Sunday, 26 February 2017

Finally

So today it feels like the world has finally caught up with what I've been shouting about for years:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/26/university-fees-regulator-tuition-students?CMP=soc_3156
This article advocates for the 2 year accelerated model - time to point out that we've been doing this at The MTA since 2009. It also shouts out asking for transparency...again something that I've been shouting about since opening the college.
So let's reflect shall we?
I said years ago that Mental Health was a huge factor in the arts, and we in the training sector had a responsibility to face it head on.  Fast forward to July 2016 and the launch of #time4change and we're finally getting somewhere. We need dance colleges to embrace this and the 'straight' acting courses. We need the the CDD to lower themselves to join us in a united fight...BUT we're getting there.
A big shout out in this blog to Backstage, the US Casting Directory launching over here, taking on Spotlight. Unlike Spotlight who refuse to get into a conversation about #time4change, Backstage have already signed up.  So I say use them - and stop Spotlight monopolising our industry. Let's have some healthy competition at long last.

I always named Drama UK as a drain on resources, providing nothing other than a launch website for 'the club'.  I called them out when they started taking jollies to NY and China. . . under the guise of 'brand awareness'. Fast forward to 2016 - Drama UK is no more.  There is no organisation really governing drama training in the UK anymore. I'm pleased that we didn't pay the thousands of pounds they were asking for to be 'tested' by them, or indeed the £6k/year they wanted if you qualified to join 'their club'.

I've always said that the drama colleges moved to degree courses to get additional funding, creating this ludicrous situation where parents now believe that a degree is better for their child than a diploma. Whereas in reality it makes no difference.  What that move did do though was put true vocational colleges into the same arena as the traditional uni drama course. Courses that are saying that they're getting their students industry ready, but with as little as 16 hours contact time/week that's impossible.

I visited a course a while ago where 3rd year students couldn't even do their own vocal warm up - such was the inadequacies of their training. Yet when I asked them what they were going on to do after graduating, they all confidently told me that they intended to be professional performers.  In reality they did not have a clue - their course and their college had completely let them down.  £27,000 in tuition fees for what? Life experience? Wouldn't their parents have been better off giving them the cash and telling them to go travel the world? Ironically it would have made them better performers too!

I've been on websites discussing this degree issue with parents - but they just don't get it, and in fairness to the 'Joe Public' parent, I understand it.  Surely degree = quality training = career. However those of us in the industry know that this isn't the case. It's training + connections + business acumen = the possibility of a career. That piece of paper that says degree means nothing.  Yes it's useful if they end up needing a 'fall back' career - but aren't we setting our children up for failure if we're providing them with the full back before they've tried the real deal? Let's not forget that the safety net that you're giving them will cost you in excess of £27k.  Once that's in place you're looking for the same again (or more) for the actual career that they want.

The 2 year model is bloody hard work - I know, I've been on that carousel now for 8 years. It's relentless. There's no long breaks where staff can just regroup and do a nice bit of admin for a few weeks. We're continuously needing to look into the next term in order to keep the thing moving.
I read someone on twitter just this morning extolling the virtue of the long Summer break - their students can earn money they cry.  Oh let's face it - they can't earn that much, and they'd be better off ploughing through and saving a year's tuition and living costs.

I hope that the colleges are forced to become transparent, as our industry will have some serious questions to answer I believe.  The audition scam, the additional courses that don't really do anything other than provide an income, the faculty members paid to do very little....let's get it out there and see what's really going on shall we?

We've always had open book accounting. Most of my staff are freelance in order to get the best value for money for my students, and because every subject is so 'specific' - I can't just hire generic teachers to do a bit of everything.

I get that The MTA is different, as it was 'my baby', therefore it's my responsibility to do the 19 hour days that I've been doing for the past few years, in order to get us up and running.  We worked out my hourly rate the other day - £1.75/hr max.  I'm not advocating that (in fact I'm really strict with my staff to only work their allocated hours)...however I am saying that if you're being paid X amount of money to do full day's work, that's what you should do. I'm also saying that if you're a uni literally filling your courses with a bunch of naive wannabes who are there because parent's preferred them to get a degree...shame on you.  Similarly though, if you're a drama college who moved across to the degree system to get more finance, use the financial gain to give the students more contact time, not to get in more admin staff. Better still - buy in some more mental health support, as we all know that we need it.

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