I doubt that I’m the only one surprised to see what a large proportion in our weekly poll didn’t think drama schools should be expected to cover the cost of auditions.
It wasn’t a majority but the ‘No’ camp notched up a good third of the available votes in our far-from-scientific poll.
Lest anyone assumes my bemusement is a sign that I don’t think they should charge, let me say I don’t oppose the practice in principle.
My colleague Susan Elkin’s recent post not only prompted the said reader poll but also attracted some commendable contributions from both sides of the argument rather than the yah boo comments such debates can encourage.
I suspect that nothing much is likely to change very soon. The charges are commonplace and the fact that they produce a considerable return makes them difficult to forgo.
There’s no reason the drama colleges should not emphasise the need for quality control… one way might be to publicise the employment record of their most recent graduates.
A less idealistic attempt at reform rather than abolition might be more pragmatic and achievable.
It’s easy of course to cast the colleges as money-hungry villains. I’ll hazard a guess that when the books are examined, the issue for the majority is less one of making profit, more one of trying to balance income and expenditure.
That, and the fact that times are hard and getting harder for any organisation with lofty overheads, doesn’t of itself justify the costs. Certain variables need to be taken into account:
1. Income streams: some colleges are well subsidised with grants, some are part of the university system, others get nothing.
2. Fee levels. As Susan’s correspondents note, there is a wide discrepancy between charges. These do not appear directly proportionate to …
3. Service provision: Speaking hypothetically, there’s a world of difference between, say, charging £40 for a 15 minute audition with no feedback or a collective Q&A session on the one hand and offering several hours with skilled practitioners and individual advice on the other.
There is another factor to consider; no matter how deserving the college, should its financial problems devolve to would-be students saddled with audition charges, in addition to the other costs of attending (travel, accommodation, food and in some cases UCAS fees)? Another deterrent too for those from lower income families and another nail in the coffin of equal opportunity.
However good a college may be, even if you’ve been rejected rightly, you deserve a chance to learn from your mistakes. Either in order to come to terms with the fact you don’t have what it takes or else to hone your skills better and come back next year. With that service at least, you’re more likely to admit, if grudgingly, that you received value for money.
There’s no reason the drama colleges should not defend their rejection rates and the principle of charging by emphasising the need for quality control.
Of course if they want to drive that point home, one way might be to publicise the employment record of their most recent graduates.
Maybe a New Year resolution?
Happy Christmas to all of you – on either side of this divide.