Students condemn journalism degree fees hike

Most of the UK’s top journalism universities are trebling fees for undergraduate courses next year, research by Press Gazette has revealed.

A ring-round of various universities has found that Bournemouth, De Montford, Lincoln, University College Falmouth, Kent and Sheffield are among the institutions set to charge the maximum £9,000 a year for journalism degress from 2012. Southampton, Staffordshire, Sunderland and Nottingham Trent are set to charge between £6,000 to £8,500.

Commenting on the fees hike, former Scotsman editor and journalism professor at University of Kent, Tim Luckhurst, claimed there was ‘almost nobody left in the profession who does know acknowledge that journalism is now almost exclusively a graduate profession”.

‘The value of professionally accredited academic degrees will rise exponentially as student tuition fees increase,” he claimed.

Talking about the journalism degree course at Kent, Luckhurst said: ‘This degree was designed to ensure that students confronted with substantially increased tuition fees would receive an education worth every penny of that fee.”

Senior journalism lecturer at the University of Sheffield, Jonathan Foster, told Press Gazette: ‘I think at a time when many media jobs and media industries are shrinking, there’s never been a more important time to learnt how to write.”

He added: “Now more than ever, it’s important to learn how to communicate by writing, by social media, by audio, by video, by whatever means.”

Undergraduate journalism courses (university, course, fees 2011/2012 – not a compresensive list)

  • De Montfort University ; BA journalism ; 2011: £3,375; 2012 : £9,000- £9,500 subject to approval.
  • Lincoln University ; BA journalism ; 2011: £3375; 2012: £9,000 subject to approval
  • Southampton Solent University ; BA journalism ; 2011: £3,375; 2012: £7,800 subject to approval
  • Staffordshire University ; BA journalism ; 2011: £3,375; 2012: £8,490
  • University College Falmouth ; BA journalism ; 2011: £3375; 2012: £9,000 subject to approval
  • University of Kent ; BA journalism and the news industry ; 2011: £3,375; 2012: £9,000
  • University of Sheffield ; BA journalism; 2011: £3,375; 2012: £9,000
  • University of Sunderland ; BA news journalism 2011: £3,375; 2012: £7,800 or £8,500 subject to approval
  • University of Sunderland ; BA sports journalism ; 2011: £3375; 2012: £7,800 or £8,500 subject to approval
  • Southampton Solent University ; BA magazines journalism ; 2011: £3,375; 2012: £7,800 subject to approval
  • University of Sunderland ; BA magazine journalism ; 2011: £3,375; 2012: £7,800 or £8,500 subject to approval
  • Bournemouth University ; BA multimedia journalism ; 2011: £3,375; 2012: £9,000
  • Glyndwr University Wales ; Certificate of Higher Education in print journalism ; 2011: £3,375; 2012: £6,950

On Friday we asked students whether journalism degrees were worth £9,000 a year. Few felt they were.

Undergraduate Natalie Clarkson replied: ‘I’m a third year journalism student at Staffordshire University and, honestly, no, journalism degrees are not worth £9,000 a year.

‘I love my degree and I think it’s teaching me a lot of really useful things that will (hopefully) help me get a job when I graduate. But I know that if I was due to be starting university next September I’d be very unlikely to go.

‘I’ve known since I was young that I wanted to be a journalist but the prospect of getting into about £40,000 debt (when you consider maintenance loans as well) would put me off university and I’d be much more likely to do an NCTJ short course or consider other routes into the industry.”

Kieran Corcoran, a final-year English student at Cambridge University and news editor on the student newspaper The Cambridge Tab, said: ‘When I was applying to university, fees were squarely £3k and £9000/year wasn’t on the cards at all, but even for that price I feel like a journalism undergrad degree isn’t worth the investment.

‘There are a few linked reasons why: first of all a BA in journalism isn’t as widely applicable as a degree in a more academically rigorous and traditional subject: I feel like employers in a wider range of careers will take my degree seriously because it’s in English rather than something more narrowly vocational. Journalism might not work out, and I have something to fall back on.

