This week Read College joined the depressing list of colleges that have been forced to close over the last few years. Like The MTA they managed to “save” themselves at first but only lasted a few months before coming to the conclusion that it was game over. It should be noted though that like The MTA they too are getting their students to the end of the year – thereby providing as good a closure as possible for all concerned.
So to my knowledge, we’ve said goodbye to CPA & ALRA via quick liquidations where students and staff were suddenly stranded, to my knowledge 2 smaller colleges have closed (both very much off people’s radar) and then of course there was The MTA’s closure all within the space of a few years. In addition to that we’ve seen a few colleges eg Masters, Performers, Urdang all sold off to larger organisations.
Then yesterday after months of rumblings and rumours, The Stage ran with the headline that Rose Bruford was now facing financial difficulties. 3 years ago I wrote a blog which really blew up about my fears about vocational training in the UK. The blog was written pre-pandemic and pre the impact of Brexit. However, in our (first) closing statement at The MTA back in 2021 we stated very clearly that both things had mortally wounded the industry.
The summary of all the difficulties is that actor training is expensive, colleges sold out to go down the degree route thinking that it was the rainbow to the pot of gold known as government funding streams – but as training costs soared, the pot stayed the same size. The sums didn’t add up. So colleges started taking on more and more students to try and earn more revenue.
Of course the biggest kerching came from overseas students who the colleges used to happily fleece in the name of “world-class training”, omitting to add that ‘sometimes’ the lure of the ££ might have impacted some acceptance decisions made. It was OK though as every college was now taking loads of students making it easier to lose those students in the crowd.
Brexit changed all that as remarkably few vocational colleges were permitted to train overseas students. Naively I had thought that all colleges offering degrees would be permitted to sponsor overseas learners but seemingly it depends on permission being given by the validating university.
With the government now proposing to link funding streams to results it’s going to be really interesting to see what happens next, as for many colleges, increasing the student numbers has meant decreasing the overall standard. If that means that their stats are dented, and those stats become linked to funding. . . we might see some surprising additions to the list of closures.
There’s zero pleasure in being proved right to date just an acute annoyance that people didn’t listen and act sooner. To be world-class we had to uphold the standard at entry and fight for the standard of training. That training was always going to cost more than the £9k that they all sold out for.