The University of East London's events management first-year students were four weeks deep into their course when Event visited in late October, and, so far, they were fresh-faced and alert. Event arrived five minutes late to their 2pm seminar, however the entire class was ready and waiting with the tables rearranged for our discussion.
Tuesdays seemed to be the preferred day of the week for the 19-strong group: it is dedicated to their Events Industry unit. "This is everyone's favourite module, it's based on what we actually want to do," says Narin. "But also with this degree, we're learning about business, finance and legal things too - that's very helpful."
The class believes these extra modules will give them the edge in the workplace. Sarah explains: "I thought about just going out and getting a job, but when I looked at my background and what I needed to learn, I thought it would be worth getting a degree. I worked in the events department doing HR in my job and realised what they know is not what I know. They wanted me to get a degree."
Laila agrees: "People assume you can just go out and get a job in events, which isn't the case. You need experience. And having a degree can be really useful because it makes you stand out."
This experience can be gained during the three-year course, as well as in an optional placement year that, so far, only two of the class members have chosen to carry out. But the group gets emails from the university's Employ programme encouraging them to go to networking events, and there's the benefit of being based just a few stops on the Docklands Light Railway from the Olympic Park.
The business school also has ties with Excel London, where students can help with the likes of security and hospitality. And for their final project they can host a live event and report on it, rather than write a dissertation.
In any case, many of the students arrived with industry experience. Sarah has a background in sports events, Cariad and Narin in entertainment and Cherly and Layla in fashion. Andy Stevens, senior lecturer at the university and leader of the module, notes: "We've noticed, particularly over the past two years, that students are coming with more experience, be that through volunteering or performing at events themselves."
It's an interesting observation: British universities no longer have a strict cap on how many students they can take and tuition fees rocketed to £9,000 a year in 2012. Surely that means less competition, and less incentive to stand out from the crowd with extra-curricular experience?
"Maybe with the introduction of the new fees students are really thinking about what they'll do after they graduate," says Stevens. "In the past, they may have chosen the course because they had an interest in doing events. Now they're more focused on the industry, especially management, before they come in."
Despite a resounding agreement that studying events management still carries a stigma ("People are always like, 'if you want to do events, why do you need a degree?'" says Laila), the class seemed confident about job prospects after graduation.
"This is an up-and-coming sector," says Riya. "There are so many different parts to event management, and people don't realise how much events affects everything else."
When Event asked what they know about experiential marketing, the class collectively says that it might be something they will study later. But Charmaine seems to have an unconscious understanding of the discipline already. "I've noticed that events are being used at the moment as a way to sell a product," she says. "I went to a free festival in Hackney over the summer by Kopparberg. It was marketing a product but people were invited to come and enjoy the music and this sort of sensory experience. You go away and end up buying the product without really knowing why. I thought it was really good."
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