Journalism students express their views at Student Council meeting

Fees, feedback and more practical exam questions were among the topics raised at a lively NCTJ Student Council.

The annual Student Council meeting brought NCTJ staff and directors, and editors face-to-face with 42 student representatives from 40 centres running accredited courses.

Taking place at the Guardian News and Media’s offices in London on Friday, this was the third meeting of the NCTJ’s Student Council – an opportunity for students attending to raise issues affecting them and to give their views about the industry’s training and qualifications.

In her introduction, Joanne Butcher, chief executive of the NCTJ, said: “The Student Council has become one of the most important events in our calendar because it is what the future of good journalism is all about. The NCTJ was established in 1951 following concerns about journalism standards in a report by the Royal Commission on the Press and this issue remains central to our work today.”

Students were updated on action the NCTJ, a registered charity, has taken since last year, including more promotion for shorthand and the Journalism Diversity Fund, developments to the website and improvements to exam feedback.

Senior NCTJ managers were quizzed about a number of issues, which in most cases related to concerns about their exams.  There were requests for cheaper exam fees, free feedback about exam failure, more practical questions for media law and public affairs and easier shorthand outlines.

The news writing exam was a particular concern.  As one student commented: “How can one person mark what is ‘good writing’; even university lecturers aren’t too sure how to pass this exam.”

Another subject of debate was the variable multimedia content of their courses. Some students felt courses should cover all the skills required across the media and others thought courses should focus on particular platforms. 

However, students welcomed the new multimedia qualification in development.  As one student reported: “I’m glad that the topic of multimedia has been discussed as it is what is needed to update the NCTJ.”

At the meeting, students were also asked to say what worked well at the NCTJ, to suggest improvements they thought were needed and to put forward ideas for future developments.  These will be taken direct to the NCTJ board meeting in June by the student representatives who presented the views of the Student Council members.