Mixed reactions greet unbundling of Mass Communication in varsities
University teachers, practitioners of communication and other professionals in the country recently presented new curricula for Communication Studies in Nigerian universities to the National Universities Commission.
The document, which seeks to unbundle Mass Communication and create seven degree awarding departments to be domiciled under a School or College of Communication in its place, was formally presented to the Executive Secretary of the NUC, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, in Abuja on Tuesday, February 5, 2019 by Prof Umaru Pate, Prof Idowu Sobowale, Prof Ralph Akinfeleye and Prof Tonnie Iredia.
The submission of the new curricula, which proponents had been working on for the past two years, is backed by regulatory agencies, such as the National Broadcasting Commission and Nigerian Press Council, as well as professional bodies, such as the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations and Radio, Television and Theatre Arts Workers Union.
Receiving the document, the Executive Secretary of the NUC said that a review of the mass communication curricula was long overdue and promised to expedite action in the process of finalising and adopting them.
This development indicates that when the curricula are finally approved and directives given by the NUC, tertiary institutions, public and private, will have to make appropriate adjustments to reflect the change. It, however, raises a question: Will the unbundling produce better graduates?
Henry Omafodezi, who is the Chief Executive Officer 7gongs Brand and Media Company, expressed the opinion that the current curriculum for Mass Communication was designed to favour journalism and the unbundling of the course would be in the best interest of university graduates.
He said, “I think it is long overdue. In the first place, I think the curriculum is unfairly designed to favour print and broadcast journalism. The schools that offer Public Relations and Advertising as courses only do so at basic levels. What happens is that employers have to practically train university products from the scratch. This is usually not so in journalism as the students already have a head start from their schools.
“I was in Journalism for five years before I went into Public Relations and have been practising for over five years now. When I wanted to start, I felt shortchanged because I did a few of PRAD and journalism courses in school. When I left school and was supposed to do an entrance examination to study PR at a university, I was not confident enough to choose PRAD for the exam. I chose print. Can you imagine?”
However, advising members of the academic community to carry stakeholders in active practice along, Omafodezi, “I do hope that the unbundling will take into context the global realities. PR has gone beyond Media Relations. Concepts like influence and online reputation, as well as crisis management, are on the front burner. The certificate should not only serve an academic purpose, but also it should be the springboard for a professional journey.”
The Manager of Recruitment and Executive Selection Services at Human Capital Partners, Maris Akinsulere, said the unbundling of the course would put an end to the lack of graduates with core competencies required to manage relevant critical job functions in organisations.
He said, “Looking at it from a recruiter’s perspective, I think it is a welcome development. What we had before now was a situation where people were not specialised, where some people had ideas about the sub-areas but lacked specialised knowledge and the core competencies required to manage these critical job functions in an organisation. I think this approach will help people to focus on the areas of their individual strengths. It also means that these jobs have to be unbundled.
“Another possible fall-out is that people who are specialised in two or more domain areas will get employed faster than others. There should bregulation within the professional environment. The profession should be well regulated at those levels. But, in terms of broadcasting, where people have ideas and want to use the mass media to disseminate the information, I don’t think there is much that can be done there.”
A graduate of Mass Communication who majored in broadcasting, Temitope Adams, said she believed that she got employed by an online news platform, which helped to kick off her career in journalism, because she was taught Broadcast and Print journalism, as well as Public Relations and Advertising in the university.
“Learning all of them equipped me to face the harsh realities that I encountered in the labour market. If I had only focused on broadcast journalism, I would have been stranded. Today I am done with print and I am into Public Relations as the next level in my career. My experience in print journalism gave me an edge over others because it meant that I could craft the right media message for my organisation. If I had not been properly equipped, how would I have coped? I just hope this does not affect the graduates when they get into the labour market because there is a world of difference between what was taught in school and what obtains in the real world.”
One of the authors of the new curricula, Prof. Stella Okuna of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, explained that the unbundling of Mass Communication is aimed at taking the profession away from its present ‘all-comer’ status and producing better work-ready graduates.
Okuna, in an interview with our correspondent, said, “It will enhance higher specialisation. Now Mass Communication is an ‘all comers’ field, but when it is unbundled, there will be cross-cutting courses, which everyone can take, and there will be core courses, PR for example, that others don’t have to take. At that point, you will be specialising in PR and you know more in that area than other areas.
“Instead of being a Jack of all trades and master of none, you can know a bit of everything and be a master in one. What is happening now is that from 100 level you will take general Mass Communication courses and at 300 level you will specialise in broadcast or print etc. It means that you are just branching out, under the same umbrella. Everyone goes away with just the general idea, and you don’t still have grounding in a particular area.
“With the new curricula, there will now be seven departments under that big umbrella of Communication and Media Studies and you can study either Journalism and Media Studies; Public Relations; Advertising; Broadcasting; Film and Multimedia Studies; Development Communication Studies; and Information and Media Studies.”
The professor also said she was hopeful that a time would come when the discipline would no longer be an all-comers field. “Unlike Medicine or Law or Engineering, a variety of backgrounds should enrich the journalism profession, but that qualification should be combined with another qualification in Mass Communication, maybe a diploma, so that you can know the profession and practice it well.
“It’s getting better though. People who are practising now have a qualification in one of the arms of Mass Communication or another. But, years back, it was a free for all. Nobody had any qualification. Once you could write good English and had a good command of the English language, you could jump into the field. But now, steps are being taken now to ensure that people who come into the field have some kind of qualification in Communication Studies. It will happen. It might take a while, but it will happen.”