‘Seventeen years old is very young to pin your colours to a career, especially one like journalism where there’s not really a ‘standard’ way in. Also there’s the fact that journalism courses tend to be offered by less prestigious institutions.

‘Also, student journalism, at least in my experience, offers such a wealth of opportunity to learn by doing, independent of one’s choice of subject, that it’s entirely possible to ‘learn to be a journalist’ while getting a solid degree as well.

‘When you have this opportunity to learn as you go, and not have to invest any serious money in training until it’s time to do an NCTJ postgrad, committing so strongly to journalism at undegrad level seems reckless.”

A journalism student at the University of Central Lancashire said: ‘I do not believe in any way that a BA (Hons) course in journalism is at all worth £9000 a year.

‘I barely think it’s woth the £9,000 I have paid for the three years put together. I think the course is run reasonably well, but the main part (the only interesting part seeing as I want to go into magazine journalism) is third year, so the first two seem like a complete waste of time.

‘Not only do those two years seem like a waste of time (and money), but we could’ve learnt everything they stretched out to fill the two years in probably two months. If that.

‘Basically, I do not think it is a good course to go down if you want a career in journalism as it seems like a waste of time and money.

‘If the course was either one or two years long, concentrating mainly on law and shorthand then I think it would be excellent, and would recommend it no end, but that is not the case.

‘Also, just because tutors were big in the industry five years ago, or even one year ago, doesn’t make them a good tutor, or up to speed with what we are being taught.

‘I hear UCLan has one of the best journalism courses in the country, and in all honesty, I wouldn’t change my time here, but that is more down to the people I have met and the lifestyle that the course. I would hate to see what journalism courses are like in the rest of the country!”

A graduate working at the Financial Times said £9,000 was ‘terrible value for money, but generally people who pursue journalism aren’t doing it to become rich, so it’s unlikely to put many off”.

They added: ‘Paying £9000 x 3 for any undergrad degree is outrageous, but the fact that entry level journo jobs are scarce, and pay is usually crap, makes them pretty bad value for money.

‘Classic academic subjects at top universities give you academic rigour you’ll lose out on if you choose a journalism degree instead.

‘You can get practical skills you need for journalism from masters courses, but they’re are just as expensive (per year) as the undergrad courses, and the cheaper training options don’t prepare you as well for working as a professional journalist.

‘In short, if you haven’t got a few grand tucked away, students had better pray (or start begging) for some sort of bursary.’

Nineteen-year-old Chloe Dekowski decided to study for an NCTJ diploma in journalism instead of going to university.

‘Because of the university fees, I opted for a cheaper, more intensive option, which will allow me to qualify before a university graduate, without the heaving debt,’she said.

Charlie Lankston, a graduate in the Newspaper Journalism MA at City University, said that the £8,700 a year cost of her course would only be justified if it lead to a job.

‘This is a truly tricky question to answer, and I would imagine that you are unlikely to find many students who are able to give a black and white response.

‘My automatic reaction to the question was a resounding ‘NO!’ with capitals, exclamation marks – the works. But upon further reflection I realised that perhaps my initial judgment was unfairly prejudiced by my currently bitterness at the current job market.

‘Because when I take the time to look back on my (ludicrously expensive, by most people’s standards) year spent on the Newspaper Journalism MA at City University, I realise that – while it has not lead me straight into the welcoming arms of a cushy job within the national press – the course has prepared and provided me with every tool necessary to tackle the overwhelmingly brutal world of media (un)employment.

“At the end of an exhausting year filled with endless assignments, work experience placements and frustration at the idiotic press officers at Hackney and Islington Councils, did I feel it had been worth the cost?

”Ask me when I’m employed!’ I jokingly tell most people. But the truth is, yes, it really was worth it. The blood, the sweat, the tears and even, shock horror, the seemingly outrageous price tag. There are 101 reasons why they shouldn’t be able to charge that much money, but only one reason why they do – there’s a queue of budding journalists lining the streets of Islington desperate to hand over this super sum of money in order to gain access to what is, without a doubt, one of the best journalism courses in the world.”

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