Once again, media studies is in the firing line! When done well, it’s an excellent course, with excellent transferable skills (as well as the intrinsic skills):

Media self-hatred is fuelling the attacks on media studies, says Sally Feldman

So media studies is in the firing line again. This time, the renewal of hostilities was prompted by the appointment of Les Ebdon as head of the Office for Fair Access. He has incurred the wrath of critics not merely for his trenchant views on widening access, but also for his championing of non- traditional subjects such as media studies.

This has put him at odds with the MPs who make up the Conservative Fair Access to University Group, who dismiss media studies as one of the “soft” subjects – an assertion that has only been tepidly opposed by David Willetts, the universities and science minister. Willetts may have recently acknowledged that these “are often really valuable vocational courses”, but that faint support hasn’t stopped him from removing the teaching grant that has until now made them viable.

But by far the most vituperative attacks on media studies have come from the media itself. On Ebdon’s appointment, for example, the Daily Mail called him a “champion of Mickey Mouse degrees” – foremost among which was, of course, media studies.

“I have always found it curious that those in the media do not take themselves seriously enough to think of the media itself as an object of academic study,” commented Martin McQuillan, dean of arts and social sciences at Kingston University, in these pages (“Weapon of Mass Education”, 1 March). “I can only put it down to some form of transferential self-loathing.

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2 Responses

  1. Don’t get me started on Media degrees. well you have, I do’t have a problem with a Media Studies degree “as an object of academic study” as long as graduates don’t consider, or get sold the idea, this will prepare them for a career in the media industry because it won’t.

    The industry is fed up of people leaving uni with a media degree and expecting to enter the industry at a higher level or even at an entry level, at which point you have to ask what was the point of a 3 year degree course especially from next year! My experience as an industry practitioner and sometime involved in training at both apprenticeship and degree levels, as well as talking to key staff involved in finding new talent, is that very few media degrees actually prepare students to work in the industry without significant additional training.

    The industry has got so fed up, it has put its money where its mouth is and set up a range of apprenticeship schemes so it can train and prepare students with the skills needed.

    You talk about transferable skills and the skills you list are transferable IF they were delivered and developed properly in university, but experience leads me to believe they rarely are.

    We find these practical skills are rarely delivered in a real world and current way, rather they are dealt with in a generalised unrealistic way and students believe they are being prepared for a career in the media industry and I am afraid a lot of universities are letting their students down badly.

    For example, I delivered a Media Induction Course for a dozen cohorts and the first 8 or 9 cohorts were largely graduates with a variety of media degrees and I have lost count of the number of times they would tell me that they learnt more in that 9 day course about working in the media industry than they did throughout their 3 year degree course.

    A Media Degree shouldn’t be a soft option. To prepare students for the relatively small number of opportunities in the media industry, it should be a tough course learning a range of practical skills in the first and second years and specialising into a specific area in the 3rd year. Media is a very practical and hands on industry. This needs universities to employ a broad range of associate lecturers who remain active practitioners in the industry so they can deliver current and future practice. The industry is changing so fast that someone who has left the industry even 3 years ago will be out of date.

    1. Definitely! Universities need to look more at split roles, which support people in those split roles, rather than piling more & more on a 0.5 contract…!! We keep saying to our students that they have chosen the academic path, and that Media Production is more for the other kind of roles…

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