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BBC editor is master of communications

22 July 2014

Press Office

Politics Editor overcomes illness to graduate from strategic communication course

BBC Northern Ireland Politics Editor Michael Cairns who last week graduated from the University of Central Lancashire with his MA in Strategic Communication.

A BBC editor is proof that even those at the top of their profession can enhance their career through postgraduate study, after completing a master’s degree at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan.)

Michael Cairns is politics editor for BBC Northern Ireland but has spent the past four years combining the BBC newsroom with studying part-time on UCLan’s MA Strategic Communication course.

The 52-year-old from Belfast travelled to campus in Preston twice a year for residential study sessions, but the road to completion was not an easy one.

As well as juggling his demanding career and family life with his studies, Michael suffered a set-back when he was hit by illness last year, leaving him hospitalised.

He said: “The illness knocked me out for a full six months and I had to hand my dissertation in straight out of hospital. I spent the start of this year catching up while still working and being dad to my two daughters, who are aged six and eight.

"UCLan has an outstanding reputation among journalists and the course was excellent. I’ve expanded my knowledge in areas such as crisis management and PR theory which will be of huge benefit to me professionally."

“As an editor your schedule is unpredictable so there would be times I’d plan to focus on the Master’s and end up having to work. My partner is a journalist too and often she would be working on weekends I’d set aside to study, so I’d look after the girls instead.

“It was difficult but it was something that was necessary for my professional development. I don’t have a primary degree and I felt there was room to broaden my horizons outside of my professional experience.

“UCLan has an outstanding reputation among journalists and the course was excellent. I’ve expanded my knowledge in areas such as crisis management and PR theory which will be of huge benefit to me professionally.”

Michael’s background involves working as a reservist for the RAF handling media operations, a post he held during the Iraq war.

He decided to take the course to formalise communications as a skill and establish himself as a communications specialist.

Michael added: “I feel the course will enhance my career and my dissertation was actually borne out of observations I’d made at work. I studied the use of Twitter by political PR people as a way of enhancing messages, and I don’t think anyone has ever carried out a study of that kind before.”

Michael was one of a record-breaking 4,600 students who graduated in front of family and friends at Preston’s Guild Hall last week.