|Written by Tomaselli, Keyan|
The Centre for Communication, Media and Society(CCMS)
This document is intended to assist MA applicants in making appropriate decisions with regards to selection of degree, location of study, and Programme choice. Students profess all kinds of reasons for wanting to register for an MA. While many of these are relevant, many are not. We have thus composed the guidelines below in an attempt to assist applicants in assessing whether or not the MA is really relevant for them. The guidelines will also assist potential applicants to assess whether CCMS is an appropriate place for study in terms of their own career plans and academic objectives.
a) Why does the applicant want to study for an MA? If practical problem-solving skills are the objective, university of technology study might be the better option. MA study develops problem-solving approaches through developing theoretical and methodological skills. The prime emphasis of the CCMS course as a whole is on developing conceptual expertise. The objective is for students to Master the relevant literature via methodological application.
b) Does the applicant appreciate that an MA is as much a socialisation process as it is about mastering a specific area of study? This is one of the reasons for CCMS organising its work in terms of themed projects and team research based in the Programme itself. This is also the reason why we require full-time study of students.
c) The entry threshold for consideration of applicants is an aggregate minimum of 65% in the applicant’s previous degree. We also look at the median mark attained over the applicant’s entire academic career. The standard against which the 65% is assessed is that established in CCMS’s own courses.
IF THE APPLICANT CAN SHOW EVIDENCE OF THE ABOVE, THEN S/HE NEEDS TO ASK:
a) Is CCMS the appropriate place for study? Browse our website: (http://ccms.ukzn.ac.za) for clarification:
i) CCMS research is based on some quite specific logical and epistemological orientations. Do applicants understand the full significance of theses?
ii) `Media', `communication' and `cultural studies' have certain very specific logical implications for us, which may or may not apply in other contexts, other departments and other universities. Are applicants aware of these differences, and how they might impact their own objectives?
iii) Is the applicant familiar with CCMS's work, its theoretical emphases, and its research orientations? Is the applicant’s preferred topic sufficiently localised?
iv) While professional (and technical) experience is always an added value, it is not always a reliable indicator of ability to handle dense and deep sets of concepts, theories and methods. The `master' part of an MA may draw on aspects of one's media or cultural experience. But preparing and completing an MA dissertation requires finding abstract conceptual connections in, and gaining knowledge of, the field as a whole. This is a task which requires much more than `making media', claiming an essentialistic knowledge of `culture', or simply summarising the existing literature.
An MA concentrates on the acquisition of critical expertise, the development of problem-solving skills at the conceptual level, and a systematic ability to question prevailing assumptions, myths and ideas. For example, a dissertation on new media requires more than just a celebration of emergent technology and what it can do. What is required also is a critique of the impacts of that technology on processes like globalisation, political economy, users/audiences, democratisation and resistance, and so on. This entails a `critique' that is vastly more rigorous than advanced media, film, literature or art criticism. CCMS takes the Kantian and Marxian conceptions of `critique' very seriously, and experience has shown that this can come as something of a shock to students for whom `critique' and `criticism' are synonymous!
v) MA candidates need to choose the programme best suited to their objectives, rather than trying to push a conveniently located programme into areas in which its professors have little knowledge or expertise. On these grounds, we prefer applicants who are prepared to undergo the coursework in order to get exposure to the CCMS theoretical and methodological orientation. This ensures that students get the best introduction to the analytical, critical and research methods they will take into their professional careers. Full thesis registrations will be considered where applicants reveal clear evidence knowledge of the field, research methodology, and who have an Honours degree of high standard.
b) Is the applicant able to study full-time? CCMS does not accept distance students. Part-time study for CCMS means that students participate in the normal CCMS daily schedule along with the full-time day students. See the attachment which deals with part-time registration.
c) Does the applicant understand social research methodology? Applicants must be able to demonstrate awareness of how to apply theory in research practice. Did the applicant's Honours and previous degrees prepare him/her for a research degree? Degrees with a prime emphasis on technical skills, or which lack courses in theory, research methods and the philosophy of science are unlikely to adequately equip students for MA type study. Please note that a four year bachelors is not considered to be the same equivalence of a BA (Hons). Neither is a four year degree from a polytechnic, technikon or university of technology necessarily equivalent to a university qualification. Applicants from such institutions, if accepted to CCMS study, may be required to undertake additional studies to prepare them adequately for a graduate degree in an academic institution.
d) Does the proposed MA topic fit into one of CCMS's integrated research themes? Will the topic add capacity and depth to this already ongoing institutionally-based team research? If it does not, then we are unlikely to accept the applicant, regardless of the excellence of his/her credentials. Please read the CCMS website for further information on our research directions, expertise and research themes (go to "Courses", click, and scroll down the menu to "Research Themes"). For logistical and other reasons CCMS is unable to consider unrelated or individualistic topics which have no direct relation to an already wide, but thematically and theoretically integrated, variety of preferred research themes. This stipulation relates to the availability of suitable supervisory expertise, the nature of team research, and encouragement of peer support.
e) Is the candidate highly competent in writing in English?
f) Does the applicant have sufficient funding support to be able to complete the MA? MA candidates sometimes drop out because they are unable to finance their studies, and/or because they have other pressing financial responsibilities which keep interrupting their research. Students need to also budget for expenses incurred in their research and writing up of their dissertations. Depending on the project, the costs can be quite high. Students must assume that research costs are for their own account. Research costs incurred by students are not covered by fees or other levies, though on occasion a themed research area might have some funds attached to it. Students need to budget for books, photostats, interlibrary loans, module readers, transport, food, accommodation and other requirements. International Students are required to pay specific levies (see attachment on fees for international students).
What is included in the fees is access to the University LAN and the Internet, the World Wide Web, the Library and other student service divisions (including psychological and career counselling, a University clinic which offers primary health care, an AIDS treatment programme, law clinic, intercampus shuttle service, security and escort security etc.). The School needs to be assured that candidates have appropriate levels of funding support in place.
Applicants who do not have a Bachelor of Honours degree but who have a prior 4th year qualification may apply under Senate Rule Gr7(b) which offers a mechanism for exception. Such applicants will need to motivate clearly why they want to apply for the MA degree and explain the relevance of their previous diploma or degree to the course for which they want to apply. The application should be lodged with the CCMS Postgraduate Administrator, and if considered eligible, the application is forwarded to the School Higher Degree and Research Committee, the Head of School, and from there it goes to the Graduate Office for consideration under the auspices of Deputy Dean (Research).
If successful, it is then considered by the Academic Affairs Board, which makes the final decision. In the event of acceptance, Board may stipulate particular requirements for registration, which may include registration (or auditing) of specific graduate modules relevant to the thesis topic. Or, the University may require the applicant, if accepted, to first register for the Honours degree as an entry mechanism to a second year of study at the MA level. The usual application and selection procedures would apply at both points. This will be done on a case by case basis. This is a lengthy bureaucratic process so the relevant applicants need to apply early with full documentation.
If the answers to all of the above are positive, then you might consider applying to CCMS. What we require from such applicants is the following:
a) A detailed CV highlighting your research (and professional) experience.
b) A detailed one page motivation arguing why you want to study at CCMS, and how your proposed project will add value and capacity to the Programme's ongoing teaching and research work.
c) Three academic references to support your candidacy (for applicants who are not graduates of the UKZN media programmes).
d) A set of certified true transcripts of your previous degrees.
e) Any other documentation which will support your application.
f) A copy of a recent essay, thesis or published academic article.
A CCMS staff committee will then assess the submitted documents and make a decision on applications. This decision will be forwarded to the School for its attention.
The Centre for Communication, Media and Society