ACADEMIC INSIGHT: SIMON COLLISTER, UAL – LONDON COLLEGE OF COMMUNICATION

Name: Simon Collister
University: London College of Communication, University of the Arts London
Job title: Senior Lecturer

Twitter: @simoncollister
LinkedIn: Simon Collister
Blog: www.simoncollister.com

What does your job involve?
I work with colleagues in LCC’s Public Relations teaching team to plan course content, teach and assess students on both our BA and MA PR degrees. I supervise third year undergraduate students and MA students researching dissertations and am also responsible for acting as a personal tutor to students. This means answering any questions students have about being a student in general and ensuring that they don’t have any problems which might affect their study. When I’m not doing that I try to write my PhD and research and submit papers for publication or presentation at conferences!

What does the PR degree and masters at your university involve?
Both our BA and MA courses are loosely built around three core areas: PR as an organisational discipline; locating PR within a wider sociological or cultural environment and giving students practical and professional experiences through work placements. 

There seems to be limited motivation in self-directed study and learning.

Have PR degrees and post grad qualifications changed much in the last ten years?
I can’t speak from a particularly historical perspective as I’ve only worked in higher education for the past 4 years, but I would argue that from a purely personal perspective, there is an increasing expectation among students to be directed by lecturers in their learning. There seems to be limited motivation in self-directed study and learning.

if you just want to get a job from your degree then we can help connect you with some great employers and work experiences!

Why study PR and not a general business or marketing course?
Good question! Or history or English literature? That is perhaps a wider question than that being asked here, but focusing on ‘why not’ other marketing, media or communication disciplines I would refer back to the way the courses are structured here at LCC. Studying PR here will expose you to the role PR plays in shaping and influencing the strategic needs of business and organisations; and it will equip you with the critical knowledge to understand how PR as a strategic communications function actively shapes social and cultural values; and, at the end of the day, if you just want to get a job from your degree then we can help connect you with some great employers and work experiences!

Is doing a masters or post grad PR qualification a good idea? When is the best time?
I guess I would have to say ‘yes’! All education can help you develop vital knowledge and skill sets. The best time is when it works for you. I believe the UK system tends to funnel students into higher education straight from school unlike other European countries, and that’s not always the best way. When students have clear personal goals to equip themselves with knowledge is arguably the best time to learn. And when you have made a qualified judgement about getting to work in PR, marketing, lobbying or other media nad communication roles then a dedicated PR course can help accelerate your career.

What makes a successful PR student?
The same that makes any successful student  🙂

Employers value employees that identify and solve problems themselves

What should PR students be doing along with their studies to make them attractive to a PR employer?
The crucial thing, I believe, is be prepared to get the answer wrong and learn from your mistakes. Too many students want to know the ‘right answer’ first time. Life and the workplace isn’t like that. Employers value employees that identify and solve problems themselves, not find the answer from someone else. That and getting some good work experience!

Which PR blogs, news sites and websites do you read?
Financial Times; The Economist; Monocle; PR Week (out of habit); The Drum; Here/Forth’s C_ncentrate weekly email

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