The soon-to-be-launched Edge Hotel School, where students have the opportunity to do their training within a real hotel environment, could be "a milestone in education", according to the shadow minister for further education, skills and regional growth, Gordon Marsden.
In a message to 100 hospitality professionals at a preview of the school, held at London's Ritz hotel earlier this evening, Marsden said: "The Edge Hotel School has the potential to be a beacon of excellence for the hospitality industry and future generations of students."
At the event, leading hospitality professionals were told that the students at the school - based at Wivenhoe House, a luxury Grade II-listed country house hotel which is currently being restored in Colchester - will be "learning by doing" as they study for fast-track foundation and BA (Hons) degrees in hotel management and culinary management.
Due to be completed in July 2012, the £10m Edge Hotel School and Wivenhoe House is a partnership between the independent education foundation Edge, the University of Essex and its academic partner Kaplan. The hotel will include a formal restaurant, brasserie and conference facilities.
Sir Garry Hawkes, president of Edge, said the school was one of the most exciting developments in hospitality education for well over a generation.
"To be able to operate a fully commercial hotel, as well as providing both quality practical and vocational learning for the next generation of hospitality students is a great move forward for the industry. We are delighted to be nearing the finish line on this unique project with our partners and overwhelming industry support."
The students, known as student practitioners, will enrol during three intakes per year with the course running over a 45-week academic year, divided into three 15-week semesters.
Alan Jenkins, principal of the Edge Hotel School, said: "The Edge Hotel School will offer people the opportunity to become the future leaders of hospitality by working in a fully functioning hotel and learning from industry experts whilst gaining a degree qualification putting in place a much needed production line for home-grown talent."
Meanwhile, Stephen Mannock, general manager of Wivenhoe House, said the hotel will be four star in terms of the physical facilities, aspiring to deliver five-star service standards. "Guests can look forward to an intriguingly different experience, with the flair and attention to detail you would expect from the future leaders of the industry."
Sponsors, including Laurent-Perrier, Milsoms Hotels, Exclusive Hotels, Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide, Baxter Storey and Portico were announced this evening, along with tableware supplier Churchill as a partner.
By Janet Harmer
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