Fast-track NCTJ courses offering vocational training in journalism have seen an influx of interest from school leavers – with some courses seeing numbers treble this year.
Tutors at training centres across the country have reported higher intakes of non-graduates this year and expect the trend to continue.
The move comes as most universities dramatically increased annual tuition fees this academic year. Most journalism degree courses now charge students around £9,000 a year.
Up To Speed Journalism, based in Bournemouth, has this year taken on 14 school leavers – up from six last year – on its course of 30 students.
“There is a clear trend for people who have just taken A-Levels to consider an NCTJ diploma instead of a degree and so avoid tens of thousands of pounds in debts,” said course director Tom Hill.
“Obviously there are factors other than tuition fees at play here including the overall economy and the impact that has on graduates, mature students and people considering a gap year.”
He claims previous school-leaver students had no trouble finding jobs after the course, going on to work at newspapers, magazines and websites.
In Brighton, Journalist Works has welcomed nine school leavers onto its course of 21, where it usually anticipates two or three.
“We had wondered if this would be the case with the increase in university fees,” said managing director and tutor Paula O’Shea.
“It appears young people who know they want to be journalists at 18 are opting for NCTJ courses rather than taking degrees.”
Meanwhile, in Newcastle, it is quite rare for Press Association courses to take on students without university education, but it has accepted an 18-year-old onto this year’s course.
Course leader Paul Jones predicts this might be a growing trend.
“I think we have had two or three applications this time and I know we’ve got someone else looking at the next course,” he said.
“We just think that youngsters are looking at the possibility of coming here and might decide, because of costs, that a vocational route might be more appealing.”
Press Gazette spoke to students on each of these courses to find out why they have chosen this route, with the interviews featuring in our free online magazine, Journalism Weekly (out today).