From dream to reality: High hopes, fear over UNN faculty of mass communication project

 From dream to reality: High hopes, fear over UNN faculty of mass communication project


By Ndidiamaka Ede


As the first college of journalism in West Africa, established in 1961, and the first indigenous university in Nigeria, it was expected that the mass communication department at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) would be among the pioneers in unbundling mass communication department for professionalism and specialisation, in line with societal trends.

According to Prof. Michael Ukonu, of the aforementioned department, technology has drastically impacted the field of mass communication to the extent that the concept of “mass communication” itself has been redefined, necessitating unbundling.

Reports revealed that in 2019, the National Universities Commission (NUC) proposed the idea of unbundling mass communication departments across Nigerian institutions to meet the current demand in university education and keep up with global development and best practices.

As reported by Leadership news source, among the universities that have unbundled their mass communication department into faculty are: Benue State University of Markurdi, Ajayi Crowder University, Oyo, Imo State University (IMSU), Lagos State University(LASU), University of Uyo, Bayero University of Kano (BUK) And Nasarawa State University, Keffi. Looking at the situation, one will be curious to know why all the federal universities have not embraced this development.

Meanwhile, as far back as 2016, and even before the 2019 NUC initiative, the mass communication department at UNN had been making arrangements with the alumni of the department to get the required infrastructure ready for unbundling.

However, a lack of funding to construct buildings and acquire necessary equipment remained a major obstacle to becoming a full-fledged faculty.

Having realized the importance of becoming a faculty, the department had not only sought the school senate’s approval but has been persistent in making plans with the alumni to acquire the necessary infrastructure as Dr. Nwachukwu stated, “The alumni have raised some funds, but what they raised was not enough.”

Years after the plans for the unbundling began, and the 2019 NUC initiative, the department’s long-awaited dream recently turned into hope with phase one of the Faculty of Mass Communication Complex reaching the lintel level behind the Department of Works.

Dr. Nwachukwu credited this progress to the vice-chancellor, Prof. Charles Arinze Igwe’s support, saying, “We are very fortunate that the vice-chancellor and then deputy vice-chancellor recommended us to TETFUND to fund this building’s construction for unbundling mass communication.”


The NUC had outlined the necessity of this unbundling across Nigerian institutions. One of the reasons why the NUC approved the unbundling of mass communication departments into journalism and media studies, public relations, advertising, broadcasting, film and media studies, development communication studies, information and media studies, etc., in Nigerian higher institutions is to meet the demand of the 21st century’s need for communication.

According to the NUC Executive Secretary, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, the unbundling of the curriculum was a result of recommendations by stakeholders and professionals. Also in the words of Prof. Chinyere Okunna, the first female professor of mass communication in Sub-Saharan Africa,

“Those studying mass communication are studying eight courses and getting a degree, but the unbundling will make for more professionalism and expertise.” She pointed out that the unbundling would create jobs everywhere.

In the dynamic world of Nigeria where citizens battle with the disease called unemployment, it would be worthy to say that having the eight-in-one certificate/skills will help a young communicator find a job easily. However, some lecturers have clarified this issue in an interview.

According to Prof. Ukonu, one who has the eight-in-one certificate can never be useful because people have moved on from the issues of unemployment to employability. “We do not have unemployment because there are no jobs; we have unemployment more because we do not have competent people,” stated the Professor of mass communication.

He also explained that the dichotomy between unemployment, employment, and employability is specialization and competency, hence the need to unbundle the mass communication department to continue training individuals who will fit the communication needs of today’s society.

“You will see that people will be more useful and employable when they have this specialization according to these unbundled areas rather than when you are a jack of all trades and a master of none. So, if you develop yourself well, you get the skill,” said Prof. Ukonu.

The academia also explained that artificial intelligence is among the areas to be specialized coupled with politics, culture, health, banking and finance, development, etc. hence making it difficult for one to study all of these things.

“This day, there is a certain area of unbundled mass communication that you will see yourself tending towards data science, and you will be useful in the area of algorithms. You will step your feet in the area where those of robotics and data engineering find themselves.

“That is the importance of this unbundling so that we will align very well with other disciplines and benefit maximally from the hugely interdisciplinary measure of communication,” Prof. Ukonu explained succinctly.

Looking at these benefits outlined above, one ought to ask what the fate of those with the eight-in-one degree is currently. However, Dr. Nwachukwu clarified this, stating, “Those who did not specialize are not at any kind of disadvantage because society evolves.

“There was a time when this department was called the ‘Jackson College of Journalism,’ a three-year program. The name was later changed to Mass Communication with additional courses. What we are doing by unbundling is a kind of improvement on the Google trend, which is specialization.”

