Teaching-research split threat to drama

June 13, 2003

Drama departments are under threat from government plans to divide higher education into a small number of elite research universities and a "large tail" of teaching institutions, the discipline's representative body has claimed.

Separating teaching from research is likely to have a "disastrous" effect on small but highly popular drama and performing arts courses, according to the Standing Conference of University Drama Departments.

In its response to the white paper, Scudd says teaching and research are "inextricably linked" in drama, more than in most other subjects. This is so much so that if the two were separated, most drama departments would "disappear from view".

It says: "In our discipline, creative work is often the locus of both teaching and research; where practical exploration is concerned, the resources used for both purposes are often the same."

It adds: "It is difficult to see the discipline continuing to develop the practice-based methodology that has been the very cornerstone of its success to date if the implied separation of teaching and research is effected."

Scudd says drama has "great potential" for helping to meet government higher education targets. Courses attract a large number of applications, often from poor students who fall into widening participation categories.

The discipline is also demonstrating its usefulness to the economy by setting up a working group to look into how drama departments interact with the creative and cultural industries.

Mick Wallace, professor of performance and culture at Leeds University and a member of the working group, said: "Research involves engagement with industry partners, and that provides the important infrastructure that supports students' experience of the real world of the creative and cultural industries. It would be disastrous if we were to lose that."

Scudd chair Carole-Anne Upton, drama lecturer and deputy dean for arts and social sciences at Hull University, said: "The government seems to have a very narrow understanding of research activity and what is useful. The result is that the public perception of a discipline like ours is damaged and its profile lowered."

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