Kirstie Allsopp and the Great Event Management Degree Debate

TV personality Kirstie Allsopp has once again reignited the debate around the value of an Event Management degree via this tweet:

Kirstie received a barrage of both support and disbelief in response.

Are Event Management Degrees Worthwhile?

I have outlined my thoughts on event management degrees in this earlier blog post: Are Event Management Degrees Worthwhile? and I am not going to go over old ground. However, I couldn’t ignore this storm completely and so I have picked out some of the most thought-provoking tweets and added some of my own thoughts below.

I feel desperately sad for anyone who wants to go to University in this age of hefty tuition fees. My student loan was around £12k after my 4 years at university studying for my event management degree (3 years studying and a 48-week work placement in year 2), but to be faced with three times this amount of debt before even graduating is a very large noose indeed.

Going to university was very important to me and I didn’t want to study any other subject. I also wanted to leave home and stand on my own two feet. It is difficult to say though what I would have done in these current financial circumstances, particularly as I also know plenty of very capable event management graduates that don’t yet have a job in the industry or have started in an entry-level position.

On the flip side, I also know talented people with unrelated degrees that have gained experience in the events industry and have proved their natural ability and dedication but that also cannot find further event management positions.

Ignorance About What Event Management Entails

Perhaps the root of this debate stems from the sheer ignorance about what event management entails. Over the years I have met a lot of people who simply do not understand what event management is, or simply don’t appreciate what it entails to plan and manage an event and to make everything look completely effortless. An important skill is silently planning and managing all of the operational and logistical elements the general public are not even aware of so perhaps if we didn’t do our job so impeccably people would understand our role much better?!

One of the most important elements is to ensure that you are providing a safe event for everyone in attendance. Large-scale events such a music festivals have to operate like a temporary city, with all the infrastructure for tens of thousands of attendees. Not an easy feat.

We constantly have feedback from clients (even those that have run numerous events themselves) that they “didn’t realize there was so much to think about in terms of events” and that “it is great working with an event management company as you think about everything, things we wouldn’t even have dreamed of.”  Good to know that some people appreciate our skills at least!

Event Management Is Not Party Planning

To put this old chestnut to rest….

No, I do not believe that an event management degree is required to hold a party and unsurprisingly being a party planner did not feature on any part of my degree course.

I have not personally organised the Olympics or G8 either but I have organised lots of successful events and conferences that achieved the objectives of my clients. As an SME I have created employment for myself and others too.

Is Event Management A Mickey Mouse Degree?

I can only comment on the course content of my own event management degree but I would like to point out that in simple terms it was a business and management degree focused on event planning and the event industry. It covered subject areas including marketing, human resources, law, health and safety, finance and much more. All in all, I think it is very unfair to be labelled a “Mickey Mouse” degree.  Don’t get me wrong it isn’t the same as studying medicine but neither should it be compared to a studying a degree on David Beckham?!

I wonder which degree courses do get the seal of approval from Kirstie and others?  We can’t all be (and don’t want to be!) brain surgeons and lawyers you know!

The other courses I applied and had offers for were in International Business (at the time only a handful of universities offered event management) – I wonder whether that course would be deemed worthwhile or whether that would have attracted as much scorn when actually the basic modules and content were probably quite similar?

Encouraging Future Event Managers

I don’t believe Kirstie went to university but as someone who has been lucky enough to work her way up and follow her dream in an unusual career, I would have thought she would be more supportive of others choosing to follow their passions too.

Of course, I can see the sentiment behind the tweets from Kirstie, we do want motivated self-starters and “go-getters” within the event industry and of course experience and hard work is essential.  This does, however, seem to be a very simplified view of the industry and job market and very disrespectful to those doing all the right things and still finding it heart-breakingly tough to be given the chances they are striving for!

The Realities of a Career in Event Management

In an ideal world, people would be able to breeze into a job in the events industry by showing their enthusiasm, commitment and ability to work hard and in some circumstances, of course, that may still happen. In reality though, hundreds of people apply for every single event related job and often if you are not qualified to degree level in event management or a related subject you won’t even get an interview.

Remembering back to my own job hunt many moons ago the standard requirement was for a degree and 3 years minimum experience and I imagine the job market is even more competitive today than it was back then. I am not saying this is how it should be – I am purely stating the facts as they are so often reported back to me.

Health and Safety Responsibilities of Event Planning

This is probably my favourite tweet of this controversial Twitter debate and puts it into perspective wonderfully:

An Event Management Degree is Nothing Without Experience

A degree in event management is worth nothing without experience (and lots of it) to back up the theoretical learning. We were not allowed to progress into the last two years of the event management degree unless we had completed our year working in the events industry and I think this is so important. Unfortunately, this element is no longer compulsory on most courses, mainly because there are not enough work placements available but also because of the high tuition fees incurred, even when on a work placement and not at university and the pressure this puts on students to graduate as quickly as possible.

My advice would always be to volunteer and gain as much work experience as possible during your time studying. Without this listed clearly on your CV you are unlikely to get many interviews?

Perhaps some of these hefty tuition fees could be used in this way though to support more work-based learning?

Many Universities, such as UCLan, are very focused on providing real life event experience and excellent links with employers in event management. Be sure to take this into account before choosing which university is best for you to study event management.

University is Valuable In More Ways Than Just The Degree Content

For me university was much more than just the course content, it was also moving away from home and growing up, combined with the opportunity to research and study a subject that I am passionate about to a higher level.

Another sad fact about the high tuition fees though is that people are probably less likely to study away from home. I understand from university lecturers I know that many more students now choose to live at home with their parents and attend a local university rather than leaving home. To me, this is a real shame.

A Message For Event Management Students

If you are currently studying event management or have recently graduated I imagine that tweets from such a high profile TV personality seem pretty damning. All I can say is hold your head up and don’t ever give up. It’s not going to be easy in this competitive industry but you can succeed.Kirstie Allsopp and Event Management Degree Tweets

Please note these thoughts are not endorsing/specific to any event management degree.  

I studied at Leeds Metropolitan University (now known as Leeds Beckett University) but I graduated a long time ago and I set up my own event management company in 2004. 

I am proud to currently be an Associate Lecturer at UCLan, teaching Enterprise to the final year Event, Hospitality and Tourism students. I love every minute of teaching and meeting so many inspiring and capable students, passionate about the events industry, just like I was!

I believe I am well qualified to comment on this subject though, having studied to degree level and worked in the events industry all my life….

Conclusion

I would love to hear your thoughts on this controversial debate in the comments at the bottom of the page!  

Further Reading:

Are Event Management Degrees Worthwhile?

2 Comments

  • Bethany Smith
    Posted 5th October 2014 4:21 pm 1Likes

    Being a college student at the moment, I am smack in the middle of the “what’s your major” debate.
    I am not persuing a degree in event management. Rather, I am double majoring in sociology and economics. However, experience is important, and so is the acquisition of industry knowledge. Which is why I volunteer, maintain a blog, take event management classes online, go to trade shows & conferences, and keep up with what the pros are reading.

    I think they key is to balance theoretical knowledge with hands on experience. If you accomplish that with an Events Management degree, wonderful. If you can do it without one, thats just as well.

    • eventsnorthern
      Posted 8th October 2014 7:49 pm 1Likes

      Hi Bethany
      It certainly sounds like you are doing a lot to gain skills and keep up to date. I agree 100% that experience and knowledge go hand in hand.
      Best of luck with your studies and everything – keep us up to date!
      Becki

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