An Unusual Top 10, Globally

For the first time ever, those who lead Journalism programs around the globe gathered at the World Journalism Education Congress in South Africa last week to discuss the most pressing issues their programs face.

As president-elect of ASJMC (the organization of journalism and communication schools in the U.S.), I was asked to lead the sessions for deans, directors and department chairs around the world.

One of the sessions I led in South Africa. Those at this table represent China, France, Morocco, Qatar, United Kingdom, Nigeria, Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Ghana

Ten top issues emerged, some reflecting the substantive African participation. While this list does not reflect a scientific process, the findings are illuminating as a first attempt to identify and rank-order the leading issues cited by a global cross-section of administrators. The 10 leading issues in ascending order:

#10 – Student enrollment demands.  While this is a universal issue, it is particularly a problem in African nations where only a fraction of the students who want to major in Journalism are able to enroll.

#9 – Faculty diversity.  In Africa, this means the need for more female faculty to better reflect the student body that increasingly is female. In other countries, especially in the West, the emphasis on faculty diversity focuses more on the need for racial minorities.

#8 – Changes in curriculum and the emergence of new media.  The challenge is staying abreast in an age of radical change, building and maintaining a balance of theory and practice, and revising courses and curriculum to reflect the growth of multimedia.

#7 – Specificity of Journalism.  Delegates said that Journalism needs to remain a distinct discipline and not be absorbed into the general world of communications.

#6 – Textbooks and instructional materials.  Journalism heads in African nations lament the shortage of books for their students – books that are affordable and authored by Africans. In the West, the challenge is a different one – getting students to buy useful books in an online age.

#5 – Electrical power and Internet connectivity.  An unreliable energy supply appears primarily to be a problem on the African continent. Education is disrupted when classroom lights flicker off, or computers can’t be turned on, or access to the Internet is interrupted.

#4 – Government issues.  These are “free press” issues revolving around licensing, restrictions, censorship and self-censorship, which appear more a problem in Africa and Asia than in other regions of the world.

#3 – Faculty hiring and retention.  Salaries tend to be low, which cause Journalism programs in non-Western nations to lose qualified faculty to industry or to exchange programs in other countries.

#2 – An ethical disconnect with journalistic practice.  Journalism heads in Africa refer to a disconnect between the classroom and newsroom. For instance, they teach ethics, then students go into internships where they see some journalists engage in payoffs and bribery.

And the No. 1 issue faced by administrators attending the World Journalism Education Congress…

#1 – Technology and infrastructure.  For those on the African continent, infrastructure issues range from a shortage of facilities to the need for technology such as computer labs and cameras for student use. For those in other parts of the world, this challenge translates into diminishing program budgets because states and nations are facing growing debt.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Communications Today, Freedom of Expression, International Communications

One Comment on “An Unusual Top 10, Globally”


  1. This is a really fascinating list to reflect on, Dean Parsons. Thank you for sharing it! And what an honor that you were asked to lead the sessions. I bet it was an incredible opportunity!


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