Pros and cons of university for media students

Editor Sammi Wilde at Bellyflop TV

Around this time of year college students are asking the question, “Should I go to University?” Well I think it depends on what you want to study.

If your heart and soul is in Law, I’d go to law school. If you love drama, try your hand at getting into drama school. If your goal is Television – that’s where I think you could go either way.

When I was at college preparing for my A Levels, the subject of university was thrown at you around every corner, it was the reputation of the college that was pushing teachers to get as many pupils into a good university even if the students really weren’t the type. The pressure of finding the right university and the right subject was all they ever talked about when we weren’t revising.

I was studying media studies as one of my A Levels so TV Production seemed like a good path to follow. I started researching local universities like Salford & Manchester Metropolitan as I knew that they were highly recommended for this subject in the area and was also suggested by my media studies tutor.

At the time the University of Salford seemed the most obvious choice as they had a new building right in the centre of Media City – no brainer! Surely I’d be guaranteed a job if I went there? They’d have all the new kit, access to the BBC and ITV… So I applied.

There were two courses that I applied to. Both focused on TV but on separate aspects, but because I wasn’t sure which part of the TV industry I wanted to get into I needed some more options.

It was my form tutor who suggested I looked into doing a Foundation degree in TV Production at another local college. The reputation of this other college was far from ideal compared to the prestigious universities but I did some research and went to an open day to find out more.

Current students on the course at the time were there to show me around the fully functional in-house TV studio and edit suite and what they did in the course and the main points I came away with were:

  • It’s ⅔ the price of going to university
  • You have continuous access to tutors and kit
  • You focus on all aspects of TV Production, then you can choose your specialty
  • It’s only 2 years
  • You have real time, practical experience of working in the industry.

Compared to going to University where you:

  • Pay £9000 a year, for three years
  • Have limited access to tutors and kit
  • Limited opportunities for work experience.

In the end I did choose to do the foundation degree, it was, in my eyes, the best option for me.

During my time at the college I did all manner of things that are all possible jobs in the industry – my favourite moments were directing a live multi-camera show for the Halle Orchestra in the Bridgewater Hall, filming for two days in Strangeways Prison for a feature film that we were commissioned to do by the GM Police and researching, writing, filming, directing and editing a film about Prague, which we flew out and recorded.

I say to myself and to other students who ask me, “Would I have had the same opportunities if I had gone to Salford University?” Maybe I would have, but not the exact same ones.

All of us at have a degree, but would we have been in the same place we are now if we hadn’t have gotten a degree?

If you think university is not for you, I wouldn’t feel bad about it, it’s not for everybody. But starting out in the world of TV is not an easy task, even with a degree. Finding your own way in the industry can have its pros and cons too:

Pros for going straight into work

  • Opportunities of promotion depending on experience or skills
  • Opportunities to move between companies
  • Contacts and support
  • No student loan debt

Cons for going straight into work

  • Could be in debt if moved to i.e. London to find work/in debt because of buying kit
  • Exploitation if doing things on the cheap
  • Might have windows where there will be no jobs on offer
  • You could spend years doing the same job with no promotion (i.e getting coffee for the team)

The industry is one big roller coaster; some people are thrown off at the first hurdle, others stay on for as long as they can. It is different for everybody so your entry into the industry will be different too.

University can be a very daunting place, but it can also get you places. Going into the industry by yourself is a daunting experience, but it can get you the experience that you need.


Have a read of what Jonathan has to say here.

Have a read of what Carol has to say here.


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