There has never been a more interesting time to study media due to the changing face of the industry over recent years. Indeed, “the landscape is being redefined through online publishing and social media by an army of bloggers, YouTube stars and citizen journalists”.
Further education (FE) courses in media studies examine the structure, history and effect of the different forms of media. The subject provides a great introduction for a future career in media or communications, and can lead to students going on to forge careers in marketing, sales and advertising, journalism, publishing, leisure sport and tourism.
Ian St Peters, digital journalism lecturer at Burton College in Staffordshire, worked as a local radio and print journalist before he turned his attentions to training on the job as a lecturer. Ian explains that “journalism has changed so much in recent years and we not only have to teach students how to write but also how do handle video, audio, social media, websites, online uploads”.
There is a crossover between Ian’s role teaching digital journalism and the role of media studies lecturer. In term of theory, both look at audience reception, representation, regulation and ownership, as well as gender theory.
A wide range of media will be taught by an FE media studies lecturer, including advertising and marketing, newspapers, radio, the film industry, video gaming, TV, print and online magazines, websites and podcasts.
Many media studies programmes split theoretical and practical work 50/50. A-levels modules can consist of subjects as diverse as audio manipulation, photo editing and TV and radio production to cultural studies and screenwriting.
You will be expected to apply an analytical framework to media discussion, analysis and debate. Students will be taught to think independently and to develop their own voice. Teaching students to live and breathe all things media will be central to the role.
Anthony Shallow, media studies teacher at Peter Symonds College, Winchester, describes the biggest challenge in the subject as being the subject keeping up with advances in technology. He states: “We have to develop our resources to keep in line with the current trends. I very rarely use books in my lesson because students have moved on from that – I use stuff like Pinterest and YouTube.”
FE media studies lecturers will, therefore, need to become familiar with the latest technological advances, such as iPads, iPhones, online media, online content, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and any other new trends, in order to offer an up-to-date learning experience for students.
Speaking about the bad press that media studies can sometimes get, Anthony explains that “it isn't just a case of watching films and picking out bits and pieces. It's very analytical”. Going into more detail, he says that in his class there is an examination of age, ethnicity and gender, as well as the practical element.
In terms of specifics, Anthony says that if his students are making a music video in his class “they'll go through the exact same processes that you would go through in an actual production house – the logging, the storyboards the ideas and so on”.
It is this commitment to applying real-life scenarios in the classroom that is a big draw for most prospective media studies lecturers. You should be able to pass on your understanding how and why the media works.
As Anthony states, the key to pursuing a career teaching media studies to young adults is to take the plunge. “My advice to anyone who is considering teaching is to try it out and, if they like it, go for it,” he says. “No two days are the same.”
Most candidates applying for FE media studies jobs will be required to have completed a teaching qualification, such as a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE). Some will be able to substitute the qualification for relevant work experience, such as previous roles in journalism, publishing and film or TV. In most cases, experience in the media sphere is always seen as a positive from an employer’s point of view as it highlights a passion for the industry.
In terms of the relation between degrees and teaching media studies, a University-level education is seen as desirable but not essential. A total of 18.5% had a degree in the field as of 2013.
The top 10 universities in the UK for studying communication and media studies, according to the subject league table 2021, are:
· Loughborough University
· University of Leeds
· Newcastle University
· University of Sheffield
· Cardiff University
· Lancaster University
· University of Strathclyde
· Swansea University
· University of St Andrews
· City, University of London
Media studies has been dismissed by some critics as being a ‘Mickey Mouse’ qualification. However, the advent of fake news and former US president Donald Trump’s penchant for bandying it around willy nilly, has made the role of media studies all the more important.
It was this prevalence of fake news that led to a new study into this and the mass spread of disinformation by governments and individuals. The research led to a recommendation that media studies be made mandatory at school and college level to enable students to become more resilient to fake news.
Leading the project, professor in media and education at Bournemouth University Julian McDougall, declared: “It’s pretty clear that if every child studied media in school, we would have a more critical, resilient generation of citizens who would be much less vulnerable to fake news.”
Should the Department for Education take the report’s findings on board, this could lead to increased demand for FE media studies lecturer positions in the near future.
It may not be a pipe dream to see the UK adopt Finland’s critical thinking curriculum, revised in 2016 to help enable students to “spot the sort of disinformation that has clouded recent election campaigns in the US and across Europe”.