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Outcry over MSU degrees scrapping chaos

by Staff reporter
11 Nov 2020 at 13:47hrs | Views
LOCAL and media scholars in the diaspora have come out guns blazing, blasting the unilateral decision by authorities to change the Midlands State University Department of Media and Society Studies curriculum that has made the university's media degree standout.

NewsDay understands that while the lecturers in the department of Media and Society Studies supported the Minimum Body of Knowledge (MBK) across universities, they were disappointed that the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (ZIMCHE) had ignored their contribution for unknown reasons.

"However, it is with great disappointment and trepidation that we have to register our displeasure and dissatisfaction with the current programmes that are available for teaching," sources said.

They added that it was sad that submissions from other sister universities were included without major alterations yet MSU's were disregarded.

The MSU Media and Society Studies curricula for both the Bachelor of Science Honours degree, the Postgraduate Diploma, and the Master of Science degree have not been included in the MBKs.

The stakeholders strongly suspected these omissions were deliberate after having raised their concerns at the last ZIMCHE consultative meeting.

All MSU current programmes have been constantly revised in response to advice and recommendations from major stakeholders such as the media/journalism industry, the ministry and corporate communications sector.

In 2018, the programme received a critical review from external examiner, Professor Winston Mano, a world renowned media academic based at the Westminster University in the United Kingdom.

The scholars argued that if there arose a need to review the degree programmes, media experts should be consulted.

Another source said: "In conclusion, we request that our submissions for the bachelor's degree, the postgraduate diploma and the masters degrees be included in the MBKs. We also request to continue our programme nomenclature, and revise the MBKs in line with the observations made."

The media scholars argued that if the Media and Society Studies programmes have to be reviewed as constituting MBKs, genuine media academics should be used as there is suspicion that the thought leaders involved in assessing MSU contribution lacked depth and competencies in dealing with its programmes, or comparing the programmes with similar programmes worldwide.

Interviews carried out by NewsDay with several media scholars in and out of Zimbabwe showed a lot of them were unhappy with the recommendation made by ZIMCHE hence the need for engagement.

On Monday, this paper was told that the media lecturers at the Gweru-based institution threatened to resign en masse, citing that the move was done without their input.

"This is unfortunate and problematic and we only hope to engage in order to stop what sounds to me like madness," one of the media scholars, who has since started an initiative to petition government on the matter, said. Others said the latest move was a threat to academic freedom.

MSU graduates are rated as highly-influential and competitive on the market given their current programme courses, but the latest development is said to threaten their ratings.
ZIMCHE remained mum on the matter yesterday.

"We find it absurd that all students are being limited to this masters' degree which limits their career paths. The council did not carry out proper diligence in coming up with these MBKs, especially for Media and Society Studies," a source close to the developments said.

"Academics should be left to develop curricula in universities without political interference. If this top-down approach is widespread in all Zimbabwean universities as suggested here, then this is the end of academic freedom," other scholars said, adding there was need for a common position.

They are also seeking the intervention of the Zimbabwe Media Commission. The scholars said they would soon release a statement.

"As a way forward, all stakeholders must sit down and find a way to address this standoff," a journalism and media scholar based in the diaspora said.

Source - newsday

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