COMMUNICATIONS involve the study of the specific vehicles used in the delivery of messages to large audiences. Such delivery vehicles include radio, television, motion pictures or cinema, newspapers magazines, books and recordings. These vehicles serves as a feature of modern societies. They are usually studied under a restrictive tent “mass communication”.
Modern communications are endogenous to Africa and employ high and complex technologies which are acquired and installed at a huge cost.
Characteristics of Modern Communications
Modem communications, Dominick (1999) says, are organised under elaborate organizational set up. Hence we have such holding companies as Akwa. Ibom Broadcasting Corporation (AKBC), Daar Communications, Minaj Systems International Time-Warner Company etc. They display the following characteristics:
• They facilitate the delivery of public messages to very large and widely dispersed audiences. Audiences which are different in demographic and psychographic characteristics and are dispersed geographically.
• They are marked by very high and expensive technologies which facilitate rapid transmission of messages. Today, modem communication through the use of computers and satellite technologies target a global audience.
• They have overcome the barriers of distance, illiteracy, race, regional loyalty etc., and tend to link people together globally.
They are used as indices for gauging the growth and development of Individuals groups and countries.
In Africa modern communications are unique features of our urban environment where they are used to service the need and aspirations of the mostly urban elites.
Gaps in the NUC Communication Curriculum
The present National Universities commission (NUC) curriculum requires that a mass communication student should earn a total of 156 credit units over a period of four years for students admitted under the competitive University Matriculation Examination (UME). These units are made up of 18 compulsory credit units to be taken over the period of study and spread out as follows: 10 in the first, 6 in the second, 2 in the third and 6 in the final year.
However, while the current NUC curriculum addresses some basic training requirements for the practice of Journalism, Public Relations, Advertising and Broadcasting it largely ignores a lot in the artistic, aesthetic, psychological, linguistic, environmental, gender, conflict, human rights, speech and other issues some of which have been taken up by sonic communication departments.
This curriculum should provide for a more broadly based programme embracing teaching, research and consultancy services in Applied Communication, Broadcasting, Business and Organisational Communication, Literary Communication, Oramedia/ Traditional Communication, Photojournalism, Print, Public Relations, Advertising, Music, Theatre and other performing arts, etc. The courses designed for the first year of the 4- year programme should be largely introductory foundation courses that cover the broad spectrum of Communication Arts as a humanistic discipline. By the same token the courses for the last three years of the programme should be designed to deepen and strengthen as well as facilitate academic construction in the various areas of specialisation.
In its philosophical conceptualization, the Communication Arts programme which is a broad field of study is intended to provide the student with the widest spectrum of knowledge possible within the specified study period of four years. As a result, the programme offers to expose students to the many arts which are used in the exchange of messages, ideas, attitudes or feelings such as the arts of journalism, film, television, theatre, popular music, book publishing, photography! photojournalism, graphic and; fine arts, radio, traditional communication (oramedia), advertising, public relations, and business/organisational communication as well as their synergistic and aesthetic dimensions.
This training should include a 6 — 12 month internship or practical training involving attachment to media houses and institutions engaged in various aspects of media production.
This wide ranging content enables the students to acquire knowledge and skills which could be very valuable in educational institutions, in the media of mass communication (i.e newspaper, magazine, paperbacks, publishing, radio, television, film),rural information extension services, business and organisational communication and other related administrative and information management settings.
This broad content comprising a total of over ninety – eight course titles gives it an advantage over other direct mass communication programmes. On graduation, students who wish to specialty can now choose from the various areas or aspects available.
Because of limited academic and financial resources, graduate students are equally limited to Mass Communication at that level and that is why graduate programmes at PGD, MA and Ph.D should be limited to Mass Communication too.
The arts basis of communication is even attested to by the fact that most conventional Nigerian institutions house it in their Faculty of Arts with the exception of the University of Lagos, ESUT and RSUT. What is required at the moment is however, for Nigerian 5 to eschew the fixation with labels and to expand horizons and open up our curricula to embrace neglected areas. What is expected is for us to agree on certain minimum standards and then we can build on our various unique features. There is no need for curricula synchronizations of the type which can obliterate our individual identities. Each university should have its unique selling point rather than for us to work towards a single collective consciousness.
Existing Gaps and Possibilities
Clearly, the present curriculum exhibits serious gaps which we believe can be addressed through the injection of new specialised courses as electives or as special areas in some departments. There is an urgent need to expand the present curriculum to address its loud silence on the teaching of other international languages, especially the French Language which can reinforce international broadcasting, foreign correspondence courses etc. Other courses that could be considered include:
• Reporting the Oil Industry
• Development Communication
• Speech Communication/Rhetoric
• Human Rights Reporting/Child Rights
• Gender Communication Issues in Communication and Terrorism
• Peace and War Communication
• Environmental Communication
• Health Communication
• French for Journalists
• Religious Communication
• Conflict Management
• Oramedia/Interpersonal Communication
• Human Communication
• Media and Social Issues
• Cross Cultural Communication
• Political Communication
• Financial/Business Communication
• Communication Aesthetics
• Communication and Labour Relations
• Entertainment Reporting
• Publishing
• Public Affairs Reporting
Other courses can be addressed under existing specialised reporting courses. However, we must admit that the existing curriculum is a minimum standards document which is capable of being expanded to accommodate courses such as human rights and peace teaching, freedom of information, civic and social responsibility, constitutional rights, cultural aesthetics and gender issues.
