UNESCO launches first in-depth survey about journalism education in South East Europe

15 January 2018

The survey entitled Back to the Drawing Board: Crafting the Ideal Journalism Education Curricula for South East Europe has been conducted by the School of Journalism and Public Relations (SJPR) in Skopje as part of the UNESCO Project Building Trust in Media in South East Europe and Turkey, supported by the European Union.

Carried out in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Kosovo (under UNSCR 1244), this research forms part of a wider UNESCO strategy to strengthen freedom of expression, access to information, and free, independent and pluralistic media in South East Europe.

“Journalism and journalism education in South East Europe have been undergoing tremendous changes during the past two decades. All of the countries share the fate of social transition, which is reflected in the structure and profile of journalism and the respective education. At the same time, global technological, economic and social changes impose an inexorable need of their re-conception and modernization,” highlights SJPR in the survey.

Building on existing research and publications on this topic, such as the UNESCO Model Curricula for Journalism Education, the survey presents the findings of an analysis of 26 journalism curricula across the SEE region, focussing on issues such as the level and quality of journalism education, the impact of formal journalism education on the democratic process in the relevant state, and the measures by which journalism education across the region can be improved.

Furthermore, the survey explores observations made during 60 interviews carried out with members of the academic community, journalists and editors, and representatives of civil society organisations working in the areas of media and journalism in the SEE region, providing deeper insight into perceptions of the current state of journalism education in the region.

The findings of the research highlight ongoing issues in the media across the SEE region such as the deteriorating levels of safety for journalists, the political influence of media content, low labour conditions and the widespread intrusion of business interests in editorial policies. The research also found that journalism education across the region is currently weakened due to a number of factors such as a shortage of modern equipment and up-to-date textbooks, and a shortage of renowned university lecturers with professional journalism experience. Furthermore, a lack of quality practical education and traineeship programs, means that theory learned at university does not always prepare students for the realities of the journalism profession.

“The quality of the education in journalism both at the state and private faculties is affected by the low number of staff with professional journalistic experience, as well as the insufficient inclusion in the teaching process of external guest lecturers and professors with practical experience in the media. The professors who teach at the faculties are most often communicologists, journalism theoreticians, sociologists, but, essentially, not journalists. Adding to this is the issue of the severe lack of textbooks and other books for the students of journalism, or rather the use of out-dated literature,” underlines the report.

The survey suggests that improving journalism education would lead to a higher level of professionalism within the sector and a more democratic media as a whole across the region. Possible solutions include developing more practical training alongside theoretical knowledge, placing more importance on media literacy and ethics in the curricula, modernising curricula to correspond to current trends in the sector and developing more cooperation between universities and the media.

The main outcome of this research is the creation of 6 indicators that can allow faculties of journalism in the region to determine whether their curricula enables students to gain the necessary journalistic skills to maintain a high level of professionalism and ethical standards throughout their careers. These indicators help to identify the deficiencies of existing journalism curricula across the SEE region and are divided into the following categories: the content of journalism curricula; the role that journalism faculties play in society; the methods of funding and conducting research; student practise in media and media organisations during journalism studies; literature and teaching material used in studies; the teaching staff and administrative conditions in implementing journalism studies.

It is hoped that by encouraging higher education institutions to follow the recommendations and indicators identified in the survey, journalism programmes can be evaluated and modified and journalism education overall can be improved in the region.

The full report is available here.