DESTIN Partners Studied Swedish Experience in Journalism Education

October 6 – 10, over 40 representatives of various HEI and public institutions from Ukraine, Poland and the Great Britain traveled to Swedish town Kalmar within the framework of Erasmus+ KA2 CBHE DESTIN project. Academic staff and media practitioners explored journalism training programs at the Linnaeus University, visited the editor’s offices of the Swedish Public Radio R4 and one of the oldest Swedish broadsheets, “Barometern”.

«Open your mind to new opportunities»

Throughout the whole term of the visit, the participants stayed at Linnaeus University in the Småland region of Sweden. Its two campuses, located in Kalmar and Växjö, host 32 thousand of students, among them 2 thousand international students, mostly from Bangladesh and Pakistan, as well as from China, Nigeria and various European countries. The University has a well-developed network of overseas offices all over the world. The academic staff of the university comprises 180 professors and 300 postdocs.   

Journalism training programs are delivered by the Department of Media and Journalism at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. FOJO Media Institute, which is also a structural unit of the university, provides further practical training for both journalism teachers and practitioners.

In order to attract students worldwide, the Faculty of Arts and Humanities delivers about 100 courses in English, as well as 3 Master and 2 Bachelor degree programs. The internationalization strategy of the university comprises academic mobility, field trips, summer academy, professional trainings abroad etc. Much attention is paid to student exchanges – each degree program incorporates international academic mobility. LU International Office, as its coordinator Linda Liedsrtöm, has pointed out, provides organizational support to students and teachers upon various academic mobility issues. In order to popularize its programs, the University spreads information via social networks, through schools, during open days etc.

The Linnaeus University’s motto is «Open your mind to new opportunities», and its logo features the tree as a symbol of life and knowledge. One of the newest university sites opened last year refers to these symbols through the design concept (transparent study rooms, wooden furniture), as well as through real living trees, literally growing from under the ground floor. The university interior is quite impressive: it provides comfortable space for study and recreation, i.e. special kitchens close to study areas, friendly environment for people with special needs and even plaster boxes in the public conveniences.

Bachelor Programs in Journalism

The Linnaeus University Department of Media and Journalism delivers three Bachelor programs: Creative Media (covered for DESTIN participants by Peter Dahlén); Journalism and Media Production (presented by Emelie Kempe); and Mass Media and Business (described by Örjan Pettersson). All the three program leaders are the respective programs’ graduates.

Each program consists of a number of courses, that is, academic disciplines. The course lasts for 5-10 weeks, from 12 to 16 hours a week. Some courses are theoretical, others focus on practical issues. The students master 4 courses per semester (half academic year). The courses are taught not only by the PhDs, but by the Masters as well. If the course is one and the same for all the three programs, students attend joined lectures or trainings. The content of the courses is subject to annual revision and upgrade, while the programs are being improved twice a decade.

The study results are summarized in a Bachelor project to be prepared within 10 weeks. Media students can submit a creative project, i.e. a documentary, TV or radio program. Throughout the whole term of study, the university provides all the necessary facilities for such projects: the Faculty of Arts and Humanities has modern media laboratories, radio- and TV-studios, clipping rooms, study room with 62 computers, and a storage to keep cameras, voice recorders, batteries, journalistic kits, chargers, drones etc. All the software purchased by the university is officially licensed. Every five years, the university invests into equipment upgrade.

Improving Skills and Mastering New Competencies at FOJO Media Institute

For 20 years in a row, FOJO Media Institute, which is now part of Linnaeus University, has been improving professional skills of journalism teachers and practitioners. Apart from that, as Diana Sander, DESTIN coordinator at LU, has pointed out, the institute delivers international trainings, hosts conferences and seminars, published books, newspapers and magazines. In the meantime, FOJO team has successfully implemented over 50 programs all over the world, i.e. in Bangladesh, Vietnam, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Laos, Cambodia etc. Thanks to the financial support granted by the Ministry of Education of Sweden, journalists and teachers of journalism can take courses at FOJO free of charge. As Nina Hjelmgren, Head of FOJO Academic Department, has stated, the institute delivers up to 20 various courses for over 500 journalists. When designing a 1-5 days long course, its practical utility for journalistic routine is of utter importance alongside quality (1-3 best trainers for each course) and cost-efficiency (course budget). What matters most is practical approach and usability. During the course, the participants travel across Sweden and produce reports from various regions of the country.

