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Duncan McAlpin BA in Hospitality Management

Duncan McAlpin
Waterford Institute of Technology
Honours BA in Hospitality Management (4 years - Level 8)


Duncan thought about doing Engineering, Aeronautical Science and Business Studies, but in the end chose Hospitality because it is varied, with hands-on experience as well as a business element and you can travel with it. The 6 month placement, entering competitions and the projects and case studies have been the highlights of the course for him.

Full Details:

“I grew up with the hospitality industry. My family have a bar/ restaurant, The Cottage Bistro, in County Waterford so I helped out there since I was 12 and at the age of 16 I started working in the Tower Hotel part-time. I used to love talking to people, loved the buzz of conference and banqueting, and just being in the hotel, especially around Christmas time.

When I was in 5th and 6th year I looked at colleges around the country, but particularly WIT cause it’s close to home. I thought about Engineering, Aeronautical Science and Business Studies, but in the end I chose Hospitality Management in WIT because it is varied, with hands-on experience as well as a business element and you can travel with it.

I really saw the advantages of this when we entered a team from our course into the annual Newstalk Student Enterprise competition and got into the semi final. We met teams doing Business Studies and other disciplines, and found we were a strong competitor because of the fact that we had such varied skills and experience in our team. You’ve so many different types of people with different experiences and knowledge coming together in this course – not like in a Marketing team for example where they’re purely marketing focused.

Getting the chance to enter competitions like this has been great. This year I also have the opportunity to captain the WIT team in the IHI Business Game, which I’m really looking forward to. Another fantastic part of our course is the 6 month placement. I went to The Heritage in Killenard – it was amazing to get that 5 star experience. I even had the opportunity to do some Duty Manager shifts, which was incredible because I was 19 and - especially in a resort, where it’s such a big operation that it’s almost overwhelming - you get to find out so much about different operations. It was the best work experience of my life, to see how so many things are coordinated in tune with each other. Electric Picnic is run very nearby and I met celebrities like Chris de Burgh, Ronan Keating, Catherine Thomas and Kate Moss who stayed at The Heritage during the festival. I also met lots of golfers, like Seve Ballesteros, and even the Aga Khan was up there at a Horse-racing Ireland conference.

The placement was the highlight but there hasn’t been one bad opportunity in the course. I think as a degree course it is very rounded and structured. You’ve set modules over 4 years - about 20 hours of lectures a week, then project work would add another 20 hours. For example this year we have to do a dissertation. I’m doing mine on the value of having a Masters, a Post-grad or an MBA in the hospitality industry, if it’s best to do it during or before your time in industry, etc. It’s very interesting some of the results coming out of it about what employers actually look for in an employee.

We also do case studies as part of our course, on successful global businesses like Walt Disney Corp, BMG Music and Ben & Jerry’s. The case studies are not limited to hospitality so you get a great view of the world. I learnt a lot about sustainability, corporate responsibility, mergers and acquisitions - general current business principles that are important for any business.

I think WIT is a great college. We have a new facility here - the Tourism & Leisure Building, where Recreation Management, Hospitality Management, Culinary Arts and Languages are taught. It’s fantastic, we’ve such state-of-the-art facilities here.

The majority of people in my class will go into industry I’d say, although some
will use the course as a means to consultancy or teaching. We’ve a great careers office here that has a long list of companies graduates have worked with before. This college has a great reputation within industry, so you’ll never be short of contacts. During this course you do Event Management, Strategic Management, we have a strong base in Accountancy so you have a good head for figures at the end, and we’re also coming away with strong skills in Marketing – all of these subjects are really practical for getting a job."

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