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Why Mickey Mouse degrees matter

In the UK, there are 584 media degrees on offer. So why do people still think this is a pointless degree?

By Emma Videan

In my first year of studying Journalism, Media and Culture, I was aware of the general criticisms that so-called ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees received and witnessed this insult first hand. When someone pointed out the yellowness of my shirt and I informed them that it was actually mustard, their retort was that I must have learned this on my media degree.

While this insult is extremely nonsensical, it did make me think about whether it really mattered to me that people hold such a belittling view of my degree choice. Nearly three years later, I can conclude that this is a very naïve view of what is a very popular degree choice. In the UK, there are 92 universities that offer 584 degrees of some form of media studies and by 2021; the entertainment and media sector will be worth £76 billion.

Back in 2006, Cambridge University called them a ‘soft’ option and many others agreed with this and saw that real journalists roll up their sleeves and just start reporting. While I am sure that many journalists do start their careers this way, dismissing those who seek to be educated in the industry doesn’t make a lot of sense. Over my degree, I have learnt about how the news media works, how politics is represented to the public, how the mediatised world impacts culture, society and democracy, and so much more.

While some modules in some degrees might look at Mickey Mouse, Disney’s net worth is nearly $130 billion and so maybe it’s important for people to understand how such a huge global brand impacts its largely young and easily-influenced audience? People consume media all day, every day. Without media, we would have no idea what is happening outside of our own bubble. It is vital that new generations of people study and understand the impact of all forms of media and discuss ethical, political and social problems. People need to study this, otherwise media producers could get away with distributing propaganda, fake news and misinformation without the mass public noticing.

By choosing to study media law and political communication, I have a greater understanding of how politics work and what is legal in the reporting of criminal cases. If nobody studied this, people could enter a job as a political correspondent without any understanding of the rules and regulations that apply and accidentally misinform the public, or even break the law. I have both studied and worked in public relations, and without my theoretical knowledge of public relations, I would have less ethical concern for this job. Or, I could have become one of the many people that read and believe articles that have been written to promote a business and isn’t actual news.

Overall, what I think is hugely important to understand, is that studying a media degree isn’t just about looking at films and television shows (although it can be if this is what you want to study). Media degrees give you a wider understanding of the huge impact that advertising, news, television, film, political communication and so much more has on the world around us. It is a degree that gives you a better and more critical understanding of the mediatised society that we live in, much of the time without even realising how media-centric the world is.

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