03 April 2007

But it's OK, 'cause I've got a PhD in piss-taking...

If you're a regular viewer, you'll already know that TWL has a less-than-favourable view of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (see here and here, for example). We're not entirely sure why...it just seems like a bit of a stuffy old institution that is struggling to remain relevant.

This week's fuel to our fire is a letter in PRWeak from Mark Ramsdale, head of education policy at the CIPR. From what we can ascertain, the CIPR's education policy seems to be: "If you haven't got a degree in PR, you shouldn't be in the industry."

Under the headline, "PR degrees should be a recruitment must" which, admittedly, we don't know whether was penned by Ramsdale or PRWeak's editorial staff, he writes: "PR is a strategic business function and requires a skills set that non-PR degrees simply do not provide."

Not only do I think that this entirely ignores the excellent training and skills programmes in place at many of the UK's PR consultancies, I also don't think it's true! For me, qualities that are vital in succeeding in PR include a decent level of intelligence, a willingness to learn, an ability to write, a proactive approach, a dash of confidence and some half-decent presentation skills...all of which can be gained in degrees covering many different subjects and, indeed, through experience outside higher educational establishments...like it can for other important roles.

For instance, some might say that being a CEO is a fairly "strategic business function" but I don't see the Chartered Institute of Chief Executives calling for a policy of degrees in Chief Executing being essential for new recruits...

Ramsdale goes on to state that, "The CIPR approves degree courses based on their ability to equip students with the necessary training to operate as effective PR professionals." That's fine - I have no problem with PR degrees per se - but to say that only those people that have been through a CIPR approved degree should find employment in the industry is elitist and arrogant.

How many superb PR practitioners would have been lost to the industry had such a policy become entrenched decades ago? Indeed, the only reason that UK universities have been able to create PR degrees (and to have them full to bursting and generating lots of lovely tuition fees) is because people without PR degrees built an industry! And now we're told that those very same people haven't got the requisite skills...(as you might have guessed, I lack a degree in PR...)

I ask you, I really do.


Anonymous said...

No degree is required in order to fly fast jets for the RAF - just a handful GCSEs, some aptitude and a few years of intensive 'on the job' training.

A comparison like that makes the CIPR look ridiculous...

Andrew Smith said...

Its just rubbish. Perhaps there has been a sea change in students on these courses, but I used to do the rounds of Leeds, Cardiff, Manchester et al giving presentations on real world PR to them - it didn't take much to work out that only a handful of them showed any understanding of what PR was about (and naturally, these were the ones you tried to hire) - but quite frankly, some of them would be lucky to find work in any industry. The very notion that only those with PR degrees should work in the industry is ludicrous.

Iain T said...

Well this guy obviously has an agenda to push but it's self evidently hogwash. I've only come across one person with a PR degree and he couldn't find his backside with both hands and a torch.

I'd also question why you need a three year course to learn how to do the job. Most in company training courses last six months at best and the vast majority of that time is spent learning on the job.

::::r c:::: said...

In the same issue there was a feature 'News Analysis: How important is PR experience?' (subscription required) written by Alex Black, Ramsdale takes a much more moderate tone:

Interestingly, trade body the CIPR is not against people moving from other areas of a business into PR.

“PR is a strategic business function, so people moving from a business management background will have worked as strategic thinkers.” says CIPR head of education policy Mark Ramsdale.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more. I run a small team with clients in some niche technology sectors. Degree qualifications range from American and Commonwealth Literature to Leisure Management. Not one of them got the job on the basis of these degrees alone (clearly) but all of them have demonstrated an ability to excel in some pretty challenging situations. The skills that have equipped them to succeed could have come from any decent quality degree-level qualification, and if anything I am disinclined to interview people who have made a career choice at 17 and have little experience outside the narrow confines of whatever it is they teach in PR degrees.

....the world's leading.... said...

Oh, yes...see that. So now I'm confused...are PR degrees essential or not? Or is general maagerial experience (or "strategic thinking") more important to a PR role than either a PR degree or some PR experience..?!

I've asked Mark Ramsdale to pop over an explain himself.

Anonymous said...

to be honest most of the PR grads I see lack any sense of interest or experience and tend to have really shonky written english. so I'll stick to those with good degrees and a levels regardless of subject.

Anonymous said...

I have a PR degree but I don't think they should be made necessary to get into the profession.

The good thing about a PR degree is, if you know the career you want to progress into after study (in my case I knew I wanted to get into PR)it allows you to develop an understanding for the profession as a whole.

Around a year and a half before graduation I pretty much knew what type of PR I wanted to get into and where I wanted to do it so, in that respect, I benefited from it.

But I think drive, determination, willingness to learn and how much enjoyment you get out of working in PR are the key points.

Prem said...

How about some sort of engineering degree being useful in tech PR?

Or medicine as a background to pharma PR?

Or any English-language based degree (history in my case) as a good proving ground for writing skills.

Actually one of the best PR folks I know doesn't have a degree at all, and one of our graduate intake this year (with a PR degree) left to become a lawyer instead. Hmmmm - methinks the degree is less necessary than we are being led to believe.

Anonymous said...

One thing many recent PR grads seem to have in common is the perception that their degree entitles them to a fast track, better pay and means they are more 'experienced' at their jobs before they even start.

