Unbundling Mass Communication, welcome development- Don
A Senior Lecturer at Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Dr Gbenga Abimbola spoke with BUKOLA OLAMONA on the unbundling of Mass Communication Dept into different courses by NUC, the financial implications and the degree to be awarded.
Recently, there was an issue on the unbundling of Mass Communication Department to different courses, what is your view about that?
Yes, it is a welcome development, and some of us have been part of it, by the grace of God I was privileged to be part of the process that led to the unbundling. Though it started 2017 but we were able to finalise everything in 2019, I remember I was part of the committee, because NUC involved scholars, professional bodies and all other adjuncts, That is the department of Mass Communication, they involved the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Advertiser Practitioner Council of Nigeria, Nigeria Union of Journalists and Nigeria Broadcast Organisation (NBC) and I was part of the team of NIPR. So we proposed that Mass Communication should be unbundled. But people are having erroneous belief that Mass Communication have been phased out, it hasn’t.
What we have come to terms with is that Mass Communication should now have distinct courses under it, so that it would be taught and students will now graduate with distinct degrees. So it is just about specializations, it is not new at graduate level, some universities has been awarding higher degrees in specific fields of Mass Communication. But now we want to start even at undergraduate level that people should specialised.
Don’t you think it would be duplicate of courses?
No, it wont be because there are seven degrees now to be awarded. We have Journalism and Media Studies, Broadcasting, Public Relations, Advertising, Film and Development Communication and Information and Media Studies.
All these are distinct areas. What we have now is that students are enrolled, what we teach them are the basic areas of Mass Communication which is Journalism, Broadcasting, then the adjuncts of PR and Advertising. But if you want to major, you now have to specialize.
Now Mass Communication would now become whether a college or Faculty or a school and it will be named College of Mass Communication and Media Studies. Bayero University started it a few years ago, It’s a faculty and they are awarding some degrees. But it doesn’t mean that all Universities will be compelled to start it now because there are logistic issues that needed to be sorted out.
… cut in sir, on the issue of logistic, the issue of lecturers to take the new courses?
That is why I said its not by fiat, that NUC has unbundled and so all Universities would be compelled to start immediately. The implication of this is that each university that is running Communication degrees will now sit down and look at the facilities. Its not only about staffing, if you have lecturers and you don’t have the facilities to take care of specific areas, like Film and Multimedia production, if you don’t have the facilities, you can’t run it. So if it is only three or four departments that you want to start with, then that means you should look at the facilities and the staffing.
Already, you will see influx because the economy of the world is going towards Information and Telecommunication Technology, so to find student is not the problem but to have the facilities, in terms of equipments and staffing. But those who cannot afford to run more than Mass communication combined as a mono degree will still continue to run it until it has the capacity to begin to branch out.
What about the financial implications?
Yes, that is why I said capacity, it has to do with funding, equipment and staffing.
So the financial implications will be that the universities will have a college, and when you have a college, you will have a new dean and then lecturers that will be involved in different courses. You can ask me how is Bayero University coping? The first University to start was Lagos State University, when they started, they did with about three or four degree programs in Communication but they could not sustain it in those days, they reverted but Bayero University, Kano has been running it for some time now and seems to succeed in it.
I want to believe that NUC will now relate with individual university and now give it the guidelines on how to go about it, because parents are now afraid that their children or wards wanted to study Mass communication but was given other courses, and that there is no Mass Communication again, there is but it depends on which area of Mass Communication that each university wants to emphasized. So the funding will pay off later, because if you have that ,you are going to have specialists, because Mass Communication is training people how to be a specialist either in Journalism, Reporting, Broadcasting, Public Relations, Advertising, Development Communication. These are distinct areas. So its not going to be a very odd things or a departure from what is on ground.
Yes, you said earlier that the Lagos State University started it but could not sustain it, don’t you think there is a reason for that?
I said that, and when they started they had degrees in Advertising, Public Relations, Journalism, Broadcasting Development Communication and in other areas but that they could not sustain it does not mean others could not.
There could be many factors that could be accounted for that, remember, in university we have the political issue and the economic issue, the ownership, of a university is owned by government and it depends on subvention and if the subvention is not forthcoming, then you have to cut your cloth according to your cloth and if its privately owned, it also depends on the vision of the proprietors, if he is not looking at that side he may not be ready to pump funds into it but all the same, it is a good development for Nigeria, we will now be able to compete favourably. For example, our students that we trained, once they come in, we admit them for Mass Comm, at 100 and 200 levels, they do all general Mass Comm courses, but when they get to 300 levels, we ask them to specialise.
The danger of it that somebody who has specialized in broadcasting will do many courses in broadcasting but when we award the degree, we award BSc Mass Communication, we are not going to say BSc Mass Comm, Broadcast option. The implication is that, that person is not sufficiently prepared for print Journalism and for other aspect of Mass Comm. But now, if we now say we are unbundling, we can now say if you are coming for PR or Advertising, you know that you are going to be sufficiently trained in Advertising to the extent that when you graduate, to fit in into the Advertising world, you don’t write any professional exam anymore because you would have done most of the professional course that needed to be done, so its a very wide field. You know Mass Communication is both Art and Science and that is why we even proposed when we were arguing it in Kano in 2018,that what degree should we award, should it be Arts or Sciences ,should we award BA or BSc, but we later got to a point that we would award a Bsc in Communication, Master in Communication, that one will settle it.
You talked about the proprietor, in your own school, have you aligned with your proprietor, considering that it is government owned and the financial situation of the state?
In my own university, what we have done at our own end is at our department we have taken a proactive steps, we have looked the document and we are trying to look at how we can relate with it but our proprietor, the visitor, we cannot force anything on it but must first get a formal notification from NUC and am not sure that NUC has communicated to the individual university.
What NUC has done was to make a policy statement but they will still write officially to each university stating the new program, so once our university gets that, but we are not even waiting for that ,we are already working at our own end to make sure that we can look at how many of these courses we can incorporate in our department. In population, we don’t have any problem with our admission, in my department in the last 10 years, we do not have up to ten or twenty percent of those who are qualified because of the interest, so to get students would not be the problem but the capacity, in terms of facilities, space and staffing.
Would this be good for the system?
Yes it will, and why? As a newspaper journalist, when in the university, you don’t need to dissipate your energy on public relation , Advertising or journalism, if you face Journalism squarely, you will still touch these areas but you will face your course of study then the issue of newspaper or magazine production both on-line and off-line format ,you will be very rich in it, you will be better trained newspaper man than somebody who just combined everything together so its going to be good for the industry. So an advertising industry would not be looking for who was trained in Broadcasting but somebody who studied advertising all through his/her life in the university. He/she is presumed to be better trained, equipped, positioned and would fit into the advertising world than somebody who has combined, so its a matter of specialization.
Communication industry is very wide and there is no pretense about it, the more we continue to pretend that anybody who studied Mass Communication can fit into any of this areas , we are just deceiving ourselves, and that is why even after graduation, when they get to the specific field they still undergo professional trainings, they want them to now have their biases in all those areas. In Europe you hardly finds the department of Mass Communication, they can specialized like Culture and Media studies, Media and Cultural studied or Journalism and all others because they don’t not bit more than what they cannot chew but here its not the same. So it’s going to be better for the Industry because Journalism or Communication training is not theoretical oriented and we have focus that we want them to fit into the industry, therefore its better for is to train them specially for specific areas of the industry than to make them generalists.