The Community Hub – Bournemouth University

Sue Wallace and Jo Tyler, Bournemouth University

The Community Hub aimed to develop teaching and learning practices by establishing links between Bournemouth University staff and students, and community radio stations in the area. Graduates from two of the university’s degrees, MA Multi-Media Journalism and MA Radio Production were commissioned to research potential links. Following a research process, one graduate supervised current students...


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Keywords: radio, community radio, radio journalism, radio production, peer-assisted learning, work-based learning


The Community Hub aimed to develop teaching and learning practices by establishing links between Bournemouth University staff and students, and community radio stations in the area. Graduates from two of the university’s degrees, MA Multi-Media Journalism and MA Radio Production were commissioned to research potential links. Following a research process, one graduate supervised current students to produce short factual features, which were then accepted for broadcast by community radio stations. Two graduates provided training to radio clubs in the region, established with the support of Age UK, for them to produce their own audio programming. The project helped to establish graduates with impact on both society and HE and partially succeeded in the objective of establishing a regional community hub. While limitations to the scheme have been identified, alternative models are also proposed for its further development.

1. About the Project: The Community Hub: Bournemouth University (BU)

a) The main focus of The Community Hub project was collaboration between university graduates, students and community schemes, to develop graduates with impact on both society and HE. The intention was to make opportunities available for graduates from journalism and radio courses at Bournemouth's Media School to liaise with community radio stations to provide them with news and features content. The graduates would supervise production and delivery of this content by students on the university courses. This, then, would offer work experience to students, and management and entrepreneurial prospects to graduates. The ultimate aim was to design a sustainable foundation for a regional hub including other community radio stations in a relationship with the university. This might lead to a model which could be transposed to other regions.

b) The Community Hub was launched at the Age UK / Mature Broadcasters Association (MBA) funded event held at BU on 18th July 2011. 'Sounds Good To Me' was the third workshop-led day in the UK to present the concept of the 50+ audience being able to engage in making radio programmes. Invitations were extended to interested parties from the region. In attendance were community radio station practitioners, Age UK members and related arts and culture groups from a wide Dorset area, a total of 82 community members took part. Students were also recruited to document the event in audio interviews and pictures.

c) Feedback was very positive and indicated the need to assist this underserved audience in the region further. There was also positive feedback from community radio stations to the suggestion of links with BU students providing factual content.

d) Following this, the Community Hub project was pursued in two separate ways. A journalism route was developed by Sue Wallace, linked to the MA Multi-Media Journalism, and a radio club route was developed by Jo Tyler, linked to the MA Radio Production, as detailed separately below.

2. The Community Hub – Journalism

a)  A number of graduates from Bournemouth University’s MA Multi-Media Journalism applied to be involved in the project, and two submitted written reports on how they felt they could contribute. Both were interviewed, leading to one being selected to work on the Community Hub project. The graduate then researched four regional community radio stations: Radio Bedside (Dorset hospital radio); Hope FM, Christian community radio station in Bournemouth; Park FM, community radio station for Lymington and the New Forest; and Forest FM, community radio station in Verwood, New Forest. Research was undertaken by listening to output, reviewing websites, and visiting and interviewing radio station managers.

b)  Following this initial research, there was research into local organisations in the area, and a variety of sources, to draw up a list of potential subjects for journalism production. These were presented by the graduate in a workshop session, to MA Multi-Media Journalism students, as ideas for the news features they were to produce as practice exercises on their course. The graduate kept in contact to advise on development of ideas, and then attended a workshop with the students to supervise their editing and recording of their news reports.

c)  Two of these news features were complete enough to offer to community radio stations for broadcast.

2.i. Benefits

a)  At least two community radio stations are to broadcast the two students news features. All have welcomed the idea in principle.

b)  Students have appreciated and benefited from the opportunity for public broadcast of their work.

c)  The graduate has reported that the project has been ‘a great professional learning experience’, instilling confidence in idea generation and enhancing their skill set for further production/research/supervision roles.

