Promises, promises: Are Australian universities deceiving journalism students?

January 1, 2010

Background to the Abstract

In June 2009, Professor Tim Luckhurst told the British Association for Journalism Education’s annual conference that there was “an element of fraud in journalism education”. He later elaborated in a published article that a lack of academic ability in many students “means it is implausible that they will ever have a career in journalism”, stating universities “need to be a lot more honest. We have a duty to be candid” (Newman, 2009). If, as Australian literature suggests, no more than a third of graduates end up as “journalists” (Green & McIlwaine, 1999; Hill & Tanner, 2006; O’Donnell, 1999), should universities be more candid when promoting journalism education to potential students? In this paper we examine the online descriptions of 27 undergraduate journalism courses offered in Australia, noting in particular how strongly their promotional material links journalism study with a career as a journalist.

We found many programs make an explicit link between studying journalism and an eventual career in newspaper, television or radio, and, although some universities and colleges do highlight other careers, these are often downplayed.

About the Authors

Dr Trevor Cullen (PhD) is Professor of Journalism at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Western Australia. Trevor is recognised as a national and international leader in the field of HIV/health Journalism and Journalism education. He has received several University and national teaching and research awards. These include two Australian Government awards – A National Teaching and Learning Fellowship (NTF) and the Australian Award for University Teaching. (AAUT).

Ruth Callaghan is a lecturer in journalism at Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia.

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