Super-fast and super-connected. That is the Labor Government’s vision for the National Broadband Network (NBN) to be rolled out across the country, at a cost of $43 billion, over eight years.
Labelled as the single biggest infrastructure decision in the nation’s history, the network is set to change our communication landscape, and the degrees on offer at UTS.
“We’re at the forefront of something very exciting,” says the Faculty of Law’s Associate Dean (Research), Professor Lesley Hitchens. “The development of a national broadband network represents a really significant shift in the communications and media landscape, and as a university we need to respond to that.”
From Autumn semester next year, UTS will offer two new and distinctively different postgraduate courses in the area of communications law. Both – a Master of Communications Law and a Graduate Certificate in Communications Law – are open to non-law students and are designed to be responsive to emerging real-world challenges.
“We’re not dressing these courses up as ‘basic law’,” says Hitchens. “There will be an overview subject to provide a framework for non-law students, but the subjects will be rigorous.
“What we’re doing is offering something quite unique. It’s unique in that it’s truly inter-disciplinary. It’s an opportunity for students who don’t come from a law background to gain an understanding of the regulatory structure, which is quite complicated. Many people don’t have much sense of the regulation behind the television they watch, their twitter accounts, their Facebook.
“For example, someone coming into the course with a journalistic background may be moving into new media. So what does that mean in terms of blogs? How do they protect sources?
“Traditional protections of the journalist are impacted if they’re working in a new media space. Maybe you’re working in public relations with social media, what’s acceptable in the workplace, what privacy issues do you need to be concerned about?
“Students will get the opportunity to see how that framework is affected by new technologies, especially through case studies and ‘hot-button’ subjects that deal with current issues like the NBN.”
In addition to the hands-on coursework, Hitchens believes another appeal will be UTS’s expertise. “Certainly in the Sydney area, we offer strengths across intellectual property and media and communications law that aren’t necessarily matched elsewhere.”
Co-designer of the new courses and Director of UTS’s Communications Law Centre (CLC) – an independent, non-profit, public interest centre specialising in communications, media and online law and policy – Professor Michael Fraser, agrees. “We have good expertise, really outstanding knowledge and expertise, in the faculty.
“What the CLC adds to that is a long-standing engagement with industry and a reputation in the field of media and communications. Those connections and all that knowledge and experience coming together gives a unique perspective. The theoretical and practical mix is a very good one, especially for students.”
Hitchens supports his view. “Working with the CLC enables a very contemporary focus. We’ll be able to bring relevant case studies and practical experiences straight into the classroom.”
Fraser says, “We understand and undertake academic research and teaching, we do commissioned research for industry and government organisations, we deliver short courses in the professions, we make submissions to government on law reform issues, and we even intervene in court cases, as we did in the federal court last year in the 2UE ‘cash for comment’ case.”
Subjects like Legal Perspectives on the Internet and Regulatory Issues in the Broadband Environment promise to respond to changing sector and regulatory challenges as and when they arise.
Ultimately, Hitchens sees the new courses delivering on a niche demand. “People are looking for practical answers. We’ve got the ability to skill a group of students to be aware of and shape the changing communications environment, and that’s exciting.”
Marketing and Communication Unit
Photographer (L Hitchens): Chris Bennett
Photographer (M Fraser): Terry Clinton