NCTJ at Harlow College

As the academic year draws close to an end, Amina Ahmed talks about her experience at University Centre Harlow in Harlow College studying the NCTJ Journalism Course

Just under a year ago I was in a dilemma: to do the NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) course at University Centre Harlow or not?

The university building situated in Harlow College in Essex, looked impressive to me when I searched for a picture on dear old Google. It was quite a way from where I lived in London but at the age of 18, that was an advantage: I’d be away from the prying eyes of my parents.

So why the dilemma? Well, I was called in for an entry exam (which I epically failed) and an interview, after which I felt so out of my depth that I thought: I’m really not cut out to be a journalist. I didn’t know anything about current affairs. Having lived in isolation in Pakistan for five years, the only political thing I knew was that David Cameron was the Prime Minister (or President?) of UK.


That’s how bad I was.

So I googled for a review of the college because I needed that little push to go ahead with my dream. However, what I found was disheartening. I was able to dig up one little review that told me the teachers demeaned their pupils and that it was a terrible place to study.

Well, having been there for a year now, I’d beg to differ. I am so glad I went ahead and enrolled at this college-cum-university. People can go on all day about how shit Harlow is and how teenage mums and chavs is what defines the town but I know that I had an amazing time studying there.

I had help from the teachers and the college, not only in my studies but with finances as well. I had the chance to do a short course in sign language, have a tour of parliament, visit BBC Essex and even interview the Prime Minister! All my tutors had past experiences in journalism and even though at times, well, a lot of the time, there were confusions and disorganization, I was able to moan about it with my fellow classmates, which made it bearable, maybe even enjoyable.

My modules consisted of shorthand, public affairs, law, broadcasting, features and of course, news writing. It was all very interesting, well, except public affairs, which was a nightmare (my tutor will kill me if he sees this).

The canteen, the TV studio and the library situated at the other side of the college was a bit annoying, but then I’m being lazy. The college also boasts a restaurant above the canteen which has its own bar – I’m sure you’ll all be applying to go Harlow College now!

It was an interesting experience and I met a few great people who I’m sure I’ll continue to keep in touch with for life. I am also equipped now with skills to go straight into a job without a £27,000 debt on my head.

Look out world, here I come!

Being a child in the lecture theatre





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