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Back to school with Glion (Switzerland)

An overview of the Swiss hospitality school located above Montreux.

Back to school with Glion (Switzerland)

An overview of the Swiss hospitality school located above Montreux.

Category: Europe - Switzerland - Careers - Interviews - Recruitment / Job / Training - Interviews
Interview made by Sylvie Leroy on 2018-10-09

Glion Institut de Hautes Etudes is a private Swiss establishment offering international diplomas in hospitality, luxury and events qualifications. Accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), the school ranks 5th in the world for the best higher education establishments in hospitality management according to the 2018 QS World University Rankings.

Together with the Swiss hospitality school Les Roches, Glion is part of Sommet Education, a newly-formed group dedicated to hospitality education which is owned by the investment company Eurazeo.

60% of Glion’s graduates, irrespective of their age, work in the hospitality sector which goes to show just how much the school instils a passion for the hospitality business in its students.

That is fortunate as tourism is the second largest employer in the world. By 2026, there will be 80 million new jobs in the tourism and hospitality sector. It is a sector full of opportunities and this is reflected in the fact that 90% of students find work even before they graduate. The other 10% either continue with their studies, do their military service, or take a gap year.

The hospitality sector is indeed full of opportunities, confirms the External Relations Manager, Fabienne Rollandin. “There are even more possibilities than people realise; hospitality is an ever-growing and ever-changing industry which is made even more interesting by its constant evolution. It’s a diverse industry which includes not just hospitality but also tourism and restaurants as well as luxury, finance, events, marketing, media, technologies, consulting, etc. The range of careers on offer is dynamic and varied.”

Glion was the first hospitality school to open a specialised section dedicated to luxury in 2015 and the new young graduates were quickly spotted by luxury brands.

“Luxury brands used to contact us wishing to recruit our students for their expertise in client relations and, at the same time, we had students who were interested in working in the luxury sector” Rollandin explains. “So it was a natural step for us to offer this specialism at our school and we have been very successful. We now have ex-students working with the Richemont or LVMH group, Chanel, Piaget, etc. They are often working in client relations jobs as that’s where they bring added value.”

How can an 18-year old know if they are suited to hospitality studies?

According to Alexia Lepage, Communications Manager, it’s important to take the time to think about it carefully: “Before deciding to embark on a hospitality course, the would-be student needs to take time to reflect on his or her personal and professional aims and consider these questions: what do I really want to do, what sectors interest me? The decision to undertake expensive studies can only be taken after such careful consideration.”

“We are able to spot quite quickly those who are not right for the profession, and we do not accept them,” she adds. “Motivation is a big part of gaining entry to our school as is a love of people and service.”

Caring support

At the start of a new academic year, the students arrive from all over the world. They are all about eighteen years old and far away from their families and friends. They all have accommodation on campus and their rooms have to be well-kept. There are quite strict house rules with, for example, lights out at 10pm.

Weekends are free and travelling from Montreux is easy: some students use the opportunity to go to Milan which is two hours away, or race down the near-by pistes. Glion School also organises extra-curricular activities.

“Based on our experience, what is important to us is our students’ professional and personal development,” Rollandin explains. “This is why our education model is quite unique. We want to ensure that our students do not come to us just to study but also to develop a life on campus, a network, and also a sense of customer service. We can offer them a support system, a healthy lifestyle on campus away from the classroom, and also becoming part of the student body and developing relationships with the other students.

“Students come to us when they are about eighteen or nineteen, and when they leave three and a half years later, they are a different person. To support this transformation, we have excellent teachers and Master Craftsmen (Meilleurs Ouvriers de France) with real experience of the world of work. We are part of a business which is centred on people, so although theory is important, the practical side of our business is equally important and needs to be taught. It is essential that we bring real-world situations to the classroom in order to prepare our students for working life.

“We currently have 1,550 students with 93 nationalities. They are going to learn a lot from each other by studying, working and living together. They are going to learn about openness, tolerance, respect, and cultural awareness. This learning process will help the students prepare for their future profession where they will be meeting people from different social and cultural backgrounds.

“It is important for the school to offer these young students a strong support network. The school is there to support them in their development through a responsive student department, psychologists, tutoring for struggling students, and much more.

“The programme is the same for everyone” explains Rollandin. “However, students who have difficulties in some subjects can have private lessons or tutorials where they are helped by stronger students who explain the lessons in their own words. We find that this works quite well. We also have the student affairs department which is dedicated to all matters outside of the classroom. We also have psychologists for the students to talk to and share their worries with. These students are far away from home so it is important that they have someone close-by to listen to them.”

What happens during the Bachelor course?

The Bachelor course is spread over 3 and a half years with the first academic semester taking place at Glion: 20 weeks focusing on excellence in the art of hospitality starting either in February or September. The programme consists of practical training in small groups of 10 to 12 students with six modules: restaurant, kitchen, accommodation, oenology, logistics, and an introduction to different hospitality cultures.

