University- the right route for media students?

Posted 18th July 2016
by Jonathan

Hello, Jonathan here.

This week all of the team from BellyflopTV are going to give their views on if doing a university degree is the right decision for those wanting a job in the TV and video production industry. So, I’ll go first, followed by Sammi and Carol over the week.

I feel really old when I admit I finished my degree back in 1995. I had done a BTEC at Oldham College in Television Production and Engineering beforehand, and then went on to do a BA (Honours) in Media Studies specialising in Television Production at Cumbria College of Art and Design.

Things were different then. You didn’t take out student loans, I think your local authority just paid for you to study direct to the college or university. I also got a grant as I was from  a single parent family- I think it was about £1000 a term which was to help with living costs. I also worked part time at McDonalds– I say part time, I got as many hours as I was willing to work (and as I was willing I would easily get three shifts a week of 8 hours). I was a dining area manager and children’s party host (I would do 7 parties every Sunday and yes, Ronald was real). I learned more about working life by being employed at McDonalds than I did with college preparing me for the world of work in TV production.

So, do I regret going to university? No, I met a partner who I was with for 18 years, and my college let me specialise in my interest of making children’s and entertainment TV despite it being an art college. I recall in a group discussion the shock on other students faces when being asked what my dream job was and I replied with working on ‘The Price is Right’.

In all of my 5 years of further education I only know of 4 other students as well as myself that worked in broadcast TV for anything more than just a one off job. That is not saying there was not more, but I expect less than 10% got a career in the industry. My broadcast TV career has stretched to 20 years so far.

Would I recommend you go to university now, if you want to do TV and video production? Possibly not, the ones that make it in TV would have probably done it without a degree in media studies as they had the enthusiasm, energy and correct attitude that they could have been using three years previously before they accrued such a large student loan. The amount of debt students build up to do a degree frightens me and they leave university with an unhealthy attitude that being in debt is just normal.

Ironically the ones with get-up-and-go and an urge to work will probably get employment in a different career to TV which possibly makes their university studies a waste of time. I see this happening to graduates regularly and as the first offers of TV work will be ‘work experience’* or a couple of low paid work here and there ferrying X Factor contestants around a concert venue, these ‘opportunities’ are really difficult to take up as you have a full time job.

It all depends on the individual, but every situation is different and I’m more than happy to give my thoughts to any students wondering what they should do next- just email me at info@bellyflop.tv

*On the subject of work experience, arm yourself with the knowledge in this article http://www.tvwatercooler.org/wordpress/unpaid-work-experience-your-questions-answered/

 

Have a read of what Sammi has to say here.

Have a read of what Carol has to say here.