Universities don’t often introduce all-new degrees, but this year’s a bit different at UoA.

If you’ve seen some of my other blogs, you’ll know that I study a conjoint between Communication and Computer Science. I’ve already written about the latter, so here’s some musings about the former – the Bachelor of Communication (also known as the BC).
It’s shiny and new – this is the first year it’s being offered – and as a result, I’m also lucky enough to be one of the first students in the programme! Let’s go over some details and what it’s like.


Majors and courses

The BC is a relatively specialized degree, which means quite a number of my classes are prescribed for me and therefore required.

If you’re wondering what the difference is between the Bachelor of Communication and the Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Communication), this is it! The BC assumes your focus is the Communication side of things and will give you lots of specialized learning towards that focus, while the BA will allow you to explore a range of different fields and majors across the Arts faculty. Whichever one is better for you… well, that’s up to you.

“Required” classes don’t always mean boring, you-do-them-because-you-have-to classes, though. In my (admittedly biased) opinion, one of the best parts of the BC is its diversity and how “interactive” everything feels. Sure, there’s still your usual essay writing and academic-article-reading, but we get lectures on a super diverse range of content, and there’s assignment styles that you probably won’t find in many other courses.

Seriously. Forget what you think about university being only a slog full of worksheets and essays in double-spaced Times New Roman.
Not too long ago, one of my assignments was to make a meme. Like, a literal .jpg meme. And I got graded on it. Are we living in the future or what?

… Anyway, the BC is split into three majors, each of which has a few required classes of its own that are tailored to the specific major.

I’m in the Communication and Technology major, which focuses on how digital, social media, and other emerging technologies are driving communication. The other two majors are Communication and Social Change (which focuses on inciting change through political messaging and activism) and Communication and Leadership (which focuses on organizational and strategic communication as some form of leader).

As part of this, I’ve had to take four required classes:

COMMS 100, which serves as a general introduction to the world of communication. We learn about communication theories, the history of communication, and how technology, social media, and surveillance are impacting communicators in the 21st century.

COMMS 101, which focuses on communication within a Māori and Pacific context. There’s a strong focus on Te Tiriti (the Treaty of Waitangi) and positionality (understanding our viewpoints and biases) – all of which are vital understandings for anyone working in communications.

LINGUIST 100, which is the introductory Linguistics course at UoA. It’s not explicitly a Communication course, but all BC students have a choice between linguistics, drama, and a couple other options, as another “core” course in the first year.

COMMS 103, which is a core course for the Technology major. We talk about a range of technologies – from programming through to artificial intelligence, networks, and social media bots – and have creative assignments dabbling in many of these areas. It’s also an entirely assignment-based course, with no final exam!

Also, as far as courses go, in the third year, there’s the option of a Communication-related internship. This is a “class” (in that, it counts as a class) that gives you a placement with some practical work experience in a communications role. I haven’t done that yet, so I can’t comment on it directly, but the types of roles available include livestreaming for the University Esports program, journalism at TVNZ, and advertising at the Paralympics – which all sound super fun.

This leads us right into:

What can I do with the degree?

A short while ago, I spent a day behind the Communications stall at this year’s University Manawa Mai Open Day (p.s. I wrote a blog about that here!) and the most common question we got asked, without competition, was:

“I want to become a journalist. Does the Bachelor of Communication help with that?”
(or some variation of this question)

The answer to that is yes! If you want to be a journalist, the BC has you covered, and many of the skills we learn in our classes – from general research skills through to understanding media literacy, misinformation, how to present data effectively, having cultural understanding in relation to Te Tiriti, and everything in between – have real impacts on a journalism career.

If journalism isn’t quite your thing, there’s a whole heap of other fields that are aligned with the BC – think marketing, community management, social media, public relations, and all that fun stuff. One of the best things about a communication-related degree is how applicable it is to any career, so the possibilities here are pretty close to limitless. Every job, after all, requires some form of communication.

Plus, if you’re a fan of some emerging… let’s say, contemporary forms of work, there’s plenty of room for that too. I mentioned earlier how I’ve had to make memes for class; perhaps you thought “Well, okay, but that doesn’t sound very helpful in my studies”… and for some fields, that might be true, but for communicators in 2022, it’s certainly a real and legitimate communication format.
Companies can and do hire staff to post memes on their official Twitter accounts, and otherwise being a YouTuber or TikTok-er or whatever can certainly be a lucrative career (albeit with some luck). A few months ago, one of my lecturers in a Philosophy class described BC students as “people who do a degree and then graduate into people who make memes for a living”. He might have been joking, but the point does stand!


How am I finding it?

The best way to describe the Bachelor of Communication would probably be “engaging”. It really is!

I’m in the Communication and Technology major, which obviously focuses on technology and all the things it brings to communication in society. If – like me – you’re someone who grew up on the internet (for better or worse), this is just perfect. In my core classes thus far, I’ve heard about every topic imaginable: social media, digital media, misinformation, climate change, big data, and much more.

I’ve made memes, GIFs, video presentations, animations, Twitter bots, and even used artificial intelligence to generate photos of things that literally don’t exist. It’s a diverse course, and every week has something new.

That’s a big part of the appeal, and frankly, a big part of the appeal to any communications role in general.

For the learning experience, too, there’s a solid mix of practical and theoretical work in the course: this’ll help you cement your communication knowledge while also putting it to practice.

You may hear a little about how this situation varies by institution – indeed, many of the universities offering degrees in communication have wildly different interpretations of this practical work/theory mix. At UoA, though, I think the ratio is pretty good.

So that’s the Bachelor of Communication. It’s new, it’s exciting, and it distracts me from the technical, math-filled world that is the other half of my conjoint.

Besides, everything in the world revolves around some form of communication – perhaps we should all learn to better harness it.