NUS CNM vs NTU WKWSCI: A Not-So-Brief Rundown
Updated: Jun 14
Disclaimer: The programme requirements mentioned in this article will only apply to cohorts from AY2021/2022 onwards!
You’re a prospective university student researching on communication majors in Singapore. You look up the two biggest names and spot the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Communications and New Media (CNM) major as well as Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information (WKWSCI). Long acronyms aside, both courses sound pretty similar. The real question is, what sets them apart?
Of course, the bigger question would be which one should you pick? Sadly, this article does NOT answer that question but hopefully the comparisons between the two programmes will give you a better idea. As this website’s name suggests, I’m a student from NUS CNM and I’ll do my best to be objective while injecting some of my personal experiences. But if you’re already keen on NUS CNM, here’s 5 reasons why you should join NUS CNM.
Since WKWSCI is a school that offers different programmes, do note that I’m only discussing their Bachelor of Communication Studies. Without further ado, let’s jump right into the differences between NUS CNM & NTU WKWSCI!
A quick overview:
How they function:
A department under Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences (FASS), which is under NUS College of Humanities & Sciences (CHS)
A standalone school within NTU
Four-year direct honours programme
Four-year direct honours programme
Bachelor of Social Sciences (Honours) in Communications and New Media
Bachelor of Communication Studies with Honours
Tracks/Areas of interest offered:
1. Communication Management
2. Media Studies
3. Interactive Media Design 4. Cultural Studies
1. Broadcast Media and Cinema Studies
2. Strategic Communication for the Digital Age
3. Journalism and Media Policies
4. Data Science and Media Studies
Number of modules to fulfil:
Examining the key differences:
Getting schooled in a department vs a school
As a school, WKWSCI has more freedom in how they plan their programmes and curriculum. Any changes they wish to implement can be exercised a lot quicker. WKWSCI only needs to adhere to general NTU guidelines such as fulfilling the General Education requirements.
On the other hand, CNM is more dependent on FASS authority and guidelines. A very noticeable consequence of this would be the new CHS changes that were recently implemented in AY2021/2022. Students in CNM would have to take on 13 compulsory inter-disciplinary modules under the CHS Common Curriculum.
Most students have mixed feelings about this but if you want a more detailed take, go ahead and look at our CHS module reviews. It’s important to note that the CHS Common Curriculum is still very new so there may be new changes implemented in the near future.
Naming your degree
On paper, WKWSCI’s Bachelor of Communication Studies sounds a lot more specialised. What better way to prove that you’ve mastered the weapons of mass communications than having its name front and centre on your degree?
Meanwhile, CNM’s Bachelor of Social Sciences sounds more general. There’s no need to worry though, as a communications major in CNM you’ll definitely still be learning all the fundamentals and technicalities of communication studies. Employers would also understand that you majored in communications and the degree’s name itself wouldn’t have much impact on your employment prospects.
Admittedly, WKWSCI’s Final Year Project (FYP) has a lot more creative freedom and it’s one of WKWSCI’s highlights. As a compulsory year-long project, students can take creative liberties while receiving the guidance of a project supervisor. From a feature story to producing a film, the possibilities seem endless.
There are five main project areas students can pursue: Applied communication research projects, campaign projects, journalism projects, research projects and video projects. Each project area has a different set of pre-requisites students need to fulfil before they can embark on their FYP.
CNM offers the choice of an optional Honours Thesis. Students are free to skip this as long as they complete a minimum of four level 4000 modules (modules in NUS span from level 1000 to 5000). Taking the Honours Thesis means that they’ll only need to complete two Level 4000 Modules. To complete your Honours Thesis, you can either do a research-based or practice-based project.
A research-based project allows you to discuss any type of communications research within a generous 12,000 word limit. Comparatively, the practice-based project is similar to WKWSCI’s FYP. It includes a written thesis and creative folio, which lets you take creative liberties with any project areas you’d like to pursue.
However, this practice-based project was only introduced in AY2019/2020 so it’s still pretty new and there might be issues as both faculty members and graduating students try to work through the new motions. Regardless, if you’re a prospective student, the practice-based project would be more established by the time you’re in your final year.
As a current student, I’d say it’s a refreshing change from the theory-heavy research project. In fact, it’s so refreshing that I’m actually seriously considering if I should do the practice-based project. I might even chronicle my journey in a future blog post but that’ll be a story for another day. For now, let’s take a look at the modules offered by the two programmes!
What CNM offers:
First, these are the compulsory NM-coded modules you’d have to take.
NM1101E Communications, New Media and Society
NM2101 Theories of Communications and New Media
NM2103 Quantitative Research Methods
NM2104 Qualitative Research Methods
From their names, you can tell that these modules are going to be theory-heavy and you’re not wrong. I have my own thoughts about them but you can also read our level 2000 CNM module reviews for a better idea. To be fair, being theory-heavy doesn’t automatically mean that these modules are irrelevant and dry.
Real world communications practices are often based on theories and you’ll definitely come into contact with them as a public relations or marketing professional. Whether the modules are compelling is highly dependent on the professors or tutors you have.
Personally, I really enjoyed NM2101 even though I expected it to bore me to tears. This was mostly in part to my Professor, Prof Hong Renyi who had an incredibly well-structured lesson plan that links different theories together. He would also incorporate real-life case studies so you could see the relevance of these theories. I’m 101% serious when I say that a good professor makes or breaks your modules so keep your eyes wide open when you look up module reviews.
