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Communication (MA)

Course Description

This highly regarded course offers a rigorous analysis of the political, economic, cultural and sociological factors which shape the practices and outcomes of mass media. It will give you the opportunity to study and research the main ways in which social scientists have analysed the role of the mass media and communication, and how to develop, evaluate and apply research to evaluate those theories.

The MA ensures that you will receive a relevant, well-grounded, high-quality education and skill base, and a clear and comprehensive understanding of communication and the mass media. It is designed both for those who already work in or want to work in the media, and for those who want to go on to pursue further academic research in media and communication.

Based on continuous assessment, the course is taught in lectures and seminars by the team from Westminster’s top-rated Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI). You will be part of a bustling, multicultural academic department which boasts a strong research culture. You will be able to attend the regular talks by outside speakers (academics and practitioners) on a variety of communication and mass media issues.

Core modules, semester one

- Dissertation Module
A taught module and group workshops in the first semester will guide you in conducting a major piece of independent research. This module will be supplemented by individual supervisions beginning from the second semester. The aim is to give you a guided framework within which you can demonstrate your ability to carry out advanced independent study and write it up in the form of a dissertation. The dissertation is a 15,000-word piece of original research on a topic agreed with your supervisor and related to the political, economic, cultural and/or sociological factors which shape the practices and outcomes of mass media, including media texts and the audience reception of them.

- Theories of Communication
The module is intentionally eclectic. You will cover (in a loosely historical way) the arguments, advantages and problems of the main sociological, cultural and psychological theories about the media. It aims to provide a comprehensive introduction to the most important ways of approaching the fundamental issues posed by the relationships between the media of communication and social and economic life. It will also enable you to understand the problems posed by different intellectual traditions, and to place those theories in their proper contexts.

Option modules, semester one

- Global Media
This module provides an overview of contemporary developments in global media and communication industries and their impact on cultures worldwide. It focuses on transformations in existing media, with a particular emphasis on broadcasting and the audio-visual media and looks at innovations of new information and communications technologies, especially the Internet.

- Political Analysis of Communications Policy
As international regimes and national regulation become increasingly important in the creation and delivery of communications, it becomes necessary to understand how the two levels interact. This module will introduce you to those theories of policy making and international relations which provide tools for the analysis of communications policies, and their dynamic interaction at the national and international level.

- Political Economy of Communication
This module will introduce you to the political economy approach to analysing the production, distribution and consumption of media content in text and audiovisual form, whether online or offline, as well as the workings of telecoms networks behind online media. It identifies distinctive economic features of media and relates these to trends in the organisation of specific media industries, taking account of ways in which the economics of media have been affected by the spread of digital technologies.

- Study Skills (no credits)
If your first language is not English, or you have no experience of the British education system, you will benefit from this module. You will be taken through the process of producing a piece of written work, from note taking to editing, so as to enable you to produce written work in accordance with current British academic standards and practices.

- Technology and Communications Policy
This module will offer a comprehensive introduction to a range of broadcasting and telecommunications technologies and the internet, enabling you to assess the economic and political issues surrounding each technology. Topics covered include capital investment in networks, how and why technologies change, strategic interests and communications, and substitutable technologies and the creation of markets.

Core module, semester two

- Approaches to Media and Communication Research
This module will introduce you to the main methods of communication research. We shall look at how to undertake selective quantitative and qualitative methods, understanding and exploring the different stages of the social science research process from a definition of a research hypothesis, to data collection and analysis. We shall also look at the theoretical reasoning behind different methodological approaches to media and society, in particular the politics of social research.

Option modules, semester two

- Chinese Media
This module is for you if you have little or no knowledge of the Chinese media, but nevertheless realise that for anyone interested in the media in the world today, some understanding of the biggest national media system is a necessity. The objective is to introduce participants to the Chinese media in the context of a world order changing on account of the growth in wealth and power of several countries, in particular China. The Chinese media are seen as a factor in this, and also as an example of a media system distinct from the Anglo-American, which has often been touted as a model of universal applicability.

- Development and Communications Policy
The aims of this module are to provide you with a theoretical overview of the concept of ‘development’, and the opportunity to consider how it relates to empirical experience in communications in small and developing countries. You will be able to compare the experiences of a range of countries in attempting to retain cultural autonomy, in developing their own communications technologies and policies, in democratisation, and in exporting mass media content.

- Media, Activism and Censorship
This module offers a critical assessment of the role of media in political mobilization, social movements, dissent, wars, conflicts, elections, and political and social crises. The module considers the impact of different forms of censorship and regulation on social, political and cultural expression in the media. It also looks at the impact of the internet and new means of transparency and communications on journalism and activism in a range of circumstances from secure democracies through different kinds of political systems.

- Media Audience
This module begins with an overview of media audiences, and goes on to analyse audiences and media institutions, passive/ active audiences, media influence and effects, and ethnography and media audiences. The second part of the module is devoted to discussions of media and identity, fans, diasporas and new media audiences.

- Media Business Strategy
This module explores the challenges facing media organisations in the fields of strategy and innovation. It addresses the contextual nature of strategy formation, identifies and analyses key drivers of change within media industries, and examines the application of structured methods of planning in media product and service development. The module applies management concepts and tools to business and strategic challenges confronting public and private media enterprises across the globe.

- Policies for Digital Convergence
The module studies digital convergence and the role of policy and regulation in facilitating and controlling that process. The focus is on Internet-related policy debates and concepts drawing mostly on developments in the USA, the European Union and Britain but with a critical awareness of the issues facing developing, transitional and small countries. It critically assesses competing arguments concerning the interplay between policy and technology and implications for market structures and business models, as appropriate.

- Sociology of News
You will examine both theoretically and empirically different aspects of the news creation, dissemination and reception processes. The module will look at the relevance of different traditions in mass media research to the study of news and will be based on a number of case studies. The module will focus mainly on contemporary practices, in both print and electronic media, but attention to historical and conceptual perspectives will also be given.

Note: The University is constantly improving its offer to students. It is intended that some changes, such as practice options under new course titles, may be approved between printing this brochure and enrolment for this course. You are therefore advised to look at the website for updated details.

Associated careers

Graduates have found jobs in middle and upper management in the media industries, as well as in the broader private sector (eg consulting and advertising firms), the public sector (eg government ministries, regulatory authorities), international organisations and NGOs.

Visit the Communication (MA) page on the University of Westminster website for more details!

Student Profiles

Entry Requirements

You should possess, or be expecting, a good first degree (equivalent to at least an Upper Second or a minimum Grade Point Average (GPA ) of 3.00) from a recognised university in a humanities or social sciences discipline and/or have relevant professional experience. Particular consideration will be given to mature applicants.

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