General Context – Internationalization Strategy of UniSey: Tourism As A Niche
The Seychelles are known throughout the world because of one sector in particular: tourism. For the past few years, the University of Seychelles has been positioning itself as a center of excellence in a number of specific fields. Sustainable Tourism is at the crossroads of other key areas of research currently being developed at UniSey: including the Blue Economy; Indian Ocean languages and cultures; environmental science; and education in small island states. Attracting international collaboration in the field of sustainable tourism also highlights the transdisciplinary research that UniSey is currently developing. Only created in January 2017, the Department of Tourism and Cultural Heritage has, in a short time-frame, build an international reputation in the fields of sustainable tourism practices and heritage management. Among different actions initiated by its Head of Department, the Department was invited to be represented at the 3rd Indian Ocean Heritage Conference on “Heritage, Development and Impact on Tourism”, in October 2017 in Saint Denis, Reunion Island. In November 2017, the Departement of Tourism and Cultural Heritage organized the International Conference on “Sustainable Tourism in Small Island Developing States”, in the framework of the 2017 UN International Year for Sustainable Tourism for Development. Besides tourism stakeholders from Seychelles, the conference convened 30 international delegates from 22 countries, including Antigua, Aruba, Botswana, Comoros, Egypt, France, Germany, Guam, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Micronesia, New Zealand, Reunion, Sao-Tomé and Principe, South Africa, Tanzania, UAE, USA and Vanuatu. In December 2017, the Head of the Department represented the University of Seychelles at the Second UNWTO/UNESCO World Conference on “Tourism and Culture: Fostering Sustainable Development”, in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. The Head of the Department also represented the University of Seychelles at the UNESCO Workshop on “World Heritage and Educational Institutions in Africa”, in Zimbabwe, April 2018, by giving a presentation on “Sustainable Tourism and Heritage Management in Seychelles: Building a University Curriculum”. Beside these involvements in major international events, the Department is also involved in inter-institutional partnerships with other academic institutions recognized for their level of excellence in the field of sustainable tourism management. A major partner is the University of Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne. UniSey is offering a joint program in Sustainable Tourism Management in partnership with IREST – Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne. The first cohort will graduate in November 2018. The Director of IREST and the Vice-Provost of the Sorbonne will be attending.
Another partner is the EMTM, University of Girona, Spain.
In February 2018, as part of the Erasmus+ Programme, the University of Seychelles signed an inter-institutional agreement with the University of Girona, Spain. Erasmus+ is the European Union programme for education, training, youth and sport. It will run for seven years, from 2014 to 2020, with organizations invited each year to apply for funding to undertake creative and worthwhile activities. The aim of this inter-institutional agreement between the University of Seychelles and the University of Girona is to initiate and develop staff mobility as well as research projects and student mobility. Since the signing of the agreement, the University of Seychelles (Department of Tourism and Cultural Heritage) is officially recognized as an associate partner of EMTM, the Erasmus Mundus European Master in Tourism Management.
EMTM is recognized by the European Commission for its academic excellence and is included in the list of Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees under the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union. Since all Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees must involve studies at a minimum of 2 institutions, EMTM students follow an obligatory mobility path at three universities. The first semester is spent at the University of Southern Denmark, internationally recognized for its research in Sustainable Tourism Development, followed by a second semester at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, renowned for its excellence in Environmental Management and Economics, and a third semester at the University of Girona in Catalonia, Spain, known for its research in Product Innovation and Destination Management. The last semester is dedicated to the research project and the students can be hosted at one of the three aforementioned universities, or at a partner university such as the University of Seychelles (Department of Tourism).
Implementing the UniSey /EMTM partnership
A couple of months after the signing of the agreement between EMTM and UniSey, the Department of Tourism and Cultural Heritage initiated the first concrete collaboration by inviting Ms Ruby BARRACA from the European Master in Tourism Management (University of Southern Denmark | University of Ljubljana |University of Girona), as a visiting assistant researcher in the Department of Tourism and Cultural Heritage in April 2018. Mrs BARRACA is undertaking research on “The Sustainability of the Seychelles’ Tourism Sector in the Context of Climate Change Response: Key Actors’ Perspectives”. Her main supervisor is Prof. Geoffrey LIPMAN (President of the International Coalition of Tourism Partners) and Dr. REGNAULT is her co-supervisor.
Official Visit September 2018 – University of Girona, Catalonia
In September 2018, Dr Madina REGNAULT visited the University of Girona. The first week of September was the official start of the semester at UdG, thereforeDr. REGNAULT actively participated in several informal and formal activities with the 2017-19 cohort during the induction week. Professor Dr. Janne J. LIBURD (Professor of Tourism and Director of the Centre for Tourism, Innovation and Culture at the University of Southern Denmark), Pr. Dr. Tanja MIHALIČ (Head of Institute for Tourism, Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana/ Vice Dean), and Pr. Dr. Jaume GUIA invited Dr. Madina REGNAULT to be the key speaker at the EMTM graduation ceremony, 2016-2018 cohort. Having Dr REGNAULT representing the University of Seychelles as guest key speaker in the graduation ceremony was, for EMTM and UniSey partners, a symbolic way to highlight the relevance of international collaboration and to show how it can be developed in a short time when all the parties are fully involved and committed. More than two hundred participants attended this event that took place at the Auditori Palau de Congressos (Girona Conference Centre) and was broadcast live. After the Graduation Ceremony for the 2016-2018 EMTM cohort, the classes started for the 2017-2019 EMTM cohort beginning their semester in Girona. Dr Madina REGNAULT was invited to participate as a guest lecturer in a seminar on Tourism Branding. She gave a lecture (two sessions) to the group, composed of 36 students coming from 23 different nationalities and diverse academic backgrounds. The participants showed a great interest for the topic of the lecture: “Tourism Imaginaries, Destination Branding and Tourism Policies in the SIDS”. Prior her departure, Dr REGNAULT also met with Mrs Lina MKOJI, the Eastern Africa Sub-Regional Coordinator at Erasmus Mundus Association / Erasmus Mundus European Master in Tourism Management (EMTM).
The Department of Tourism and Cultural Heritage will host Dr. Natalia FERRER (associate lecturer, UdG) from the end of November to the beginning of December 2018; the objective being to strengthen the academic collaboration in the field of tourism, destination branding, and sustainable tourism research between the University of Seychelles and the University of Girona. Dr Jaume GUIA will be visiting the University of Seychelles in 2019 for a period of one month; the objective being to consolidate the academic cooperation between the two institutions and develop joint projects in the field of sustainable tourism management. Dr Justin VALENTIN (Vice-Chancellor of the University of Seychelles) has been invited to visit the University of Girona in 2019. The objective of this visit is to consolidate the academic cooperation between the two institutions, and develop joint projects in order to make UniSey a major academic player in the field of tourism research. Between January and June 2019, the Department of Tourism and Cultural Heritage of the University of Seychelles has offered to host potential EMTM students during their fourth semester, if they choose to conduct research about the challenges faced by Seychelles in the field of tourism.