We need more high -quality media courses producing media-literate graduates
Lisette Johnston, head of school at ScreenSpace in London
I run a university programme that offers a degree in content, media and film production. And I spent 15 years in the news industry, so it’s perhaps no surprise that I am passionate about the potential of courses related to the creative industries. What I am not keen on, however, is courses producing school-leavers without a basic overview of what is an evolving media landscape, or graduates lacking transferable skills that help them into the world of work.
We need more media students, but the quality of the teaching they get and the relevance of the content they learn is paramount.
According to a study from the Work Foundation for the British Film Institute in 2017, the film sector alone employs 66,000 people across the UK, yet there is a lack of diversity and workreadiness among those entering these industries.
This gap between what is taught and what is expected in industry is creating a huge disconnect as the sector, and the demand for skills, continues to grow. For example, the UK film sector is one of the most exported parts of the UK economy, bringing in £2 billion to the Treasury in 2015. The creative industries as a whole generate £92 billion annually for the UK, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. There is a need for skilled individuals and there is potential to blur the lines between academia and industry; yet few establishments are doing this.
Another reason to adopt more media courses is to encourage diversity: if more people have the opportunity to study media, then there is a greater chance that they will move into the field. Currently, there are gender, ethnicity and disability gaps throughout the creative industries, and we see this both in personnel and pay as women across the screen industries receive on average £3,000 less than their male counterparts.
However, it is not just the world of media that benefits from the highly transferable skills that students learn when studying media. Presentation and marketing experience, the ability to read analytics, predict trends, undertake critical analysis and tell a story well are highly desirable skills.
In essence, all companies are touched by some aspect of the media, whether through Twitter, an email distribution list or a YouTube channel. And all companies, from banks to universities, are in need of digital and media literates to help them operate in a complex landscape. This is a space where fake news sits alongside factual reporting. Fact-checking has become a vital tool in any media organisation’s arsenal.
So, knowledge of media and the media landscape could help to deliver more quality creatives, but it also helps to school individuals in basic digital and media literacy. This will help them to operate in the world of work, where there is increasingly a blurring of boundaries between personal and professional, and where media consumption is tracked and data is king. To achieve this, we need more good, relevant media courses that adhere to industry standards.