As we cannot produce a curriculum that can be without gaps, it is necessary to arrive at some consensus as to what should now be included and what can be left out, that is, for each institution to teach according to its ability and resources rather than embrace an octopus which does no one any good.
Role of the NUC, Teachers and Industry in Shaping Communication Discipline
(a) Role of National Universities Commission
The National Universities Commission among other objectives is saddled by law with ensuring standards through improving the curricula of the universities. One of the measures it has adopted to ensure standard and improvement of quality of teaching in our universities is through periodic performance reviews and accreditation exercise.
The problem facing communication education in our Universities goes beyond performance reviews and accreditation.
students have taken large interest in the study of communication pressure for more intakes is not matched by available facilities and personnel. Many departments lack functional facilities and are losing quality staff to other lucrative sectors such as banks, insurance and oil companies. Many others choose to go abroad where staff welfare and conditions of service are better.
The National Universities Commission should direct sufficient attention to these areas of deficiency. The NUC should put a plan in place where existing departments arc equipped with functional studios, computers. satellite television channels and transmitters. it can liaise with individual universities and execute such a plan from money appropriated by Federal Government and donations from the private sector.
The NUC should allow universities chart unique curricula directions for themselves and not impose a common curriculum for all departments of communication in Nigerian universities. This imposition of a common curriculum and structure appears to have forced some departments into answering a common name and being in a certain faculty. For example, it should not be the business of the NUC to impose a particular faculty/school of communication, department or determine what name it should answer. There should be flexibility which should allow departments to reflect the varied directions and emphasis in which training is given.
Role of Teachers
Communication is a dynamic field and teachers need to constantly update their knowledge and skills through seminars, conferences and Workshops Without such periodic updates, our communication educators may be left behind by the new trends in scholarship and practice to our teachers should be encouraged to conduct research in order furnish the industry with research findings to solve unique Communication problems. There are countless papers and research results which are unutilised either because the teachers are too poor to fund their publication or are not given encouragement to do so.
Moreover, the poor treatment and remuneration of teachers is not encouraging. These are areas the NUC and private organisations can assist. There should be a fund specifically set aside for book development.
Role of Industry
The industry has a greater role to play in the improvement of the training environment. It can do this by endowing chairs, donating books and equipment, sponsoring seminars/workshops and giving periodic financial assistance to universities to update their communication education facilities.
By doing this, the industry ensures that it receives quality manpower from our training institutions. Our communication institutions should be equipped to teach the skills and impart knowledge with the latest communication technologies. The industry should contribute its quota to prevent the severe brain drain affecting communication studies in the country.
(b) New Possibilities in the NUC —Curriculum: A Recommendation
The Columbia University Journalism programme has in recent times raised issues with the existing curriculum in its institution.
In an article in the Columbia Review, Brent Cunningham asked the daunting question ‘What should journalism schools teach?’ (Iittp;//22 cjr org/issues/2002/6/school-cunnighcm. asp). Cunningham, a managing editor of the journal and faculty member was raising this question in an institution a New York l article referred to in l983 as ‘the nation’s best-known journalism school’.
Recently, a Ph.D student of the Department of Communication Arts in a memo to his Head of Department raised a similar question when he wrote of the need to ‘upgrade ’the PhD programme.
Writing from two ends of the Atlantic, they both raised issues of curricular inadequacies albeit in the respective institutions’ graduate programmes even though Cunningham wrote more about the undergraduate  programme Nevertheless, the issue here is how we extend NUC’s curriculum to accommodate current concerns in our society  and the world at large. While teaching the ‘craft’ of communication  may well be a necessary concern of the curriculum, it is equally important that new social problems and issues, which confront us each day like ‘breaking news’ are made part of the relevant content l of courses like: Mass Media and Social issues, Issues in Terrorism and the Media, Media and Conflict Management, Media and coverage of Poverty, Political Communication, Financial Comn1unicatio French for Journalists etc.
In addition, interface between the industry and the classroom should be more formalised so as to enable a greater intersectoral exchange and understanding of the needs of each sector. Thus there should be some quality markers and regulatory guidelines for both sectors.
Furthermore, the current training curriculum at the university level which provides for a more informal link with the industry should be formalised and students should be made to undergo industrial training in ITF —approved institutions for a minimum of six months during the four — year training period. This review should be accommodated and approved by the NUC because its failure to do so has impacted negatively on the quality of graduates from the university in the area of their technical/professional efficiency.
The current NUC document merely provides for minimum standard for its programmes. There is thus a lot of room for individual faculties to accommodate some aspects of the neglected areas. This Possibility is encouraging, but its major drawback is the apparent lack of funding which in a private sector-driven economy should not really be a problem. This can work if the NUC also deregulates its control of university education in Nigeria.