The National Student Journalism Awards, run in conjunction with the National Union of Students, will recognise the wealth of new talent that currently produces hundreds of newspapers, magazines and websites across the country.
Eleven prestigious prizes will give the cream of Britain's young writers, editors, photographers, critics and designers the opportunity to experience life on this country's most exciting quality newspaper.
Sitting in judgement will be a distinguished panel of experts. They include Simon Kelner, editor of The Independent, Peter Wilby, editor of the New Statesman, and David Aaronovitch, broadcaster, columnist and former NUS president. The panel will also include the current president of the NUS, Andrew Pakes, and former student editors, who will be looking for publications and stories that are relevant to students today.
The awards will recognise the best student newspaper, magazine and website, as well as the best reporter, photographer and feature writer.
Judges will also be looking for the best student arts and sports journalist and the best small-budget publication - to see what an enthusiastic band of part-timers can squeeze from a budget of less than pounds 5,000.
There will be an award for the best designer, reflecting The Independent's role in transforming the look of British quality newspapers. The best campaign will also be rewarded, to acknowledge a paper, magazine or website that fights for its readers.
Student journalism has boomed in the last decade. There are now more than 250 college newspapers and magazines around the country, with a combined circulation that runs into hundreds of thousands.
Thousands of students try writing, photography and production - student journalism is second only to sport in its popularity on campus.
This wealth of publications represents a vital training-ground, producing Fleet Street editors and other senior figures in newspapers, magazines, TV and radio. Internet publishing is another huge growth area, with student websites challenging professional publications at the cutting edge of communications in cyberspace.
The largest student publications have circulation figures to equal those of professional local papers, and big budgets to match. But there are also hundreds of enterprising small-budget magazines and news-sheets, ranging from a few photocopied pages upwards, put together by dedicated souls on a shoestring budget.
Simon Kelner, editor of The Independent, says: "Exciting ideas and new talent are the lifeblood of a newspaper like The Independent. We want to recognise all that is best in the diverse world of student journalism.
"The Independent, with its indispensable Ucas service and unrivalled education and media coverage, already offers the best information, entertainment and comment to students across Britain."
Andrew Pakes, NUS president, adds: "The programme will be student-led and will encourage the participation of everyone who is involved with the many different types of student journalism.
"The categories for campaigns, arts and sports writers will be especially welcome, but best of all will be the small budget category. Now all students can participate in a competition for the best of UK student journalism."
Andrew Pakes is enthusiastic about the competition: "The new partnership between the NUS and The Independent is going to bring forth an exciting awards scheme which will offer recognition to all those working in student journalism."
Best student newspaper
What we are looking for: the essential read. A paper packed with interest and ideas from cover to cover, which serves its readers. We want to see the best mix of consistently strong news coverage, innovative, interesting and relevant arts, sports, listings, photography and features.
Best student magazine
What we are looking for: brilliant writing, fresh ideas, compelling design, photography and layout put together with pace and verve.
Best small-budget publication
What we are looking for: Mission Impossible - the team that squeezes a quart out of a pint pot. We are looking for a newspaper, news-sheet or magazine bursting with life and good thinking, which has the edge by having big ideas, rather than big bucks.
Best student website
What we are looking for: an original website - not a newspaper spin-off - which pushes the boundaries of this exciting new medium. Web publishing is still in its early days, so we want to see websites with the ambition to be at the cutting edge and to offer a real alternative to print and broadcasting.
Best student reporter
What we want to see: the wow factor - a string of compelling stories, solidly researched and well written, which connect with the readers. You may have a brilliant scoop or expose that was picked up by the local and national media, or you may have plugged away at a story of vital concern to students at your college or university.
Best student feature writer
What we want to see: the ability to open a window on another world and hold the readers' interest. We want to see wit, colour, detail and the ability to entertain and inform, whatever the subject.
Best student arts journalist
What we want to see: star writers whose reviews, interviews, previews and features really speak their mind. We want wit, wisdom and insight that really shine out, whether it's a big-name interview or a tiny, no- hope band.
Best student sports journalist
What we want to see: student sports brought to life; all the agony and ecstasy on and off the pitch - the results, the intrigue and the drama that make the back page as good as the front.
Best student photographer
What we want to see: pictures that make people pick up the newspaper or magazine - and read on. We want to see photographers with an eye for the unusual and the off-beat who can bring pages to life.
Best student publication designer
What we want to see: an unmissable look - instantly recognisable, but still clean, logical and easy to read, with a good use of pictures and graphics that really "sell" the contents.
Best student campaign
What we want to see: vital issues for students, translated into action. Have you fought for changes on campus, exposed wrongdoing or risks? We want to see clear campaigns, worthwhile objectives and well-developed coverage to get people thinking and change minds.
HOW TO ENTER
ALL STUDENT journalists and publications are invited to enter the 1999 National Student Journalism Awards.
The awards will be officially launched at NUS conference next week.
Eleven categories have been drawn up to recognise the very best of student journalism - the strongest ideas, the most innovative publications and the best writing, pictures and layout.
Entries in the 11 categories will be judged by a distinguished panel of experts from the world of print, including journalists from The Independent, former student editors, broadcasters and senior figures from a host of national magazines.
Winning individuals or publications, to be announced at the annual NUS student media conference in the autumn, will each receive pounds 400. Winning individuals and one nominated journalist from winning publications qualify for two weeks' work experience at The Independent in London.
Pick up an application form from your student union or from the National Union of Students, Nelson Mandela House, 461 Holloway Road, London N7 6LJ.
l Submit the very best examples of your work (see form for details of each category).
l Send in your applications before 31 July, 1999.
The shortlist will be published at the end of September. No entries will be accepted from professional journalists.
THE PANEL OF JUDGES