It is essential that you take the time to choose the course best suited to you and your interests, so don't assume that just because the word 'media' or 'communication' appears in the course title, it will be exactly what you are after. Generally speaking, it is best to opt for a course that will give you a solid grounding in practical skills.
Choosing a Course
Here are some general guidelines:
- Read the prospectus or any course publicity very carefully. Try to visit the college or institution while the course is still taking place and talk to current students and tutors. Find out what has happened to previous students and trainees.
- Ask how much practical work (in other words, hands-on experience) the course will involve and whether the equipment you will be using will be of broadcast standard; what level of competence are you likely to have achieved by the end of the course?
- Ask if it will be possible to gain NVQs/SVQs during your training or if the course's practical elements will be based on NVQ/SVQ standards (see page 74 for more information on these qualifications).
Ask about the ratio of tutors to students; how much personal tuition can you expect? How experienced are the course trainers?
- Find out about entry requirements for the course; are formal qualifications more important than experience and enthusiasm?
- Always enquire about course fees. These will vary according to the duration and type of the course, but some can be very expensive. Local education authority grants may be available, however. Also, don't assume that a course is necessarily better just because it charges higher fees.
Guidebooks such as Media Courses UK, published by the British Film Institute (BFI), give up-to-date information on syllabus content (see Chapter 5). Contact Regional Arts Boards or Film Councils for details of local workshops and courses.
Course Databases Skillset/BFI Database
Skillset (the Industry Training Organisation - see below for more information), working with the BFI and the Regional Arts Boards, has been developing a course database which (at the time of writing) is currently being piloted. This free facility will provide details of long and short courses throughout the UK in response to specific requests. This information will eventually be accessible from a number of outlets across the country but, for the time being, contact Skillset directly for further information, enclosing a stamped, addressed envelope. Course queries should be kept as specific as possible.
The Association of Independent Radio Companies also maintains an extensive database of current training courses. Contact the AIRC directly for futher information.
Skillset is the industry training organization for the broadcast film and video sectors. Founded in 1992 and recognized by the Department for Education and Employment, it operates at a strategic level within the industry, providing relevant labor market and training information, as well as encouraging greater investment in training. Skillset seeks to influence education and training policies to the industry's best advantage at both national and international levels, and also works to create greater and equal access to training opportunities and career development.
National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs)
Training in the industry is currently undergoing a massive shake- up with the introduction of National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) and their Scottish equivalents, SVQs. NVQs and SVQs are practical qualifications designed to prove that a person can do a job, rather than just talk about it or pass an exam in that subject. For this reason, whenever possible, they are assessed either in the workplace itself or in a 'realistic work environment' (for example, one designed by a training centre to match typical work conditions).
There are five levels of NVQ/SVQ awards: Level 1 represents basic skills, whereas a Level 5 award will designate a high standard of professional ability. For the broadcast, film and video sectors, qualifications for Level 2, 3 and 4 have been, or are currently being developed (Level 5 developments will start later).
This system makes it easier to compare qualifications in different skills; for example, an NVQ Level 3 award in production research could, in theory, be compared to an NVQ Level 3 award in camera direction - in much the same way that an A level in say, English literature represents a comparable standard of academic achievement to an A level in geography, French or physics.
All NVQ and SVQ awards have been developed in close consultation with professionals working in each area, in order to reflect accurately the expected standard of achievement. Each new qualification has to be submitted for accreditation (approval) to the National Council for Vocational Qualifications or, in Scotland, the Scottish Vocational Education Council (SCOTVEC), before it can be implemented.