Our History


The NCTJ was founded in 1951 to run the newspaper industry’s training scheme, following the findings of a Royal Commission on the Press. Its report, in 1949, said:

“The problem of recruiting the right people into journalism, whether from school or from university, and of ensuring that they achieve and maintain the necessary level of education and technical efficiency, is one of the most important facing the Press, because the quality of the individual journalist depends not only on the status of the whole profession of journalism but the possibility of bridging the gap between what society needs from the Press and what the Press is at present giving it. The problem is the common interest and the common responsibility of proprietors, editors and other journalists...”

In the early days indentured trainees studied at colleges of further education and were examined in the General Proficiency Test, taken at the end of the three-year training period. All trainees attended day-release classes at college.


From 1965, ‘block release’ courses were introduced and an experimental ‘pre-entry’ course was run. Year-long pre-entry courses were developed further, followed by 18 and 20-week fast-track postgraduate courses and the accreditation of journalism postgraduate degree courses.

The old ‘Prof Test’ was modernised and became the National Certificate Examination (NCE). More recently, the NCTJ has accredited undergraduate degree courses that have a strong vocational content, in-company training schemes and courses delivered by private providers. Most new entrants to journalism now have some pre-entry training and very few are raw recruits.


The NCTJ went through challenging times in the late 1980s and 1990s when some newspaper groups withdrew from the NCTJ to set up their own training schemes or chose to transfer to the National Vocational Qualifications, which at the time attracted public funding.


Since 2003, the NCTJ has been developing its operations, structure and governance including a professional awarding body function, Student Council, focus groups and forums, and the annual Journalism Skills Conference. Now a charity, it has an influential board of trustees and directors and a professional executive and administrative team.

The NCTJ purchased and refurbished its own premises in Newport, Saffron Walden, opened by Mark Austin and home to the NCTJ team since June 2006.

Major changes to NCTJ qualifications were made and the newspaper industry has united in its support for the training body. Magazine, sub-editing, and sports journalism qualifications have been introduced. A revamped logbook was introduced in 2004 for trainees taking their NCE and its success was recognised with a National Training Award in 2007. The old speech exam updated to the news report and the mythical Oxdown Gazette ceased publication. Changes to the preliminary examinations included the replacement of handout and newspaper journalism examinations with a multiplatform news writing examination and the introduction of a portfolio assessment. The National Vocational Qualification training scheme run by some newspaper companies was merged with the NCE in 2007.

The NCTJ now offers a range of distance learning courses, textbooks, prizes and awards, and a programme of short courses for those wishing to develop or update their skills.

The Journalism Diversity Fund was launched to wide acclaim in 2006 and is administered by the NCTJ.

A new industry standard for accredited journalism courses was introduced in 2007. The standard set a benchmark based on exam results and also stressed the need for courses to focus on skills convergence and multimedia journalism. The first results tables were published in 2008.

The present and future

The boundaries between journalism sectors have blurred and the NCTJ is no longer an organisation exclusively for ‘print’ journalists. Multimedia multiplatform skills are needed now and are no longer regarded as additional skills. The NCTJ is working to be the guardian of the gold standard for all journalists and is investing in the development of a broader range of products and services. It is adapting its structure, governance and financial model to embrace all media sectors.

Committed to being a truly multimedia organisation, the NCTJ’s stakeholders now represent all sectors of the media. The organisation has developed a robust qualifications structure for journalists with core skills that are common to all journalists and specialist skills that are relevant to particular journalism jobs and sectors of the media.

The NCTJ brand is the long established and the respected benchmark of excellence for newspapers journalists. With its alumni dominating all sectors of the media for many years, it has become the benchmark of excellence for all journalists.