Media and Communication studies remain popular with students increasingly drawn to Russell Group and London universities

11 Jun 2024

Three university students sitting at a table, engaged in a lively discussion.

Media, Screen, Journalism and Communication Studies subjects remain popular with students increasingly drawn to Russell Group and London higher education institutions (HEIs), a new British Academy report finds.

As part of the Academy’s Observatory function, the British Academy has released the latest report in its flagship "State of the Discipline" series. This report examines the state of Media, Screen, Journalism, and Communication Studies in UK higher education. The Academy's SHAPE Observatory aims to monitor and provide an evidence base for the SHAPE disciplines. This study follows similar reports on Theology and Religious Studies (2019), Business and Management Studies (2021), and English Studies (2023).

The report covers degree programmes including advertising, broadcasting, cultural studies, journalism, and television and content production and reveals that these subjects are particularly vulnerable to declining numbers of international students. Other key findings include: 

  • London and South East HEIs dominate postgraduate Media, Screen, Journalism and Communication Studies provision, posing challenges for other UK regions in attracting students and potentially impacting local department sizes and media industries;

  • The number of international students from outside the EU taking Media, Screen, Journalism and Communication Studies has been expanding;

  • Consistent growth in postgraduate taught student numbers over the last decade indicates success in appealing to graduates as they look to further their skillsets and careers.

This report challenges the sometimes negative perceptions of these subjects by showcasing groundbreaking research and its impact. From studies on music's influence on maternal mental health, to developing an evidence-based framework on children's rights and digital technologies in collaboration with UNICEF, to shaping digital skills and inclusion across public, private, and third-sector organisations, these case studies highlight the profound and diverse contributions that Media, Screen, Journalism, and Communication Studies make to society.

Drawing on extensive quantitative data from sources like the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, the report offers a detailed analysis of key factors, including changes in student and staff numbers, the diversity and impact of academic research, and graduate outcomes.

Robin Mansell FBA, Professor Emeritus, Department of Media and Communication at the London School of Economics and Political Science and a member of the report’s Advisory Group, said:

“Media, Screen, Journalism, and Communication Studies subjects are sometimes dismissed as ‘low-value’ or ‘Mickey Mouse’ subjects. Our report provides very substantial evidence to counter these claims. These subjects are highly popular among young people. They play an essential role in the creative industries which contribute £108 billion annually to the economy and education in these subjects supports a globally leading cultural sector. They are crucial in addressing global issues from developing media and information literacy and combating disinformation to guiding the future adoption and use of AI tools.

“At this crucial juncture when we face challenges like course closures and shifts in international student dynamics, recognising and supporting these subjects is vital for the continued prosperity of our creativity and for the UK’s economy.”

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