The value and purpose of a Media Production degree from the perspective of mid-career graduates
Authors: Van Raalte, C. and Wallis, R.
Conference: Media Education Summit
Dates: 31 March-1 April 2021Abstract:
“When I look back…”: The value and purpose of a Media Production degree from the perspective of mid-career graduates
The value and purpose of studying media at Higher Education in the UK has been as much contested as the place of Media Studies within the school curriculum. Over the years, media degrees have been popularly denigrated as both ‘lightweight’ and ‘poison in the jobs market’. The latter claim plays into wider public uncertainty about the purpose of Higher Education per se, as the debate has become increasingly dominated by the notion of ‘employability’, often defined in the narrowest of terms. Graduate earnings within five years has now become the primary quality indicator of a degree. Yet this has not always been the case. Nor is it necessarily a view widely held by graduates.
In this paper we explore on the value and purpose of a media degree by purposefully shifting the focus from the discourse of policy, to the discourse of graduates. We report on a research project in which we set out to examine the perspective of media graduates from the vantage point of post-University employment and the world of work: specifically, those now in mid-career. To do so, we identified a single cohort of Media Production graduates who, at the time of our study, were more than two decades into their working lives: the ‘Class of ‘95’. Within the timeframe of the project (2017/18), we were able identify the current whereabouts of approximately half of the 79 graduates of that year, and go on to secure interviews with over one-third of them – a sample of 28 former students.
We wanted to know: How did these graduates understand the purpose - and to what did they attribute the value - of their undergraduate education, with the benefit of hindsight more than two decades into their working lives? And what, if any, are the implications of this perspective for those of us who design and deliver these programmes? The themes that have emerged coalesce around five broad areas: the integrated nature of the university experience; the value of ‘practical’ approaches to teaching and learning; the importance attributed to relationships with others; the place of autonomy and initiative-taking; and the role of work experience in industry-orientated education. We conclude by discussing some of the implication of our findings for both policy and for the design and delivery of such degree programmes.