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League table for journalism courses to be launched by training body

A league table for journalism training courses is being introduced by the National Council for the Training of Journalists.

The new structure will label some colleges as offering “courses of excellence” with others gaining a standard accreditation.

The system will be based on the journalism exam grades of students going through the colleges and universities involved – and will depend on how many pass all the compulsory journalism exams, such as news-writing, media law, public affairs and shorthand, and at what grade in the previous year.

The NCTJ wants to help editors assess the quality of journalism courses for new recruits.

But it denies the new system will encourage a two-tier approach to journalism training.

NCTJ chief executive Joanne Butcher said the new targets and league table would ensure greater transparency.

“That’s why we are determined to kite-mark only those courses focused on recruiting students who want to work in journalism and where passing the NCTJ professional exams – qualifications most UK editors value above all others – is regarded as a priority,” she said.

NCTJ chairman Kim Fletcher added: “Journalism has become a highly fashionable career choice for many young people and that has fuelled a huge growth in the number of courses available.

“It is time that the industry, through the NCTJ, made a clearer distinction between those courses that take professional qualifications seriously and those that exploit the popularity of journalism simply to recruit more students.”

The NCTJ is often asked which colleges and courses are better than others but prefers not to say.

Head of accreditation Stephen Chambers said: “We quite often get asked if there’s one centre better than another. Obviously all meet the NCTJ standard but there are some whose results are better and therefore potential students will be able to make up their own mind by looking at the different centres and where they excel.

“The new standard recognises the centres that have excelled during that academic year. The ‘centre of excellence’ title will only reflect the previous academic year and so this is looked at every year.

“It’s a way of recognising those at the top of the league table.”

The NCTJ is introducing an exam grading system, with a grade E equivalent to a mark of 20-34 per cent or 60/70wpm shorthand and a grade C equivalent to 50-64 per cent or 100wpm shorthand.

Only those who achieve a C grade or higher in all mandatory exams will be eligible to enter for the National Certificate Examination.

The exam targets are included in a new accreditation standard drawn up by the NCTJ’s Accreditation Review working party, which is chaired by Chris Elliott, managing editor of The Guardian.

Others on the working party include Bolton News assistant editor Lynn Ashwell, Nottingham Evening Post assistant editor Martin Biddle, former Cumbrian Newspapers editorial director Keith Sutton and Ed Curran, editor-in-chief of Independent News and Media’s Northern Ireland newspapers.