In a country where there are more graduates than jobs, it is prudent that universities produce students who are excellent in both theory and practical work.
For this reason, Uganda Christian University (UCU) has created the Faculty of Journalism, Media and Communication, where the university intends to train students with practical skills in media and communication to respond to labour market needs.
According to Dr Monica Chibita, the dean of the faculty, the university, through its alumni, noticed a gap in the communication department. “Our research with alumni and stakeholders noted, in particular, the general absence of programmes that comprehensively address the areas of corporate communication and development and humanitarian communication at higher levels of education.”
Bridging the gaps
Dr Chibita explains that the establishment of the new faculty has coincided with the establishment of a new Department of Communication, and the re-naming and refocusing of the Department of Journalism and Media Studies (formerly known as Mass Communication). She adds that this has also come with an enhanced research team.
“The faculty has proposed a new postgraduate course, Master of Arts in Communication, which is due to be considered by the University Senate before it is sent to the University Council and then, the National Council for Higher Education. We plan to develop several other programmes to give students and practitioners more career options.”
Michael Mubangizi, the university’s public relations manager, says the revised Bachelor of Journalism and Media studies and the two masters programmes that the faculty will offer, seek to address the gaps that were highlighted by the alumni.
“The undergraduate degree places a strong emphasis on practical skills in the various aspects of the media and seeks to prepare students without neglecting the foundations of the field. The proposed Masters in Strategic Communication focuses striking a balance between theory and practice. The Masters in Journalism and Media Studies will offer students the option of focusing on research or sharpening their practical skills and also emphasises a critical approach in both tracks.”
The Faculty has a greatly enhanced staff with six PhD holders, several staff with masters degrees and four others in training. This increases the capacity for programmatic research.
“Our boosted staff means enhanced teaching and supervisory capacities, Dr Chibita says, adding, “Furthermore, the faculty is better positioned to attract collaborative partnerships and develop a solid research agenda. Our students will also benefit from enhanced visibility since the faculty is comprised of a homogenous discipline.”
About the new faculty
According to Dr Angella Napakol, who will head the newly created Department of Communication, the former Department of Mass Communication began in 2000.
“The curriculum was revised in 2014 to separate journalism from communication and strengthen both separetly. This was based on feedback that indicated that while students of UCU did very well in journalism, they did not seem adequately prepared for communication assignments,” she says.
The department developed partnerships with the US State Department through the Fulbright programme, the University of Central Florida, Deutsche Welle Akademie, and The Media Project/Kings’ College New York. In 2013, the Department of Mass Cmmunication obtained a grant of nearly Norwegian Kroner 13m (Shs6b) from the Norwegian programme for capacity development in higher education research and development (NORHED).
With this funding, in 2014 UCU sent five people for PhDs in Media and Cultural Studies to the University of KwaZulu–Natal, partnered with NLA University College in Norway to run a Master in Journalism and Media Studies, equipped the library and secured training equipment, built three training studios and equipped a multimedia laboratory.”
All the PhD students returned to teach in the department after their studies and the masters programme has admitted four cohorts so far.
The faculty plans to contribute to mid-career training in journalism and strategic communication through offering short courses.