The news today that Drama UK have finally disbanded is clearly no surprise to anybody in the industry. The writing was on the wall the moment RADA, LAMDA and all jumped ship a few months ago. Or if you were to believe me...the writing was on the wall even further back.
For the three of you that follow my blogs you'll know that I have never been a fan of this organisation. I've been appalled with their lack of guidance and indeed interest over the ever increasing Mental Health difficulties facing our colleges (which eventually grew into our #time4change initiative). I regularly put hand to keyboard to type my disgust at their latest initiatives e.g. going over to China to raise brand awareness for Drama UK? I mean what the hell was that about? Colleges paying a minimum of £6K a year for students to get a showcase in NY? That's right...because it's really easy for a UK resident to just break into the NY acting scene isn't it? Green card anyone?
In my blog the other day I noted how the drama colleges were taking in nearly three times the number of students than they had originally, yet the counselling provision in those colleges had remained the same. Where were Drama UK then? Why weren't they questioning the fact that a college could one day train 40 students, but the next day feel like they had the resources to train 120 students? Why weren't they limiting the number of courses colleges were running? Resources were getting diluted and Drama UK did NOTHING to stop it. Instead they took their 'subs' and ran....seemingly to China and New York to 'make connections'.
There's another part to this story though that maybe not everyone is getting. Yes, all of 'us' knew that the writing was on the wall for Drama UK (literally everyone would mention it to me whenever accreditation came up)...but actually Joe Public and their parents, those same people who felt like getting their child into an accredited college was the Holy Grail of training, didn't have a clue. Just last year I was challenged on a popular forum over the fact that we weren't accredited, and when I pointed out that we were vehemently against it, I was literally called a liar, and a 'parent' hypothesised that we must have tried but had been rejected. It was beyond the realms of their thinking that we wouldn't be aspiring to join this disjointed organisation.
So what happens now? Has it levelled the playing field for a new college such as ours? Well of course it hasn't as we don't have a track record on our side. We don't have decades of training to 'prove' the quality of our graduates. Here's the rub though - do we really know what's going on in all of these well established colleges? We know that Lord whoever trained at the Royal Wherever in the Year whatever but do we know what happened to last year's graduates. . . and I mean ALL of them?
We all hear the sound bites of X, Y and Z who all left 'established college' to walk straight into a Broadway lead (no Green card problem in this fantasy world), but do we know what happened to the other 95% of the students that graduated that year?
The only available stats that we've ever been given by Drama UK was a survey based on the graduates of 2012, but even that was diluted as it lumped together their 5 'best colleges' (which at the time would have really given me the goat if I was the Principal of one of the 'lesser' accredited colleges not mentioned in the survey. A hierarchy amongst the hierarchy it would seem). That survey might have been really unfair to college 'A' which had outstanding percentages, as their stats were watered down by college 'D' that had had a difficult year. Of course, good news for college 'D' though who suddenly weren't doing that bad at all.
Has a college's success been diluted since increasing its numbers? How would we know without regular stats?
Our industry needs to be regulated, I don't know what that should look like. I would like mental health to be part of the regulation e.g. if you're not offering the appropriate pastoral support you're excluded from 'the club' until you do.
I'd like it to cap numbers of students training - because there are too many colleges, offering too many students a false dream. That false dream has a hefty price tag attached to it. Our industry is saturated as it is. Controversial I know....but when have I ever said anything that wasn't ;-)
I would propose that we all start with transparency. Every year since we've had a graduating year group I've published our stats. That includes our industry 'drop out' rates. These stats are on our website for everyone to see. Imagine if we all did this, so that we could finally get a true picture of what's going on out there?
I know that this won't happen - it's too costly to be that accountable to the industry, and indeed to their 'business'. However we all want to see rogue colleges closed down. . . and complete transparency as the norm would do this quicker than you could say "Drama UK".