‘Please rethink Media Studies now’

Maybe it's not so bad that Media Studies wasn't approved by the Ministry. It would have cannibalized existing degree programmes, says Amanda Gilroy.

Last week the UK reported that the Ministry of Education had declined to approve the proposed new BA in Media Studies. While this is no doubt disappointing for the Journalism department, it should be seen as an opportunity to rethink the whole project. I have not seen the market research for the new program, and would need some convincing to believe that it will attract more students and thus additional funding.

A serious competitor would be the University of Amsterdam’s BA in Media and Culture (along with its four MAs in Media Studies). At the RUG, it is as, if not more, likely that any new undergraduate degree in Media Studies would cannibalize students from those departments in which the study of media already plays a large role, notably my own department, American Studies, and the department of Arts, Culture, and Media.


In American Studies, there is a media track within our MA program that builds on the media theories and analysis of media practices within the BA, across all our courses as well as in specialist units. We study the forms, institutions, and effects of media (especially television, film, photography, print, new media, music), dealing with issues of agency and ideology, citizenship and commodification, ethics, aesthetics, and affect, and taking the Americas and their global reach as our focus. A toolbox of theoretical discourses guides our reflections on producers, texts, and audiences in their historical contexts.

We range from social movements and the informational economy to semiotics and soap operas. Ideally students become critical and creative ‘prosumers’  in their academic work. Approximately 50% of our BA theses are within the field of media cultures; recent theses include studies of rap and black masculinity, film criticism and new media, photography and anti-war sentiment, wartime blogging.

While KCM, of course, can speak for itself, it has established expertise in film studies and music studies, amongst others. All of this is to suggest that the RUG already offers a comprehensive version of media studies, perhaps more comprehensive than the definition of ‘media’ offered by the department of Journalism’s own Minor website (‘informative media for a broader audience’).


Apparently, the Ministry’s rejection of the proposed program derives from the notion that it does not fit within the RUG profile of ‘sustainable society’. There are some other options. The simplest would be some PR for the media studies in AS and KCM, potentially recruiting more students for these programs.

Clearly what goes on already needs more visibility, since it seems to have disappeared under the radar in the present plans. Alternatively, we could think seriously about the limitations of delivering media studies within any single department and opt instead for an inter-departmental collaboration that would still respect departmental identities.

We’re all researching and teaching about participatory communities but there’s a tendency for participation to stop at the doors of the department. At the very least, starting this conversation might lead to new sustainable communities within the RUG.

Amanda Gilroy teaches at the department of American Studies