Media Studies Degree Courses Theory and Theory with Production
Media Studies Degree Courses
I have no doubts whatsoever that Media is an enormously important subject area however when considering a media based degree you must think carefully what it is you want out of it. Media Studies has a large number of detractors, at the same time students who just drift into Media Studies courses do neither themselves not Media Studies any favours. Doing Media Studies well is hard, probably harder than the sceptics in subjects who feel threatened by Media Studies and therefore deride it, because it is a 'new subject'. The net outcome of this is that you will have to prove yourself.
In recent years Media Studies as a subject area has created very many courses which are "vocationally" oriented. These may be tempting especially if you enjoy the production process but unless there is a good core element of theory / academic work you are best avoiding them.
With all the critcism that Media Studies has had from various quarters it is worth noting the even Cambridge University has -at the MPhil Level- decided to offer film and Media Studies. Tilda Swinton an Ex-Cambridge Graduate Opened the proceedings in 2007.
The fact remains that there are a lot of people with vocational media degrees who haven't got jobs in the media. There is no guarantee of getting this just because you have a media degree. It is up to you to get the best degree you can from the most highly respected Universities. Getting a good job within the media industries is highly competitive.
A good Media Studies Course should have modules that deal with:
- Media Policy UK / EU
- Media History and Society
- Sociological / Cultural Studies methods of analysing audiences
- General research methods (These are generic skills that are transferrable into many other spheres)
- Textual analysis of media texts
- Key issues and debates within media including such issues as censorship and control, media ownership and democracy
- Media in the economy
- Political Economy of the Media
- Running Media businesses
- Theory including areas such as ideology and representation, semiotics (science of signs), discourse and the media, gender and the media, race ethnicity and the media.
- Some Practical production (Some production is important because the process of production provides an understanding of how media production processes actually work in the real world - imperfectly)
- Media in a Networked Society
- Global Media
Unless you can gain familiarity with these issues then you are doomed to the life of a technician who may be good at working with particular types of software but is that what you want to do for the rest of your life? Think ahead what might be great fun now could be quite tedious in a few years time. Where will you be then? you need a knowledge base and the skills to use that base effectively. Some practical media skills you can pick up in your spare time. You do need to think about how soon your future earnings can pay back your degree costs.
The Open University has been renowned for leading edge Media courses in the past. During the 1990s it became reknowned for its popular culture course which studied texts such as James Bond films. The Open University Open Learn site gives free access to course materials. Here is a link to a current Media second year level course DA204. This gives you an idea of the sort of things which contemporary media courses are studying.
The University of Warwick don't offer a "Media" degree as such what they do have is a Film & TV Studies Degree. Here is an example of their first year modules.
Media Studies 2.0?
There is now no doubt that there is a revolution in media which has been sweeping advanced countries in the world in highly significant ways. However if this revolution is to be a real revolution in terms of changing fundamental aspects of the way the world is organised leading to redistirbution of wealth and ownership of the means of production as Marx has put it then this is highly unlikely.
There is little doubt that media is being totally reconfigured and that older models of media are being broken. I will consider the deeper issues of media studies 2.0 elsewhere the point is that Media Studies is spawning a very dynamic debate at the moment and potential undergraduates of media studies need to be aware of this. At the same time one must remain very sceptical of social change in a macro rather than a micro level of the everyday. We will get our video streaming on a portable device anywhere - so what! "Everything must change so that everything stays the same." Is a suitable quotation from Visconti's The Leopard and something always to be born in mind.
Bearing that in mind as a potential student you should be looking for courses which offer analytical and critical modules on the politcal economy and the sociology of new media. What you do everydaydownloading, phoning, texting, Facebooking is worth billions of pounds. Who to? How? Just as the institutions are changing the audiences are changing, but they were never stable anyway.
Chris Meir talks about the Marketing the Movies Conference and how academics are analysing the way films are promoted. On this page there is an introduction to the Film and TV studies course. There is video with an adademic from the department discussing marketing and the use of trailers as well as social networking sites.
Please note that in neither of these course is there any committment to "practical" media-making. The fact is that until you get a good underlying understanding of the key issues at stake you are less likely to be able to produce good materials. This type of approach flies in the face of the current Government empahsis on "practical skills", yet this department has a sophisticated careers structure underpinning it. The kind of work that these undergraduates will ultimately end up in is likely to be more rewarding intellectually and financially than by focusing on a practical course.
Westminster Media Studies Degree
The Westminster BA in Media Studies is the longest established undergraduate media studies courses in the UK. It has an international approach, with about a third of our students coming from outside the UK. More than half our students find employment in the media or related areas.
At Westminster in the first semester all students are introduced to some of the major theoretical approaches to the media, and to the structures of the media industries. In the second semester there are specialist introductions to the theories of news media, broadcasting and public relations. Students study the one appropriate to your pathway and can choose others as options. The TV and Radio pathways start with a six week general introduction to TV and radio practice.
Sussex University Media Theory & Practice Degree
This is a link to the 2008 Sussex degree show for the Media Theory & Practice Degree. For those who wish to incorporate their theoretical understandings of the world with creative expression about interpreting this world though media products this degree offers a useful route for those who wish to gain entry into the media world in their future careers.
The University of East London School of Media and Cultural Studies has got some good videos here
List of media related courses (Currently Under Construction but around 30 links already)
This list doesn't promise to be comprehensive. New institutions emerge and older ones develop new courses. There is no judgement on the quality or nature of the courses being offered. Users should consult the Guardian league tables for some resonably objective criteria. I have also included here a link to the UCAS Tariff table in terms of points or grades needed as a minimum to gain entry to a course.
Architectural Association. Media Studies. These units are part of an overall Architectural Degree not a specific media studies qualification
Birkbeck College University of London. There are a large range of part-time media courses on offer. If you want to be working at the same time as doing your degree without it suffering and you live in London this could be a very good option
Cardiff University Centre for Lifelong Learning. There are a good range of Media Studies Courses here for people who want to build up their units steadikly on a part-time basis
City University London: Media Studies and Sociology BA (Requirements CCC 240-260 UCAS points)
De Montfort University Leicester
Loughborough University Communication and Media Studies (This will appeal to more social science approaches).
University College Falmouth. Great for the Seaside!
University of Stirling Film & Media. A very long established course.
University of Sussex. Cultural Studies and Media Studies. (Sussex likes a media studies A-level for its straight BA in media studies.)
University of Ulster. This has had a long-term reputation and offers a wide range of courses.
These First entries are online articles about Media studies which seems to have received more than its fair share of criticism in recent years not least through the media itself.
Evening Standard on Media Studies by David Rowan.