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Journalism Education in Australia

Author Roger Patching Journalism Education Association

Australia - from where media baron Rupert Murdoch began his rise to international prominence - has a vibrant mass media and a large number of tertiary journalism courses preparing graduates for the media workforce. Although it has one of the largest concentrations of media ownership in the developed world, and has seen reductions in the number of metropolitan daily newspapers in recent years, it still has a large and healthy mass media system. As well as daily newspapers in all capital and many rural daily and weekly newspapers and hundreds of magazines titles, there are three commercial and two government-funded television networks, hundreds of commercial and government-funded AM and FM radio stations, and a community  radio sector covering most areas of the nation. There are also several community television stations.

All this and the relatively recent arrival of Pay TV has led to the increasing popularity of communication courses - and journalism courses in particular - at Australian universities.. Twenty of the nation's 37 public, and one private, universities offer vocational undergraduate courses in journalism. Another two - at Wollongong University south of Sydney and at Murdoch University in Perth - offer journalism courses at only postgraduate level. Many of the other 20 universities also offer postgraduate courses - some to doctoral level- to compliment their undergradu- ate intakes. Journalism Courses Australia's journalism courses are not evenly spread across the country. Tasmania and the Northern Territory don't have a journalism school at their tertiary institutions. Naturally the smaller states have the least number of courses. South Australia has one course, at the University of South Australia in the capital Adelaide, and the Australian Capital Territory also has only one at the University of Canberra in the national capital. The biggest state in size, but with a relatively small population, Western Australia has three journalism courses clustered  in the state capital, Perth - at the Curtin University of Technology, the Edith Cowan University, and at Murdoch University.

One of the most populous states, Victoria  has four journalism courses, at Deakin University in Geelong, south of the state capital, Melbourne, Monash University's Gippsland campus in rural Victoria, and two in Melbourne, at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and the Swinburne University of Technology. The country's most populous state, New South Wales, has five tertiary journalism courses, but only two - at the University of Technology, Sydney, and at the University of Western Sydney - are located in Sydney in the metropolitan area. The other three are within easy reach of the metropolitan area, though, at Newcastle to the north, Wollongong to the south, and over the picturesque Blue Mountains to the west at Bathurst, about 200 kilometres from the Sydney GPO (at Charles Stuff University).

But the largest concentration of courses is in the southeast comer of the Sunshine State, Queensland. There are six courses either in Brisbane (at Queensland University, the Queensland University of Technology and Griffith University's suburban Nathan cam- pus) or within no more than 90 minutes' drive from the state capital. There are two courses on the tourist strip of the Gold Coast, south of Brisbane, at the privately-owned Bond University and at Griffith's Gold Coast campus, and another in Toowoomba, on the Dar- ling Downs west of Brisbane.

There are another two tertiary journalism programs in Queensland - at Rockhampton (Central Queensland University) and further north at Townsville (James Cook University of North Queensland). So journalism students can study in rural surroundings, close to the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, alongside tourists on the Gold Coast, or in one of the five largest state capitals. Each course has its own unique mix of practical journalism subjects, theoretical courses and electives. Many are modelled in general terms on the traditional liberal arts education afforded by the American model of a journalism school. But in that model, for a school to seek national accreditation, it can have no more than 25% of its subjects in journalism. Most of the undergraduate's journalism courses in Australia have 24 subjects, usually taken at a rate of four subjects per semester for six semesters or three' years' full time study.


One way of comparing the courses in Australia is to characterise them in four groups, depending on the number of journalism subjects in the course. The first group are those where there is a heavy concentration of journalism in the course. There are six courses with 10 or more practical or journalism theory subjects in their mainly 24-subject structure. They are at Charles Sturt, James Cook, Queensland University, Queensland University of Technology, the Royal Melbourne institute of Technology and the University of South Australia.

The next group are those with between six and nine journalism subjects in their under- graduate programs, of which there are 11 - at Bond, Canberra, Central Queensland, Curtin, Deakin, both Griffin courses, Monash, Newcastle, Southern Queensland and the University of Technology, Sydney. The third group are those with less than six (of usually 24) subjects in journalism, and three under- graduate programs fall into this category - Edith Cowan, Swinburne and the University of Western Sydney. The author separates the final two courses in a group of their own because they are the stand alone postgraduate programs - at the University of Wollongong, which has up to 10 journalism subjects in the 12-subject Master of Creative Arts journalism program and Murdoch University which has five journalism subjects in its six-subject Graduate Diploma program.


All 22 programs are very practical in nature, with the majority producing course newspapers and magazines to showcase their students' work. About half have a connection with a local radio station, usually a community station, to give their journalism students practical broadcasting experience. Two courses - at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst, and at the University of Newcastle - have combined to provide a national news service seven days a week for the community radio sector across the country. It is delivered by satellite to about 300 capital cities and rural stations. Two other courses - at the Queensland University of Technology and  the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology - provide material for their respective local community television stations.

All courses encourage their students to undertake work experience during their studies and a third have a compulsory work experience component in their structure. Typically this requires a students to spend four to six weeks on approved work experience with local and national media organisations. The courses are embracing the challenge of the so-called new technologies in different ways, but most have introduced - or are in the process of introducing - the latest digital technology in both the print and broadcast areas. Some have begun producing ezines - magazines on the Internet.

The courses with the biggest annual intakes are at Queensland University in Brisbane and at Deakin University in Geelong, south of Melbourne. Both allow anyone enrolled at their respective institutions to take journalism subjects, and Deakin University also has a large distance education (or external study) enrolment. Two other universities - Southern Queensland at Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, and Monash, near Melbourne - also offer journalism in the distance education mode. Women far outnumber men in Australian tertiary courses, and journalism courses are no exception. The girls outnumber the boys by at least two to one in most journalism courses, rising  o four to one in some instances.

At the time of the author's research, only four undergraduate courses - Bond, Charles Sturt, James Cook and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology - had special entry requirements for local applicants.

All courses welcome applicants from overseas. Entry requirements for overseas students vary, but are available from the individual universities. Most maintain Internet sites to make access to enrolment information easier.


The best estimate at the time of the author's research was that there are about 300 or so mainstream mediajobs in Australia each year for more than three times as many graduates. But journalism graduates are also finding employment in research, magazine and journal production, and the increasingly popular boutique newsletter and electronic magazine (e-zine) markets. Journalism graduates also find their unique  mix of practical research and production skills, and theoretical back- ground, often gains them rewarding jobs out- side the media workforce. While mainstream media jobs may seem limited, there are plenty of jobs for the keen journalism graduate, especially after the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

The author's research shows there are the equivalent of about -82 full-time journalism academics teaching at the 22 courses. Reversing the trend among their students, 60% are male and 40% female. Only four - or slightly less than five percent - lack experience in the mass media. Most have had long careers in mainstream media before joining the academic ranks. Only three (3.6%) have no formal tertiary qualifications, including one who has more than 35 years' experience in print journalism. Nearly half were working on higher degrees at the time of the author's research and a number have since completed those studies.

One in seven of Australia's journalism lecturers are authors, several having published more than one book. Most are involved in media consultancies of one form or another.

The professional body representing Australia's journalism academics is the Journalism Education Association, which can be contacted through their  Secretariat, c/o School of Communication, Charles Sturt University, Panorama Avenue, Bathurst, New South Wales, 2795, Australia. The Association publishes the refereed journal, Australian Journalism Review, twice a year as a forum for academic research and discussion of mass media issues.

For more information contact:

Journalism Education Authority

http: //

For more information contact:

Journalism Education Authority

http: //