An overview of tertiary journalism capstone units and the need for agreed principles and standards

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia


School of Arts and Humanities




Cullen, T. (2016). An overview of tertiary journalism capstone units and the need for agreed principles and standards. In M. Davis & A. Goody (Eds.), Research and Development in Higher Education: The Shape of Higher Education, 39 (pp 66-73). Fremantle, Australia, 4 – 7 July 2016.

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One third of Australian universities that teach journalism use at least one journalism capstone unit in their undergraduate programs. Yet, there is a still a lack of agreement about what skills journalism graduates need for employment in the industry and how these can be demonstrated and assured.The variability in courses has contributed to significant differences in standards and difficulties in measuring graduate capabilities. In response to this situation, the author successfully applied for an OLT National Teaching Fellowship to investigate the current state of journalism capstone units. This paper includes findings from the first phase of the Fellowship which involved interviews with journalism educators at each of the ten universities that teach journalism capstones. The aim was to discover what type of capstone they use, the principles they employ, and the skills students need to demonstrate. This initial data will be used to develop resources that will support journalism educators in the design or redesign of capstone units, especially in the area of agreed principles, and best practice. While no one is proposing a unified tertiary journalism curriculum, there must be a way to identify the minimum standards and test capabilities to be met by a graduate from a Bachelor level degree or enrolled in a major in the field of journalism.

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