In its reply to the Recommendation 1789 (2007) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Professional education and training of journalists, the Committee of Ministers underlined that sound education and continuing training of journalists is a major precondition for the existence of professional media and reiterated the crucial role of free and independent media in democratic societies. It considered the contribution of higher education to be essential inasmuch as it transmits democratic values to young journalist trainees and plays a primordial role in updating the skills and knowledge of journalists through lifelong and targeted training.
The Committee of Ministers considered that assistance provided to member states in the area of media legislation and media training, which has contributed to enhancing media independence in certain countries, should continue, notably aiming to raise awareness of the relevant Council of Europe standards among media professionals and to encourage them to apply these standards in practice in their work. It also encouraged higher education institutions to include in their curricula courses dealing with media ethics as well as with human rights for media professionals.
A first phase of this project funded by the Government of Norway finished in February 2011. The current proposal covers a second phase which expands and consolidates the results achieved in the first phase.
The project as a whole aims to reform the journalism education in Azerbaijan, bringing it in line with European standards. During its first stage, the project worked in one university – Baku Slavic. In the second stage, the work at Baku Slavic University will continue while at the same time being extended to Baku State University – the largest one in Azerbaijan.
Summary of Phase I Implementation at Baku Slavic University, 1 March 2009 – 15 February 2011
The project’s overarching goal is to improve standards of education for journalism students in Azerbaijan, thereby contributing to the development of a robust media sector capable of meeting key democratic challenges. Phase I of the project set out to achieve the following objectives at the Baku Slavic University:
· Promote practice-based journalism teaching;
· Improve the pedagogical and journalistic skills of university lecturers;
· Devise a modular curriculum which responds to the real needs of the media industry.
The project has been outstandingly successful in achieving all of the first phase objectives. The implementation of Phase I culminated in the Baku Slavic University Scientific Council approving the new modular journalism curriculum. The modular curriculum was initially developed for the following five subjects: TV Journalism, Radio Journalism, Journalism Ethics, New Media and a totally new subject for Azerbaijani journalism teaching – Photojournalism. By the end of December 2010, the development of teaching materials for each module was completed.
In addition, another five modules on TV Technology, Radio Technology, Print Technology, Print Journalism and Introduction to Journalism were developed. By the end of the extension period (15 February 2011), the project created two new practical labs – a New Media newsroom and a Photojournalism lab - and had trained a basic core of university lecturers in using them for the benefit of the students.
BBC Media Action (formerly named the BBC World Service Trust) has worked with academics from British, Norwegian, Irish, Turkish and US universities for the successful development and implementation of the modular curriculum. The project has enjoyed a strong sense of ownership by the teaching staff at the Baku Slavic University and excellent support from the Rector and the management of the university. This has also been a significant factor in improving the pedagogical skills of the lecturers. The New Media course started in the new autumn term of 2011 and is expected to be a great motivator towards innovation in both journalism teaching and journalism practice in the country.
The project has created the necessary momentum for changing journalism teaching in Azerbaijan not only at Baku Slavic University but also at other universities who have shown an interest in the programme and attended conferences and seminars, foremost amongst them Baku State University – the original intended beneficiary of the project and the largest university in Azerbaijan. Universities have also expressed an interest in achieving changes in the state standards so that new curricula can be incorporated with greater ease.
There is strong expectation on behalf of the beneficiary, Baku Slavic University, that the project will complete Phase II as originally intended, allowing the time and resources to embed the new methods and curriculum and make the systematic changes truly sustainable. Baku Slavic University has stated its firm belief that if the project should stop at the current stage, the University would not be able to implement fully the new curriculum and will not be able to offer specialist subjects, thus jeopardising its current reputation as being at the forefront of modern journalism education. On the strength of the transition initiated by Phase I, the Rector of Baku Slavic University applied to the Azerbaijani Ministry of Education to allow the creation of a separate Faculty of Journalism. This was granted making Baku Slavic University only the second university in the country (after Baku State University) with its own Journalism Faculty.
The next phase of the project will have the added benefit of using the already developed modular curriculum, as well as planned new specialist subjects, as the basis for creating new journalism curricula at other Azerbaijani universities. Phase II will focus in particular on working with Baku State University Faculty of Journalism to prepare it for the implementation of a new curriculum, with the emphasis of changing the teaching of radio and TV journalism and introducing photojournalism to its curriculum and thus help transform journalism teaching in the country. The project will also help lecturers in both universities create textbooks on Introduction to Journalism, TV journalism, Radio Journalism, Photojournalism and New Media.
If additional funds (Euro 150,000) are made available, Phase II will install a TV studio and train lecturers and students in its use thus allowing them to develop practical skills and make them fit for the media industry.
Phase II of the Project
The overarching goal for Phase II remains the same as for Phase I: to improve the standards of education for journalism students in Azerbaijan, thereby contributing to the development of a robust media sector capable of meeting key democratic challenges.
