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History and development of public relations education in North America: A critical analysis

Donald K. Wright (College of Communication, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Article publication date: 2 August 2011

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to provide a critical analysis of the history and development of public relations education in the USA and Canada.

Design/methodology/approach

The research methodology used for this paper is the historical/critical analysis approach.

Findings

This paper finds more differences than similarities between public relations educational development in the two countries. The first PR course at a US university was taught at the University of Illinois in 1920 and the first US degree program was offered by Boston University in 1947. The first Canadian university PR course was taught at McGill University n 1948 and the first university degree was offered by Mount Saint Vincent University in 1977. Although PR courses and degrees are offered at a small number of élite US universities, the greatest recent PR curriculum development has been at smaller, second‐ or third‐tier institutions. While a few Canadian universities offer courses and degree programs in the field, most of Canada's recent PR program growth has been at colleges rather than at universities.

Practical implications

Rightly or wrongly, academic institutions often look to North America for direction when it comes to establishing and developing public relations education programs. A number of factual inaccuracies about public relations education history have frequently surfaced in books and journal articles. This paper corrects a number of those inaccuracies and in doing so improves public relations scholarship.

Originality/value

A thorough review of the literature suggests that this paper represents the only journal‐length piece about the history and development of public relations education in Canada and the USA.

Keywords

Citation

Wright, D.K. (2011), "History and development of public relations education in North America: A critical analysis", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 236-255. https://doi.org/10.1108/13632541111151005

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited