Exclusive: ‘Woeful’ lack of diversity revealed among drama school teachers
Only 6% of teachers at the UK’s leading drama schools come from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, research by The Stage has revealed.
MPs and diversity campaigners criticised the findings, based on data provided by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, as “woeful” and “startling”.
The figures reveal that, across 13 leading training providers, the percentage of academic staff from BAME backgrounds averaged just 6% in 2015/16. Research by campaign group Act for Change, which surveyed final-year students from 17 major drama schools, found that in the same year, BAME graduates made up 17.5% of total drama school leavers.
The Stage’s new data has been provided by HESA, to which higher-education institutions that are publicly funded are required to submit information annually. Figures from the 2016/17 academic year have not yet been made public.
Numbers provided by HESA are rounded up or down to multiples of five.
At the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama – which incorporates eight schools including RADA, LAMDA and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School – BAME teaching staff made up 6% of the total. This means that in 2015/16, there were just 15 BAME teaching staff across all the schools, compared to 230 white members of staff and five who did not submit data.
LAMDA told The Stage that it now has three BAME teaching staff (in 2016/17), compared to 71 white staff members, and 30 unknown.
Bristol Old Vic had three permanent teaching staff in 2015/16 on its acting course in 2015/16, all of whom were white.
LAMDA acknowledged that the statistics around its teaching body were “not good enough”, and that it was working to improve them.
It said the data does not capture the number of freelance practitioners that also come to the school, as did Bristol Old Vic, which said it employed “many practitioners from a range of different backgrounds and heritages”.
RADA did not supply isolated data when asked. Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts and Arts Educational Schools, which do not report to HESA, also did not provide data when asked by The Stage.
The Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts employed the highest percentage of BAME teaching staff in 2015/16, at 11%. The data submitted to HESA found there were 45 white staff members and five from BAME backgrounds.
Elsewhere, BAME teaching staff at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama made up 7.7% of the college’s total.
Catherine McNamara, Central’s pro dean and director of learning, teaching and student experience, told The Stage: “We need more black academics. That’s not something to debate. It’s just a fact. BAME [individuals] are very seriously under-represented within our subject discipline and within the higher-education sector as a whole.”
She said Central was taking “concrete steps” that it hoped would lead to “pretty immediate increases”, as well as some longer-term plans.
“But this issue is about more than just numbers. It’s about proper and serious inclusive working and learning environments where white privilege is acknowledged and understood,” she added.
The figures also include music and dance staff at institutions that offer those subjects, such as the Royal Academy of Music, which runs a postgraduate musical theatre course but primarily teaches music, and Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
The Stage also conducted interviews with recent graduates and students from a range of drama schools across the UK about their experiences of diversity.
Several raised the issue of a predominantly white teaching body, as well as recounting experiences of snobbishness, racism and exclusion because of their backgrounds.
A spokesman from the Diversity School Initiative, a student-led organisation that aims to hold schools accountable for their decisions around diversity, told The Stage: “We should not underestimate the power and importance of having someone who looks like you or someone who comes from a similar background as you teaching you. Schools need to recognise that there is no point striving for a diverse student body if you cannot facilitate for them.
“These testimonies highlight the horrifying truths of life at drama school. Quite bluntly, they identify what we’ve always known but have never wanted to deal with.
“The fact that these experiences are still happening today is evidence that there is a huge fault with the system in which drama schools operate, as little progression has been made.”
A spokeswoman for Act for Change described the statistics as “startling”, and said they were in line with feedback from BAME students.
She encouraged schools to “interrogate their recruitment processes, as well as application processes for staff training courses” in order to improve the situation.
Shadow culture secretary Tom Watson, who commissioned an inquiry into the class divide in the performing arts, said the figures proved what students already know, “that there is a woeful lack of diversity among performing arts teaching staff”.
“Without diverse staff bodies you are unlikely to get diverse student bodies. Performing arts schools must do more to make themselves truly representative of Britain’s talent.”
Read the Editor’s View: Schools must face up to their diversity failings
Percentage of BAME staff employed by drama schools
Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts – 11.1%
Manchester Metropolitan University – 9.1%
Royal Central School of Speech and Drama – 7.7%
Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance – 7.1%
University of Essex (including E15) – 7.1%
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – 7%
Conservatoire for Dance and Drama* – 6%
Guildhall School of Music and Drama – 5.2%
University of the Arts, London (including Drama Centre) – 4.7%
Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance – 4.5%
Royal Academy of Music – 3.5%
University of Surrey (including Guildford School of Acting) – 3.4%
University of South Wales (including Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama) – 1.2%
Average across all schools – 6%
Source: HESA. *CDD includes RADA, LAMDA, Bristol Old Vic, Central School of Ballet, London Contemporary Dance School, National Centre for Circus Arts, Northern Contemporary Dance School and Rambert School