By Enock Sithole

After years of planning, the Uganda Christian University (UCU) has finally introduced a PhD programme in journalism, media, and communication.

The first cohort of 15 students is currently beginning with a first year of coursework, after which they will work on research proposals and then the actual research, said Dean of the School of Journalism, Media and Communication, Professor Monica Chibita. 

Full-time students will complete the programme in three to four years, while part-time candidates will need five to six years.

Financed through a Norwegian grant, the project is being undertaken in partnership with Norway’s NLA University College, the University of Rwanda and the University of KwaZulu-Natal. This is the first PhD of its kind in Uganda, encompassing all the three disciplines of journalism, media, and communication.

    Uganda Christian University via Facebook.

The curriculum covers areas such as research methods, philosophy of knowledge, teaching skills, ethics, worldviews, computer applications for research, and several other items, said Professor Chibita. 

The candidates were drawn from Master’s graduates in various areas of study such as journalism, media, and communication as well as literature and some other humanities and social sciences disciplines. Some without a Master’s degree were also admitted based on their professional experience  and following a rigorous selection process.  

Graduates of the programme should be able to work in strategic communication, journalism, media, and policy or teaching, said Professor Chibita. 

The programme is structured in four thematic areas which candidates were invited to choose from and argue their case during the selection process. One is media, democracy, and development. The others are gender representation and participation; media, crisis, and risk; and then media in science communication.

Highly experienced academics have been enlisted to teach in the programme. Professor Emeritus Ruth Teer-Tomaselli is among the teaching staff. She is a veteran academic, who for several years taught in the areas of culture, communication, and media studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

Professor Chibita said the graduates from the programme would add value in many sectors in Uganda and the East African sub-continent. She said there was a “dire” shortage of PhDs in the fields covered by the programme.

The graduates would not only go to work in various sectors, some would end up teaching and produce future PhDs, she added. 

The programme was designed after a needs assessment study: “We looked at whether there was a demand for a PhD in this area. Secondly, what is the perceived value add? What is the desired course content? Who should it be targeted at?” 

The structure of the programme was also interrogated during the conceptualisation exercise. “What is the programme structure? What mode of delivery should we use? Should it be full-time or part-time etc? And then, what support systems are students looking for?” The findings were very instrumental in the building of the programme, said Professor Chibita. 

The other thing is that we are putting quite a lot of emphasis on argumentation, reasoning, critical thinking, and so on, which is quite a gap in our operating system. We hope that this will make a contribution to subjects relating to journalism, media, communication, democracy, human rights, and social justice. 

We also have a very big emphasis on ethics. There is a gap that we think to be able to train people at the PhD level with a focus on ethics would add value to society. We also have a very strong emphasis on gender and this will contribute to a better understanding of the dynamics of gender, institutions, and society,” said Professor Chibita.