It doesn't.

Serena said...

Very interesting post. I came to it via a PR discussion list and have 'linked' you in my PR blog. Please feel free to comment but bear in mind that I am coming to this debate halfway through a PR qualification and at an early stage in my career. (ie be gentle...!)

Anonymous said...

I'm against vocational degrees in general. Degrees used to be about broadening your education and expanding your mind, not getting a job. I'm a chartered accountant, and the best chartered accountant who trained with me had a degree in Classics from Cambridge (we both worked for Deloitte's). Sad that our young people are pressured into pigeon-holing themselves so early - there's plenty of time for your career after university. Or at least, there used to be.

Chris G said...

Let’s face it. The only thing of value to come out of the CIPR in recent years was a free glass of wine and cheesy nibble at some event or other, but let’s not use this discussion as a reason to bash graduates with PR degrees (I’ll just make it clear at the start that I haven’t got a PR degree – French & Spanish, thanks for asking).

There is some great ‘talent’ coming through from PR courses. Likewise some of the best PR people I’ve worked with have not had PR degrees at all. What they have had in common is a fair level of intelligence, a lot of common sense, a willingness to learn and an ability to work hard without falling to pieces. If you can add to that a sponge-like absorption of information and an ability to get on with other people, then that’s more than you can ask for. Everything else can be learned on the job.

No word on whether “Hayley Booth, 30, of the PR agency Brando” has a PR degree: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article1610495.ece

Stuart Bruce said...

Started to write a comment, but it got too damned long so it's now a post:


Rajiv said...

Like Stuart, the comment became too long, so here's the post


....the world's leading.... said...

Rajiv, I've read your post...and I'm almost at a loss about where to start with a response.

Perhaps I should start by suggesting that if your post is reflective of the standard of education at Leeds Metropolitan University, then our industry really is in trouble. The grammar is simply appalling; from the entirely superfluous comma in the headline to the fact that in paragraph four you manage to ask three separate questions yet fail to end any of the sentences with a question mark.

One of the first things that I learnt (on the job) was that poor grammar and spelling completely devalues what you've written...which by rights means that I should dismiss everything that you've stated, which I'm happy to do on the content itself in any case.

You say things such as:

"My perspective stems from the very simple equation that with a degree one can attain work experience. However with work experience you cannot gain theoretical knowledge. No matter how many years of work experience a person might have, it will never enlighten him to the theoretical aspects of the job that can only be mastered through a specialized educational degree."

What absolute rubbish! I read books too you know...

You fantastically reckon that:

"I can challenge any student today who doesn’t have a PR degree to do better than me in this field. I just think it is not possible."

How incredibly arrogant! I know plenty of non-PR grads who have blown the socks off PR grads in the workplace (and, fair enough, plenty of great PR grads too).

Then, brilliantly, you shoot yourself in the foot with this comment about people from journalism and other majors:

"He will be better than me in only one thing, which could be writing (Not to be boastful), but I doubt mine and my fellow PR students witting skills are any less competitive."

You end with this:

"Lastly, No matter how many years of work experience (without specialized qualification) one might put into a PR job, he can only specialize or master aspects of PR that he has worked on. This cannot beat the person who has attained qualifications through the highly structured and extensive curriculum taught in a PR degree course.

"Any PR companies hiring people today, should consider what I have said above."

Oh, the conceit of it!

It's a poorly written and poorly constructed argument, Rajiv. Best of luck in your PR career.

Rajiv said...

I am sorry to say, but I had no idea that this was a personal attack column. I thought it was a blog where you share your personal opinions and air your views, being well aware of the fact that there will always be people who disagree with you (not lash at you). We still live in a democracy, don't we?

I was going to mention my new post, which would have been an addition to the ongoing debate. However, now I won't, since I refuse to allow my views to be used as somebody's personal agenda.

It seems a bit ironical that a professional like you would display such immature behaviour. I guess that they forgot to teach you diplomatic writing etiquettes (on your job). I am sorry if I hurt your feelings in any way, but your bitterness is tearing my heart apart. ;)

PS. Thank you for your wishes and concern for my career. I really appreciate that.

....the world's leading.... said...

Rajiv, Rajiv...I'm concerned that you might not have the resilience required for a job in PR.

You pointed us to your post. I read it and disagreed with much of what you said, so I pointed that out. I'm direct, that's my style. I've always appreciated honesty in others' feedback on my work so I'm the same myself.

But I'll tell you something, my directness is nothing to that of a journalist that you're calling on deadline with a duff story...but that's something you'll learn when you move out of theory and into practice.

If you're talking about my comments on the quality of your writing, then I stand by that too. Again, it's direct feedback that will be repeated when you move into the working environment. When I started my first job, I had one boss who would refuse to look at my written work if it contained incorrect spelling or poor grammar; another would give it back to me with comments in red pen all over it. I'd be made to feel stupid...and that's how I became a decent writer. I don't resent it - I appreciate it.

Start living in the real world Rajiv...it's tough.

Rajiv said...

TWL, I really appreciated your comment and because of that I am making an extra effort to improve my writing skills. You have mentioned somethings which I have been asking many people in my education circle to tell me.

My only point was that you could have been a little more polite.


....the world's leading.... said...

Good for you Rajiv! Well done.