JCU Singapore introduces a Master's degree in MICE

Industry opinion divided on need and relevance in current business climate.

MICE is one of 12 subjects in the International Tourism and Hospitality Management (MITHM) Masters programme at JCUS Business School.
MICE is one of 12 subjects in the International Tourism and Hospitality Management (MITHM) Masters programme at JCUS Business School.

James Cook University Singapore's (JCUS) Business School has refreshed its Masters programme in International Tourism and Hospitality Management (MITHM), with MICE as one of the leading subjects. It will be offered in the November trimester—but with the industry currently in free fall, is a Master's degree in MICE really necessary?

Explaining the rationale, Dr K Thirumaran, academic head of business at JCUS, says, “Singapore and Australia are regional leaders in the MICE business. There is increasing demand for professionals with such expertise from emerging destinations such as India, Indochina and Indonesia, and JCUS can help in educating the next generation.”

The protracted Covid-19 pandemic has seen a transformation in the events industry; virtual and hybrid events are the ‘new normal’. The MICE subject—Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events—will enable students to adapt and conceptualise future-ready events. 

JCUS study trip to Siem Reap in 2018 - Raffles Grand Hotel DAngkor 1
In August 2018, JCUS students visited Siem Reap on a study tour of the hospitality, tourism and MICE industry.

“We also want to make a difference to students’ learning experience beyond theoretical knowledge,” Thirumaran says, citing previous business consultancy projects where postgraduate students evaluated and recommended market strategies for a major business hotel in Cambodia, and created and then volunteered at events hosted in Singapore. Pre-pandemic, students attended major trade events to observe and acquire important skill sets.

MICE is one of 12 tourism- and business-related subjects in the MITHM programme. Through interactive learning, students develop critical thinking, professional communication skills and creative approaches to effectively solve problems and innovate new service outcomes. MBA students may take MICE as an elective subject.

Students on the MITHM-MBA programme can acquire wider knowledge and skill sets that are transmutable to enterprise in a wider international business community. Postgraduate cohorts mostly comprise foreign students.

JCUS study trip to Siem Reap in 2018 - Sokha Siem Reap Resort Convention Center 3
The JCUS delegation with staff of Sokha Siem Reap Resort & Convention Center and Asia DMC.

Industry players have mixed views on the new subject and Master’s qualifications. One says such degrees are unnecessary in MICE, especially in exhibition companies and event operations where “experience is always preferred”, although they could be an asset to government agencies. Another veteran says Master’s subjects must be distinct, as employers could recruit diploma and degree graduates on a lower pay scale.

Yvonne Low, executive director, The Traveller DMC, says MICE graduates could organise internal company events and CSR programmes in large organisations. “Managing and executing a MICE event is like running a business project from start to finish. They can apply organisation skills, budget control and teamwork dynamics, and also present to high-level decision-makers such as organisers of medical and association conferences.”

JCUS Campus Front view Landscape (resized)
New learning pathways need to be developed to bring new skills, like broadcasting, digital marketing and behavioural sciences, to the forefront.

Rosalind Ng, managing director, Globe International Events Consultancy, concurs, “An events or project manager has to manage a project from business development, budgeting, launch, sales and marketing and public relations to operations. So, it’s useful if they have all-round knowledge, although each sector differs slightly operationally.”

Richard Ireland, vice president, professional development in the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers, notes, “The industry must be prepared to operate within new parameters and with new skill sets.

"Once native skills to adjacent industries—such as content curation, broadcasting, digital marketing, gamification and behavioural sciences—are now frontier skills and knowledge that event practitioners must acquire to be employable and relevant for the events industry in a Covid-19 future. A more agile and digitally focused sector will prove critical in serving customers in both physical and digital environments.”

Will newly minted JCUS MICE/Master’s graduates be up to this challenge?

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