It is very encouraging that Phase II of the project will work on improving the curriculum of the originally intended beneficiary, Baku State University, which is the largest university in the country. The specific objective for Baku State University will be to bring TV and Radio journalism teaching in line with modern teaching practices and develop a new subject – Photojournalism. The specific objective for Phase II of the project for the existing beneficiary, Baku Slavic University, will be to embed the new journalism teaching curriculum, create specialist journalism subjects and new text books which will benefit other universities in Azerbaijan. Phase II will last 18 months, starting 1 October 2012, and will comprise the following strategies:
Strategies at Baku State University (originally intended beneficiary)
The only other state university in Azerbaijan which offers journalism studies, and the largest one, Baku State University, has also expressed a desire to be included as a partner in the project for the next phase. An extensive Training Needs Analysis (TNA) was completed during Phase I which identified a great deal of interest, both on the part of lecturers at the Journalism Faculty and amongst the students, in BBC Media Action implementing a similar project at the Baku State University. The priority for Baku State University will be the development of new integrated teaching modules for TV and Radio journalism and the introduction of Photojournalism modules. The project will also explore with the Faculty the viability of transferring some of the modules developed for Baku Slavic University to Baku State University.
It is also intended to enhance the co-operation between the two universities so that they can offer their students the chance to specialise at the other university. The project will encourage the transfer of skills and teaching materials between the lecturers at both universities and will seek to forge closer links between the faculties and the industry for the benefit of the students. It is expected that the lecturers in both universities will co-operate in the production of 5 new textbooks. The hope is also that this work at the only two state universities offering journalism studies will allow changes to be made in the state standard and thus ensure the sustainability and replication of new curriculum elements developed in this project.
Output 1. Round-table meetings on curriculum analysis
The project implementation staff and international journalism teaching consultants will review the structure, content and methodology of the existing curriculum with a view to making recommendations for a long-term work plan.
Output 2. Development of 12 new modules for 3 subjects (4 modules per subject)
The Chair of TV and Radio Journalism at Baku State University has requested assistance for developing new integrated teaching modules on TV and Radio journalism in accordance with the Bologna criteria. The project will also develop photojournalism modules. Although photojournalism was taught until the breakup of the Soviet Union, presently the university is not able to develop this subject in a modern way due to lack of resources.
Output 3. Expert assistance in the management of the TV and radio studios at Baku State University and in establishing a photojournalism laboratory
Baku State University has TV and radio studios. Their work, however, does not meet the demands of the media industry. The project will help university staff integrate the development of the new TV and radio modules with the work of the TV and radio studios where the students will find an opportunity to develop the relevant skills.
The project will also help staff at Baku State University develop a photojournalism lab in conjunction with the development of the new photojournalism modules.
Output 4. Study tour for up to 6 lecturers working on the new TV, Radio and Photojournalism modules and creating text-books on these subjects together with Baku Slavic University
The project will enable the Baku State University lecturers who will be responsible for upgrading the TV, Radio and Photojournalism modules to visit EU universities to study their curricula with the help of their colleagues and observe the teaching of these subjects in practice. It is envisaged that the Baku State University lecturers will be accompanied by 2-3 of their colleagues from Baku Slavic University who will be responsible for co-writing the textbooks on Radio journalism, TV Journalism and Photojournalism so that they can research the subjects in more detail. This will enhance the already existing co-operation between some of the lecturers of the two universities.
Strategies at Baku Slavic University
The project will aim to embed the content and skills shared in Phase I, and thus ensuring their sustainability and will set out to achieve the following outputs at the Baku Slavic University:
Output 5. Development of 24 new modules for 6 specialist subjects (4 modules per subject):
This is necessary for the implementation of the new curriculum. According to the new curriculum, the University will offer six options as specialisation in the final year. These are: Political Journalism, Business Journalism, Art Journalism, Social Journalism, Children’s Journalism and Sports Journalism. No similar specialist subjects in these fields have been developed in recent years in the country.
Output 6. Development of teaching materials for 5 new modules developed in Phase I in addition to the main body of modules included in the new curriculum
Teaching materials for five new modules developed during Phase I (TV Technology, Radio Technology, Print Technology, Print Journalism and Introduction to Journalism). (Five other extra modules were developed during this phase but time was insufficient for the completion of the training materials.)
Output 7. Expert Assistance in Creating a Press Club
The Press Club will organize at least four round-table seminars for the dissemination of experience among journalism faculties and departments across Azerbaijan. It will bring lecturers, graduates and students together with representatives of the media industry to promote discussions on the challenges facing the media industry and to promote access to employment.
Output 8. Summer School Study Trip
Up to 10 lecturers from Baku Slavic University will take part in a summer school aimed at reviewing their work on meeting the objectives of the project and creating a plan for finalising its successful implementation.
Output 9. Development and publication of textbooks (cross-cutting, Baku Slavic and Baku State Universities)
The aim is to refurbish Baku Slavic University’s stock of very outdated journalism textbooks and make them available in hard copies and soft copies, the latter downloadable through the university website. This activity will be led by staff at Baku Slavic University with the active participation and co-operation with lecturers from Baku State University. The following essential five textbooks will be developed:
Output 10. Baku Slavic University - Expert and technical assistance on establishing and management of the TV studio
This activity is subject to an additional Euro 150,000 being made available to the project in order to purchase and install the necessary equipment and train staff and key groups of students in the use of the new TV studio. Such a studio would be invaluable for the teaching of TV journalism at Baku Slavic University.