Course Structure and Contents
The Master’s Programme in Medical Journalism and Public Relations can be consecutively based on the corresponding Bachelor’s programme or on a first degree in Communications / Journalism Sciences with a specialisation in Medicine / Health / Biology. However, it can also be started after obtaining a relevant degree in the “Life Sciences” (medicine, biology, dental medicine, pharmacy, public health, etc.). While the Bachelor’s Programme provides initial orientation and qualification for the professional practice of a medical journalist or an expert in public relations in medicine or the healthcare sector, the Master’s Programme is intended rather to serve as a theoretical consolidation or further professional qualification. Accordingly, the modules are designed not to provide an overview, but to deepen the knowledge using selected examples.
The standard period of study for the consecutively designed Master’s Programme in “Medical Journalism” is 4 terms, and a total of 120 ECTS credits must be earned. The courses required for the degree comprise 90 contact hours. A total of 20 ECTS points are awarded for the Master’s thesis.
Graduates of the Bachelor’s Programme in Medical Journalism and Public Relations or a corresponding primary study programme will receive appropriate recognition for their courses. Students in the present Master’s Programme with an admission from the field of study “Life Sciences” are required to provide proof of corresponding practical experience in the field of journalism and/or public relations in order to be admissible, or must complete at least a two-month internship within the framework of the study programme. In addition, applicants must prove that they have acquired the relevant knowledge in statistics in their previous studies. If such knowledge is not available, it can be made up for in the modules of the Bachelor’s Programme.
Modules and phase structure
The Master’s Programme is organised in modules. In each module, certain subject-specific qualifications are imparted. At the end of each module, there is a module exam.
The Master’s Programme is divided into 6 modules in the field of study “Journalism and Public Relations”. In the final term, a master’s thesis based on a scientific project is to be written. A total of 5 modules with a total of 100 credits have to be acquired on how a master’s thesis (20 credits) is to be carried out. Proof must be furnished of an internship of at least 2 months.
- The students are to be enabled to better see through the media system, and to detect certain strategies behind individual campaigns or fads. They are to understand that media serve not only the education and the information needs of the recipients, but also their own interests or those of others. The students should get to know the instruments with which a media campaign can be examined and analysed for strategies guided by vested interests. The students shall learn that public communication does not take place in a vacuum, but is on the one hand exposed to harsh market conditions and on the other subject to legal constraints. They are to be enabled to analyse and evaluate current problem cases on the basis of legal principles and economic boundary conditions.
- The students should learn to comprehend how theoretical ethical principles are disregarded and hardly sanctioned in the daily practice of editorial offices and agencies. They learn about methods and procedures in editorial offices and agencies and work out which control mechanisms can be used to ensure that not only ethical principles but also minimum standards of journalistic quality are observed. Students will be enabled to systematise information fields in organisations, and to design work processes. They are to be enabled to understand the individual work steps in corporate communication theoretically and reduce them to practice.
- The students will learn to see no hostile relationship, but no love match either, in the cooperation between public relations and journalism. Public relations and journalism depend on and need each other. Public relations work supports journalism, but also pursues its own interests. The journalist should make an unbiased assessment of the situation. On the other hand, the students are also expected to learn how important it is for public relations work to gain credibility without losing sight of their own interests. Students will be enabled to critically question medical research and medicinal practice. Scientists and physicians pursue not only altruistic goals, but are also integrated into a system of interests and are subject to their own motives, which sometimes coincide with their task assignments, but sometimes do not. Using a theory-based approach, it will be worked out how examples of social dependence on medicine and research can be proven in history. The students are expected to learn to understand how the modern medical business works, and which interests are stimulated by the enormous amounts of money being moved through the healthcare system.
- In the project seminars, students will learn how to design and implement their own research projects: In doing so, they should select an exemplary problem area from the field of medical journalism or public relations work on medicine, but learn to think this through more intensively. They will be empowered to deal more confidently with medical experts, to better understand their way of thinking and methodology, and to implement this properly for the purposes of journalism or public relations.
- The Master’s Programme strives not to be complete, but rather to enable students to identify a problem field in the interaction between journalists and experts and to intensively think through and analyse it. Using a current medical problem as an example, students will learn how to quickly familiarise themselves with a new, complex subject area, how to distinguish between serious and dubious sources of information, how to separate essential from unessential information, and how to work pragmatically in order to arrive at the essential core statements. They learn to comprehend and analyse the existing reporting on a selected topic area. They will be enabled to carry out a statement analysis and to evaluate it in juxtaposition with the facts.
- Students will learn to recognise the problems that arise in practice when translating a theoretically researched topic into media practice. On the one hand, they can thus train the practice of journalistic or public relations work, while on the other they learn to reflect on theoretical analyses in the light of practical experience. This experience is intended to enable students to understand how media practice works, and what strengths and weaknesses the respective media have.
- In the Master’s thesis, the students are required to demonstrate that they have learned to work independently, to systematically comprehend a subject area, to work out a question theoretically, and to come to valid results in their own investigation, which answers the research question raised systematically, completely and in a methodically sound manner.