20 Disturbing Questions About Unbundling of Mass Communication Degree in Nigeria

The National Universities Commission (NUC) has unbundled Mass Communication into seven separate degree programmes to meet present demand and this takes effect from 2020 admissions into Nigerian universities. This means that the NUC will proceed to discuss with the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) board on the inclusion of the new courses in the brochure and probably removal of Mass Communication as a single degree offered by most schools in the country.

The Genesis

Recall that professors, professionals and practitioners of communication in Nigeria had presented new communication curricula to National Universities Commission (NUC) seeking the unbundling of mass communication into seven programmes/departments. The NUC had approved the Curriculum which resulted in the emergence of seven degree-awarding programmes and the phasing out of the single BSc/BA Degree Programme in Mass Communication currently offered in different Faculties in different universities.

The New Programmes

The seven new Programmes/Departments, to be domiciled in a Faculty/School/College of Communication and Media Studies are: Journalism & Media Studies, Public Relations, Advertising, Broadcasting, Film & Multi-Media Studies, Development Communication Studies, Information & Media Studies. Every other related degree mentioned will be awarded by these departments originally recommended by a team of professors, professionals and practitioners of communication in Nigeria

Reactions

This development was received with mixed feelings. While many were excited that Mass Communication will now assume a more specialized shape, a number of others expressed worries based on uncertainties or rather, unanswered questions about what the fate of those who already have a degree in Mass Communication will be. Here is a list of questions which have come up due to the unbundling of Mass Communication by the NUC. Responses have also been provided to those questions. Identify the question that has been bothering you and checkout the response. We hope this helps to address your curiosity to an extent.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What happens to those who already have a degree in Mass Communication?

The simple answer is NOTHING. Yes, that’s it! Nothing has changed. Your degree is still very relevant. The discipline only moved to the next level but that does not affect the quality of your degree in anyway.

2. Is Mass Communication degree still relevant in Nigeria?

Yes it is! That people are now specializing in different aspects of the discipline does not make Mass Communication degree irrelevant. After all, people are still working with it and doing all sorts of private practices based on the degree. So, as is said in local parlance, “No Shaking!”

3. Can I teach in any of the new programmes with my degree in mass communication?

Yes, you can. In fact, one of the major advantages of the unbundling of Mass Communication is that those who have the degree now have several opportunities to grow, especially in the lecturing profession. Those who will kick-start the programme are lecturers with degrees in Mass Communication. So if you have a degree in Mass Communication you have brighter chances of becoming a lecturer in any of the new programmes. You then begin to specialize by focusing your research in the new programme you’ve chosen.

4. Does this make mass communication degree inferior to the seven new degrees?

No, it does not! Mass Communication is still a great degree. If you already have it you should be proud of it. You should be happy that the degree has been broken into seven areas of specialization as new programmes/departments. Anyone should be happy to see improvements in his or her discipline. You can actually easily fit into any of the new areas where you’ve always found your passion.

5. What happens to students that are currently studying mass communication?

They will finish their programme. They will be given a degree in Mass Communication. The new programmes will commence with those who are about to enroll into the Universities, not those already there. It’s not like the current students of mass communication will be distributed into the new programmes. No, that’s not the plan. They will conclude their programmes and have their degree in Mass Communication.

6. Is any of the new degrees more superior to the other?

Answer is No! It all depends on where you want to specialize. This is a matter of choice. What is superior to you might not be superior to another. No programme is superior to the other. All the seven new programmes that will replace mass communication are really wonderful. (Click Here To See The Seven New Programmes).

7. Will NUC have to accredit the new programmes before they can kick off or can the present mass communication departments just go ahead and take off with the new programmes?

The present mass communication departments can kick off once they’re ready to do so. The NUC will eventually go to these schools to do resource verification, especially when the programmes split into new departments, just as is done in every other new department in the University. So departments do not have to wait for NUC to come and tell them to begin the new programmes. The NUC has already approved the new communication curricula which introduced seven degree-awarding programmes after the phasing out of the single BSc/BA Degree Programme in Mass Communication currently offered in different Faculties in different universities. The various Mass Communication departments across the country are free to commence the new programmes based on the available of resources and competence to do so.

8. Can one lecturer teach in two or more of the departments?

Yes, but this depends on the competence of that lecturer. Now that most schools do not have enough hands to convert the seven new programmes into full-fledged departments, lecturers can teach in more than one programme based on competence and carrying capacity. But with time these new departments are expected to have their own lecturers. Meanwhile the seven new programmes are designed such that at levels 100 and 200 all of them will be doing similar courses, just like inter-faculty courses. From 300 level the specialization will become clear and students will focus on their separate programmes. The new communication curriculum was well designed and this new development is wonderful. This is a very good step ahead for mass communication in Nigeria.

