Cover Image: Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne/Facebook

The Swiss hospitality management school opens its Singapore campus next year, and its group CEO Michel Rochat has high hopes for this new outpost

A former private residence built in the 1900s will soon be home to the Singapore campus of Swiss hospitality management school Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL). The 2,400 sqm Kinloss House, located at Lady Hill Road in the Tanglin area, was originally the home of a British engineer during the colonial period, and later used as a boarding school for the children of members of the British military. Come 2021, the site will become EHL’s first campus outside Switzerland.

“Having a campus in Singapore changes the game. Asia is developing rapidly. The markets here are booming, and the energy in this part of the world is very positive,” says EHL Group CEO Michel Rochat on what its presence here means for this vaunted 127-year-old educational institution. “To mix this culture with the culture in the mature markets of Europe, it’s putting two very complicated systems together, almost like making a very intricate Swiss watch. I don’t want to import a culture. I want these two EHL campus cultures to produce a global culture for the group.”

One way of accomplishing that is to ensure that the EHL faculty members teaching here are rooted in Singapore and Asia. “I don’t want a ‘fly in, fly out’ culture,” says Rochat emphatically. Half of the faculty will likely be from or based in Asia, while the professors visiting from Lausanne will stay in Singapore for at least three to six months. “To provide huge added value, they need to experience the city and the opportunities it offers,” he believes. To walk the talk, he will base himself in Singapore for three months when the campus opens in 2021.

The Singapore campus will start delivering short courses on-site as early as July this year, gradually ramping up to about 500 students during its first few years. If things go well, EHL will grow the Singapore student base further. In the initial stage, however, the smaller cohort in Singapore will offer a great opportunity for experimentation.

Take machine learning, for instance. “Today, a faculty member spends about 30 per cent of his or her time grading tests and exams. Machine learning can help to automate this process, and the time saved will allow faculty members to have more interaction with students,” he elaborates.

“With a small batch of students, it can be easier to test such innovations and refine best practices. We are not an old-fashioned university. We want to open the doors to more agile and efficient ways of doing things, so that our students will be able to meet the demands of the market they graduate into.”

Indeed, 96 per cent of EHL students currently find employment within six months of graduating, with others continuing onto a masters programme. Rochat wants to improve those numbers even further, and to do that, it is crucial for students to cultivate an open-minded way of approaching the world. “The design of the EHL campus in Lausanne is very open, and that also gives our students an education. It is impossible to ask them to be open-minded if they learn in very enclosed spaces,” he explains.

The architectural heritage of the Singapore campus will accomplish a similar aim. “The facilities have soul and give our students a way to experience the history of Singapore,” he believes. That is a good starting point for soaking up more abstract but very fundamental touchstones such as multiculturalism and a commitment to excellence. Such a worldview also has a strong resonance in Switzerland, another relatively small country that draws people from all over the world. “Singapore and Switzerland have very similar values,” says Rochat. “That’s why this campus is a good platform for us to build something together for the future.”