Government offers safeguards on drama schools’ intake

Natalie Woolman
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Drama schools have welcomed government reassurances that their student numbers will not be cut next year, after the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama had warned education reforms could “destabilise” high-level performance training in England.

The government is offering to exempt creative and performing arts institutions from proposals to make universities compete for top students on the basis of their A level grades. As The Stage reported earlier this month, drama schools had feared they would have significantly fewer places to offer because they recruit on the strength of auditions rather than exam results.

The Conservatoire for Dance and Drama, which includes RADA, LAMDA and Circus Space, said in its response to the original proposals that its schools could have 15% fewer places for UK and EU students if the plans were pushed through. At that time, CDD warned that the removal of places “would be a serious threat to the status and sustainability of conservatoire-level training in the UK”.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England is inviting specialist performing arts institutions that recruit predominantly on the basis of audition or portfolio to submit evidence if they want to opt out of the new student number arrangements for 2012/13. The exemption is not automatic, and drama schools will have to write to HEFCE in order to protect their places.

In a statement, the conservatoire’s joint principals Edward Kemp and Veronica Lewis said they were pleased that HEFCE understands the situation and is being flexible. They added: “We are delighted that HEFCE has reviewed its policy about how to implement the government’s competition agenda for higher education. The proposals to reduce core funded places presented a threat to vocational training in the UK. We are not opposed to competition and the opportunity to opt out of the higher education competition proposals means we will be able to continue to compete nationally and inter-nationally for students seeking a professional training in dance, drama or circus arts.”

The student number control limits will apply in 2012/13. Drama schools that want to opt out of the plans must submit an evidence statement to HEFCE by November 11 for consideration.

In the original white paper, the government also said HEFCE will provide “targeted funding to recognise the additional costs relating to widening participation and support for small and specialist institutions such as music and arts conservatoires.”

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The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, London. Photo: Noel Foster