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Drama school is too expensive, and our culture will suffer because of it


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As another year of training begins at drama schools in the UK, auditions for 2017 intake are in full swing. Thousands more applicants will chance their hand at getting onto one of the best training courses available – but how many can really afford it?

Much like normal universities, a lot of drama schools offer student finance, meaning the £9,000 fee will be paid by a government loan until the individual graduates and is able to pay it back. A maintenance loan is also offered to students; this can be anywhere from £5,000 to £10,000 depending on the individual's circumstances. So far so simple.

Before getting a place at a drama school you have to undertake an audition procedure. Universities generally accept students based on their academic achievements, however a drama school selects students based on talent and performance throughout a specific audition structure. Each school charges a fee for auditions – this can be anything from £30 - £80.

Let’s say for instance you audition at five schools, each of which charge £45 for an audition - you have already spent £225 without guarantee of a place. This does not take in to consideration the price of travel. If, for instance, you travel north to south (or vice versa) a return ticket can be up to £100 – that would be per audition.

A lot of students end up having to audition for more than one year, meaning they could be spending £500 per year on just auditions and travel until they finally get a place.

Courses such as foundation courses are also offered at drama schools – these are generally offered to students who show potential but may not be yet deemed suited to full time training. Part-time foundation courses can cost around £2,000, with no means of funding. Full-time foundation courses can cost up to £12,000 for one year of study, again with no means of funding.

For those who do make it onto a BA course and have the luck of getting onto a course that has student finance attached to it, there is the difficulty of living expenses. On average university students will have around 13 contact hours a week. A lot of time outside the classroom will be spent doing work and assignments, however at a drama school your average contact hours are 30+.

30+ hours a week with outside study is more than some full time jobs, meaning there is less time to work and earn money alongside your studies. Not only that but these vocational courses are physically and emotionally demanding, meaning your body is under a lot of pressure whilst training; too many late nights working behind a bar could have a detrimental effect on your training.

The majority of drama schools are based in the south of England (mainly London) and very few offer student accommodation. In 2015 the average monthly cost of renting a room in London reached £743.

So is this too expensive? The training offered at these schools is second to none and some schools in England are world class; tipping out some of the most successful actors we know today. The cost of training is understandable due to the high quality and the hours you spend with your tutors.

The main implication of the expense is diversity. Those who are more wealthy and from a high class background have less of a struggle when it comes to attending drama school (or higher education of any kind); those who are more disadvantaged may find it hard to even afford the audition fees.

We need to be training a wide range of actors in order to keep the industry diverse and exciting. If all actors come from the same background or if we only train those who can afford it we are limiting creativity and ultimately narrowing the stories we can tell.

After all, stories are the lifeblood of everything we do and I’m certain we want a variety showcased to us – we all want to see something we can relate to, and in order to see variety we have to train variety.

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