History of the Department


In 1961, history was made in sub-Saharan Africa when a Department of Mass Communication, then known as the Jackson College of  Journalism, was established at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka “with virtually a complete North American style school of  Journalism curriculum, including heavy doses of advertising, public relations and so on. The initiative to set up the department was that of the founding father of the university, the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the doyen of West African journalism. With the establishment of the department, the dream for the formal educational training for journalists and would-be journalists became a reality.


In September 1961, the department which was then named Jackson College of Journalism was opened, and the first to head it was Mr. Earl O. Roe, who incidentally was the only lecturer in the department at the time. It was Mr. Earl O. Roe who commenced journalism programme for the pioneer students who satisfied the admission requirements for entry into the department.


In early 1962, barely two years after its establishment, the Jackson College took a giant stride in the field of student journalism by launching the NSUKKA RECORD – a weekly newspaper. The idea was to provide a training ground for student journalists so that they would be properly groomed in the nitty-gritty of journalism, namely information, education and entertainment.


In June 1964, Zik’s dream was eventually actualized with the graduation of four of the pioneer students of the college, the first in sub-Saharan Africa. The accomplishment of this goal was highly significant in view of the human and material resources problems that marked the beginning and progression of the college. In May 1964, the college had organized a dinner to mark the graduation event which, going by its significance, was an event of epochal magnitude. On that historic occasion, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was the chancellor of the University of Nigeria, said inter alia:


We are making history tonight in that we have gathered here to honour the prospective graduates of the Jackson College of Journalism, who will receive their baccalaureate degrees in a few days. This incident will be history in the making, because for the first time in the annals of West Africa, an indigenous university will endorse the professional competence of journalists who have passed through the crucible of systematic university education.


In 1965, the department graduated ten students. In 1966, it produced twelve graduates, and in 1967, just on the eve of the outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War, it graduated fifteen students. This progress was, however, momentarily halted by the ravages of the civil war which reduced the college to a ghost of its former self by robbing it of its facilities and its entire founding academic staff.


However, the college came back to life once more in 1970 after the civil War with its own products as new academic staff. This time, the name Jackson college of Journalism was replaced with the Department of Mass Communication to reflect the department’s new course offerings.


To complete the newness circuit, the departmental newspaper, – the Nsukka Record, was revived in 1971 with the name- The Record. The year 1971 was another milestone on the road to progress because it marked the production of the first batch of the department’s post-war graduates after the wreckage of the war.


The Name Jackson

The department was originally named the Jackson College of Journalism as a tribute to John Payne Jackson, a courageous newspaper editor who founded the “Lagos weekly Record” in 1891. A daring journalist, Jackson used his paper to attack the exploitative and obnoxious policies of the colonial government.

When John Payne Jackson died in 1915, his son, Horatio Jackson, took over the newspaper and continued in the footsteps of his father. It was in appreciation of the monumental contributions of John Payne Jackson that the department was named Jackson College of Journalism.


Post-war Performance

It has been noted earlier that the year 1971 represents an important milestone in the annals of the department in that it marked the beginning of the blossoming of the department into a gigantic school of mass communication. From that year to date, the performance of the department could be likened to an inverted pyramid, denoting a mustard seed growth pattern.


In 1990, the department made a detailed review of its programme in response to the demands of the standards set by the National Universities Commission (NUC). This elaborate review further enriched the curriculum with innovative offerings in print and electronic journalism, marketing communications, philosophy of communication, history and development of the mass media systems with particular reference to the Nigerian mass media, law and ethics of mass communication, mass communication research and theories, and photojournalism. These course areas and others are continually being enriched with latest studies. This pace-setting strategy, which is a tradition of the department, has continued to power it to the lofty heights of mass communication. Accordingly, the department revised its undergraduate programme again in 2008 to accommodate the demands of new communication technologies, which were in fact attempting to redefine mass communication.


In 2007 the department started a PGD programme and revised its master’s degree programme. It is worthy of note that the Department of Mass Communication of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka has been living up to its expectations in the competitive field of communication merchandizing. The bi-focal role of the department as a pioneer and a pace-setter in sub-Saharan African journalism becomes clearer when one realizes that the department was the lone-ranger until the middle sixties, when the University of Lagos joined it in offering degree programme in journalism. Who could imagine that a department which started without a building and even when a building was eventually provided, has to use the floor for furniture, could start and never stop. What could engineer such a progress except a resolute determination arising from an insight of a visionary Zik of Africa?



The founders of the University of Nigeria believed that there was need to train Nigerians locally and in sufficient numbers for the formidable task of informing and guiding contemporary and future generations. On the basis of this philosophy, the University had as one of its original curricula, this degree in communication education.

It was hoped that graduates of the programme would be able to contribute to the development of the country through the power of the pen applied not only through the press but through the vast reaches of the broadcast media, film production and allied persuasive fields namely, public relations and advertising.