Small is beautiful. At least that’s what seems to be working for the two best-ranked mass communication institutes in the country. The Mudra Institute of Communications in Ahmedabad (MICA) is the best mass communication institute to study in the country. It is closely followed by Asian College of Journalism, or ACJ, Chennai.
Amid a media boom and a frenzy to hire journalists across multiple media—print, online, television—employers have been increasingly witnessing a dearth of employable talent, despite about 200 colleges who offer journalism programmes recognized by the University Grants Commission.
According to a report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), an industry lobby, India’s print and broadcast industries are expected to grow at a compounded annual rate of 14% and 22%, respectively, until 2012. While print is estimated to become a Rs28,100 crore industry by 2012, television will be a Rs60,000 crore sector.
The schools say that their size works in their favour. For example, MICA has approval for intake of 120 students in its course on communication management. It has also started a one-year postgraduate programme for professionals with prior experience with a batch of up to 25 students, and runs a six-month crafting creative communications programme, again with a maximum of 25 students. “So for a student strength of 170, our faculty strength is 37. We equip our students to find their own solutions to problems and not tell them what the solutions are. Small size helps us give proper attention,” said Naval K. Bhargava, dean, international relations, MICA.
Sashi Kumar, chairman of ACJ, too maintains that being small helps. ACJ has a policy of having one faculty member for 12 students. Though ACJ can admit 120 students, Sashi Kumar says it does not take more than 115 students. Permanent faculty strength is 13, with 25 visiting faculty. “Journalism is not about lectures but about intellectual training. We deal in ideas, so keeping small size of student batch helps,” he adds.
Having a smaller batch size also helps in better communication and brings in openness. “I liked the ethos of MICA and the promotion of free thinking. There is something very creative and dynamic about the place. There is a real sense of excitement in learning and the tutors are exceptional in bringing their zeal and interest to the students. Amazing infrastructure, facilities and coursework makes MICA stand out from other institutes,” says Megha Vadodaria, MICA alumna of 2005, who plans to go to the UK for further studies. She is currently working with her own media house, Sambhaav Group of Publications, in Gujarat.
The other trait that has helped these institutes maintain edge is keeping their curriculum in sync with times. “We are very focused on the needs of the market and the industry. We make students better equipped with what a consumer is likely to think and demand. Our students understand the consumers, their sociology, culture, socio-economic aspects. All sounds simple when you see the net results, but it is not so in reality,” Bhargav said.
For its part, ACJ is now working to teaching students the nuances of working in a fast-changing media sector, and also to better leverage technology. “Today people talk of podcasting, convergence, IP TV. What was taught to students in 2001 or even 2007 would be different from what they would learn in 2008 or 2009,” Sashi Kumar said.
Though both teach students to use mass media to reach their target audience and do not challenge the ratings, surprisingly, they both desist from calling themselves mass communication institutes. “We are allergic to the word ‘communication,’ as it has been abused by many university colleges in the past. We are more of a journalism institute,” Sashi Kumar said.
It is a view shared by alumnus and deputy news editor at business television channel CNBC, Harsha Subramaniam. ”I feel it is not right to call ACJ a mass communication institute as it is purely a journalism school. I feel mass communication institutes also teach advertising, public relations, corporate communications as part of their curricula,” he adds.
The MICA director, international relations, too feels that MICA is more of a communication management institute, linking them to Indian Institute of Management (IIMs). “We basically teach management with communications management at the heart. The only difference is that our subjects are different than other management schools and media is only one part of our curriculum,” he adds.
And how are these institutes looking to the future? MICA is already in talks with an international university to provide a dual degree course to its students in the future. ACJ has been receiving a lot of requests for a similar institute in North India and in the West Asia. Both are exploring these options, even as they churn out small and intimate batches on the domestic front.