NCTJ seminar outlines forthcoming changes to Diploma in Journalism

Heads of journalism and course leaders have been given an update by the NCTJ on changes being made to the structure and content of the Diploma in Journalism at a seminar on 27 April at Lambeth College.

More than 40 representatives from centres running accredited courses throughout the UK saw a demonstration of the online exam portal being introduced for NCTJ exams from September. Delegates were shown examples of the new essential journalism exam and regulation test.

Joanne Butcher, NCTJ chief executive, reminded delegates why the changes to the diploma were being made. She said: “We want to reflect the diversity of the media now and the jobs our students are securing.

“We want our qualification to be more flexible, more inclusive and more digital. We are not losing sight of the fundamental skills of finding and telling stories accurately, which remain at the heart of the diploma.”

Neil White, chairman of the Journalism Qualifications Board and a main board director, highlighted the significant changes in the structure of the diploma and spoke about his own experience of changing working practices. He asked: “Are we equipping our journalists properly for the jobs they need to do, or want to do, in the industry?”

He added: “The changes in newsrooms are absolutely phenomenal.”

The proposals include the following changes to the structure of the diploma:

• the new structure - to complete the diploma, students will study three mandatory subjects (essential journalism; essential media law and regulation; and essential journalism ethics) and complete a combination of elective modules

• the industry ‘gold standard’ diploma - candidates gaining A-C grades in all subjects will earn the ‘gold standard’ either with or without 100wpm shorthand

• essential journalism - the programme of study combines the reporting and e-portfolio modules and includes more on digital journalism.

• essential journalism exam - from September 2016 a new online essential journalism exam will replace the reporting exam.

• newspaper and magazine regulation - an online test of candidates’ knowledge and understanding of IPSO and the Editors’ Code of Practice is being introduced from September 2016.

• progression to the NQJ - shorthand, public affairs and media law court reporting remain mandatory requirements for entry to the National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ) and the qualification will be reviewed later this year

John Cary, head of accreditation, invited journalism chiefs to contribute to the discussion on how accreditation requirements should change to respond to the flexibility offered by the new diploma. Following consultation, new requirements will be published later this year and discussed at the skills conference.

The half-day event continued with a look at the new assessments, chaired by Amanda Ball, NCTJ principal examiner. These included the new essential journalism exam, e-portfolio requirements, and online regulation test. Jeremy Carter from Cirrus, the NCTJ’s e-assessment platform supplier, demonstrated the easy-to-use, reliable and up-to-date exam system.

David Rowell, a director of the NCTJ, said of the essential journalism exam he has been involved in developing: “The idea is to give candidates a much more realistic test of what is expected. It examines core journalistic skills including: use of English; content and accuracy; headline writing; story structure; SEO; video; social media; analytics; developing a story; and ethical considerations.”

Lyn Jones, head of qualifications, explained that future qualification developments would include an advanced digital journalism module, a revamped magazine journalism module and international journalism for overseas students studying in the UK. She also gave advice to centres about the transition arrangements and training support available.

The seminar closed with an open forum discussion where delegates were invited to ask questions, make suggestions and raise concerns.