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Unbundling mass communication, a blessing in disguise, experts say

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Executive Secretary National Universities Commission NUC Prof. Abubakar Rasheed


It started as a rumour, which many in the communication sector dismissed. It’s now official: the era of mass communication as a degree programme in Nigerian universities has ended, as the National Universities Commission (NUC) has unbundled the discipline into seven separate degree-awarding programmes to meet present demand. Though many have expressed fears and concerns that mass communication has been scrapped, experts have said there is no need to fear. They said the decision is in the best interest of communication students.

According scholars who spoke to The Guardian, those who studied mass communication degree will understand that the sections are too many to be handled as one degree programme. Prof Lai Oso of School of Media Communications, Lagos State University (LASU), lauded the move by NUC, saying it is a welcome development. Oso, a member of the team that suggested the unbundling, said the mass communication degree was too packed and would not allow for maximum coaching in the various field.

According to him, “The mass communication curriculum cannot accommodate the new developments in the media trends particularly, the changing landscaping of politics and economy.”Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye of the Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, said the unbundling was long overdue, as 76 ‘wise men and women’ had been on the document for two years. He said, “the programme is too large and what we give the students is a little of everything. But professionals today have demanded for specialisation. We are not phasing out mass communication, mind you.”

Akinfeleye pointed out that the unbundling would allow lecturers to go into the newsroom to practice and journalists to go into the classroom and teach. In his words, Prof. John Illah, Mass Communication Department, University of Jos, said the curriculum had become obsolete. He added, “It is a very large course that does not allow one to focus on skill cultivation. The NUC is doing the right thing, because with this change, we are anticipating that our society has changed in a very positive way. Intellectually, this occurrence is anticipating the changes in the industry.”
Illah was quick to point out the challenges that are likely to emerge with this change, adding a caveat, “many of the old guards may not prepared to teach these courses the new way they are structured.” He added, “are we going to send them on refresher courses or have them digitally inclined in terms of delivery of knowledge?”He also expressed fears that the students might not be prepared to take these new courses, as well as the schools not being equipped to offer them. “Many universities are not prepared for this but NUC must encourage them. We are privileged at the University of Jos because the school is very sound in communication.”

Recall that professors, professionals and practitioners of communication in Nigeria had presented new communication curricula to the NUC, seeking the unbundling of mass communication into seven departments. The NUC had approved the curriculum, which resulted in the emergence of seven degree-awarding programmes and the phasing out of the single BSc/BA Degree Programme in Mass Communication currently offered in different faculties in Nigerian universities.

The seven new programmes/departments, to be domiciled in a Faculty / School / College of Communication and Media Studies are: Journalism & Media Studies, Public Relations, Advertising, Broadcasting, Film & Multi-Media Studies, Development Communication Studies, Information & Media Studies.In a chat with journalists in Abuja, NUC’s Executive Secretary, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, gave further insight on the seven courses.For Journalism & Media Studies, he said it is more all encompassing than many other degrees, as it is among the most sought-after degrees by candidates who wish to gain broad knowledge of activities and emerging trends in journalism and media world.

This will equip candidates with relevant knowledge in print and broadcast, digital journalism, media practice, public relations, and the history, development and ethics of journalism. The primary focus of this course is on balancing practical and academic aspects.Journalism and Media studies education explores all forms of media, from print to film to digital communications. The programme focuses on mass communication and its effects on the public.Oso said, “we need to fashion out some new areas to make it more engaging, for instance, the old curriculum didn’t have much on visual images and films. Not much attention was giving to development communications too.”

According to industry watchers and media communicators, the unbundling would provide a alternative for anybody inching for a career in the hitherto restricted discipline.It is no longer from the beginning you start learning all the courses and at the end you don’t make use of them, they argued

The Guardian gathered that graduates of a media studies bachelor’s degree programmes would be prepared for both traditional and non-traditional media careers. That is why this programme is very lucrative and well sought after. Some graduates will find work as news journalists, film editors and communication specialists. Other job titles might include public relations specialist, advertising account manager, marketing analyst, newsroom coordinator, broadcast journalist, photojournalist and a range of other exciting career options. Experts have said this is definitely a course anybody would like to study in any Nigerian institution.