2.ii. Limitations

a)  It was originally planned to develop a link with just one community radio station. However, difficulties with its licence arrangements meant that this had to be withdrawn from the project. Four other radio stations were then involved in the scheme, however, they were spread across South East Dorset and the New Forest. There were differing editorial areas, therefore, and some radio stations were active in districts not normally covered by students for their coursework – the cost and time-consuming nature of travel being among the limitations. The need for the graduates to earn extra income has also put some restrictions on the management of the project.

b)  There has also been some difficulty with the focus of community radio stations on the provision of news programming, with its requirement for a regular, even daily, supply of material. The community radio stations were very keen to have students provide a regular news service, as their own volunteers were unable to sustain this. However this would not fit in with university timetables.

c)  The intermittent nature of university timetabling, and desire of community radio stations for content, meant that feature reports needed to be as timeless as possible – something which conflicted with the news agenda.

d)  The graduate found that ‘the focus on news and factual programming was quite limited, with entertainment and songs taking up a chunk of time for most of the community stations.’

2. iii. Impact on Teaching and Learning

a)  Engagement with the possibility of providing factual programming for community radio stations, has raised issues of peer assessment and mentoring, along with reflections on professional and amateur contributions to the news. All of this has had an impact on necessary considerations for teaching.

b)  For example, one of the community radio stations has been using students during the summer to provide a regular news service, which journalism students have counted as part of their course requirement to undertake work-based learning or placements. The difficulty is that there is no professionally-trained journalist at the radio station to supervise the students’ work, rather, they are allowed to research, produce and present their own bulletins. This raises questions about the standards to which they are working. Similarly, when students are supervised by a newly-qualified graduate to produce factual reports and features which will then be broadcast by community radio stations, it may be questioned whether those reports are put under professional scrutiny.

c)  Community radio stations, while professional in the sense of publicly broadcasting their output, are usually staffed by volunteers, few of whom may have had formal radio or news training. University journalism courses, meanwhile, operate to guidelines, including legal and ethical considerations, developed in association with more established broadcasting groups, those accounted to be professional, e.g. BBC, Independent Local Radio. This raises issues relating to assessment of what is professional and what is amateur broadcasting, and how editorial standards are maintained, which have yet to be fully resolved. The current position is something of a two tier practice, where broadcast of student work on community radio stations is welcomed as public exposure of their work, but not accredited as part of the course requirements for professional attachments.

d) Nevertheless, the Community Hub project has underlined the benefit to students of peer assisted learning, as realised through the graduate’s supervision of MA student coursework, although this has been applicable only for formative, rather than summative, assessment.

2.iv. Collaborative Aspects of the Project

a)  There has been an enthusiastic response from the graduates to learning about the projects accomplished on their separate degrees, which has suggested the benefits of developing collaborative work across degrees and departments.

b)  There has been some involvement with staff overseeing undergraduate journalism provision. This has involved sharing suggestions for ways in which a bigger pool of students could contribute to community radio programming, and how links with these radio stations might be fostered to make a contribution to coursework. This scheme will benefit from the research conducted for the Community Hub project and links developed with community radio station managers.

c)  There is also the opportunity for students to engage with more community groups and their activities, facilitated by the database developed by the graduate for this project.

d)  The ultimate aim was to develop a regional collaborative hub of university radio courses and community radio stations. A hub was established between four community radio stations which were willing to share content generated by students. However, that collaboration has not been formalised, for example through inclusion in standardised course timetabling, and with the intermittent nature of teaching and coursework requirements, the links between university, community and radio station will need to be regularly refreshed and reviewed to establish a more permanent development.

3. The Community Hub – Radio Clubs

a)  This side of the Community Hub project developed contact with Age UK and its scheme begun in summer 2011, supporting and encouraging the development of a number of radio clubs in Dorset for older people. The aim was to explore potential models whereby the university forms links between community radio groups, hospital radio, local and national BBC, organisations such as Age UK, and current students and graduates of the university.

b)  Two recent graduates from the MA Radio Production course at Bournemouth University, were contracted as researchers to investigate potential models for the Community Hub and how Bournemouth University students, staff and graduates could support the development of community radio in Dorset.

c)  Their first introduction to members of the Dorset radio clubs established and fostered by Age UK came at a BBC-led training initiative, where two members of the BBC’s outreach team, producers at BBC London, delivered two days of training for members of the clubs. The main aim was to introduce novice radio makers to the basics of creating a short radio package. The workshops were attended by local people from clubs across the Dorset area.

d)  Following this, the two graduates attended meetings of two of the radio clubs, in Christchurch and Purbeck, and established that their greatest need was for additional training. The graduates then held a further training day at each club. Since then, they have continued to act as mentors, offering support and advice. They have also produced a guide to radio production.

