Universities should be embarrassed at teaching standard

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Media Release

According to some of Australia’s future journalists and public relations practitioners, “Australian Post” is a major newspaper group, Alan Jones is the CEO of QANTAS and the National Australia Bank sets the country’s interest rate.

These are just some of the bizarre answers to a questionnaire completed by 17 journalism and PR graduates who were shortlisted from around 100 applicants for a graduate PR role.

Lyall Mercer, managing director of Mercer PR which advertised the role, said the lack of both basic media and public relations knowledge, added to the overall disinterest in news and current affairs, should call into question what students are being taught at university.

He revealed that of the 17 – who were the best of the applicants – less than half could name the two major newspaper media groups, and less than a quarter knew two Sydney newspapers.

Despite all graduates attending Queensland universities, not one knew the state leader of One Nation and only 12 per cent could name Queensland’s opposition leader. Only one of the 17 could identify the high-profile CEO of QANTAS and less than a quarter knew Australia’s deputy prime minister.

Answers to the question of which bank sets interest rates – of which only five answered correctly – included Bank of Australia, Commonwealth Bank and National Australia.

“I did not speak to one graduate who in three years had attended a real press conference or stepped out of the classroom, which really makes you wonder what they are learning,” Mr Mercer said.

“While I understand that tertiary institutions represent the foundation of learning across many professions, in the area of journalism and PR, these results are embarrassing.”

Mr Mercer said recent reports of universities controversially spending money on traffic plans and expansion could indicate that they have some of their priorities wrong.

“Certainly in this field, graduates are paying for a piece of paper but they are not learning the skills and knowledge they need for employment.

“And they know it; almost every applicant admitted they didn’t learn much at university!”

Universities should be embarrassed at teaching standard