A polished performance

January 3, 1997

DRAMA: CENTRAL SCHOOL OF SPEECH AND DRAMA 1992 rating: Two 1s 1996 rating: Two 2s and a 3b

The Central School of Speech and Drama polished its performance carefully for this year's research assessment exercise. Since the disappointing experience of its 1992 RAE flop, when it received two 1 ratings, it has re-focused and redirected much of its research activity.

Linda Cookson, assistant principal with responsibility for staff development and research, said the school was "delighted" with the outcome of the 1996 exercise, which seemed likely to provide it with RAE-based funding for the first time. But she added: "It would be disappointing if 2s do not attract funding."

The school has deliberately expanded the number of postgraduate students, so that the 175 full-time equivalent students working towards higher degrees now represents around 25 per cent of the total number at the school, rather than 15 per cent four years ago.

Its submission to the RAE concentrated on just three fields of work. These included dance, drama and the performing arts; art and design; and education. Though this focus on research activity might seem restricting, there was a high level of collaborative work between fields.

But there is a continuing sense of frustration at the school that the battle to create more flexible arrangements for recording research activity in the creative arts is only partially won.

Ms Cookson said: "Last time we were looking at a body of work which had not been undertaken with public profiling for the RAE in mind." Having gained nothing financially out of the last RAE, the school decided to set aside Pounds 50,000 from its budget which, together with some grant funding from the Arts Council, was earmarked to support research work.

It encouraged its ten research-active staff cited in this year's RAE to work towards recognised outcomes.

Ms Cookson said: "I guess it would be fair to say there has been an increase in written outcomes in fields such as drama, dance and the performing arts, in which previously our research had been more practice-based."

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