Aspiring journalists question three-year degree route

Applications for undergraduate journalism courses were down by nearly 20 per cent this year, with some aspiring journalists questioning the value of academic three-year courses.

Students, tutors and journalists have put the decline down to a number of factors, including fee increases, the non-vocational nature of some courses and competition in the job market.

The 18.95 per cent dip in course applications – a figure provided by the University Colleges and Admissions Service (UCAS) – far outweighs the general decline in university applications, which has seen a loss of just less than 7.5 per cent.

After seeing the figures, Press Gazette asked its Twitter followers: 'Why are applications for journalism degree courses down?"

Michael Bailey replied: 'I'm on a journalism degree and the course could be done in a year, there's far too much filler and not enough journalism."

In agreement was Nathalie Clarkson, who tweeted: 'Have just graduated with a journalism degree and honestly it's just not worth £9k, not surprised applications are down."

Thom Airs, now an Oxford Mail reporter, added: 'I did a journallism degree. Was awful. But without it wouldn't have worked on the student paper, an experience I'd hugely recommend."

Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, said young people's interest in journalism was not declining.

He told Press Gazette: 'It may well be that young people are becoming more discerning about the course for which they apply and that they want to do more practical courses.

'Aspiring journalists may have gotten the message that some editors prefer people to have done a general degree and then a short journalism graduate course, which allows them to keep their options open."

In agreement with this theory is Richard Parsons, director of training at News Associates, an NCTJ-accredited training centre with offices in London and Manchester.

'We have not seen a decrease in the numbers of people applying for our courses – people clearly still consider a vocational qualification as a pretty solid way to get into the industry,'he said.

He suggested two reasons for the decline in the numbers of people applying for undergraduate courses. Firstly, that 'media courses have been getting a very bad press'and, secondly, 'with tuition fees going up, people are leaning towards a vocational qualification that offers a more straight-forward route into a profession".

He added: 'A media degree can generally be a bit woolly and grey."

Despite an apparent national decline in interest, City University London's course leader Professor George Brock said his undergraduate journalism courses have remained popular and been filled for the academic year.

He said the general decline in interest is an indication of students' recognition that the 'big explosion'of courses with journalism, media and communications in their title 'do not help prepare young people for a job in journalism".

Brock also cited the large rise in tuition fees this year and the small number of jobs on the market.

'Obviously fewer new jobs mean the market for journalism graduates will be different, but also people are going to be much more discerning,'he said. Demand will rise for short courses and people will also aim to do more useful undergraduate courses."

In addition to students voicing their views on Twitter, a number of professional journalists were keen to voice their opinions.

The Daily Mirror's Steve Myall said: 'I did a journalism degree, shorthand & law useful, when I joined a local paper I had to do an NVQ, I got £300 extra for my BA!"

 

The night editor of the Scottish Sun, David Roe, said universities were receiving less undergraduate journalism applications 'because it is far more sensible to get a more general degree than put yourself in a pigeon hole at 18".

Freelance journalist Karen Cornish said: '[I] was taught to write news stories concisely then had to write 30,000 words of waffle in a dissertation. Mostly a waste of time.'

We received hundreds of responses on Twitter when we asked why interest in journalism degrees appeared to be on the decline.

Here are some more of the Twitter responses:

Lynsey Smurthwaite ‏@Lynsey: My undergrad was a joke. Tried to gt NCTJs after bt courses kept cancelling. Ended up doing MA @TeessideUni :D saviour!

Jessica Haworth ‏@JessicaLHaworth: Because they're outdated, expensive and long. NCTJ is cheaper, more relevant and can take 20 weeks. It's what I did.

Matt Wilson ‏@mattianwilson: Took NCTJ accredited MA Journalism last yr - now crippled with debt on trainee salary. In hindsight, wish I had just done NCTJ

Thom Airs ‏@thomairs: I did a j'lism degree. Was awful. But without it wouldn't have worked on the student paper, an experience I'd hugely recommend

Natalie Clarkson ‏@NatalieJosh: Have just graduated with journalism degree and honestly it's just not worth £9k, not surprised applications are down.

Steve Knight ‏@SteveKnight1984: Because wannabe journalists are starting to realise a degree is no match for good English, news sense and a personality...

David Roe ‏@DavidRoe92: Because it is far more sensible to get a more general degree than put yourself in a pigeon hole at 18. And papers are closing!

Laura Jean Morris ‏@LauraJeanMorris: Because the best journalists learn on the job. Just like driving, you really learn the most after the test.

Vicky Carr ‏@VickyHCarr: Journalism degrees are unnecessary. Do something you enjoy for three years, then a short course. Also, fewer jobs available.

Michael Bailey ‏@michaelbailey88: I'm on a journalism degree and the course could be done in a year, there's far too much filler and not enough journalism.

Derek Ferguson ‏@DerekFerguson4: Currently not viewed as most admirable profession. Also lack of grad opportunities. I was lucky to land freelance in radio.

Sophie Harrison ‏@SophsHarrison: I was discouraged by teachers to apply for a journalism degree, was told that English degree + work experience was better...

Hannah Collins ‏@hc2209: I was advised when I was going to uni to do a non-journalism degree in case I changed my mind. Then did NCTJ fast-track.

Jasper Taylor ‏@Jasper_Taylor: Leveson inquiry would have had a detrimental effect on number of aspiring journos - public opinion has never been lower

Emma Bartley ‏@Barters: Because annual fees are now about the same as your first year's salary if you get a job on a local paper

Sirena Bergman ‏@sirenabergman: Lots of very talented people who I was at university with are still unemployed/interning so maybe word has spread?

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