Really? A College Degree…In Social Media!

March 30th, 2009 |

About is all about being plugged into social media. We strive to provide informative, relevant, and unique perspectives in the world of social media.

Are you tired of your parents or offline friends busting your chops because you are always playing around on social media sites? I imagine they tell you that you should be doing something more constructive with your time….like go to college and get a degree! If this sounds all too familiar, you might be in luck.

Birmingham City University is offering a one year course which will earn you a master’s degree in Social Media. The course will include studies around social networking sites such as Twitter, Bebo, and Facebook. How these sites can be used for communication and marketing purposes will be the focus of the program.

So far there has been a great interest in the program, but there have been some questions raised by prospective students. One such concern is that some feel that the courses will be too “simple” in that much of the information being taught can easily be self-learned. Some went as far as to say that it is a “complete waste of university resources”.

I would have lean to agree with those assessments in that the courses should focus on the big picture of social media, not the basics. The courses should explore ways to really utilize social media resources in the marketing world. I have taken master level marketing courses myself, and I am really appalled that there is very little emphasis on marketing online. The majority of educational institutions are not focusing on marketing opportunities of the future, but rather the past.

I am curious as how the course will stay up to date on the latest developments regarding the social media world. As we all know, things change at a rapid rate….I am positive books will not be able to keep up with this market. Hopefully, the courses will be electronically based so that information provided to the students will be up to date.

While some may feel that the degree plan offered by Birmingham City University is somewhat basic, I applaud them for taking the initiative that many other schools are too scared to do. Social media is a form of marketing, not only now, but for the future as well. Anyone who is denying this is destined for real world marketing failure. What are your thoughts on higher education institutions offering social media courses?

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  • Autom

    Interesting points you raised here, most of which I agree in terms of *how* the learning process is delivered. I wonder if similar course are available (or being considered) in the US, Canada and other parts of the world. Also, I notice from a number of tweets and blogs that there continues to be a struggle to define best practices on how social media should be applied (at least to business, communications, marketing, etc.). Curious. Thanks for the post!

  • V.P

    I wonder if they have online courses/distant learning on social media, that would be very beneficial for anyone!!

    I am quite curious on how they would structure the course, we just have to wait and see.
    Do you by any chance have a list of any colleges/universities providing social media courses/?


  • Hickman

    Hi. I developed BCU's Social Media programme. Thanks for the post and the comments.

    Let's firstly look at the main post. A lot of the blog commentary around the course has been based on a news agency article rewritten and published in the Metro, Daily Mail & Daily Telegraph. Unfortunately there are certain issues in these articles which are less than helpful in understanding the philosophy behind this programme.

    The writer of the original article has chosen to pitch the degree as being focused on certain technologies as central objects of study: "A university is to offer a Masters degree covering sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Bebo". These are presented in a reductive manner, and equated to a price tag (the fees for the course). The intention here is to suggest a lack of value for money by applying a cash value to a banal skillset: "That's £4,400 please… for a Masters degree in Facebook". This theme is developed further by drawing on comments from a Birmingham based student who questions the value of the course: "Virtually all of the content of this course is so basic it can be self-taught." (all quotations from Daily Mail:

    The writer of this article spoke to me about the course and I explained at great length that the course was not about specific technologies, and was not a (to use the writer's words during the interview) "degree in blogging and facebook". This is not taken up within the article. "Birmingham-based student, 20-year-old Jamie Waterman" comments are given prominence within the article as Waterman is given the final word on the subject. It is unclear as to whether or not this student has seen any course outlines. Waterman seems to be responding to the question "How do you feel about a degree in facebook?" and not to the course outline itself (see There is no student called Jamie Waterman at Birmingham School of Media so Waterman's comments offer little insight into the course.

    All that said, thank you for engaging with the concept of the course so positively despite having started from this unhelpful position.

    @Ploked – I'm afraid this isn't the marketing course you seem to hope for. I'm located in Birmingham School of Media – we will be exploring social media through a media and cultural studies approach. That said, the skills and the debates that we will engage with should be of interest to those in PR and marketing, and I hope they will inform thoughtful and socially useful practice.

    The course will be kept up to date, as all our courses are, through the following:

    1. Engagement with our peers in industry and blogging communities

    2. Engagement with our academic peers through conferences, academic journals, and current literature

    3. Reflection on our own research and knowledge transfer work

    4. Feedback and new ideas generated by our students at undergraduate and postgraduate level

    5. Ongoing validation and review of the course

    6. Tutors' own professional practice

    7. Insights from visiting tutors and guest lecturers

    @Autom – there are a number of other courses we have heard of that are being developed in the UK and internationally. What is really exciting about this is that different disciplines that have a stake in social media will be developing their own courses in this area. So for example a computer sciences faculty could make valuable contributions to technology and scholarship through an MSc Social Media Technology programme, a psychology school could explore social media from their own perspective, and of course business schools could offer courses specifically related to business and marketing applications of social media.

    @V.P. The course outline for our degree is here:

    Thanks all for your interest and kind words.

  • @hessmichael

    I’m happy to see programs like these popping up.

    We have a few stateside versions of this. They aren’t explicitly “social media” programs. Instead, they usually seem to be disguised as online journalism or new media studies. Generally, they offer courses with heavy emphasis on basic social media principles, digital media production, and cultural effects. Specifically, I am referring to the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.

    These skills are highly marketable right now. In a tough economy, I managed to find a job as a social media specialist within a month of graduating with my Online Journalism degree.

  • Dsager

    Pace University also is offering a Degree in Social Media