State of public relations curricula in singapore: implications for education and practice
Woon, Eugene Yong Sheng
Date of Issue2017-05-11
Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information
The relevance and worth of public relations education lies in its relevance to practice (Middlewood, Coleman, & Lumby, 1999) and its stakeholders. In recent years, students began preferring short private degrees that allow them to graduate and gain work experience early over rigorous full-length public university education (Seow, 2014). Yet, public relations positions in Singapore are surprisingly the hardest to fill (Lee, 2015a). This could be attributed to the local industry’s preference for experienced practitioners (Pang & Yeo, 2012) over fresh graduates, and inadequacies of communication programs that result in graduates failing to meet the industry’s expectations. The phenomena indicate that public relations still struggles with the academia-practice disconnect (Garcia, 2009; Sriramesh, 2002). This study examines the state, relevance and future developments of undergraduate public relations education in Singapore. Singapore is chosen as the site of study because its state of public relations education remains unexplored (Pang & Yeo, 2009). The study employs document analysis of communication degree programs offered by 14 local state and private foreign universities in Singapore. The foreign universities are from Australia, United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US). Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 10 curriculum directors and academics to obtain insights into the constituent of a good curriculum. 10 senior practitioners were interviewed to obtain feedback on the relevance of public relations education and expectations of fresh practitioners. These insights were benchmarked against the Commission for Public Relations Education’s (CPRE) (2006) recommendations. The CPRE is the authority on public relations education that has provided internationally-adopted curricular recommendations since 1975. Findings showed that although the four local universities strongly conform to the CPRE’s recommendations, most foreign curricula have poor conceptual grounding, skills training, and practical experience. Interviews with practitioners found that the industry strongly emphasizes technical competencies and soft skills. Although the CPRE’s recommendations remain relevant to practice, interviewees recommend greater emphasis on writing, analysis, and social science groundings to improve PR education’s industry relevance. While universities are acceding to the industry’s demands and including more vocational skills training in the syllabus, educators felt their role is the development of critical thinking skills. In order to meet future challenges and trends that the practice would face, courses on social media expertise (intelligence, content production, and strategies), business, and analytics are needed. This study also discusses how social media intelligence, business and analytics can help bridge the academia-practice gap. At present, the local public relations industry still defines a good practitioner as one who possesses technical competencies and desirable personal attributes, which indicates the industry is still in a pre-professional state (Pang & Yeo, 2012). The study also notes the industry might have the unrealistic expectation of academia to produce industry-ready practitioners. The academia-practice rift continues to exist for now.
Nanyang Technological University