This hands-on and sustained practice teaches the students to be humble which will forge their personality for the future. In addition, the students are supported by the team of instructors and Master Craftsmen (MOF) on campus to ensure the highest quality of training.

The second semester lasts 24 weeks. It is the first stage of the curriculum with an internship in a hotel, usually high-end or luxury, anywhere in the world providing the student can obtain the relevant visa. The internship department is there to support them in the process and we also organise a recruitment day with sixty to seventy companies which is a good opportunity for our students to meet potential employers. They can make contact with the employers and attend interviews to arrange their internship.

For the third and fourth semesters, the young people can study at one of the six campuses available at Glion Institute and Les Roches hospitality school as they are both part of the same training group: Sommet Education. They can stay at Glion to study management, administration, or accounting, or they can choose to go to Glion’s other two campuses in London or Bulle. They can also opt for one the three Les Roches campuses: Bluche-Crans Montana in Switzerland, Marbella in Spain, or even Shanghai – the latter is particularly interesting for students who want to do their next internship in China.

The fifth semester is dedicated to the second internship: six months in hospitality or another setting, but 80% of the students choose to do their internship in a hotel.

Finally, the sixth and seventh semesters are completed at Bulle or London which both have an identical academic level. During the last semester, the school gives students the opportunity to specialise in one of four areas: hospitality business, luxury brands management, hotel development and finance, or events management.

Students use a platform called ‘Simplicity’ to go online and search for internships by destination, chain, category of hotels or by department. “We have 2,500 to 3,000 offers of internship available to our students on our site each semester,” explains Alexia Lepage. “All our students obviously secure an internship and a dedicated person is responsible for overseeing their progress throughout its duration. The students can potentially change hotels if there is a problem.”

Fabienne Rollandin explains further: “From a practical point of view, the emphasis in the first semester has been firmly placed on the practical arts to prepare the students for their first internship, and also to help them develop their soft skills. These skills will help them manage their teams in the future but they have to start with the basics, develop an understanding of team dynamics and become better at finding solutions.

“During their internship, students not only put into practice what they have learned but also are able to see what they like and dislike. Doing an internship at the beginning of the course means that the students avoid studying for several years in a field which they may not enjoy working in, once they start.

“The subsequent semesters are all about academic progression but also personal skills, self-confidence, and attitude.

“During this time, students are engaged in tests, exams, group work, and course work. They receive a mark out of 100 for all the work undertaken, and they also have a final exam.”

Who are the teachers?

Glion Institute employs 74 lecturers, and around half of them are industry professionals and the other half are academics. 80% of the lecturers hold a master’s degree or a PhD. These are professionals who have come from the industry: they may have had a 10 to 20 year career in renowned hotels, and have gone on to specialise in one particular field which they teach at the school.

“Our minimum requirement is a master’s degree,” says Lepage. “But most of them have a PhD which means that they have had to resume their studies at one time or another. Like our students, our teachers come from all over the world, which adds an extra dimension to their teaching.

“For the practical arts, we have many French teachers and this is mostly due to their know-how, but our teachers’ backgrounds are more varied in management. What is most important is the experience and the expertise that they each have in their field.

“We also invite industry experts to our themed evenings, for example, we have had an evening with one of the best sommeliers in the world.”
A gender-sensitive school

54% of the students are girls. “10 years ago, the trend was very much the opposite, in fact there were practically only boys, Lepage notes. “There are several reasons why there are more and more girls studying hotel management: it’s an industry that has become more attractive and feminine, and also a little glamourous thanks to TV. Also, our Bachelor diploma does not lead only to work in hospitality but also in the luxury sector which allows for many career opportunities.”

The Glion Alumni Association: a network of 14,000 former students

The association of former Glion students was created in 1964, and its members remain in close contact with their school. They are involved in programme updates for example, which is an important asset to the school, stresses Alexia Lepage: “Our heads of chapter and the regional directors within the alumni association share with us their knowledge of trends, feedback, and ideas for the curriculum. They are fully involved in the life of the school even though we do not have a mentoring or coaching programme. On the other hand, once the students qualify, they become members of the alumni community which is a very supportive community.

“It is a very strong network thanks to the ‘Glion spirit’: Alumni often talk about the Glion spirit and the peer support it engenders. There is a permanent dialogue between all the members. In a school like ours, students are of course keen on the training but also on being part of a network which will be useful in their future career.”

In summary:
  • Two intakes per year: 500 to 700 students in internships per semester (September and February)
  • Admission based on level of English and application
  • Cost of Bachelor diploma: 170,000 Swiss francs (all inclusive: accommodation, food, insurance, etc.)
  • Bursaries are available depending on candidate’s profile
  • All lessons are in English
  • Support for students wishing to learn a language: French, Spanish, Chinese, etc.

About the author

Sylvie Leroy, enthusiastic publisher since 1999
Her passion for luxury hospitality, "a score perfectly performed by a fantastic orchestra" as she often says, led Sylvie Leroy to build in 2004 Journal des Palaces the sole online daily news dedicated to luxury hospitality with news, jobs, directories and resources.

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