Francois Nel

Dr. François Nel

Director: Journalism Leaders Programme

School of Journalism, Media and Performance

Greenbank Building, GR237

+44 (0) 1772 89 4758

Subject Areas: Journalism, Business and Management

Dr François Nel is an award-winning journalist, educator and researcher with wide international experience.  A National Teaching Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy, Francois is also a Fellow of the European Entrepreneurship Educators Programme (3EP) and a Visiting Fellow of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford. The founding director of the Journalism Leaders Programme at UCLan, he is also co-founder and convenor of the UK Digital Editors’ Network and the Innovation Research Group.

Social Media:

François' Academia profile
François' ResearchGate Profile
François' Twitter
François' Blog
François' Linkedin
Innovation Research Group

Full Profile

A digital media specialist with wide international experience, Dr François Nel is an award-winning researcher; author and educator who has managed departments and lead teams to devise and deliver groundbreaking programmes and courses that support innovative news organisations, digital media start-ups and university students.

He is the founding director of the pioneering Journalism Leaders Programme at the University of Central Lancashire, home to the UK’s oldest journalism school, and initiator of the Media And Digital Enterprise (MADE) project, which is the only UK winner of the International Press Institute’s inaugural News Innovation Contest sponsored by Google. In 2015, he was a Visiting Fellow of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford and convened the UK’s first Journalism Entrepreneurship Summit in collaboration with the IPI, Talk About Local and with further support from Google. Named a National Teaching Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2013, François in that year also became the first digital media specialist to be named a Fellow of the European Entrepreneurship Educators Programme (3EP).  As such, he is amongst a select group of 25 UK academics and one of only 75 in Europe to have been awarded the prestigious 3EP Fellowship which aims to support and develop enterprise education.

He has earned the Harris Award for Excellence in Curriculum Innovation at UCLan, named Educator of the Year by the Public Relations Institute of South Africa and the Specialist Press Association's top journalistic award, the Pica Award for Excellence in Consumer Journalism for an in-depth investigation into the illegal diamond diving and trading South Africa.

At UCLan he involved in a variety of learning and teaching activities from foundation degree to postgraduate. He is currently supervising two PhD researchers and represents journalism on the School of Journalism, Media and Performance’s Learning & Teaching Committee and is a member of the VC.

He is co-founder of the Digital Editors Network (UK), the Innovation Research Group and the first academic invited to join the World Editors Forum of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). François has initiated several ongoing studies into the impacts of innovation within the business and practices of the newspaper industry, including the annual World Newsmedia Innovation Study, which he initiated in 2009 in collaboration with WAN-IFRA.

He is also the editor and lead researcher of WAN-IFRA’s World News Media Outlook report, the author of two books for Oxford University Press and more than 30 book chapters, journal articles, papers and industry reports that have appeared in, amongst others, Journalism Practice, Journalism Studies, Journalism and Mass Communication Educator and the Rhodes Journalism Review.

He earned a BA (cum laude) from the North Park University at Chicago with a double major:  Business Communication and English. He has an MA English from Winthrop University in South Carolina and a PhD in Journalism from City, University of London. He also completed the Leadership for Online News Managers at the Poynter Institute, FL and a Certificate in Finance and Strategy for Media Managers at the Graduate School of Business of the University of Cape Town. François was born in Zimbabwe and educated in the US, South Africa and the UK; He now works in the UK and internationally from his bases in Manchester and Cape Town.

François welcomes enquiries for research students in the areas of media management, innovation, entrepreneurship, digital journalism and data journalism.


Nel, F and Millburn-Curtis, C. (2017) World Newsmedia Outlook. Paris: World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

Nel, F, Lehtisaari, K. and Millburn-Curtis, C. (2015). ‘Exploring confidence:  Entrepreneurial leadership in news media organisations.’ International Media Management Academic Association (IMMAA) Annual Conference, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Faculty of Journalism, September 17-18, 2015

Nel, F. and Westlund, O. (2013) ‘Managing New(s) Conversations: The Role of Interactivity in News Provision, Participation and Profit’. In: Friederichsen, M. Muhl-Benninghaus, W. (eds.) Handbook of Social Media Management: Value Chain and Business Models in Changing Media Markets. Berlin: Springer

Nel, F. and Westlund, O. (2012) ‘The 4C’s of Mobile News: Channels, Conversation, Content and Commerce.’ Journalism Practice, Future of Journalism Special Issue, Spring 2012.

Hunter, A. and Nel, F. (2011) ‘Equipping the Entrepreneurial Journalist: An Exercise in Creative Enterprise’, Journalism and Mass Communication Educator, Spring 2011

Nel, F. (2010). ‘Where else is the money? A study of innovation in online business models at newspapers in Britain’s 66 cities.’ Journalism Studies, Vol 4, No 3, 360-372.

More publications

Research Activities

François is research active within the area of journalism, media theory and practice and is a member of the Journalism research group.

Key research interests are:

  • The impact of new digital technologies on the practice and management of news organisations
  • Innovation and the development of new online business models for news organisations
  • Media Entrepreneurship and Intrapreneurship
  • The use of data in and for journalism


Current studies include:

World Newsmedia Innovation Study and researcher for the annual global study  initiated in 2009 in collaboration with the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and  conducted in 11 languages (ongoing). This unique data set underpins a variety of academic studies and industry reports, including the WAN-IFRA’s World Newsmedia Outlook.

Membership of professional and learned bodies

  • National Teaching Fellow (2013) of the Higher Education Academy, UK
  • Fellow of the European Entrepreneurship Educators  Programme (3EP)
  • Visiting Fellow of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford (2015)
  • Member, Association for Journalism Education, UK

External Activities

Key research interests are:

  • Co-founder and co-convenor, Digital Editors Network, UK
  • Principal, Innovation Research Group (IRG)
  • Executive Member, World Editors Forum of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (2005)

Teaching Activities and Responsibilities

Current studies include:

Teach components of media economics, business strategy, leadership and writing in the crossmedia context to undergraduates and postgraduates, as well as to professionals who participate in the professional development courses offered by the Journalism Leaders Programme, which includes the MA in Journalism Leadership, as well as seminars, postgraduate certificates and postgraduate diplomas.


Convenor: Journalism Entrepreneurship Summit