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UK drama training faces crisis after mass exodus from accreditation body

RADA Studios. Photo: John M RADA studios; RADA, is part of the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama which has left Drama UK. Photo: John M
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Industry body Drama UK has lost almost a third of its member schools in the last three months, amid reports of tension and concerns about high accreditation fees.

Since September, five drama schools – including high profile institutions such as RADA and LAMDA – have left the organisation, which accredits drama training in the UK as well as acting as an advocacy body.

The number of accredited schools in full membership now stands at 13.

Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Oxford School of Drama have both withdrawn from Drama UK individually, while umbrella organisation the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama, which includes RADA, LAMDA and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, has also left. This follows the earlier departures of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

A statement confirmed that the three drama school members of the Conservatoire – which also represents dance and circus training institutions – had “suspended” their membership of Drama UK following a meeting in September.

“Drama UK is undergoing a period of restructure and we look forward to engaging in a positive dialogue to ensure that the voice of all conservatoire drama schools is represented in the UK,” the statement added.

Drama UK was formed by a merger between the National Council for Drama Training and the Conference of Drama Schools in 2012.

It describes accreditation as “an industry acknowledged quality mark awarded to vocational drama schools offering a conservatoire level of training”. Accreditation – which lasts five years – costs £6,000, with institutions paying an additional £6,500 per year for membership.

A statement from Oxford School of Drama described the membership and accreditation fees as “substantial”, adding that they do not vary according to the size of a school.

“So a school like us with 80 full-time students will pay the same fees as one part of a university with 14,000 students,” it said.

However, the statement added: “The Oxford School of Drama welcomes the idea of a single body which can voice the needs of the sector and to which prospective students and parents can go to find the best drama training in the UK.”

A spokeswoman from Guildhall confirmed the school had also withdrawn from Drama UK.

“The Guildhall School was recently granted taught degree-awarding powers and we have therefore decided that this separate external accreditation is no longer necessary,” she said.

Drama UK also provides “recognition” for less vocational university and college courses. Further and higher education courses can apply to be recognised by Drama UK, which costs £3,200 with a further annual fee of £200.

Kit Thacker, managing director of Drama Studio London – which remains a Drama UK accredited organisation – said that the introduction of the recognition system had caused tension.

“To the general public they don’t know the difference between accredited and recognised, and why should they? I think that dilutes the brand and I think that is harmful to [Drama UK] and not helpful to us,” he said.

He added that an accreditation body, which also advocates for the sector at all levels, remained “very valuable”.

Currently, to be eligible for several acting accolades, including the Spotlight Prize and the Alan Bates Award, students must be graduating from a Drama UK accredited course.

Remaining accredited schools also include Arts Educational Schools, the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Birmingham School of Acting and the Manchester Metropolitan University School of Theatre.

Drama UK chief executive Ian Kellgren told The Stage: “The year ahead will be a testing one for drama training provision with government cuts and funding uncertainties. The board of Drama UK is looking at its structures and considering positive options to ensure that the interests of the schools, industry and students are best supported in these difficult times.”

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