A brief history of the College

The College was founded in 1950 by Rose Bruford.   She had taught speech and drama at the Royal Academy as well as having particular interests in verse-speaking and children’s theatre.  These concerns combined to form a desire to establish a programme that combined actor and teacher-training.  This was sensible in employment terms, as it meant that the College would produce drama teachers with a genuine training in theatre.  Within twelve months the College and its programmes were recognised by the (then) Department of Science and Education and graduates were both professionally trained actors and certified teachers.  Together these two elements meant that the College had a secure pedagogic base and public sector status.  Both had important implications for the future.

The programme ran successfully for many years, with most Local Education Authorities employing Rose Bruford drama teachers and at the same time a growing number of professional actors making their name nationally.  However, in the 1970s the Government decided that, because of falling roles, teacher training should be cut and the College was warned that it should either merge with a larger teacher training institution or close.  The then Principal, Jean-Norman Benedetti, decided to take a third programme of action.  He approached the new Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) with a view to developing the first degree for actors (as distinct from theatre or drama studies).   After four years of negotiation and reworking, the Theatre Arts Degree began in 1976.

At the same time the educational work of the College was developed as the Community Theatre Arts Course (itself validated as a degree in 1988), while the technical work that all students on the original programme had undertaken, was expanded to become the technical Theatre Arts Course.  This later grew from two to three years and, in 1988 was also validated as a degree.

With the demise of the CNAA the College arranged to have its programmes validated by the University of Kent at Canterbury, with whom the College had had a long-standing relationship.  Several Governors and Examiners had come from the University and, until the College ran its own degree programmes, students could take an option that allowed them, if they succeeded on the programme, to enter the second year of the University’s English and Drama degree.

By the late 1980s it was clear that running both the Theatre Arts and Community Theatre Arts course was inefficient, with a great deal of duplication and were, in some respects, training students for an area of work that no longer existed or for which funding was no longer available.  The College therefore embarked upon a process of regrouping of its academic provision that resulted in the portfolio of degrees now offered.  These were underpinned by the common desire to provide vocational degrees that would cover the fullest range of professional theatre and associated art forms, together with the intention of bringing the appropriate recognition to the contribution each makes to the creation of theatre.

With the major changes in Government policy that resulted in the Education Reform Act of 1989, the College decided to join those institutions that came under the Polytechnic and Colleges’ Funding Council (PCFC).  With the ending of the binary divide between the Polytechnics and Universities that resulted in the joint Higher Education Funding Councils, the College became part of the University Sector.

Since 1995 the College has embarked on an ambitious programme of academic developments that has seen the consolidation of its vocational degrees in professional theatre disciplines and pursuance of a determined strategy aimed at enabling a wider participation in performance-related studies.  At the forefront of this has been the creation of a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in opera and drama offered as distance learning programmes, theatre studies degrees offered in full and part-time modes and the development of research activity in the College at MPhil and PhD levels.  There has also been a dramatic increase in the College’s overseas profile not only in terms of the numbers of foreign students it attracts to its full-time programmes but also through exchange and joint degree programmes with institutions worldwide.

Throughout this period the College had been expanding its student intake to the point where the accommodation at Lamorbey Park (which was shared with Local Authority users) had become insufficient.  The Education Reform Act allowed the College to establish its leasehold at Lamorbey Park with greater freedom and in 1992 the College purchased a large secondary school building in Greenwich.  In 1986 negotiations were concluded that resulted in the College having a 150 year lease, with sole occupation, on the entire Lamorbey Park site.  In 1992, the College consolidated its entire operation at Lamorbey Park with a £7 million building project which provides state-of-the-art training and rehearsal facilities.

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Last modified: Tuesday, 30 August 2016, 10:04 AM