9. Can any of the new programmes move to another faculty/college instead of faculty of Mass Communication?

The new communication curriculum is designed such that Mass Communication will transform into a faculty, school or college of Communication and Media Studies. So it is expected that once a department of mass communication splits into the seven new programmes, it automatically becomes a faculty of communication and media studies. However, not all schools have the competence to commence with all seven programmes running as separate departments. Some can start with two, some others with three or more of the new programmes. In some universities, once you’re able to start with three or more departments you can have a faculty of communication and media studies but if you start with less than three you will have to exist under another faculty. Some other universities are not that rigid. They could allow your mass communication department to have just two of the new programmes and transform into faculty or school of communication. However, if there is a faculty of communication and media studies in a university, no new programme carved out of mass communication in that university is expected to suddenly decide to join another faculty, maybe Arts, Social sciences or management sciences. The original design is that the seven new programmes will be housed in the Faculty/School/College of Communication and Media Studies. Great idea!

10. Must mass communication departments start the seven new programmes at the same time?

No, they must not. A department can start with as low as two new programmes. This depends on the resources available to individual universities. Something important you need to note is that the NUC approved seven new programmes, not exactly seven new departments. The NUC did not insist that the new programmes MUST start as full-fledged departments. The programmes can become departments eventually when the resources are available but one department can give two different degrees in two programmes. You could have a department of Advertising and Public Relations issuing two different degrees, one in advertising and another in Public Relations. Remember that some of the departments of Mass Communication in Nigeria which are also going to be unbundled did not start as full-fledged departments but as programmes housed in a joint department with another programme. For example, we had Department of Mass Communication and Political Science, Department of Theatre Arts and Mass Communication, Department of Linguistics and Mass Communication, Department of English and Communication studies, among others. Each of these departments issued two degrees in two different programmes. With time, the two programmes separated into two different departments. That’s exactly what NUC has done. Even if a department of mass communication cannot split into at least two new departments housing the new programmes for lack of resources, it can retain the name for now but will have the new programmes as the degrees to be given to students. With time the new programmes can split into separate departments. The number of programmes a department can begin with MUST be based on competence and carrying capacity. The good thing is that we have started the move towards a greater direction for mass communication in Nigeria. The beginning might not be easy but this is a sure good move.

11. How many new departments will be required to form Faculty/College of mass communication?

This question has already been answered but for the sake of emphasis I will repeat the response here. There is no rigid number for all universities. Individual universities could have specific arrangements on how to create new faculties for the new communication programmes. It is expected that once a department of mass communication splits into the seven new programmes, it automatically becomes a faculty of communication and media studies. However, not all schools have the competence to commence with all seven programmes running as separate departments. Some can start with two, some others with three or more of the new programmes. In some universities, once you’re able to start with three or more departments you can have a faculty of communication and media studies but if you start with less than three you will have to exist under another faculty. Some other universities are not that rigid. They could allow your mass communication department to have just two of the new programmes and be allowed to transform into faculty or school of communication. So the number is not the emphasis in most schools but the desire to split mass communication into new programmes. To encourage the departments to run the new programmes a university might not restrict the number of departments. You can actually have only two departments running three or four programmes and issuing degrees in those programmes. Please let’s not act as if this unbundling of Mass Communication as a single degree is totally new in Nigeria. Some universities already had that system in place before the NUC announcement. Bayero University Kano and Lagos State University have been operating School of Communication for some years now, and they are better for it.

12. What happens to departments that do not have the capacity and competence to begin the new programmes?

The NUC has said that they will retain the name ‘Mass Communication’ for universities that have not developed the competence to run the new programmes. Here’s what the Executive Secretary of NUC, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, said to newsmen while announcing the unbundling of Mass Communication; “We have almost concluded the unbundling of Mass Communication. At the end of first quarter (of 2020), Mass Communication will not be existing as a stand-alone degree programme because it is too wide…. This is in line with trends all over the world. We will retain the Mass Communication for those universities that have not yet developed the full competencies in the areas.”

So it is not game over for departments that do not have resources to run new departments. But as I pointed out earlier, such departments can still retain the name “Mass Communication” but establish new programmes within the department. There is no institution where the lecturers do not have competence in at least two of the seven new programmes. The new programmes are not strange to Mass Communication education in Nigeria. They’ve always been there and the lecturers have been teaching them. The new development is all about specialization. If your department does not have competence in all the seven areas you can begin with the most common areas of competence based on the material and human resources available to you. What NUC is saying which communication scholars are okay with is that mass communication is too broad as a stand-alone course to meet the skill and professional needs in modern times.

