A long time ago, when the Internet was young, I started my first degree at what is now Leeds Trinity University.
It was a joint Honours BSc in Mathematics and Public Media. Mathematics seems simple enough but what, I hear you ask, the chuff was Public Media?
Well, it covered a multitude of disciplines. The first year was sort-of a taster year, where we had sessions on marketing, public relations, advertising, photography, studio recording, location recording, organisational communications, strategy, computing… the works.
In the second and third years you could specialise, but still do things such year-long courses such as video production (I did that in my first year in my spare time). Things I learned back in 1986 I still use today.
I didn’t do any public relations beyond that first year. I did do some marketing, in my third year. A module I failed. In fact, I failed the whole degree course. Twice. I might have mentioned that before.
The point is, I picked up a huge range of skills that have gone on to be very helpful in my career to date. The first time I properly studied PR was when I did the IPR’s Advanced Certificate, in 2002-03, when I was already working in a PR team.
Back to the future?
A common complaint from agencies and large in-house teams is that recent graduates don’t always have the skills needed to do the job. A common complaint from professional bodies and universities is that students don’t have enough of a theoretic background to push the profession on.
Why can’t we do both? Combine theory and practice in a three-year course (or four years if you want a full year working out in the field)? That’s what my old course did.
Rather than mourn the passing of the oldest undergraduate PR degree course at Bournemouth, or tut sadly as lots of other PR degree courses team up with unrelated disciplines such as journalism, I look at this as an opportunity to reshape undergraduate degrees – hopefully for the better.
Teach students about the value – and desirability – of ethical practice, of strategic communications, how reputation affects the bottom line. But also teach them the practical aspects of modern public relations practice. Get them to lift their heads out of their books and see how the world affects what they do – and vice versa.
And, if needs be, combine public relations teaching with marketing (but dear Lord no, not journalism, they’re not the same) and create an all-embracing communications degree, with specialisms in digital, internal, political and heaven-knows what else communications.
I wonder what we could call it…?
[Note: this isn’t the original post I made, but a best-remembered version, written after the server crash that took away the original before its time.]