UCLan launches Journalism Innovation and Leadership Programme

Posted on: November 5, 2021 by admin

The Society of Editors is collaborating with the team at the journalism programme at the University of Central Lancashire to develop a part-time, blended learning Journalism Innovation and Leadership Programme.

There was a time when those aspiring to the editor’s chair could learn all they needed from those on the rung above them. Today that picture is very different as news media organisations look for transformational skills from a diverse talent pool.

This course is a structured way for editors and news publishers to gain the deep insights, practical tools, sense-making conversations, and mentorship they need to effectively lead teams to deliver the digital transformation and innovations needed for their organisations to thrive in future. 

To join the course starting in January 2022, staff from Society member organisations can apply for three tuition-fee scholarships worth £2,700 each supported by the Google News Initiative.  


However, the closing date for entries is the end of this month.

The course director is media innovation specialist, Dr François Nel, who teaches across a range of practical and theoretical journalism courses, as well as supervising PhD studies on topics related to innovation and sustainability. A National Teaching Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, he is on the leadership team of the UCLAN Research Centre for Digital Life and a member of the Media Innovation Studio.

Alison Gow, President of the Society of Editors and Audience and Content Director for Reach Plc northwest has been actively involved in devising and delivering the programme. She also participated in an earlier version of the course. She says: “The programme transformed how I thought about news, audiences and leadership. The course content was exactly what I needed then (and continue to draw on now) to navigate the huge and on-going disruption of the media industry. And I met smart, amazing people who I count as great friends to this day.”

Frequently asked questions:

How does it work? The part-time, blended learning programme is tailored to working professionals and delivered in three, 10-week blocks over the course of one year. Each block comprises nine weekly 90-minute interactive workshops and a week-long Intensive Learning Block online or on campus. Participants complete Applied Learning Projects that are directly related to business challenges, and they are encouraged to scope these in collaboration with decision-makers in their organisations. 

Each participant is matched with an industry mentor from drawn from the programme’s Board of Industry Mentors and Advisors that includes Lyndsey Jones, author of the forthcoming business book Going Digital, former executive editor of the FT,  Inga Thordar, Executive Editor of  CNN Digital International Ian MacGregor, Editor Emeritus of The Telegraph and chair of the Society board, Joanna Geary, Senior Director of Curation @Twitter, Neil Benson, former Editorial Director for Reach Plc, and Dawn Alford, Executive Director of the Society of Editors. 

On completion participants earn a Postgraduate Certificate in Journalism Innovation and Leadership and can choose to continue for one more year to earn an MA degree. The 2022 programme flyer can also be downloaded here:

Who is participating? The Class of 2021 live across 12 time zones and three continents. They work for local and national newspapers, public broadcasters, magazines, news agencies and digital native news outlets. The participants bring with them a wide range of experiences ranging from being publishers and editors at established news organisations to entrepreneurs fostering early-stage media start-ups.

Dr François Nel, Reader in Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UCLan and director of the scholarship programme, says: “Although their personal contexts and professional challenges might, at first, appear very different, there is much the cohort have in common.

“Prime amongst those is their shared passion for the role journalism can play in the health and wealth of communities – and the desire to step up to be the leaders and innovators our industry needs to push through this difficult time and to thrive.

“Participants learn a great deal from each other over the course of this programme, alongside their engagement with their tutors and mentors. We’re delighted to be able to extend this opportunity to members of the Society of Editors, who have partnered on the course from the start.”

What are they saying?  

  • Jenny Simpson, Editor, Manchester World, JPI Media: “The programme has helped me address any gaps in my knowledge at a time when the media industry is going through a seismic change and made me feel more confident that I will have the skills to cope with whatever changes happen next. It has also been a brilliant way to grow my network and learn from inspiring people across the world.”


  • Andrew Kilmurray, Editor at St Helens Star (UK), Newsquest: “The programme has given me a deeper understanding of how to strategise, develop and implement plans that can be used to underpin changes in newsrooms, workflows and products. It has also allowed me to reflect on the leadership qualities that are required to formulate and implement the necessary changes. My understanding of where journalism and the news industry finds itself – not just in the UK but across the world – has also been broadened significantly.”


  • Katherine Gallo, Deputy Curation Lead, Global News at Twitter (Australia): “One of my favourite parts of the course was the block sessions with guest speakers. The amount of information and first-hand experience from them was amazing. You would not find this kind of advice and knowledge in any textbook. The leanings learnt during those sessions are so valuable.”


  • Marcela Kunova, Editor, (UK): “This is the most intense and rewarding course I’ve ever taken. It tackles problem-solving in journalism from every angle, be it strategy, technology, revenue or newsroom leadership. I feel like it has sped up my professional growth and provided me with guidance and mentoring I would otherwise not be able to access.”


  • John Simmonds, Publisher at Bauer Media Group (UK): “This course is potentially career defining, so don’t worry about how you will find the time or whether you’re right for the course (the team are incredibly supportive), just do it!”

How to apply? 

Contact the course leader Dr Francois Nel at to declare your interest. 

Application is two-step process:

  • Firstly, candidates need to complete the university application here:

Want to speak to someone on the course now?

Those interested may want to also take up these invitations to direct message a current participant: Jenny Simpson, the editor of Manchester World, on LinkedIn:

Or Catherine Edwards, who has been the Europe Editor for The Local, on


Those interested should contact the course director Dr François Nel at as soon as possible and applications need to be completed by no later than 30 November