing industry while also attracting and preparing bright younger generations.” For them, the design of a master program in this field “is a win-win situation for everyone involved.”

During the kick-off meeting, participants have been hosted at the PortAventura World venue by Fernando Aldecoa, the General Director of the park, and Choni Fernández, Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management Director. Massimiliano Freddi, Chairman for EMEA Education at IAAPA has also participated on line in the Industry Session.

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