High-flying journalists celebrated for top NCTJ diploma exam results

Twelve outstanding journalists have been rewarded for achieving the best results in the 2021-22 NCTJ Diploma in Journalism exams.

Twelve outstanding journalists have been rewarded for achieving the best results in the 2021-22 NCTJ Diploma in Journalism exams.

A total of 7,794 diploma exams were sat throughout the 2021-22 academic year, including both in-person and remote sittings for students on both accredited and non-accredited courses as well as distance learners.

The top-performing candidates in each of the Diploma in Journalism subjects receive a cash prize of £250 from their respective prize supporters.

This year’s prize supporters are Newsquest, Oxford University Press, National World, Sky Sports News, Society of Editors, ITV News, Meta, Mark Allen Group, The Independent, the Premier League and Reach PLC.

A new prize has been awarded this year for the highest result achieved in the data journalism exam, in which candidates provide knowledge of how to find and analyse data, as well as how to visualise information and create appealing content for readers and viewers.

The overall top-performing student from the 2021-22 academic year will be presented with the Student of the Year award at the Awards for Excellence ceremony on 2 March at Twickenham Stadium.

Joanne Butcher, chief executive of the NCTJ, said: “Congratulations to all the winners of our diploma awards. The diploma exams are a tough and exacting test of a journalist’s knowledge and skills, and to achieve the top marks is a huge achievement.

“It’s wonderful to see such a diverse range of career paths into journalism highlighted by the award winners in terms of where they trained and where they’re working.

“Winners come from further education colleges, universities, private providers, NCTJ distance learning courses, the Meta-funded community news project, Ability Today’s Academy for Disabled Journalists, and apprenticeships and in-company training schemes.

“They are working in local, regional and national print, online, broadcast and related media sectors as news, sports and freelance journalists, producers, content creators and communicators.”

The winners are as follows:

  • The Newsquest essential journalism prize – Conal Cunningham, City of Liverpool College. Conal is a trainee reporter for the St Helens Star and Leigh Journal, where he has worked for the past 18 months, reporting on a variety of people, plus court cases, council meetings and charity events.


  • The Oxford University Press essential media law prize – Elizabeth Haigh, News Associates London. Elizabeth is currently a UK news reporter for Mail Online, writing on all home topics, regularly bringing in exclusive scoops and assisting with foreign reporting when required.


  • The National World media law: court reporting prize – Victoria Finan, who previously studied at the University of Sheffield but sat the court reporting exam as an external candidate. Victoria said she was especially pleased to receive the award after teaching herself the syllabus as a distance learner. Her current role is the social affairs correspondent at the Yorkshire Post. She also went on to take and pass the NCTJ’s National Qualification in November.


  • The Oxford University Press public affairs prize – Eleanor Lawson, Darlington College. Eleanor is a community news reporter for the Express and Star, focusing on the issues faced by young people in Wolverhampton and the Black Country. Eleanor has also written exclusives about strike action at West Midlands Metro and on the University of Wolverhampton axing 138 courses due to a £20million deficit.


  • The Sky Sports News shorthand prize (100wpm) – Emma Curzon, Kingston University. Emma achieved the best 100wpm shorthand result with 100 per cent accuracy, and since graduating is operating as a freelance journalist.


  • The ITV News broadcast journalism prize – Olivia Snelson, University of Salford. Olivia is currently working as a producer at Sky News on the breakfast programmes – The Early Rundown and Kay Burley. Her role involves working with correspondents to produce packages and deliver lives, writing scripts and managing output from the gallery.


  • The Meta editing skills for journalists’ prize – Charlotte Moore, NCTJ distance learner. Charlotte has been awarded this accolade after achieving 80 per cent in the editing skills’ exam. She is now working at the National Literacy Trust in the communication department.


  • The Mark Allen Group practical magazine journalism prize – Dave Bradshaw, PA Training. Since graduating from PA Training, Dave spent eight months as a reporter for SurreyLive and now works for digital media company WrestleTalk News, which covers breaking sports news and runs several YouTube channels.


  • The Independent videojournalism prize – Maria Okanrende, Bauer Media Academy. Maria joined the industry via a junior journalist apprenticeship, studying with Bauer Media, and is a freelance reporter and producer at BBC 1Xtra and BBC Africa.


  • The Premier League sports journalism prize – Jamie Green, distance learning with Ability Today’s Academy for Disabled Journalists. Jamie, who has cerebral palsy, studied for the diploma with Ability Today’s Academy for Disabled Journalists and now works as a trainee production journalist at ITV News Meridian as part of the ITV News traineeship scheme.


  • The Reach journalism for a digital audience prize – Eirian Prosser, Bournemouth University. Eirian completed her NCTJ diploma while a community news reporter at the Oxford Mail and now works at the MailOnline as a trainee reporter.


  • The Society of Editors data journalism prize – Sebastian Mann, Darlington College. Sebastian completed his gold standard NCTJ diploma as a community news reporter for Lincolnshire Live. He covers the historic market towns of Sleaford and Retford and often visits both towns to speak to shopkeepers, shoppers and residents about the things that matter to them.

The NCTJ Diploma in Journalism examiners’ report will be published in March.

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