Thursday, 10 December 2009

Babies and Bathwater.

We're coming to the end of the semester and it's been quite a tough week. On Monday we had a full on staff meeting which looked a little ahead and tried to anticipate the future. Whoever wins the election next year it's clear that the Higher Education sector will face some big and potentially sacrificial decisions. All we can really do is keep watch to make sure that the programmes we're proposing are as relevant, valuable and effective as we can make them. Hard times always offer opportunity for the inventive, and it'll be our vision, or lack of it, for the next few years that will ultimately determine whether exciting students join us or not. If they do we'll flourish regardless of the cuts.

My sense is that we could do more to link the modules together and perhaps look to run each year as a series of projects rather than courses. We'd still meet the learning objectives, but also begin to see ourselves as a varied and fascinating centre of innovation and production. The model that I think we should strive towards is one where the 300 or so students effectively become the Drama St Mary's theatre company, producing shows and outreach work whilst also training and sharpening their skills. It'd enable us to be lighter on our toes, more able to respond rapidly to change. In this regard we should look for coherence through diversity rather than orthodoxy or methodology. We shouldn't teach anything just for the sake of it or because it's always been taught, but instead take every chance to be vital and connected.

I also hope we'll also start to move further towards gradients in development with third years taking major decisions over the scope, content and delivery of the work, aided by problem solving second years and hard working, supportive first years. It's so important that by the end of the degree students know what to do next and know which direction they want to turn. It's the move from a dependence on authority to taking responsibility as a creative independent and resourceful artist.

... And brave artists are what we'll all need to see the way forward, to provide the playful metaphors through which we'll explore the alternative futures, to provide resistance and possibilities. It may be the time to tighten our belts, but it's certainly not the time to go on the backfoot.

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