According to the FOJO staff, one of the key challenges to modern journalism is quantitative rise and diversity of media content leading to multifunctionality; another challenge concerns investigative journalism longreads and data journalism. Therefore, students are encouraged to take a course investigative journalism, or a course in longread planning, a climate change course, a Baltic-focused course (highlighting the role of media in saving the Baltic sea). As Kersti Forsberg, FOJO Director, has marked, new courses can be developed based on the media market conditions and relevant problems in journalism. 

Most courses are designed for 12 – 16 participants, both editorial staff and freelancers focused on self-improvement. The groups are formed based on age, gender, geography, kind of media, experience etc. All the participants take an obligatory survey to be analyzed two months after the end of the course.

The Oldest Newspaper and the Talk Radio

While staying in Kalmar, the project participants had a chance to pay a visit to local media. One of the DESTIN groups visited the editor’s office of Barometern, Sweden’s oldest broadsheet published in Swedish since 1841 and spreading through Sweden and Finland. 

The other group visited Swedish Public Radio “R4”, a national talk mode radio channel broadcasting pop-music, leisure and sports. Programs go on air for all day long, morning broadcasts being the most popular. As a public radio, R4 is supported from the taxes, so there is no advertisement, apart from the social ones. Swedish Radio pays much attention to factchecking and professional standards. Its activities are based on three principles: “you can trust us”, “radio for everyone”, “sound in focus”. The Swedes seem to be ever so concerned with the language quotes: according to the law, no less than 45% of songs must be performed in native language. “R4” is a partner of Linnaeus University and is open to creative collaboration.

Discussing the Competencies

Since DESTIN is aimed at improving the journalism education in Ukraine, it’s vitally important to define the set of professional competencies to be developed with the help of yet to be modernized curricula. During the study visit, the partners used the opportunity to discuss the list of competences prepared by the head of Zaporizhzhia delegation Katerina Sirinyok-Dolgaryova based on Tartu Declaration. 10 core competencies had been defined as a result of those arduous debates:

  1. To understand journalism-related legislative, ethical, regulatory processes and policies;
  2. To possess skills and competencies required by various media to work upon diverse topics. 
  3. To acquire knowledge from multiple fields of study;
  4. To organize and to plan professional activities;
  5. To be able to collect, select and analyze information from various sources;
  6. To be able to use various representation formats; 
  7. To accept criticism, to be self-critical; 
  8. To master communicative skills and teamwork, to solve complex problems;
  9. To acquire managerial skills, to develop integrated situational awareness 
  10. To acquire research-oriented competencies relevant to professional development.

Getting ready for the field trip to Poland and waiting for the equipment

Since Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan is the next HEI to welcome the DESTIN participants in November 18-22, its representatives Jedrzej Skrzypczak and Bartosz Hordecki, had devoted on of the field trip’s working days to introduce the partners to the local nuances of journalism education. On November 21, Poznan would host a Round Table conference “Journalism Future and Identity: Horizons, Perspectives, Challenges”. The conference participants would discuss the changes taking place in modern journalism alongside the journalism education model. To take part in the conference, please submit the title and the summary of your paper and register through the google-form.  

DESTIN coordinator Ian Gadd had marked that the detailed workplan of the project was to be revealed during the field trip to Poznan. The European colleagues would deliver a specific training for Ukrainian partners to help them grasp the highlights of the modernized curricula development. 

Equipment procurement process is coordinated by Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University. As soon as all the bureaucracy issues are set (hopefully, before November 15), Ukrainian partners will hopefully get their equipment.

Author – Nataliya Tolochko (UzhNU),
translated by 
Katerina Sirinyok-Dolgaryova (ZNU),
photo by the author and the participants of the trip