09/18/2014 10:47 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 01:00 EDT

University of Regina journalism school adds master's degree to program

REGINA - In an age of tight university budgets and financial cuts, one program at the University of Regina is celebrating a big addition.

The university's School of Journalism will now offer a Master of Arts degree.

People who apply to the school with prior university degrees will be able to take two semesters of basic training and a paid internship followed by a master’s year with advanced courses, a graduate seminar and a professional project.

Journalists who have at least three years of experience working in the field can qualify directly for the one-year master’s program.

Mitch Diamontopolous, head of the School of Journalism, tells radio station CJME that the new program offers a good incentive for students to put in an extra two years to get a first degree before entering journalism school.

About a third of the current students already have a prior degree which is why he expects the option to be popular.

He adds that the program will also provide a good opportunity for working journalists to further their careers.

“What we hope is that this will cast out a lifeline to people in the field already who want to take on a big project they don’t have time to take on in their everyday, nine-to-five grind,” Diamontopolous said.

He admitted it was very difficult to make the case for a new arts program in the midst of financial restraint at the university.

“Austerity budgets are no fun for anyone and particularly no fun for people who want to innovate," Diamontopolous said. "It’s a drag on innovation, it delayed and diverted our efforts by years. But we did find a way to make the numbers work so that we will recover the costs of the new investments over five years and we expect to also be generating a modest surplus so that we can reinvest continually in the program from then on in.”

Diamontopolous said the new program will not only benefit journalism students but society as a whole and will address public complaints about certain aspects of the quality of journalism, such as bias in the media.

“If you really feel like there is room for improvement, then you have to invest in improvement and this is our best bet at how to help do that," he said. "How to help give people in the field the tools they need when they need them to do the job that they want to do."