Centres of excellence in journalism education

From nurturing centres of excellence in journalism education in Africa to promoting globally shared excellence in teaching, researching and practising journalism

It all started with an initiative to quality in journalism education in Africa

UNESCO’s support for journalism education is underpinned by a strong conviction that professional journalistic standards are essential to bring out the potential of media systems to foster democracy, dialogue and development. By disseminating information to citizens, the news media enables citizen participation in development and strengthens accountability feedback mechanisms.

With respect to Africa, it was clear that many African journalism education institutions did not – and indeed may not – have the resources to develop a learning environment conducive to addressing the needs of aspiring and working journalists. In this regard, UNESCO heeded the call from teachers and students alike to build the capacity of journalism schools to enhance the skills and competencies of the next generation of African media professionals.

Under UNESCO’s “The Need for Quality Journalism Education in Africa: Building Centres of Excellence in Africa” initiative, the most promising journalism education institutions in Africa identified by UNESCO received support to become centres of excellence in journalism education by improving staff training, curricula, learning materials, media resource centres, networks and management skills.

UNESCO supported seven key areas:

1.    Curricula: Implementing UNESCO’s model curricula and improving assessment systems
2.    Staff training: Building capacities of teaching staff through training and exchange programs with other universities
3.    Learning material: Making textbooks available in national languages and improving access to learning material
4.    Media Resource Centres: Providing adequate equipment and technical facilities for training in new and traditional media
5.    Management: Enhancing institutional governance, sustainability and the involvement with the media sector
6.    Media monitoring: Improving capacities to monitor media sector development
7.    Networking: Creating networks between regional, national and international journalism education institutions and media

Through various regional and national projects, IPDC provided support to and developed partnerships with a number of these universities to help them attain the defined level of excellence within the next four to five years.

The project design dated back to 2007 when UNESCO, in response to numerous requests from Member States, published the Model Curricula for Journalism Education. At the same time, UNESCO developed a framework for assessing the quality of journalism training institutions in Africa. The resulting publication Criteria and Indicators for Quality Journalism Training Institutions: Identifying Potential Centres of Excellence in Journalism Training in Africa, identified what were to become potential centres of excellence in journalism education in Africa.

After piloting this initiative and recognising its potential for elevation to a global initiative, the decision was taken at the 57th IPDC Bureau Meeting in March 2013 to conclude the Special Initiative with the Centres. A new Global Initiative for Excellence in Journalism Education took its place.