Trainees do without industry approval

AN Essex college is to launch a new course in journalism in September, despite having industry accreditation withdrawn.

After students, parents and a member of staff complained, the National Council for the Training of Journalists withdrew accreditation in January from the pre-entry journalism course run by South East Essex College for Arts and Technology.

But the Southend college, named a centre of vocational excellence in media technology last year, will run a new BA in journalism from September. This course will have University of Essex accreditation.

Rodney Bennett-England, chair of the NCTJ, said: "We've offered to go and look at the course, possibly with a view to accreditation, but they turned us down."

The council believes that vocational degrees offered by colleges should be recognised by the relevant industry.

"This new course is part of a vocational thing they want to develop," said Mr Bennett-England. "But we are concerned with the practice of journalism - all our courses are taught by journalists."

The Basildon Evening Echo, the main newspaper for south-east Essex, only employs reporters with an NCTJ-accredited pre-entry qualification. When local media representatives and journalism lecturers met in January to discuss proposals for a journalism qualification at the college, many stressed that all NCTJ examination elements of the course should be compulsory.

College principal Tony Pitcher defended the decision not to seek NCTJ accreditation. "Our BA is a far more substantial course. We believe it is the way forward for training professional journalists. Small local newspapers may find the NCTJ course convenient for recruiting, but our view is that the BA will be a far more useful qualification for the media industry."

He added that the fact that his college now offers only one course in journalism should not affect its centre of vocational excellence status: it is a centre of excellence, he says, specifically in media technology. "The NCTJ pre-entry course attracted fewer than 10 students. A BSc in media technology attracted more than 200 students."

Alison Webster, executive director of the Essex branch of the Learning and Skills Council, said: "The NCTJ Certificate formed a very small part of the curriculum, and we are satisfied that its withdrawal will not affect the college's overall standard."

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