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Morley College axes drama courses

Morley College is to close its long-established drama programme in July as a result of Government funding cuts.

The college says that it took the decision following cuts to its grant funding as a result of Government policy to concentrate public funds for adult learning on a small number of work-related priority areas.

The threat to non-priority subjects such as drama was highlighted by Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey at Prime Minister's Questions last April.

A Morley spokeswoman said that the college's drama offer – whilst of high quality – is small and makes inefficient use of a large amount of space which renders it unviable in the current circumstances.

At the time of an inspection in 2005 238 students were enrolled on drama courses.

Drama has long been a key part of the Westminster Bridge Road adult education college. Morley College was established at The Old Vic in the 1880s, and some of the college's drama courses were taught at the Waterloo theatre until as recently as 2004.

"We deeply regret the closure of this popular programme, and realise it will be disappointing to students," says Philip Meaden, principal of Morley College.

"We have worked very hard to try to avoid cuts in our provision as a result of the funding reductions, but, sadly, significantly reducing management and administration costs, and increasing fees, have not been enough, and we've had to take some further difficult decisions. The closure of our drama programme is the result of this."

The news has been greeted with dismay by students, who are urging people concerned by the decision to write to the Learning and Skills Council.

A Save Morley Drama website is also being prepared.

Mr Meaden added: "The college is concerned to ensure that students are disadvantaged as little as possible as a result of this decision To that end, we have agreed with a neighbouring adult education college, which has a much larger drama provision that Morley students will be able to transfer to its courses whenever practicable."

"Morley has a highly talented and experienced team of staff and tutors in the drama section, and we appreciate all the work and effort that they have put in over the years.

"The college aims to redeploy staff where appropriate, and will work with other providers of drama courses to see what alternative employment opportunities exist with them. If none can be found, the college will pay redundancy payments at a rate above the statutory minimum where staff are eligible for a payment."

Mr Meaden stressed that despite the closure of the drama programme the college was still pursuing new initiatives: "...in response to the Government's concern to improve skills in the workforce, we are developing an exciting programme for the business sector. So, whilst we are making changes as an organisation, we will continue to remain a major provider of education and training opportunities in London."

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