Also, they noted that public relations is exciting, prestigious and lucrative in nature. Even graduates without a background in communication can major in public relations with basic training in this discipline. The field of public relations is rapidly evolving, hence, the basic focus of this course is to develop the skills needed to help people and organizations strategically connect with each other. The programme trains candidates to become public relations professionals capable of adapting to the new ways people consume content, communicate, and connect.

The core courses will emphasize, among others, promotions, publicity, community affairs, internal relations, writing, and special events planning, principles of public relations, public relations techniques, campaign and event planning, media relations, interface between social media and public relations, and international public relations. This is among the courses relevant in a dynamic and evolving society.

Advertising, they noted, presents ticket to lucrative, creative career path in Nigeria and other parts of the world. This is a broad field, comprising creative and business professionals who share one main goal: to motivate customers to buy products or services. The primary focus of this course is to equip candidates with requisite skills with which they can successfully motivate customers to buy products or services. The programme explores methods for learning what customers want and how to develop advertising campaigns that reach and persuade those populations.

Advertising degree programme would provide a foundation in the creative, management, interpersonal and analytical skills required to work in a dynamic and sophisticated corporate world. Coursework focuses on critical thinking, effective communication, writing, editing, and visualizing ideas and incorporates elements of social science research, statistics, multicultural studies, and visual design. It will include areas in business, consumer behaviour and media combined with classes in copywriting and photography, which prepares students to develop effective ad campaigns while employed at agencies around the country. Other focus areas are advertising strategies, effective advertising sales, media planning, copywriting and visual design of ads, retail advertising, ethics and law in advertising.

The fourth is broadcasting, which relates to distributing audio-visual content to mass audiences via electronic media such as radio, television and webcasting. Whether you are listening to Political Voices on Dream FM, watching an English Premier League (EPL) analysis on Channels TV or streaming a podcast on Nigeria Info FM, content is being broadcast to you.

The main focus of this course is to engage students in different activities and to hone their skills in radio and television broadcasting. This includes depth knowledge of broadcast journalism and new media interplay in the broadcast world.Students will be equipped with appropriate skills and knowledge in broadcasting and script writing. The programme would produce good scriptwriters and broadcasters who can compete with graduates from other parts of the world. The course would strengthen ethical values on responsible journalism/broadcast media; enhance skills and competences in script writing, announcing, performance, and other areas in broadcasting.
 
Film & Multimedia Studies is a highly technical but very exciting programme which incorporates courses in film history, aesthetics, and theory; theory and practice in television, popular culture, and new media; and all aspects of 16mm film and digital video production, including narrative, documentary, animated, and experimental film. Students learn the theory, history, and practice of filmmaking and media. Graduates will be equipped with relevant skills to adapt to the evolving movies industry in Nigeria, including media practice and business.

The Film and Media Studies programme introduces students to artistic and academic approaches to films and new media. It also provides opportunity for students to make their own films, analyze films from aesthetic, political, social and historical perspectives, and employ their media skills in the contexts of industry, creative production and civic engagement. “You will understand and engage diverse concerns and obligations of filmmakers in contemporary local and global contexts. You will be equipped with knowledge of the local and international environment of filmmaking and media.”

Development Communication Studies is a course that was previously done at postgraduate level. This is definitely a hotcake. The reason is that private and public organizations and governments have since realized the increasing demand for the public to be included in development decisions. Even the corporate private sector in Nigeria and other parts of the world is aware that doing business in any society entails communicating its investment in development. This requires highly skilled development communicator who would employ participatory communication techniques, critical thinking and ability to evaluate outcomes within a structural framework to ensure achievement of development goals in a favourable environment.

Of course, Information and Media Studies recognises the importance of connecting media theory learned in the classroom to real-world experiences. Most universities already offering this course have it as Information Science and Media Studies degree programme. It is a programme designed to provide a synergy between the study of information as a science and mediated communication as a practice. The programme draws on advances in information technology and its applications in mass media and media studies.


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