November 2013 – I attend the Stage ’83 30th year reunion at Central. It is a jolly affair, culminating in drinks at the Washington. I note that Royal Central now carves the names of its celebrity graduates in the front steps of the Embassy Theatre. Many, perhaps most, of these names are pre-degree.
I am not alone in noticing the stone publication of these names, and the irony is not lost on me.
I determine to approach the school again regarding the diploma/degree situation. Among several others, I did so in the 1990s and was summarily dismissed. However I am determined because I believe the issue now has wide implications for the profession at large.
Here is summary of the communication between me & Central from December 2013 until May 2016:
Multiple email exchanges with Gavin Henderson, Principal, Royal Central. Two phone calls, one face to face meeting NYC 2014.
Multiple email exchanges with Andrew Redford (to whom I was directed as point person). This exchange came to an end when I discovered (upon enquiry) that Dr. Redford had left the school.
Brief email exchanges with Professor Ross Brown.
Multiple email exchanges with Debbie Scully, several phone conversations.
Sundry other phone calls, and submissions in hard copy.
- 2013. I approach the school with an enquiry regarding the status of diplomate graduates, and the possibility of retro-actively conferring degree status. I receive a form letter which clearly states that Central has no plans to do this.
- January 2014. I put up a website and over the first few months about 100 people sign the petition.
- I write a letter to graduates known to me personally, and some who are not, over the middle part of 2014 another 30 or so people sign the petition.
- It seems that the executive at Central may be open to some sort of action. I am informed that the decision must go through several levels including London University to which Central is now affiliated, and the government quango named the QAA.
- I submit a very detailed outline/proposal of the highly successful initiative instituted at NIDA in Australia at the suggestion of the NSW government in response to a similar situation. Note this course was initially funded for five years, but then extended a further five because the take up was substantial. Graduates include oscar nominees, and prominent educators.
- I send the proposal to the academic board both electronically and in hard copy. Receipt is not acknowledged until, upon enquiry I am told it has been received. No comment or feedback is given.
- Upon enquiry I am informed that Central will do a feasibility study at regards a conversion course, also sometimes called a BA top-up. This seems hopeful.
- Dr. Redford leaves the staff. I am not informed.
- I am directed to Professor Ross Brown, who indicates that the feasibility study has gone forward. Although no details are forthcoming, I am given to understand that if funding can be secured, Central will consider implementing some kind of course.
- A further 20 or so people sign the petition.
- I make contact with Debbie Scully, Deputy Principal who is aware of this history. She explains that Central’s funding is uncertain. There are delays due to the UK general election.
- I continue to call Debbie Scully at intervals of several months, as, as she explains, the continuing and further delays are beyond Central’s control. The tacit understanding between us is that if the funding is secured then those many diplomate graduates who are interested may at last be given the opportunity to gain a degree.
- I hear the news from Debbie Scully that funding has been secured.
- I exchange of emails with Gavin Henderson. He indicates uncertainty as the possible conversion course that has been under discussion for 30 months.
- I press Professor Henderson for an explanation of how it is that Central having in several ways apparently committed to such a course should the funding be secured.
- I publish here the same excerpt of Professor Henderson’s email of June 6th 2016 as quoted in the email update of the same date.
We are now revisiting the feasibility study, paying attention amongst other things, to the School’s capacity to run a course that is likely to have significant distance-learning component to it. We hope to be in a position to advertise the course as ‘subject to validation’ during the autumn, with a validation event (involving external subject expertise) held in the late autumn, once finally costed and budgeted. If approved, the course would then be in a position to be launched in September 2017. We would need to be assured of a sufficient take up to cover the costs and staff time. Deploying senior staff time is going to be a significant factor as we have to grapple with all the changes being brought upon us by the TEF (Teaching Excellence Framework).
And here is my reply:
Thank you for your reply and full explanation how things stand. It is much appreciated.
I have amended the summary of progress which I will now share with the petitioners who have waited for more than two years for news. I have omitted our last exchange of emails but have taken the liberty of including the final paragraph of your email of today, as it succinctly expresses Central’s intentions. FYI, I include the amended link here.
I am glad that Central intends to announce a possible conversion course in the Autumn. I assume that apart from the external validation, the gap between the announcement and the implementation is so that, as you indicate, Central can satisfy itself that the possible take up will cover the costs.
At this point I observe the following:
1. Although there are many expressions of interest. No one could reasonably be expected to commit without knowing the details of the course and the terms of undertaking it. Obviously much will depend on whether you limit the possible intake to former Central graduates only, include those from Weber Douglas, or open the whole thing to those graduates of the Conference of Drama Schools who are similarly placed.
2. In previous discussion with your colleagues I have suggested that any course would include a substantial element of assessment of professional experience together with some modular distance learning. Crucially, one hopes that the course would be modestly priced. I believe I am correct that both Dr. Redford and Professor Brown were broadly in agreement.
3. Clearly there is no point speculating about the response until Central publishes specifics.
I cannot help but feel, in view of the fact that the school has major projects to hand, that this agenda may again slip from priority. I can only hope that Central will indeed, as you indicate, take the step of at least offering the possibility of a conversion course.
I thank you again for your reply. It is useful to know about the wider context of developments at the school. I look forward to the Autumn.