“Those who read mass communication have found ways to specialize. Many of them went ahead to do master’s degrees in one area of mass communication or another, which enabled them to specialize. Many of them, where they work, have also received in-house training that enabled them to specialize in whatever they are doing,” explained Dr. Nwachukwu.


The issue at hand also required the opinion of UNN mass communication students. According to a 300-level mass communication and student journalist at UNN, the classrooms in the department are not enough to accommodate students, thereby making learning tiring and difficult in the end. He lamented one struggles to understand anything due to noise, uncomfortable atmosphere and lack of ventilation. In his opinion, specialization will help individuals to understand and learn more quickly than learning every aspect.

For Chigozie Nwabunwanne, a 200-level student of the department, focusing only on one area will give lecturers time to go deep into the discipline and equip students with the needed skills to adapt to the labour market.

In another interview with Zutem Okoli-Ekwuazi, a final year mass communication student, she will not benefit from the initiative because she is about to graduate. She, however, noted that though it is true that no knowledge is a waste, if she were to specialise, she would focus on broadcasting with a touch of advertising.


Currently, Mass Communication at UNN is a department where about eight programs are studied within four years. Each class has at least 300 students, making it uncomfortable for both students and lecturers to navigate teaching and learning effectively.

The fact remains that almost every student usually sees themselves as studying one out of the eight programmes when asked about their interest.

The Jackson building can still accommodate only 40–50 students, as it did in the 1960s, making infrastructure one of the greatest needs for the department to become a faculty.

Fortunately, the school authorities understood the plight of the department and awarded the first phase of the communication complex. The official handover of the site for the construction of this phase took place on February 6, 2024, at the designated area for the project.

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Uche Okpoko, the Director of Physical Planning, Dr. Ekwelem Okechukwu, Architect Esther Onuoha and her team, the HOD and lecturers of the mass communication department, etc. gathered for the official signing of the brief that has been translated into lines by the architecture for the physical building.

The HOD of the mass communication department, Prof. Wogu Joseph, described this new development as a dream come true. According to him, “When the building has been completed, the Faculty would have been sure that the sixth departments approved by UNN authority will be well accommodated to some extent.

“It is not about the unbundling because, without those buildings, the current space will not accommodate the departments. The department had tried reaching many organisations before the school intervened. So, God heard our prayers this time “stated the HOD.

He also explained that although the university cannot do everything to establish the faculty, once the infrastructure is in place, the department will seek assistance from other organizations for the necessary equipment.”


The department is so excited about this development, but the second and third phases of the faculty buildings are yet to be awarded. The completion of the three complexes is what will accommodate not only the departments to be unbundled but will make learning and teaching comfortable for lecturers and students.

The department has also shown concern about the completion of the three phases by explaining some available options.

According to Prof. Ukonu, “The remaining two phases are open. The important thing is that the school has done the design and awarded the first phase. He explained that the alumni of the department, known as “Jacksonites,” have been doing something elaborate, including fundraising, ideas, and collaboration to achieve this development.

According to Dr. Nwachukwu, the department is not depending solely on the school and alumni, though they are confident that based on the school’s efforts so far, they will continue to make a positive impact on the students. He stated, however, that there is room for people to come on board and be part of these projects.

“There are many philanthropists out there who are willing to invest their money to better the society. On the part of the staff, everybody is at work reaching out to philanthropists who have the financial capacity to come and help us have this environment where students can come and learn and have this value for their knowledge so that they can go out there and contribute to the development of the society. In terms of rewards for organizations that invest, it is left to the school administration to decide what those will be,” stated the academia.

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Years after, construction of UNN faculty of communication and media studies set to begin

The Director of the Physical Planning Unit at UNN, Dr. Ekwelem had during the official handover of the brief to the contractor stated that 48 weeks is the stipulated period for the completion of this phase except in case of unforeseen circumstances.

It is just about 11 weeks now that the brief was handed over to the contractor and the entire blockwork to the ground floor of the first phase is already at the lintel level, with the damp-proof course completed.

The contractor, Mr. John, stated in an interview that there has not been any challenge so far, except for the terrible slope of the site, which has been resolved. He maintained that, provided there is continuous release of funds for the project, hopefully, the project will be concluded within the stipulated 48 weeks.

Meanwhile, the completion of all three phases is crucial, as the proposed faculty will not only enable the unbundling but will also lead to significant development. It will necessitate the hiring of more academic and non-academic staff, thereby creating additional jobs for society. Furthermore, those studying and specializing will be better equipped to serve society well after graduation.

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