NCTJ in bid to secure funding

Butcher: “significant change”

The National Council for the Training of Journalists is facing what could be the biggest shake-up in its 53-year history as it seeks to become part of the mainstream education system.

The body, which trains more than 1,300 people a year on its journalism pre-entry course, has always been independent of government control.

But it is now seeking accreditation which would give the NCTJ pre-entry and the senior journalist NCE test formal government recognition for the first time.

If the NCTJ fails to get government accreditation, it could mean the end of subsidies provided by education funding quango, the Learning and Skills Council, for the many NCTJ courses run by further education colleges.

These courses currently cost students as little as £500 because they get cash from the LSC – the true cost runs into thousands of pounds.

According to the NCTJ, the move to get official accreditation has been prompted by a government bid to bring industry training within what it calls the National Qualifications Framework.

The Learning and Skills Council is understood to be reluctant in future to fund courses outside the NQF.

One journalism lecturer, who asked not to be named, said: “There is concern that if the courses lose government funding, it will price many would-be journalists out of the profession.

It would mean only those with rich parents could enter journalism.

Our students already have thousands of pounds of university debts and have to pay for the cost of supporting themselves during the length of the course.”

The NCTJ will have to comply with government standards on governance, expertise and quality assurance and a new accreditation manager is being appointed to oversee the project.

NCTJ chief executive Joanne Butcher said: “I am delighted that greater flexibility means that NCTJ qualifications can seek a place in the National Qualifications Framework.

Operating within the framework is a significant change for the NCTJ and I’m sure all our customers – including trainees and employers – will benefit.

“Accreditation for NCTJ qualifications is important to retain and enhance the level of respect and recognition that they currently enjoy.

“It will ensure that the increasing demands from journalists for lifelong learning, credit transfer and continuing professional development can be met. It will also make NCTJ qualifications eligible for funding and more accessible.”

Butcher said the NCTJ plans to get the necessary accreditation in place by next summer.

Chairman of the NUJ professional training committee Chris Wheal said: “The one group of people who regularly moan about journalism standards are politicians.

“If they want to do something about it they should put more money into journalism training. If this move makes sure there will be government funding for journalism training, it must make sense.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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