The CIPR Must Play a Stronger Role in CIPR Approved Courses

UPDATE (16/02/2012): THE CIPR’S RESPONSE TO THIS POST HAS NOW BEEN POSTED HERE.

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) must do more to support their student members. Graduate unemployment has hit its highest level since 1995 and prospective PR graduates from CIPR approved courses are not being adequately supported.

The formula is simple. As students we are concerned with Return On Investment (ROI). Currently student membership to the CIPR costs £35. Other than dozens of copies of PR Week what benefits do we get in practice? To me CIPR student membership is really just a magazine subscription. If you believe this observation is overtly cynical then chat to the students who have decided against student membership. Their main concern is over the benefits.

“What benefits will I receive for joining the CIPR?”

According to the CIPR’s website student members will receive the following benefits:

  • Skills guides on essential areas of PR practice
  • Best practice case studies of PR in action
  • Research and reports on key communications trends and issues
  • Work placement finder to help you get practical experience
  • Networking opportunities to help you build “you” (Need to check your grammar CIPR…) contacts
  • Opportunities to get involved with your local CIPR group
  • Free subscription to PR Week

In reality all student members will get their PR Week subscription and be able to access their work placement finder (Their work placement finder was not up-to-date when I used it. Has it been improved now?). Every other benefit remains unfulfilled in my experience.

We all know that a PR degree is near worthless without the relevant work experience. Rachel Barkley (2nd Year PR Student from Leeds Met) debates in her latest blog post over the nature of work placement and sandwich courses. Should placements be compulsory? It is vital that a PR degree is supported with industry experience — this is an area I would like to see the CIPR delve into.

In their student member benefits they have already noted that students will receive “networking opportunities” but I have never noticed such events. Either the CIPR is doing a bad job of promoting their events or this benefit is not being supported. Wouldn’t it be brilliant if the CIPR:

  • Arranged for their regional groups to organise networking sessions for PR students in their local area.
  • Arranged events purely for students from CIPR approved courses for networking between Universities.
  • Maintained a graduate database of PR jobs.

To my knowledge the only student members of the CIPR who receive any form of benefit from the CIPR are the CIPR Student Representatives. I was fortunate enough to be a representative for my University during 2009/10. You get to network with your regional group and arrange a CIPR approved event (albeit with a tiny budget). This isn’t enough though.

As PR students graduating from CIPR approved courses we can expect to receive ACIPR professional accreditation. No doubt, the title is fancy. Where is the value though?

As a student who is only four months away from graduating I have received no contact from the CIPR. Aren’t I meant to be on a CIPR approved course? I would at least expect an email enticing me with networking opportunities and asking me to renew my membership. Nothing though. Hands down, the most useful resource of PR students looking to graduate is Ben Cotton’s list of graduate schemes.

The CIPR define the industry as, “Public relations is about reputation… Public relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour…”. Yet it seems that the CIPR has close to forgotten their student membership and CIPR approved degree courses. For the continuation of the CIPR these groups contain vital stakeholders. Hundreds of students are about to graduate. What is the CIPR doing to support them? My membership has lapsed. I want to know my £35 to renew will provide me with more than a magazine subscription.

I have two questions for the CIPR:

  • What do you currently do to support PR students from CIPR approved courses?
  • What changes will you be making to the CIPR student membership benefits?

PS. Whilst writing this post I noticed that the University of Gloucestershire is not listed as a CIPR approved course. This needs fixing.

What do you think?