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What happened to PR degrees?

Welcome to the PRmoment Podcast.

Today we’re talking about PR degrees - or rather the lack of them! To confirm there are still a number of excellent PR degree courses available but there are far fewer PR undergraduate places in the UK than there were 10 years ago.

On the show this week we look into the reasons behind this, asking whether it is a UK-centric trend and whether it’s a decline that can be reversed.

Over the past 5-10 years we’ve seen a massive reduction in the number of undergraduate PR degree places available and as a result, this has seen a big reduction in the number of PR degree graduates coming into PR.

Before we start - just to flag, no one is suggesting that PR degrees should be the only way into PR - that would be ridiculous - but today we’re going to look into the reasons why PR degrees in the UK are less popular than they were and whether this is a trend that can be turned around.

Without pointing out the obvious, while PR degrees have become less popular, PR has grown significantly in the last 5-10 years and this has led to a significant increase in demand in the PR labour market.

This increased demand for PR talent has outstripped supply, leading to a shortage of talent being the number one growth limiting factor for most PR firms and in-house teams.

On the show to discuss this are Tasos Theofilou, principal academic in Public Relations at Bournemouth University, Dr Martina Topic, course leader, Public Relations with Journalism at Leeds Beckett University and Dr Sarah Bowman, senior lecturer, Organisational Communications at Northumbria University

Before we start the PRmoment Awards 2023 are now open for entries - do check out the awards site for all the info you need.

Thanks to the PRmoment Podcast sponsors, The PRCA.

Here’s a summary of what Tasos, Sarah, Martina and PRmoment founder Ben Smith discussed.

3 mins Is it right to say that there are fewer PR degrees in the UK now than at any point in the last 15 years?

“There are not many pure PR degrees around anymore but there are 232 courses from 59 Universities which have “PR” in the title.”

4 mins What are the reasons behind the decreasing number of pure PR undergraduate courses?

“I blame the increasing fees for the decrease in PR degrees”

5 mins Many PR students didn’t really know what PR was… that lack of awareness has become more of a problem now students have to pay for their course.

6 mins “Schools are the ones that don’t recognise PR…our employment rates are nearly 100% but you can’t study (a subject) that you don’t know is there.”

10 mins For the merged degrees - what is the ratio between PR and the other elements of the course?

12 mins Did UK PR try and kill the PR degree?

“We experience a love and hate relationship with the (PR) industry sometimes”

“In every field, you have people who have very strong opinions and they shout the loudest! But I wouldn't say the majority of the industry is against (PR) education, I don't think that’s true ”

“One thing that is missing from the industry is engagement with events for young people to come and learn - that is what PRSA in America is doing well.”

19 mins The combination of tuition fees and the lack of awareness of public relations in schools has caused a decrease in the number of PR degree graduates.

“We need some PR for PR”

20 mins Why are generalist PR degrees thriving in the US and Australia but not in the UK?

21 mins Does UK PR underappreciate academic PR theory?

22 min What does academic PR in the UK need from the professional bodies - what is the PRSA doing in the US that we could earn from?

23 mins Where can people find academic PR papers?

27 mins Do PR degrees help PR challenge to be more diverse and represent the society it communicates to?

28 mins When students take combination degrees where PR is part of the course, such as PR and fashion or PR and advertising - do many of the graduates end up working in PR?

32 mins What would each of our panellists do to give PR degrees back their mojo?

“I think our professional bodies need to be far more robust and champion the practice of public relations”

35 mins Why a greater emphasis on qualifications and training will drive better awareness of PR as a professional and worthwhile career.

37 mins How could PR degrees evolve their content in the future?

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