NCTJ opens up NQJ to all journalism industry sectors

Flagship qualification is adapted to meet the needs of the rapidly evolving media industry and made more flexible and cost-effective

The NCTJ is making radical changes to the assessments and structure of the National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ) in response to changes in journalism, journalism training and the media. 

The NQJ has been redesigned to reflect the fast-changing digital skills that are revolutionising journalism, and to allow all journalists to qualify as seniors by providing more flexibility and choice.

All NQJ trainees will sit an exam that covers media law, regulation and ethics, and will submit a logbook of their work at the end of their training period. They must also complete at least one other assessment, appropriate to their job and the sector within which they are employed.

The first assessment to be introduced is designed for news journalists who are working on major news stories in the regional and national press, and broadcast media. Trainees will sit an online exam that has the working title of “The Big News Story”. The exam includes rigorous testing of digital skills and use of social media alongside other fundamental news journalism skills.

Alternative assessment options are planned for production journalists, community digital journalists, sports journalists and magazine journalists.

The new qualification will be more cost-effective, as assessments will be delivered online, allowing candidates to sit under exam conditions either in-house or at an NCTJ centre. The first exams will be offered in July 2019. All NQJ candidates currently registered with the NCTJ and due to sit from July can transfer to the new qualification.

Redesigning the NQJ has involved an 18-month period of detailed research and development, including face-to-face interviews and online surveys to ensure that the needs of employers and learners are met. There was strong support from broadcasters, national, regional and digital publishers and other media organisations for a professional cross-sector qualification that provides quality and standards relevant to all senior journalists.

The apprenticeship for senior journalists, also due to be introduced in 2019, is aligned to the new NQJ and has been developed so that employers can spend their apprenticeship levy on training and qualifying their graduate trainees and junior journalist apprentices as seniors.

The vast majority of trainees currently taking the NQJ work in the regional press, including Archant, Johnston Press and Newsquest. Trinity Mirror (now Reach) has always had its own certificate course for trainees and is working with the NCTJ on the industry’s apprenticeships.

Describing the rationale for the changes, Joanne Butcher, chief executive, said: “The NCTJ is now catering for a wider range of journalists and media sectors, and our aim is to open up the NQJ to all journalists. The new NQJ will have more options to suit journalists working in different media and journalism roles as well as placing more emphasis on digital developments and changes in journalism practice.

“I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to this important project so far, and those who are helping with the design and development of the new assessments.”

Andy Martin, editor of the Bournemouth Echo and chair of the NCTJ’s journalism qualifications board, said: “I’m delighted that after such a detailed and far-reaching review, we have produced a new NQJ that provides quality training and meets the needs of a rapidly changing industry.

“The NQJ is based on exacting professional standards, so those who earn the qualification demonstrate that they can work successfully as a senior journalist.”

New research to be published by the NCTJ in October highlights the growth in the number of journalists with qualifications. Eighty-one per cent of journalists hold a journalism qualification (an increase from 63 per cent in 2012), and in the majority (81 per cent) of cases, the qualification was from the NCTJ – again an increase on 2012 (73 per cent).

Please see our website for more information about the NQJ: http://www.nctj.com/journalism-qualifications/National-Qualification-in-Journalism-NQJ. The programmes of study for the new NQJ will be published later in 2018.