Now, onto the non-compulsory NM-coded modules! To meet your graduating requirements, you’d have to complete at least four level 3000 modules. These are the modules offered:
NM3205 Digital Media Cultures
NM3211 News Writing, Editing and Publishing
NM3217 Principles of Visual Communication Design
NM3219 Writing for Communication Management
NM3222 Interactive Storytelling
NM3230 Digital Storytelling
NM3241 Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice
NM3242 Organisational Communication and Leadership
NM3243 User Experience Design
NM3551 FASS Undergraduate Research Opportunity (UROP)
As compared to the compulsory modules, the level 3000 modules are a lot more technical and hands-on. Some of them are incredibly popular, with good reason too! You can find out why in our level 3000 module reviews. These modules also span across different areas of interest so you can dabble and experiment with them. Of course, if you’re only interested in a specific area, say journalism, you can focus on modules related to that.
It’s also important to note that some of these level 3000 modules come with pre-requisites you’d have to fulfil. These pre-requisites would usually be level-two modules and you can find out more about them here.
Moving forward, let’s look at the level 4000 modules. You’d have to complete at least four of these if you don’t intend to do an Honours Thesis.
NM4102 Advanced Communications & New Media Research
NM4206 Infocomm Media Policy and Regulation
NM4207 Managing Communication Campaigns
NM4208 Strategic Communication Design
NM4212 Race, Global Media, and Representation
NM4213 Digital Economies
NM4228 Risk and Crisis Communication
NM4230 Communication for Social Change
NM4231 Digital Media Storytelling Strategies
NM4238 Software Studies
NM4242 Critical Perspectives on Technology
NM4244 Sex in the Media
NM4245 Political Communication
NM4247 Creative Writing in the Marketplace
NM4249 Media and Audiences
NM4250 Data Journalism and Analysis
NM4253 Communications, Culture, and Environment
NM4254 The City and Public Culture
NM4255 Social Media and Computational Communication
NM4256 Computer-Mediated Communication
NM4257 Multiplatform Advertising Strategies
NM4258 Health Communication
NM4259 Mobile Interaction Design
NM4260 Game Design
Judging by its range, you’ll be spoilt for choice when deciding which four modules you want to pursue. Some of them sound intimidating and I will admit that the content looks pretty dense. However, they also look really exciting. The best part is they’re specific, at a glance you immediately know what you’re studying and you really want some specificity after dealing with interdisciplinary modules for two years. Some also sound rather interesting, I’ll bet you zoomed in on NM4244 Sex in the Media while scrolling through. Ahah, made you look!
As an upcoming year-three student, the level 4000 modules are uncharted territory for me but rest assured for I’ve mostly heard positive reviews from my seniors. If you’d like, you can also keep a lookout for our future level 4000 module reviews!
What WKWSCI offers:
Similarly, WKWSCI also has a bunch of compulsory CS-coded modules you’d have to take. Before you freak out, CS doesn't stand for computer science, it's Communications Studies (well, duh)!
CS0201 Foundations in Communication Studies
CS0209 Media law, Ethics and Policy
CS2005 Speech and Argumentation
CS2400 Foundation of Information Analytics
CS2025 Image & Sound Production
CS2031 Creative Strategies
CS2403 Information Visualization & Presentation
CS4040 Final Year Project
Looking at their names, the modules in WKWSCI sound a lot more practical than the compulsory modules offered by CNM. They also have a diverse range to introduce students to different areas of communication before they decide to pursue a given track in year two.
At WKWSCI, each student will need to fulfil at least 5 upper level CS modules (CS4XXX) and 7 lower level CS modules (CS2XXX).
This is a complete list of the modules offered by WKWSCI. The sheer length of this PDF gives you an idea of just how many modules WKWSCI offers and that’s not to mention its diversity.
Some modules also come with their own pre-requisites and students will have to complete them accordingly. Similar to CNM, students can take modules across any of the four tracks with very little restrictions. The only thing they’d have to be mindful is meeting the FYP prerequisites for the respective project areas. For example, if they want to focus on a journalism project, they’d have to complete three related modules.
In that sense, WKWSCI is pretty flexible and gives you the option of pursuing industry-specific tracks or exploring a broad curriculum to whet your appetite for different areas of interest.
Both programmes seem to make flexibility a priority. You can take comfort in knowing that you won’t be caged in one specific track. In fact, you’ll be given quite a bit of freedom in dabbling with the different areas of communications.
Do we have a winner?
WKWSCI triumphs CNM in terms of the number of communications modules offered. Their FYP is also a lot more established and renowned. They seem to have a clear edge over CNM, so what’s the catch?
Well, there’s none.
At least in terms of your priorities! If you want to experience a wide range of communications modules and pursue a practice-based FYP then WKWSCI is the clear winner. WKWSCI is the place to go if you have your hearts set on pursuing communications as a degree. It’ll be even better if you already know what track you’d like to pursue since the modules you take would be even more specialised.
On the other hand, if you’d like to explore options other than communications then CNM is your refuge since you’d have two years before you decide on your major in FASS.
That’s also not to say that CNM isn’t good for you if you plan to pursue communications. You can still do so, it’s just that CNM places a bit more emphasis on communications theory and research as compared to WKWSCI. If that’s what interests you then CNM is your calling! But if you’re not so keen on those, don’t fret because CNM offers specialised and hands-on modules as well. In fact, the “new media” in our name has always been our niche, think UX/UI design, web coding or video production! If you’re interested in these areas, CNM will definitely meet your needs.
However, if you’re more keen on traditional media which covers areas like journalism and broadcast media, then WKWSCI would be more catered towards that. After all, they have their very own TV studio for students to experience broadcast production work.
Alas, we’ve come to the end of this not so brief rundown! If you’ve made it this far, great job. Actually, get used to it! If you plan to pursue communications, you’d also have to deal with the not so brief readings.
Oh and one last thing! In case you find yourself agonizing over this, regardless of which programme you choose, rest assured that you'll still be well-equipped with all the knowledge that a communications professional should have.
If you have any doubts, do leave a comment and we’ll be glad to help you clarify!