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East 15 acting school
Drama students enter the stage of struggle
Students at the East 15 acting school are standing up to unfair charges and inadequate facilities. A letter from the school's director, Professor Leon Rubin, to the student body, notified of a rise in the controversial 'Learning Resource Fee' (LRF). A fightback is in the offing among students at the Loughton campus.
James Ivens, Debden
Professional dramatic training has a unique nature. Lateness and non-attendance, as in the industry, earn permanent exclusion. Combined with the intensive nature of conservatoire training - over 40 hours a week in contact time alone - the timing of Professor Rubin's letter, in the busiest period at the end of the academic year, appears cynically calculated. This sort of struggle is new to East 15 students, to say nothing of other drama schools. But students have made the decision to channel their anger.
The letter suggested the Loughton students association, East 15's branch of the University of Essex students union, had agreed this change, and won concessions on financial transparency. Students are demanding details of discussions, and complete access to the school's and university's accounts, to confirm both claims.
The LRF is an annual charge made against East 15 students for "materials, services and other professional expenses", and reached £280 in the academic year 2008/09. A minority of institutions in the Conference of Drama Schools (CDS), of which East 15 is a member, charge a similar fee. However, such fees are both smaller and more transparent. Nor does it apply to any other course at the University of Essex, which the school joined in 2000. Students demand the abolition of the LRF.
In addition to an above-inflation rise of £20 in the LRF, the university has imposed above-inflation rises of £80 for EU undergraduates and £500 for overseas undergraduates in tuition fees. Students are demanding a return to, and freeze on, the 2008/09 fees.
Compared with other leading CDS schools, and even compared with its own recent history, many of East 15's "learning resources" are subpar. Access to catering facilities, student support, and the recently downsized library, are inadequate. Students are demanding improved facilities and services, with no increase in payment. This first year has been scheduled more 'independent study' than any other in the school's history.
A response has been delivered to the director by a delegation of the student body, accompanied by a mass petition in its support, putting forward these requirements, and demanding a meeting on Thursday 9 July to discuss them.
In The Socialist 8 July 2009:
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