Concerned by the number of universities that have been reconsidering their range of provision, and in some cases cutting back or closing teaching and research in fields with which MeCCSA is involved, the Association’s Executive Committee has agreed the following brief outline of the importance of media, communication and cultural studies at higher education level.
As the body representing the interests of students and academic staff involved in communication, cultural and media studies, MeCCSA welcomes and seeks to encourage the expansion of both the range and quality of provision, not least because of the social, professional, and academic importance of these fields. Any reduction in provision poses serious difficulties for staff and students, and has very unwelcome short and long-term consequences nationally. Among the reasons to value the importance of these fields are:
- Students with qualifications in communications, cultural and media studies are extremely employable, not only in the sectors most obviously related to their studies, but also generally, where the rigour and salience of their skills and knowledge are widely valued by employers. Recent data shows that the percentage of media studies graduates who are economically active fifteen months after graduation, at 81.9%, is higher than for all graduates (79.3%). The data also show that completing a creative arts postgraduate programme leads to significantly higher earnings (approximately 10% above the average).
- While economic value is far from the only justification for the importance of a field of study, it is worth noting that, according to government statistics, the ‘creative industries’ sector is growing much faster than the national economy. In the last year for which figures have been issued the country’s creative industries contributed £111.7 billion to the UK, equivalent to £306 million every day. This is up 7.4 per cent on the previous year, meaning growth in the sector is more than five times larger than growth across the UK economy as a whole, which had increased by 1.4 per cent. The importance to the UK is substantial, but also reflects international trends. A recent OECD report suggests that, in many economies, this sector generates more than the telecoms or automotive sector.
- Media, cultural and communication studies are internationally seen as a major strength of UK academia, and work in this field is widely referred to and very highly regarded, often as seminal, in research globally. In the most recent Research Excellence Framework exercise, evaluating the quality of UK university research, 75 % of outputs submitted to the panel assessing work in communication, cultural, and media studies was assessed as world-leading or internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour. The panel assessing work in drama, dance, performing arts, film and screen, noted that “The research and impact assessed by the sub-panel, often realised through diverse collaborations with national and international partners, forms a crucial element of the UK creative industries sector, seeding industry activity across the devolved administrations and providing the backbone for local, national and international cultural infrastructures. This research …is a key driver of cultural regeneration and the boosting of regional economies”. Not surprisingly this quality is a major attraction for overseas students coming to UK universities. The Higher Education Statistics Agency calculate that, in 2021/22, 7,770 non UK students were registered for postgraduate degrees at UK universities in their category of ‘media, journalism and communications’.
- All forms of media – be that online, mobile, print, or broadcast – play a huge and influential part in the social, economic, and cultural life of UK citizens. The communications regulator Ofcom found recently that UK adults spend an average of eight hours and 41 minutes a day on media devices, compared with the average night’s sleep of eight hours and 21 minutes. It would be quite extraordinary, and indeed arguably irresponsible, if universities were not to commit serious resources to rigorous and diverse teaching and research in fields of such centrality and consequence in the lives of UK citizens. The technology with which people’s lives are increasingly integrated, involving the digital expansion of much experience, is at the heart of teaching and research in these areas and would be a serious omission in any university’s portfolio. For that reason if no other, media, communication and cultural studies are inherently interdisciplinary , and form a vital component of much teaching and research in other areas of the university curriculum, whether in humanities, social, or natural sciences.
- Graduate employment data may be found in the annual Prospects report (71145492-99f4-4134-9e6f-8e694edb398f_what-do-graduates-do-2023.pdf (prismic.io) and in various material to be found on the website of the Association of Graduate Career Advisory Services (AGCAS – The Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services)
- Calculations about the ‘cultural industries’ or the ‘creative industries’ are subject to endless debate about these categories, and should be used with care, noting also that many of our students enter, very successfully, other career paths. OECD data may be found at <Economic and social impact of cultural and creative sectors (oecd.org)>. A not entirely up to date statement from the UK government on this may be found at <UK’s Creative Industries contributes almost £13 million to the UK economy every hour – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)>. The relevant sector skills council is Creative and Cultural Skills (Homepage – Creative and Cultural Skills (ccskills.org.uk) and a current research project on the topic is underway at City University (The value of the cultural and creative industries • City, University of London)
- The relevant REF panel and sub-panel overview reports are published at mp-d-overview-report-final-updated-september-2022.pdf (ref.ac.uk). Data on who is studying what and where they come from can be extracted from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HE Student Data | HESA).
- A variety of data about media use can be found in various Ofcom survey data sets. See for example their annual UK Media Nation report (Media Nations: UK 2022 (ofcom.org.uk)) or their annual online nation report (Online Nation 2022 Report (ofcom.org.uk).
Statement prepared by the MeCCSA Executive Committee, May 2023