Research into public relations education reveals mixed picture

About the author

Kevin is a co-founder of PR Academy and editor/co-author of Exploring Internal Communication published by Routledge. Kevin leads the CIPR Internal Communication Diploma course. PhD, MBA, BA Hons, PGCE, FCIPR, CMgr, MCMI.

PR Academy research into public relations education, training and professional qualifications in the UK identifies a growing professionalisation of the field alongside a steep decline in single honours BA degree courses.

While 22 BA public relations degree courses existed in 2004, only two single honours BA degree courses are currently offered through the UCAS university admissions website, at London College of Communication (University of the Arts, London) and Ulster University.

There is a long list of universities that have closed their single honours BA degree courses or ended public relations education at undergraduate level including Central Lancashire (UCLAN), Bournemouth, Edge Hill, Falmouth, Gloucestershire, Greenwich, The College of Mark and St John (Marjon), Leeds Beckett, Lincoln, Liverpool John Moores, Manchester Metropolitan, Robert Gordon, Solent, Teesside, University of West of England and Westminster. Among these Bournemouth and Leeds Beckett had both been offering BA Public Relations degree courses for over 30 years making them the oldest such courses in the UK.

At undergraduate level universities seem to have conceded that public relations is a part of marketing rather than a distinctive discipline. This decline in undergraduate courses stands in stark contrast to the growth in public relations scholarship over the same period.

There is a markedly different picture among MA/MSc courses, which continue to recruit well among international students. The emphasis at Master’s level is frequently on strategic communication.

At the same time, professional qualifications awarded by CIPR, PRCA and AMEC have been growing and gaining respect.

There are more practitioners enrolled on professional qualifications than there are students on public relations BA and MA degree courses in the UK. Practitioners reported an overwhelming endorsement (94 percent) for the usefulness of professional qualifications for developing capabilities while working in public relations.

A review of the training provided by PRCA and CIPR indicates that practitioners have access to a very wide range of courses. Nearly 200 training courses were available as at October 2022. The vast majority of respondents in our survey (84 percent) believe that training delivered by a reputable provider is essential for keeping up to date with the requirements for their work and a total of 5527 paid training courses were completed with PRCA and CIPR in 2022.

Chartership remains a minority pursuit with just 5 percent of CIPR members having achieved Chartered Practitioner status as the institute approaches the twentieth anniversary of the granting of its royal charter. Our research suggests that Chartership is seriously under-recognised and under-valued by both practitioners and employers. Only 35 percent of respondents agreed that chartership is valued by their employer and only 27 percent agreed that it has the same recognition as chartership in other professions.

Research methodology

The research for the report included 237 questionnaire responses from practitioners and 12 interviews with university lecturers as well as a review of the literature around public relations education and desk research into training courses, professional qualifications and university degrees.

The full Public Relations Education, Training and Accreditation research report is available to read and download here. Public Relations Education, Training and Accreditation research report