Three-D Issue 21: How is it for you? The uncertain fate of media studies courses

GoldingPeter Golding
Northumbria University

As members know, we have been responding to the public debate about the value of media studies and similar programmes in universities. Following the renewed questioning of such programmes by ministers last year MeCCSA issued a guide to programmes in universities addressed to young students considering whether to apply or which courses to apply for. This pamphlet, “Studying Media, Film and Communication at University: choosing the right course for you” was distributed to just under 4,000 schools and colleges earlier this year, and is also available on the MeCCSA website (

The picture of applications is mixed and uncertain. Using the UCAS categories the number of students placed by subject group went down in ‘Mass Communication and Documentation’ by 13 per cent (from 11,340 to 9,880) from 2011 to 2012. But as of 15 days after A level results were published this year the figure had recovered to 11,050. Of course one of the difficulties of this kind of analysis is the category. Mass communication and documentation includes a lot of work (in library studies for example) that we would largely regard as outside our field, while at the same time it excludes others that most certainly are inside. At June 30th a more refined analysis shows a rise from last year of 11.2 per cent in ‘media studies’, but in journalism figures from 2012 to 2013 are more or less constant (15,324 applications in 2013). Cinematics and photography applications were then down 4.3% from the previous year, while various combinations within creative arts and design were down nearly 18%. To make sense of those ‘students placed’ figures,  European languages, as much press comment has noted, continue to plummet, down 15 per cent since 2010.

In truth, variability and local  experience are not really captured by these data. And for this reason the MeCCSA executive would like to put some flesh on the bones by getting information from colleagues handling these changes on the ground. We are writing to all member departments to seek their advice on how things are working for them. The questions we are asking are:

  1. What changes have there been to your application and enrolment numbers in the last two years?
  2. Have there been any changes to the programmes you are offering? Please comment on any strategic considerations in such changes.
  3. Are these changes linked to any other changes in your institution?
  4. Please offer any other comments on your assessment of application or enrolment numbers in different areas of the field as offered in your institution.

We will, of course, handle any information received sensitively and anonymously. The aim is to get a better picture of what is happening than can be gleaned from the available data.

Please send any comments to Peter Golding (


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