Media Studies: it’s not a ‘mickey mouse’ degree

The below blog is one I wrote for ‘The Guardian’ , which discussed the stigma attached to media degrees.

With family members studying medicine, a obviously challenging degree, I found myself constantly having to prove that my degree choice was also challenging, as I would often hear belittling comments along the lines of, “all you do at uni is watch films”.

Studying Journalism as part of a Media and Communications degree is NOT about watching films, it’s about learning media laws, producing  court reports, filming, editing, learning theory, producing investigative journalism, it’s both practical and theory  work and its a challenge.

After a 13 hour stint in an editing suite and still nowhere near completion, I thought to myself, if only those who  previously undermined my degree could see the amount of effort I put into my course and the amount of dedication students need in order to pass. Therefore, I decided to write an article to air my frustration as it seems it’s not just my family who have no idea what constitutes a media degree, there is a whole uneducated section of society who have views and opinions but no knowledge, so let me take the time out to tell you ll a thing or two.

mickey mouse on the telephone

Photograph: Everett Collection / Rex Features

Compulsory industry placements, late night editing, 14 hours of lectures a week and endless study tasks and assignments – not the workload typically associated with a media studies degree. But this is the reality of today’s media student.

As a media studies student I have battled with the stigma attached to media and communications degrees. Media studies is often seen as a “mickey mouse” subject and a media student is perceived to be the degree equivalent of the couch potato. But I think few people actually know what media studies means, or what it’s like to study it at uni.

Professor James Curran, director of the Goldsmith’s media research centre and author of Defending Media Studies, says: “I think that if people knew how demanding media studies is and how it requires the ability to write really well, a skill that most people don’t have but makes a lot of media students highly employable, they would think differently.”

According to the Office of National Statistics 2013 report, people with a degree in media have the second highest employment rate in the UK. So how come the subject is still so ridiculed, and why have ministers previously protested for it to be taken off the national curriculum when it provides so much for the economy?

The media is a powerful entity which plays a significant role within society. Professor Philip Thickett, head of Birmingham City University’s school of media says: “It gives the people a voice or the skill to actually change people’s views or lives and I think that’s incredibly powerful. That is why media matters.”

Media studies isn’t about watching films and reading newspapers, it’s about actively engaging with media practice, theory and production. It’s about working within the industry and requires skills like good project management and critical thinking.

Many have argued that the course is non-academic but on my course I found the complexities of the social and cultural theory was enough to leave your mind boggled. The fact that aspects of media are also taught at some of the leading universities, including Harvard and Stanford at postgraduate level, demonstrates why it is worthy of a degree. As Professor Curran notes, “it’s only Britain that has a problem with it.”

Thickett says: “The course is very challenging: we want students to be intellectually stimulated and to understand and experience pressures that they will encounter when they take up jobs within the media. This is possibly one of the unspoken skills in that it is a pressurised course and it is no different from what people face in the industry.”

Media studies may be regarded as a “soft” subject, but it’s a ruthless industry and we are taught how to work within it. As Thickett says: “You don’t live in a ‘mickey mouse’ world and media studies is certainly no ‘mickey mouse’ degree.”

To read the article within the Guardian: click here


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