The unexpected impact of spending cuts

Originally uploaded by iwouldstay.

Now that last month’s spending cuts have been thoroughly digested, it’s a good time to look at the implications for media training.

The impact of the Browne Review has been looked at by the Wannabe Hacks who rightly point out that there may be more demand for fast track NCTJ courses as students opt for traditional subjects along with more cost effective vocational training.

However, I believe that even if this shift happens, the academic route into journalism will remain strong particularly at post graduate level, despite fee increases at undergraduate level. And ironically, I believe it will be the public sector spending cuts that boost the numbers of Journalism MA Programmes and other professional post-graduate courses.

It has been predicted that the public sector in the UK will shed around one million jobs over the next few years. Few of these people will be able to find new jobs in the public sector, leaving them with the option of finding work in the private sector, starting their own business or retraining.

A good proportion of these employees will have many years’ service and climbed the ladder high enough to get a decent redundancy package. Those that do, may take the opportunity to change career, and with some voluntary redundancy packages approaching £50,000, they will have enough behind them to return to academia.

Journalism is one of those professions that people talk about doing at 21 and then somehow never get round to it. Believe me, there are a lot of frustrated journalists sitting behind desks in the NHS, local authorities and civil service.

Many will still never get round to do it, but with a decent civil service pay off, even some of the most risk averse public sector employees might decide its time to retrain, see the world or write that book. So perhaps the next cohort of post-graduate journalism students will have more than its fair share of mature students.

Leaving journalism aside for a moment, it will be interesting to find out whether the public sector job losses lead to an increase in mature, postgraduate students. A generation with a much lighter debt burden, and in some cases the security of owning a property, will find the ever increasing fees more manageable than their younger counterparts.

It will be interesting to see what these new students bring to academia. They will certainly have a lot of life experience to share. I remember having seminars with former miners and steelworkers on my politics course and found that their perspectives really enriched my study.

It will also be interesting to see whether an older intake of students will transform the professions that they eventually enter. Going back to journalism, I expect that few will be happy with the kind of wages the profession is known for over the long term.

This could mean that some of our best trained journalists might not ever enter the profession. It could also create a cohort of freelancers, entrepreneurs or even hobby journalists.

We won’t know for a few years what the effect of this will be on a university sector facing its own cuts. But I think that this is something that universities and employers should both prepar for.

*As someone who has recently been made redundant, I realise that this is the exception rather than the rule. But out of one million people there may be thousands of people with a settlement like this and many more with substantial though more modest packages.

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