PRSA certification

The gold standard of excellence in PR education

The University of Waikato’s Management Communication Department has cemented its leading position as the only department in Australasia certified by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) – a global organisation that sets the gold standard for excellence in public relations education.

Waikato University is one of 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.

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

PRSA certification is a voluntary accreditation programme that recognises the quality of Waikato Management School’s public relations programme in terms of teaching, practical student experiences and academic research. The Management Communication Department goes through a re-certification review process by the PRSA Educational Affairs committee every six years.

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

Former PRSA President Judy Phair and Professor Doug Swanson of California State University visited the University for three days in May 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.

They concluded the Waikato public relations programme "has grown in depth, diversity and reputation since initial certification in 2009. It has a strong research-teaching balance and active engagement with the profession".

The review team quoted employers of Waikato communications graduates, praising them as “excellent…first class… high quality”. Students cited the programme’s strength in developing writing skills and praised the enthusiasm of their instructors.

PRSA certification says 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.

Senior Lecturer Dr Margalit Toledano says the Department had to meet eight quality standards related to areas such as the teaching curriculum, faculty, facilities, workplace-based internships and opportunities for students to interact with public relations professionals.

“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.”

Professor Roper says research-led teaching is a high priority for Waikato’s Management 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.