The discipline of media studies began in the 1970s. Sociology professor John Eldridge and his colleagues began studying the news as a system of misrepresentation, a subject that would become a focus of the field. Their first study was a highly controversial analysis of trade union coverage, and it paved the way for many other studies and developments in the field. Eventually, the group formed the Media Group to coordinate its work.
Despite its growing popularity, media studies has received significant criticism for its low institutional base. This criticism has come from both within and outside academia. In the early days of the discipline, traditional universities were skeptical, seeing it as an affront to more rigorous fields of scholarship. The debates surrounding media studies continue to this day.
The Sunday Times has also criticised media studies in its “trendy travesty” column, saying that it is equivalent to pub chat. The Independent has similarly lamented the subject’s rise, calling it a “total travesty.” Some critics have linked the criticisms to wider attempts to promote a utilitarian focus in British universities and fundamental questions about the purpose of university education.
Graduates of media studies have a wide range of skills, which means they’re often well placed for employment. According to the Graduate Labour Market Analysis, 72.9 per cent of media studies graduates were in work six months after graduation, compared with 67.1 per cent of graduates in other fields. Yet less than half went on to further study.