World-Class Graduate Professional Education

Aiming to help create informed publics able to pursue social, economic and political development in an inclusive manner, the University launched the Graduate School of Media and Communications in Nairobi – the first of seven Graduate Professional Schools and a sign of AKU’s commitment to becoming a comprehensive university .

The mission of the Graduate Professional Schools is to develop cadres of highly competent professionals with the ethical practice, leadership skills, entrepreneurial drive and broad perspective needed to launch new enterprises, increase the effectiveness of established institutions and create society-wide environments that enable success.

The Graduate School of Media and Communications (GSMC) is contributing to this vision by fostering an independent, socially diverse and responsible media and communications sector. Led by Founding Dean Michael Meyer –former Newsweek bureau chief and communications director for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – GSMC has brought journalists from the Financial Times, the BBC, CNN, the Standard Media Group and the Business Daily of Kenya to its state-of-the-art Nairob headquarters to teach its first Professional Development short courses for practicing reporters and editors.

A five-day course provided journalists with a global perspective on the energy and mining industries, preparing them to help the region avoid the so-called “resource curse.” The instructors were Michael Peel of the Financial Times, author of A Swamp Full of Dollars: Pipelines and Paramilitaries at Nigeria’s Oil Frontier, and Jenny Luesby, formerly of the Economist Intelligence Unit, the BBC and the Financial Times. A three-day course led by Peel and David Ohito, digital editor of the Standard Media Group, taught journalists how to use smartphones to shoot and edit high-quality video. And Andrew Tkach, former lead producer for Christiane Amanpour of CNN, taught a week-long class on documentary filmmaking.

“The response to GSMC has been outstanding,” Meyer said. “Newspapers, TV stations, radio stations and online outlets are eager to work with us. And journalists are giving our courses extremely positive reviews.” Juliet Nabwire, a sub-editor with The East African, took a course in advanced sub-editing at GSMC, and has found it particularly beneficial when editing financial stories. “I’m using what I learned every day,” she said.

Other Professional Development courses have covered everything from story-gathering and editing techniques to data mining. Future courses will also serve communications professionals with coverage of subjects ranging from crisis management to social media marketing. Heading the Professiona Development programme is Stephen Buckley, former Africa bureau chief for the Washington Post and publisher and managing editor of the St. Petersburg Times (USA). The programme will also benefit from a partnership with DW Akademie, the media development division of Germany’s international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle.

“Better media and communications can transform East Africa on so many levels,” Buckley said. “To get there, we’re offering opportunities to learn from the best – both bedrock skills such as interviewing and fact-checking, and new media skills.”Still to come is the launch of the MA in Digital Journalism and the Executive Master in Media Leadership and Innovation.

The MA will prepare journalists to seize on the many opportunities of the digital era, provide sophisticated coverage of key beats such as business and finance and uphold the highest ethical standards. The Executive Master’s degree is designed to address the needs of developing-world media and communications companies in an era of rapid global change, through a curriculum taught by leading East African and international executives and scholars.

In the years ahead, Media and Communications will be joined by Graduate Schools of Hospitality, Leisure and Tourism; Architecture and Human Settlements; Law; Government, Public Policy and Civil Society; Economic Growth and Development; and Leadership and Management.

Reflecting the Schools’ shared goal of developing leaders, the School of Leadership and Management will function as a hub that connects with each of the Schools, while offering its own unique programmes to develop skilled managers for business and nonprofit enterprises. Hospitality, Leisure and Tourism will address hotel management and the tourism industry as a whole, including public policy, infrastructure and cultural assets. Architecture and Human Settlements will build design and planning capacity and professional practice, emphasizing aesthetics, functionality and cultural sensitivity. Government, Public Policy and Civil Society will prepare professionals to formulate and implement public and social policy in developing societies.

Law will include a focus on constitutions, international law, dispute resolution, intellectual and real property and capital markets. Economic Growth and Development will respond to the need for knowledge and human capacity in industries of importance for East African and other developing economies.

The Schools will possess a number of common features. While being deeply rooted in their local contexts in East Africa and South/Central Asia, they will be connected to world-class institutions and practitioners abroad.

To ensure that graduates are prepared to meet real-world challenges, pedagogy will be practice-based and utilize the case method. They will provide strong support for student and faculty research. To foster lifelong learning, the Schools will serve individuals at all stages of their careers.They will also draw on the Aga Khan Development Network’s long experience in the not-for-profit and business sectors, while helping it to build capacit.

“The Graduate School of Media and Communications is off to a strong start, and with it the plan for AKU’s Graduate Professional Schools,” Meyer said.