A Portsmouth college that runs NCTJ journalism courses has gone back on its decision to block access to a trade news website after outcry over the move, which was reported by the press.
An article on FE Week about Highbury College’s battle to recoup £1.4m in debt from a Nigerian state over an abandoned education project prompted the college to shut off access to the title on campus computers.
In a statement, the college said it had done so because it did not want staff and students to be “distracted by inaccurate and untrue stories”, although it has yet to explain which aspects of the story it considers false.
But, the college has now confirmed its u-turn.
It comes after a backlash from top alumni of its journalism department, which has long offered NCTJ diploma courses.
Journalism lecturer Paul Foster said the department had not been aware of the ban, tweeting: “We make sure our students and apprentice journalists hold authorities to account and will continue to do so.”
Sky News presenter Mark Austin tweeted: “I don’t think blocking legitimate news sites is a good idea. I support freedom of the press. I liked my time at Highbury College…”
BBC News journalist Simon Hancock said: “Rather naive of my ex-journalism college Highbury College to think that blocking a news website on campus would make a story go away.
“Instead, it just attracts more attention than the article ever would have.”
Skills Minister Anne Milton also aired concern about the block. She told FE Week that the ban was “absolutely shocking”, adding: “The Department for Education doesn’t like what FE Week writes sometimes but we do not block information.”
FE Week and Schools Week publisher Shane Mann said: “Blocking news in this manner is a gross abuse of power by the college leaders.
“This is the kind of behaviour you would expect of President Trump, not an individual or public-funded institution responsible for providing an education and training for thousands of young people.”
He said Highbury College had not replied to its request for comment on the original article.
An internal email sent to staff from college principal Stella Mbubaegbu, and revealed by FE Week, warned that the college was seeking “specialist legal advice” about a “negative story running in the online specialist press”.
Picture: Google Maps