13. What happens to existing mass communication departments that do not have the capacity and competence to begin up to three new programmes to form a faculty?

If your school requires that you MUST have up to three departments to form a faculty and you don’t have the capacity to split into three departments you can actually arrange to have a joint faculty with another discipline. After all, we still have Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and such other combinations today. No excuse is enough to run away from this wonderful development which means well for mass communication discipline in Nigeria.

14. How would the seven new departments get lecturers since the current lecturers have degrees in Mass Communication and not the new specialized areas?

The current lecturers have areas of specialization, despite their degree in mass communication. They are the ones to teach in the new programmes. Lecturers will identify their areas of interest and competence and be transferred to teach in the new programmes that reflect those areas. The lecturers who should be worried are those who do not have a clear-cut area of specialization and were never focused on the career part to follow. This is an opportunity for them to get back to the trenches and re-focus their lecturing career.

15. Can students currently studying mass communication decide to switch to any of the new programmes?

No, they cannot. Except they want to start afresh from 100 level. The new curriculum was not designed to absorb students at different levels of mass communication degree programme. It was designed such that those studying mass communication as a degree programme will conclude their programme ‘in peace’ and leave with a degree in mass communication. The new programmes will begin to train students from 100 level in order not to create confusion or academic shock for existing students. However, you can do your higher degree (Masters and Ph.D) in any of the new areas you have interest in.

16. What value has this unbundling added to Mass Communication in Nigeria as a discipline?

In summary, unbundling makes it easy for graduates to realistically adapt to the dynamic society by specializing in specific areas of mass communication, not having a little of everything and actually grabbing much of none. The new curriculum adds depth to content for graduates of the new programmes. The new programmes are now skill-focused; not employment-centered nature of the stand-alone mass communication degree due to too many areas to touch with little or no emphasis on one. Unbundling also means more opportunities for degree holders in Mass Communication to pursue a lecturing career, for those who have always had that dream. As more programmes are created more hands will be needed. You can dust your certificate and pursue your dream to become a lecturer. For existing lecturers it is an opportunity to make impact in your area of specialization. You are no longer faced with the burden of handling courses outside your area of specialization which sometimes constitute distractions that affect career focus. This new development is a ‘win win’ for mass communication in Nigeria.

17. What happens to a person who registers Mass Communication in JAMB only to discover after the exam that the school he or she intends to get into does not offer the programme as a stand-alone degree?

This error should not happen in the first place if the NUC discusses with JAMB (now Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME) to reflect the new programmes in the brochure so that candidates will see what their school of choice has to offer. However, there are instances in the past where universities changed their programmes and informed JAMB yet the change was not reflected in the JAMB brochure immediately, in some cases up to two years after. This means that candidates might commit the error innocently. Well, this shouldn’t be a big deal. The university can easily include such candidates into any of the new programmes carved out of mass communication since the error was not the candidate’s fault.

18. What happens if a person realizes that the school he or she wants to enroll in does not offer the new programme he or she is interested in, since some departments can start with only three out of the seven new degrees?

I get what you’re asking. Probably the candidate wants to enroll in Development Communication programme for instance, at the university of choice is not offering the course. Well, the simple answer is you look for a school offering that specific programme or change to a course your university of choice is offering. Every school cannot offer all the seven new communication programmes at the same time.

19. Will the current mass communication students be sharing classes with the students in the new programmes since the old students will have to conclude their programmes while the new programmes is on?

This can easily be worked out by individual institutions while waiting for new structures to be built for the new programmes. The old students will maintain their classes and curriculum. The new students will follow the new curriculum. The lecturers will still teach the new set of students as the old ones gradually exit the institution. Classroom space can always be arranged. It is just like asking “will 100 level students be taught in a different building?” The old students can still be taught in the classrooms they’ve been using. The new programmes will still use the same classrooms; where there is an issue with space something could be worked out. When the new students get into 200 level, the old mass communication students will only have 300 and 400 levels. So space might not actually be the issue. Meanwhile this is part of the teething problems you experience while starting something good.

20. What happens in a school where all the existing lecturers have competency in only two areas of specialization and the school claims not to have money to employ new lecturers for the remaining five programmes?

Then the school should begin with the areas of competency of existing lecturers. You can actually start with just two new programmes.

  

Finally!

We hope these questions captured your curiosity and the responses helped in some way to clarify the unclear. You can send us more questions or add to the responses we gave to these frequently asked questions regarding unbundling of mass communication as a stand-alone degree.

 

The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

Nwabueze is a communication researcher with several years of lecturing experience in Nigerian universities.

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