When the news broke on Thursday that the National Universities Commission (NUC) has unbundled Mass Communication as a course in Nigerian tertiary institutions, it was received with mixed reactions by the public, especially media practitioners.
The concern for many is the fact that the quality of Mass Communication graduates that are churned out every year from tertiary institutions across the country has not been commendable in recent times.
On the other hand, employers of labour, particularly media business owners, are forced to retrain fresh Mass Communication graduates before assigning roles to them because of the lack passion, poor quality output and lackadaisical attitude they exhibit, which often ridicule their alma mater and the quality of lecturers that trained the ‘half-baked’ graduates.
In some cases, graduates from other disciplines who are considered sharp or show passion for media job are hired and they often do better than Mass Communication graduates on the job.
Probably, the poor quality has been a big concern for the NUC, hence Abubakar Rasheed, executive secretary of the commission, noted that the unbundling was necessary to meet current demand maybe placed by employers of labour and parents.
But Martin Agbaelu, a guidance and counselor in Lagos-based private school, noted that the upgrading of Mass Communication into a faculty and further splitting into seven courses will not improve quality of the graduates as NUC envisaged because the problem is the quality of the lecturers.
“If the lecturer cannot improve his research work and come up with practical books, he will end up republishing the same handout he bought when he was an undergraduate. Then, the students are shortchanged because there is no quality in reading from a scanty handout”, he said.
However, many think that the splitting comes with many benefits.
For Victor Obayagbona, a veteran journalist and PhD student, the new development will lead to specialisation as undergraduates now focus attention on a particular course and gain expertise as well. But he fears that it will limit the knowledge and exposures of the graduates who are now mandated to specialise in a course instead of the once seven-in-one Mass Communication degree.
Ebun Oni-Makinde, a university lecturer, noted that the development will open job opportunities in the Faculty of Mass Communication across the nation’s tertiary institutions, as well as, for people jostling to become head of departments.
“An average Mass Communication department has from 10 lecturers. But with the splitting, we are looking at having at least 10 lecturers per new department. It also means more admission opportunities for potential undergraduates who can now apply for any of the seven course under Mass Communication,” Oni-Makinde said.
She is concerned with the quality of the lecturers because Mass Communication has always been seen as an easy course and most people think they can lecture the course.
“I think the NUC should be concerned with the quality of the lecturers who will handle the new departments to ensure that quality is enhanced. Now you are specialising, employers of labour hope it will reflect in the quality of the graduates, else it will be counterproductive. If so, the splitting will then just a smart move to employ relations and friends as lecturers by the people behind it”, she said.
To ensure improved quality of the lecturers and graduates, she suggested that universities should source them from among professionals who have impacted the media practice and have practical experience to spur the students to academic excellence and later job fulfillment.
Taking a look at the seven new programmes/departments; Journalism and Media Studies, Public Relations, Advertising, Broadcasting, Film and Multi-Media Studies, Development Communication Studies, Information and Media Studies, Oni-Makinde thinks that less emphasis was given to new media, ICT, among others, which she said should be part of meeting current demand, as stated by NUC as reason for the splitting.
In same vein, Agbaelu explained that the students will do better in and out of the classroom if professional media practitioners are engaged to handle them. “You do not expect a Mass Communication lecturer who had all his degrees abroad without practicing for a day to excel in practical things. But when a newspaper editor is invited, a PR consultant stands to lecture or a broadcaster who they always see on TV screen stands to lecture, it will sink better than the theories by the PhD lecturers”, Agbaelu said.
However, the commencement of the new courses is subject to meeting NUC requirements, but the commission insisted that tertiary institutions that do not have the capacity can still run degree in Mass Communication.