PRSA certification

The gold standard of excellence in PR education

Waikato Management School's Public Relations programme is the only one in New Zealand that is certified by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) - a global organisation that sets the gold standard for excellence in public relations education.

The Public Relations Society of America is the world’s largest and most influential organisation for public relations professionals, with more than 22,000 members and 10,000 affiliated students.

Waikato University is one of only 37 universities in the world – and one of only 10 outside the United States – to be awarded PRSA certification, the Certification in Education for Public Relations (CEPR), which it achieved for the first time in 2009, and again in 2016.

PRSA certification means Waikato’s Bachelor of Communication Studies degree meets international standards and graduates are ready to take a job anywhere in the world. Many graduates hold high-level positions in the United Nations, UNICEF, Boston Consulting Group and Amazon, as well as in New Zealand companies such as Air New Zealand, Vodafone, Trustpower, Porter Novelli, Pursuit PR, Tourism New Zealand and local councils.

“We’re very proud of this result,” says Professor Juliet Roper. “We are recognised as the only management school in the southern hemisphere to carry both PRSA certification and Triple Crown Accreditation.”

"The PRSA's endorsement puts Waikato on the global map," says Professor Debashish Munshi. "This certification says our graduates are ready to take a job anywhere in the world."

"No other communication degree in the southern hemisphere has PRSA certification," he says. "It's an international guarantee for prospective students of the quality and practice-relevance they'll find at Waikato Management School."

PRSA certification is a voluntary accreditation programme that recognises the quality of Waikato Management School’s public relations programme in terms of teaching and research, practical student experiences, workplace internships and opportunities for students to interact with public relations professionals. A re-certification review process is held every six years.

Former PRSA President Judy Phair and Professor Doug Swanson of California State University visited the University for three days in May 2009 to evaluate the department and interview students, alumni, employers of interns and graduates, as well as public relations practitioners and academics. The CEPR review process usually takes about a year.

The review team quotes employers who praised Waikato's PR graduates as being “excellent…first class… high quality”. Students cited the programme’s strength in developing writing skills and the enthusiasm of their instructors.

Senior lecturer Dr Margalit Toledandosays, "We had to meet nine separate standards, including providing information on what we do to maintain relationships with past students and PR professionals, and how we organise internships for our current students."

The CEPR reviewers noted that firms offering internships to Waikato students particularly valued the fact that the PR programme sits within the Management School, so students are exposed to business concepts from day one.

They also noted that the Management Communication Students' Association (MCSA), which offers students mentoring and networking opportunities, was well-grounded in best PR practice and access to practitioners. MCSA is also affiliated with PRINZ, the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand.

“Our teaching is well informed by current research but is also very practice-oriented and students have to organise campaigns and events for real clients," says senior lecturer Dr Margalit Toledano.

Professor Roper says research-led teaching is a high priority for Waikato’s Management School's communication department, which has won six Marsden research grants. The department has built a strong international profile for its expertise in areas such as corporate social responsibility, health communication and literacy, and New Zealand’s global environmental branding.