Awaiting full implementation of unbundled mass communication programm by varsities

Developing new curriculum to meet 21st century standards has been a long-term demand by stakeholders in tertiary education sub-sector. Universities operated Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards (BMAS) system until last year when the National Universities Commission (NUC) introduced a new Core Curriculum Minimum Academic Standards (CCMAS), which comes along with 17 disciplines and 238 academic programmes.

The CCMAS document, according to the Executive Secretary of NUC, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, is structured to provide for 70 per cent of core courses for each programme, while allowing universities to utilise the remaining
30 per cent for other innovative courses in their areas of focus.
This recent development is the outcome of stakeholders’ call for a review of courses offered by universities as a way to address knowledge and skills gap in existing curriculum. 
In the newly designed curriculum, some novel courses have been introduced, while existing programmes are unbundled to meet international standards and lift scholarship in the discipline. 
Among the unbundled programmes are agriculture, mass communication and architecture. Mass Communication, for instance, was split into eight distinct discipline of communications comprising degree programmes in advertising, broadcasting, development communication studies, film and multimedia, information and media studies, journalism and media studies, mass communication, public relations and strategic communication.
The recommendation to have mass communication unbundled, The Guardian gathered, was championed by Bayero University Kano (BUK) and a non-profit organisation headquartered in the United States, McArthur Foundation. 

Stakeholders, who took part in the unbundling project, which began in 2018, observed that having a single bachelor degree, where all the unbundled courses would be studied, doesn’t meet up with the current global trend, hence, the need for the academia, relevant regulatory agencies, professional bodies and international agencies to design programmes that separate these aspects in Mass Communication.
Meanwhile, series of arguments have trailed the development among scholars in the field as tothe universities are really prepared for the task. Others contemplated the availability of market to absorb expected graduates of these programmes.
Despite the Commission’s promise that the unbundling would take effect in September 2021, four, of the 67 universities that currently offer mass communication programme, had begun the process and kicked off with the new curriculum. They are, BUK, Ajayi Crowther University (ACU), Oyo, Lagos State University (LASU) and University of Uyo. 
At BUK, three of the unbundled programmes have already commenced. They are, Departments of Mass Communication, Information and Media Studies and Theatre arts. Also, at the University of Uyo and LASU, the Department of Communication Arts and School of Communication respectively, have been turned into Faculty of Communication and Media Studies, with the unbundled courses having their departments. The eight departments in the new faculty now are, journalism, public relations, advertising and marketing communications. Others are broadcasting, film and multi-media studies, information and media studies as well as strategic corporate communication.

Speaking on the reason for the delay in implementing the unbundled programmes, the immediate past Head of Department (HOD), Mass Communication, University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), Dr. Lambe Mustapha, explained that the university was working round the clock to ensure that all the eight programmes designed for the unbundling commence. noted that many universities are yet to take off as a result of lack of resources, saying, “ universities need to be strategic about it in the sense that they have to look inward and see what are the resources on ground for the take off.

“We have presented a position to the university, which has been adopted by the Senate that we want to run this programme in phases. We recommended three programmes, which are mass communication, strategic communication and information and media studies.”
He said that the reason for the unbundling was to deepen professionalism because of the broader nature of mass communication, which may not allow students to have deeper knowledge of the sequences. 
He said: “Prior to the unbundling, we are familiar with the fact that we do have sequence of print journalism, sequence of broadcast journalism and sequence of public relations and advertising. Even though public relations and advertising were merged to become a sequence, these were two different professions, so, in the thinking of those who conceptualised this unbundling, it was a way of broadening the knowledge of students and instilling in them the core knowledge of the profession they want to practice at the end of the day rather than having a surface broader knowledge of multiplicity of professions.”
He, however, feared that the current economic situation of the country and the market availability might undermine the growth and take off of the programmes in many universities. 
According to him, “there is fear of lack of job prospects for graduates of these fields but the belief is that when this is allowed to take place, things will take its natural course.”

To ensure success of the unbundling, he advocated the intensification of professionalism, whereby no one would be allowed to practice any of the profession without having a degree as evidence. 
“Let us ensure that when someone is graduating in print journalism or broadcasting, we should make sure that all these become core professions that would not allow gatecrashers who do not have certificates to practice the profession. So, if we pursue core professionalisation of this fields then the possibility of having graduates who no industry would prospect for, will not be there,” he advised. 

For Professor of Mass Communication at LASU, Lai Oso, unbundling programmes in universities requires a lot of resources. “The point is that it would require more staff to meet the requisite academic and professional skills, particularly technical staff who has a lot of experience to take the students in the practical aspects of the programme. We would as well need more classrooms and facilities, including more books, which the NUC has already started working on.”

He said what motivated the push for unbundling was to prepare students of communication for the challenges ahead through practical applications, which would make them ready professionals even before they graduate. 
“We found out that mass communication is just too omnibus as a course and we decided to break it down, and that is the trend in many parts of the world now; so that students can really have the knowledge and skills to fit into employment market when they graduate.”
Head of Department of Mass Communication at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Prof Adepoju Tejumaiye, said funding has been a major challenge for many universities that haven’t taken off with the project.

According to him, “In today’s university financing, the Federal Government is not doing enough but with several efforts the unbundling will become a reality.”
He hinted that UNILAG has commenced preparation towards starting the programme. Tejumaiye, however, urged other institutions that are yet to commence processes on the development to lobby their university administrators so that no institution would be left behind in the new system. 
Sharing from the recent four-day meeting of all HODs of Mass Communication attended at BUK, Tejumaye said the new directive was that all universities must implement the programmes. 
Already, he said professors at the forefront of the matter are currently engaging the Federal Government on necessary assistance in order to fast track implementation.

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