ACADEMIC INSIGHT: RICHARD BAILEY, UNIVERSITY OF WEST ENGLAND

Richard BaileyName: Richard Bailey
Job title: Programme leader, BA Journalism & Public Relations
University: University of West of England, Bristol

Twitter: @behindthespin
LinkedIn: Richard Bailey
Magazine: www.behindthespin.com
Blog: www.prstudies.com

What does your job involve?
I teach, assess and supervise undergraduate students. I’m also responsible for developing the programme (course), recruiting students and meeting various demands for paperwork and processes. Beyond the day job, I also teach postgraduate and professional students elsewhere.

What does the PR degree at your university involve?
This is a joint honours degree, so students are taught journalism as well as public relations modules.

Have PR degrees changed much in the last ten years?
No, but students have. Expectations are higher and the introduction of higher fees has led to a different relationship between students and lecturers. They’re impatient to shortcut the process of learning – and are often working long hours outside university to pay their bills. They can be very unhappy customers if they don’t get the grades they think they deserve.

The process of learning is more important than the detail of what you’ve learnt

Why study PR and not a general business or marketing course?
The process of learning is more important than the detail of what you’ve learnt at undergraduate level. So to some extent, it doesn’t matter what you study for a first degree.

But few of the 120 or so UK universities don’t offer marketing or business studies degrees, so graduates from these courses are ten-a-penny. PR graduates are still much less common – and the best of them are exceptional. Even the less-than exceptional PR graduates seem to have little trouble finding graduate-level opportunities in public relations.

Education should not be the exclusive preserve of the young.

Is doing a masters or post grad PR qualification a good idea?
With half of all school leavers going to university, then a first degree does no longer helps you stand out. That’s why a postgraduate degree can be useful. But I’m an advocate for professional courses: I find I can teach CIPR Diploma candidates at a much more satisfying speed. That’s because they’re all practitioners and can put the theory into context (and challenge it too).

Education should not be the exclusive preserve of the young. Public relations is not an abstract, textbook discipline. It’s a highly contextualised subject that requires an understanding of psychology, of organizational behavior, the political and media environments. In other words, it’s a grown-up field.

What makes a successful PR student?
They’re competent, but not over-confident. Driven and demanding, but probably not perfectionists. They’re willing to take risks and experiment. They are capable of working out the way the world works and making connections outside the classroom. Above all, they want to keep learning – and are not know-it-alls.

What are your tips for A level students considering a PR degree?
They now have a choice. Do they really want to be a student on a course that encourages them to gain work experience. Or do they want to work, and gain skills and a qualification through an apprenticeship.

University is still a valuable experience, but not all school leavers are equipped to make the most of the opportunity and not all young people will want to take on that level of debt.

What should PR students be doing along with their studies to make them attractive to a PR employer?
They should be making connections and joining the conversation. So they should be participating in practitioner networks (CIPR, PRCA) and joining online chats. They should become content producers by eg blogging and sharing photos and videos. That will help them get found by employers and recruiters – and explains why I run the #bestPRblogs contest for PR students at Behind the Spin

I’m increasingly looking to LinkedIn for blog content.

Which PR blogs, news sites and websites do you read?
Feedly tells me I’ve subscribed to 241 PR blogs plus 201 PR student blogs (so you’ll forgive me for not listing them). It also means I need to be ruthless in filtering the important from the merely interesting. In the case of student blogs, if they’re not using #prstudent, I may miss what they’re up to. In the case of practitioner blogs, I’m increasingly looking to LinkedIn for blog content. Filtering has never been more important.

 

 

 

 

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