It strikes me that many students are either being misled about the actual demand for psychologists, or else are using it as a "soft" option. This should worry course directors and career advisers, because as a prospective employer, I find myself challenging the acumen of a psychology graduate who comes to me wanting to work in a business which is remote from the subject they've trained in. They come across either as gullible folk who've been easily conned into thinking there will be a demand for their specialist talents, or else as quitters who, rather than pursuing an occupation for which their course was clearly intended, have surrendered once the going gets hard.
I don't have the same problem with media studies graduates, because the perception right at the outset is that this "discipline" is generalist and cannot therefore be expected to arm the student with a tangible specialism. However, my main criticism of those courses is that they churn out graduates who have spent three years ruminating on the creative aspects and applications of media, but too little time understanding the business dimension. In today's media and communications industry, I would suggest that the two are inseparable.
Your report ("The trendy travesty", 31 October) on the growth of media studies in universities is absolutely right to note the constant hand- wringing which such degrees have evoked among some commentators. Indeed, your own paper has carried similar stories in the recent past to stoke up these concerns. What a pity, therefore, that the opportunity was not taken to correct some of the misunderstandings which get repeated in such stories.
First, media studies is not new, it has been thriving in British higher education for well over 20 years. The growth rates cited in your article are based on quite massive under-assessment of undergraduate numbers in the past, which were certainly running to several hundred by the mid-Eighties, not the 99 the study you cite suggests. Secondly, far from being under the illusion that these courses open an automatic door to glamorous employment in the media, most undergraduates are only too aware of the limited opportunities available. Thirdly, despite this, graduates of media studies and related programmes, as recent research (carried out by the Standing Conference on Cultural, Communication, and Media Studies) exhaustively demonstrates, have a better record of obtaining employment than graduates as a whole, and are more employable than other comparable groups in the arts and social sciences.
There is a great deal more to media and communications study than vocational training. The skills and disciplines these programmes impart create highly employable graduates. Research in the field is internationally regarded as of the highest quality, and is widely admired and envied globally for its quality and creativity. Higher education would be properly castigated if it afforded no opportunity for the rigorous study of the media, cultural, and information industries, their products and influence, which no one doubts are increasingly at the heart of our society and economy. What a pity that these endeavours continue to be misrepresented by those who stand to gain the most from their expansion, and who have least excuse for being so wilfully misinformed.
Professor Peter Golding
Chair, Standing Conference on Cultural, Communication, and Media Studies
Semiotics can be used not only to analyse Neighbours but also to understand how "news" itself is made.
You have a striking cover illustration and a banner headline, trumpeting the (apparently astonishing) "finding" that 84.8 per cent of Media Studies graduates, as compared with 88 per cent of Business Studies students, are successful in gaining employment. I'm not sure that I can spot the Big Story here (a difference of 3.2 per cent), but I can spot a well-known phenomenon, frequently analysed in Media Studies, in which a set of ill-informed prejudices get recycled as "news", which then goes looking for a peg on which to hang itself.
Professor of Communications
Goldsmiths University of London
We read with dismay "The Trendy Travesty". The data presented on Design Studies courses was erroneous: it neither represents named Design Studies degrees, which exist only at a few institutions including the University of Salford, nor reflects the very large number of degrees in Graphic Design, Product, Interior Design and so on.
The course at Salford was developed from a detailed survey in 1990 of the graduate needs of The Times' top 50 companies and the Design Week top 50 consultancies. It produces graduates with a strong portfolio of transferable skills who have an excellent track record of finding jobs in a wide variety of design and, dare we say it, media professions. Design Studies graduates are a model for graduates in many area - multi-skilled, able to work and research independently, flexible and forward thinking.
It is simplistic and naive for anyone to question the academic relevance of a group of courses before doing their research thoroughly. It is not what would be expected of a Design Studies student.
Course leader BA (Hons) Design Studies, University of Salford
Head of Department, Design and Creative Technology, University of Salford
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