by Mike Rendle
It is just over ten years since the City and Guilds of London Institute launched the 9231 Certificate in Photography. Aimed primarily at non-professionals, it was initially received with a great deal of indifference, and occasionally, hostility. Offering a handful of modules, 9231 was quickly cast in the role of poor relation to the other photography courses already available. I do not believe that it was ever intended to be a close relation and has now shown itself to be a different breed of learning package with a flexible structure which integrates easily with most areas of photography. A decade later 9231 has established a proven track record. Students have voted with their feet making it the fastest growing photography course available in the greater Belfast area.
The appeal for many people is that it is competence based. There are no written examinations and assessment is carried out on the course work alone. The course, which runs from September to May, consists of three ten-week modules. Work is assessed at the end of each term and a certificate is awarded for each successful module. There is a direct route to Licentiateship of the Royal Photographic Society for those who achieve the appropriate grades. Some students choose to work at their own rate, submitting modules when they feel the time is right for them. Every member of the course is encouraged to take an individual approach.
The modules offered will vary at each centre. From September, the Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education will be offering over twenty modules at five centres as daytime and evening classes. Introductory modules such as 'Starting Photography' deal with basic skills. These lead to specialist subjects such as portraiture, landscape and still-life. The 'Constructed Images' and 'Derived Images' modules offer opportunities for image manipulation. September will also see the 'Introduction to Video' and 'Video Production' modules starting at the Ormeau Building.
Unfortunately there is a catch. The 9231 Certificate has been a victim of its own success. Last year 9231 Photography at the Belfast Institute was nominated for a silver medal, one of only two colleges in Ireland to receive this accolade. Despite this success and its growing popularity it does not carry very much academic clout, especially for those seeking a route to Higher Education. There is room for change of course, and as I write, the City and Guilds of London Institute is seeking the opinion of those colleges which offer 9231. It is my sincere hope that in the near future the 9231 Certificate in Photography and those who have experienced and supported it will achieve the recognition they deserve.