DESTIN: DO, ESTIMATE, INVENT
At the end of year people tend to remember the most exciting moments in the past period – as some kind of its symbol. Personally for me the first part of 2019 was marked by outstanding Fulbright experience. But the other half of the year – it was definitely the DESTIN time.
Especially memorable and full of insights was our collegial trip to Poznan and local Adam Mickiewicz University. Against the American universities’ background earlier it was another obvious evidence of the reform steps Ukrainian journalism education has to undertake in order to maintain being attractive for students, actual on the market and effective in terms of the role media play in modern society.
To explain my willingness to write this text I have to display several key observations I’ve made during the late November week spent on the Department of political studies and journalism.
- There is actually no tremendous difference between courses taught in both schools: journalism programs in AMU and LNU have much in common. But there are still differences – for instance AMU’s master program consists of four semesters and LNU’s – just of three semesters.
- Research projects of AMU’s students and faculties seem to be very narrow and particularly specified. Theoretical aspects here are used as a basis for in depth analysis of case studies. On the other hand we have our experience of scientific works and other texts righting – sometimes overloaded by theory and without profound study of particular aspect or object of the actual topic.
- The department eagerly engages actual professional in journalism and media industry to hold workshop activities with students. LNU uses this model too but sometimes it is way harder to get few hours of a prominent journalist or media manager attention as an academic gift for the students.
- English language is widely spread in AMU, but guest lecturers and university’s staff needs no specific certificate of English language proficiency to work with students. Ukrainian reality is full of norms regulating the level of language proficiency (B2) for academic staff but we have also another problem – students are not always ready to be taught at this level as they are not fluent in English either.
- University and School of political studies and journalism enjoy academic freedom in terms of partners and programs to participate and foster the education process. The state still plays a great role here but allows the university administration to use other management opportunities for development. From that perspective it is obvious why AMU is a part of great program of international cooperation with other European Universities with new possibilities for academic staff and students.
- Student run radio, TV and print media in AMU have good technical base and are excellently equipped – as a perfect starting point for students’ practical track: if someone wants and chooses further excellence path – the department officials try to help students by using their personal contacts and experience. My colleagues in Lviv are trying to do the same kind of favors for their students but the former (even soviet and post-soviet) ties between the school and particularly newsrooms seem to be too weak to be called official and stable.
- Former students play the key role in administrating the workshop studios and interaction with younger colleagues. They seem to be interested and motivated at one time –unlike their Ukrainian colleagues: maybe they are oriented on the further academic track possibilities in their Alma Mater or there is a different compensation – not obvious for LNU staff.
- Material questions are solved in AMU through institutional, international and national grants: school demonstrates good work, nice profit and the state supports its activities and lets its participation in different programs funded by EU. In Ukraine there also have to be no obstacles for such kind of interaction but sometimes too sophisticated bureaucracy meets the inertness of particular people and there are noresults achieved.
- AMU staff seems to be oriented on constant analysis and improvement of a benchmarking and feedback gathering system – therefore their work looks much like students’ interests and learning objectives oriented at one time.
Taking into consideration mentioned observations we may consider some changes Ivan Franko National University’s of Lviv School of journalism has to face in the nearest future.
- Due to the terms of DESTIN project we obviously have to make up new insights and methods of program delivery in terms of its unification with other institutions involved in the Project and its standardization.
- We may also review LNU’s approach in the field of scientific research – reorienting the faculties and students on a bit narrow but still vivid case studies for the sake of industry.
- LNU may search for new funding opportunities to hire professional journalists and media managers to work with students in a workshop format – even without English language B2 certificate. But simultaneously special language courses for faculties and students might be helpful.
- Departments’ staff have to be trained in order to learn actual methods of universities’ grants search activities in order to attract news organizations and other donors for new classes’ equipment and other needs.
- LNU’s School of journalism has to search for new European partner institution to establish educational or research consortiums of its own for students’ good and University’s attractiveness.
- Library resources have to be reinforced – in order to provide students and faculties with stronger sources of actual scientific approaches. Grants and other funding programs are desperately needed here for libraries and workshop space enrichment and modernization.
- School’s graduates have to be interested in staying connected to the University and help future generations.
- Students do not have to search for practice outside the university’s walls – everything has to be prepared for those who would like to practice their professional skills in an academic surrounding. University may foster student run media for practical track as a part of the learning process. Each department has to start a particular student run media (online TV, Radio, Newspaper, online news site) and make it a part of the learning process and everyday practice with further links to particular educational program of the School.
- Benchmarking algorithms have to be reviewed – due to the actual needs of the target market and students aspirations.
Besides the fact that language and curriculum freedom, technical and library supplies, international cooperation and material support of any mindful initiative play an essential role in students’ happiness, we have to admit an existence of several obstacles that may influence on the final results of the Project.
- The majority of faculties might be not very eager to implement the outcomes of the project as a change of their curriculum.
- The new benchmarking system and evaluation of educational program effectiveness might be embarrassing and frustrating for students and lecturers after all years of previous experience of interaction.
- Academic freedom for Project’s universities may be questioned after any changes in the Ministry of Education or other governmental level and we might face the need to defend our gains in order to preserve them and stand for further evolution process.
But even after taking into consideration these obstacles we have to admit that the number of new possibilities opened by the DESTIN Project is far more inspiring to neglect any shade of a destructive doubt and take our chance – with a team of great professionals from so many countries, with the baggage of unique experience and eagerness to share the success and multiply it in Ukraine as a part of a bigger European journalism teachers’ family. As our principles and goals have much in common – despite any physical borders or other divisions.
Yuriy Zalizniak (LNU),
photos by author