"Harmonizing" and "Tuning" European JMC Education through 26+ Competences

Article excerpt

Back in 1999, twenty-nine education ministers from European countries signed the Bologna Declaration, which launched the European Higher Education Area and ongoing meetings and agreements lumped under the heading of Bologna Process or Bologna Accords. The goal was to standardize academic standards (and measurement of them) throughout Europe. The Process now includes forty-seven countries. As one might guess, it doesn't seem like the Process has gone any more smoothly than the European Union generally, for many reasons: differing philosophies of higher education, differing histories of higher education, differing funding for higher education, national pride, language differences, and more.

Journalism/media education, however, should have, and has, been one area in which significant progress has been made. This is despite major differences, which include but are not limited to, many experienced professionals teaching mass communication subjects in a country such as the United Kingdom while journalism courses in countries such as Romania are largely taught by persons with no professional media experience but doctoral degrees in just about every field of the social sciences and humanities except mass communication.

Along the way, various international journalism degree and/or research programs have sprung up. For example, the Erasmus Mundus Masters in Journalism and Media program calls for graduate students to spend their first year at the Danish School of Journalism at the University of Aarhus, then spend their second year at either the University of Amsterdam, University of Hamburg, City University London, or Swansea University. The program's students may also arrange study at the University of California-Berkeley, Pontifica Universidad Católica de Chile (Santiago), or the University of Technology (Sydney). Another example: The European Journalism Observatory started in 2004, facilitates research about "journalism cultures" in Europe and the United States through a partnership between the Università della Svizzera Italiana (Lugano), Erich Brost Institut at Technical University Dortmund, the University of Wroclaw, the Methenhaus Wien (Vienna), and the Turiba Business School (Latvia).

The attempt at standardizing European curricula and its assessment (I use this word for U.S. readers, but it is not used in Europe) is called "harmonization" and "tuning," both pleasant, diplomatic words that suggest that only tinkering, not major changes, are taking place. In fact, both are, resulting in concerns that what is unique and/or cutting edge in one institution or even an entire country might be lost in the movement toward standardization; for example, will corporate communications education survive in Spain (where "public relations" refers to hosts and greeters in bars and clubs)?

Numerous surveys and other studies have been done over the years in Europe to compare and contrast journalism/media curricula, faculty, students, and industry/ professional needs and preferences. (Of course many U.S. studies comparing and contrasting what employers want and need with: what students think employers want/need, or what JMC professors think employers want/need, or what JMC curricula is offering to students in light of industry/professions want/need, also have been completed, a substantial number of them published in this journal.) But what is unusual, at least by U.S. standards, is a two-part (so far) European study asking students both what they think is important in their education and what their institutions are doing well (or not doing so well) and comparing/contrasting that with what employers are saying and what is in various institutions' curriculum. You might have your own interpretation, but what I gather is that what students want may vary from institution to institution (the students of each institution, perhaps even from major-to-major, have different cultures) as well as from country-to-country, and that students often contradict themselves, whether or not they are ill-informed on relevant industry/professional facts and/or about what higher education is, can do, and should do. …