3. i. Benefits

a)  The members of the radio clubs were assisted in producing radio features and longer programmes.

b)  The graduates developed their own training programme and also production guide. They have continued to gain experience of knowledge transfer, and mentoring groups in radio production.

c)  The members of the BBC outreach team gained experience of working with community groups, and made their expertise more widely available.

3.ii. Limitations

a)  The major limitation was that Age UK, having provided some seed funding for the radio clubs, then suffered staff and funding cuts, which meant that it could not support the scheme further. This has raised questions over how the Community Hub could be effectively developed, with a number of options being proposed.

b)  Limitations on further progress have been identified by the graduates including lack of access by radio club members to equipment and resources, difficulties in raising more funds, for example, lack of charitable status, and the disparate aims of club members, as well as varying skill levels.

3.iii. Impact on Teaching and Learning

A noticeable impact has been achieved by the graduates who have developed their teaching skills while acting as mentors to the radio club members. While significant in individual terms, this has also suggested a method through which other students can develop both teaching and learning potential. There is also the possibility of a ripple effect, by which the radio club members receiving guidance from student mentors can themselves become active in teaching as well as learning.

3.iv. Collaborative Aspects of the Project

a)  The project has developed links between Age UK, the university, and radio clubs in Dorset. It has the potential for further embedding in the community through the activities of the clubs. For example, one church member was keen to use her radio skills with her scouts and guides to engage them in thinking about the environment and developing their communication skills.

b)  A number of potential models to move the scheme forward have been identified by the graduates involved in the Community Hub project. These include the idea of clubs forging links with other community partners such as heritage organisations or hospital radio stations. They might also fundraise for a project facilitator who could support clubs and coordinate joint actions on a part-time paid basis.

c)  Meanwhile, it is also recommended for consideration that students and recent graduates from BU could provide ongoing technical support and advice, perhaps acting as volunteer mentors. However, such arrangements would need to be formalised so that the clubs’ expectations are met.

4. The Community Hub – Conclusion

a)  Both the journalism and the radio production aspects of this project have employed graduates to make contact with community groups with a view to producing content for broadcasting. The experiences of those graduates can be seen to be complementary - while the journalism side enabled students under graduate supervision to provide factual reports for community radio stations, the radio production side employed graduates to work with community members to enable them to produce material for broadcast. A regional hub of community radio stations was developed to the extent that they were willing to share programme material supplied by the university.

b)  The extent of university involvement in such schemes, and terms on which students might be involved, need to be formalised. However, a number of models have been identified with potential to develop the project further and also aid its transferability to other regions. It is intended to disseminate the project results and proposed models more widely.

c)  For further details of conclusions see Appendix A: ‘Journalism Graduate Report’ and Appendix B: ‘Dorset Community Hub 2011-12: Radio Clubs Research Project’.

Contact information

Sue Wallace

Jo Tyler


Sue Wallace has been a Senior Lecturer in Audio at Bournemouth University since 1994 and also has 20 years of experience as a radio journalist in both BBC and commercial, national and local radio. She is Framework Leader for Bournemouth University’s postgraduate journalism courses, Programme Coordinator for the MA. in Multi-Media Journalism and also teaches students on the BA Multi-Media Journalism.

Jo Tyler is a Lecturer in Radio Production at Bournemouth University, in her fourth year of working on the existing 11 year-old MA Radio Production, BA (Top Up) and FdA Radio Production courses. She has 15 years experience in BBC radio programme making and production, including the launch of BBC 6 Music in 2002. Jo continues to work on new models of collaborative radio broadcast and audio and has recently successfully developed a new BA Radio which started in 2011.


Journalism Graduate Report

Dorset Community Hub 2011-12: Radio Clubs Research Project 


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Sue Wallace and Jo Tyler, Bournemouth University


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13 Jul 2012