PR or Mathematics?

This is an article by Laura Crimmons.
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If we are to believe the headlines this week it would appear that fewer students are choosing to study PR with higher fees and instead opting for ‘traditional’ courses like mathematics and engineering.

News stories suggest that applicants are trading ‘softer subjects’ such as media studies and PR for more traditional subjects such as mathematics and engineering.

Personally, when making the choice about what course to study at university I can honestly say that nowhere in my mind was I making a choice between PR and mathematics or engineering, they’re so far apart that I can’t see a student who was thinking of studying PR before the fees went up would suddenly go “£9,000 for a PR degree? Oh in that case I’ll do mathematics instead”. So, in my personal opinion, the fact that PR applications have decreased and mathematics applications for example have increased is not related.

Also, there is a clear difference between media studies and PR and these shouldn’t necessarily be grouped together. Media studies as a subject is much broader than PR and does not necessarily have a clear career path which could be a reason for decreased applications. Applicants want to know that after spending up to £27k they will have a career at the end of it. Whereas with PR there is a clear career path; you study the degree, learn the skills and theory needed in the industry, gain work experience, graduate and apply for jobs in the PR industry. Media studies seems to be a degree for an applicant who isn’t entirely sure which area of the media they want to work in whereas PR is a degree for people who know (or think they know) that they want to work specifically in the PR industry.

A more realistic explanation for decreased applications would simply be that applicants are taking more time over their applications as it is a much greater investment and so applications will increase over the next few months after applicants have visited university open days and found out more about the courses on offer.


  1. Very interesting – maths is quite different to PR, I’d understand English or History (which many PR pros have degrees in) but maths seems like a different practice entirely to me.

    However from the PRs I have met, you don’t seem to need a dedicated PR degree – which is good news for anyone wanting to get into PR but unsure if they can because of their degree.

    Of course if you know you want to go into PR (and why wouldn’t you, it’s awesome) a dedicated PR degree is the way forward. (Those of you that want to work on the social side of things could also consider a web design module too).

  2. Totally agree Laura. One thing I’ve observed from being at university is the vast amount of people that take these generic degree’s like Law and Maths. I totally understand why someone would study these courses (I myself had no idea what I wanted to do with my career until my last few months of college) as they are well respected and leave your career prospects broad.

    However, now the fees are up to £9,000 a year, I think prospective students need to think long and hard about what they are taking their degree for. Will amassing such a debt be worth what lies ahead at the end of it? In my opinion, unless you know exactly where your degree is taking you, perhaps not.

  3. There are so many ways to look at the hard-soft issue. At one level (as presented in the newspaper report) it looks like a question of numerate versus literate.

    As David says, there’s no comparison between PR and maths. But perhaps the challenge for students and practitioners is to demonstrate our mastery of numbers where they matter to the discipline.

    Then there’s the implication that if something isn’t hard, it must be easy. We can defend our discipline against this charge because public relations deals with difficult issues that don’t always have easy solutions (oh for the simplicity of equations!).

    Finally, soft needn’t be bad. Soft skills (ie communications) are needed by everyone. The challenge for PR graduates is when they come up against economics graduates, say, for the same jobs.

    Some employers, as David suggests, would assume it’s easier to teach soft skills to an economics graduate than to teach numeracy to a PR graduate.

  4. I completely agree with what you are saying.

    When I was applying for University last year a lot of people said to me that PR shouldn’t be available at University as it is not an ‘academic’ subject.

    But who decided that University should be exlusively for academics? Correct me if I’m mistaken but I thought University is all about furthering your education and preparing you for a job – which is exactly what I’m doing with my PR degree.

    With the economy in the state it is at the moment, I feel like I am in a much stronger position than people with more generic degrees, because when I go for a job interview, employers will see that my degree has moulded me and prepared me 100% for a career in public relations, compared to John Smith with his English Literature degree.

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