Sunday 16 December 2018

'They were supposed to direct me but I directed them' - NUIG students express relief at having course fees refunded

NUIG student Cathy Lee
NUIG student Cathy Lee

Payu Tiwari

NUIG students have expressed their relief after complaints about the organisation of the BA Journalism course during the third year of the program were upheld.

Over the last week, NUIG announced that they will be refunding an entire years worth of tuition fees to current third and fourth year students on their BA Journalism course after they received complaints about the organisation of the course during the third year of the program.

For the students of this course, who have spent thousands of euros pursuing their degree over the span of four years, this was exactly what they wanted to hear after campaigning for it.

The course outline of the Bachelor of Arts with Journalism program, on the NUIG website, states that the students “will be guided and advised on a one-to-one basis by the program director and mentor, and will immediately be placed in a learning environment with people of similar journalistic interests and instincts.”

However, according to a student who does not wish to be named, they were not guided or placed in any way.

They explained how the programme worked: “It was for four years. The first and second year we had two main arts subjects, and seven hours of journalism studies a week.

“The third year is supposed to focus on just journalism, with two semesters dedicated to it: one semester was supposed to be teaching and another one was to secure work placements.

“In the first semester of the third year, we only had two hours of lectures throughout the whole thing.”

According to the student, the second semester focusing on work placements did not pan out as promised either. As part of the third year of the course, students are required to find a six to eight-week placement. However, they were left dissatisfied with the level of assistance they received in finding a placement and were unhappy with the overall management of the course.

“They were supposed to direct us when it came to securing placements; in turn, I had to direct them,” said Cathy Lee, another NUIG student who also completed her course this year. Ms Lee said that she had to use her own contacts to secure an internship and received no help from the department.

“We just weren’t given any help at all - I emailed the department over five times and never got any response,” said the student who does not wish to be named. The fees for the third year of the course, that are due to be refunded to students now, are €3,000.

The fourth year of the course had them choose more arts subjects, but even then “some of the modules we were told to choose from were already done,” the student said.

“What I was also really disappointed by was the lack of TV and radio modules,” they said. They were told that radio and TV aspects of journalism will be covered, but according to the student, that did not happen.

Since the course did not pan out as promised, students decided to take the matter into their own hands.

“A girl in my class, she started campaigning to try to get the fees back,” the student said. “We all had to write personal statements and send them through.”

Current third years lodged an official complaint in relation to the third year of the programme, while the fourth-year group who will graduate in October placed a complaint in relation to their overall experience but especially the third-year experience.

The University board heard responses to these complaints from staff members and made the decision to uphold the complaints in relation to the third-year experience in both instances and students have been told by the University that they will receive a full refund.

However, Ms Lee thinks that the course “wasn’t that bad.”

“Of course, the third year was not what we expected it to be, but it wasn't that bad.”

Refuting the student’s claims that radio journalism was not covered, Ms Lee said that they had to be “self-motivated” for things. “Things weren’t given to you - you had to volunteer, and you had to be self-motivated,” she said.

Despite that, Ms Lee supports the board’s decision. “Everyone deserves the compensation.”

In a report issued to students from the board, the board held that "it is clear that there were significant shortcomings in the management of the third-year placement which had a detrimental impact on the student experience for the third year of programme".

NUI Galway told the Irish Independent that the BA programme was being restructured and will now be under the steerage of Mr Tom Felle, who was appointed after a review of the MA Journalism programme last year.

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