Today was our first round of Drama St Mary's interviews, looking at applicants to join us in September 2012. It's still a little early to know exactly how the tuition fees are effecting prospective students, especially as after a slow start there's been a rush of applications in the last week. One theory suggests that school leavers are being really careful over their five UCAS choices and that this in turn has meant that forms are being submitted later, once the round of open day visits has come to an end.
What is true is that nearly all the students we saw today had very high predicted grades. This has been a steady trend over the past four years. A sign perhaps that our reputation is growing and that academically gifted students who want to marry a practical training with a University education are increasingly considering us alongside more traditional conservatoires.
Of course there's no guarantees that triple A grade students can act and ultimately we're looking for students who have a spark of something and want to learn how to perform. Still it's exciting to see that we're now seen as a credible alternative to the Drama Schools and that our constituency, at least in terms of applicants, is shifting. In the long run this can only help drive up standards. High flying students tend to make greater demands on lecturers, but in turn lecturers really enjoy working with motivated and talented students. It takes a bit of time to create a culture where expectations are high once achieved though, everybody benefits. With this in mind we've revalidated all our programmes for next year and have upped the practical component of the course to stay in stream with Central, Rose Bruford, E15 and the rest. Again we're strongly promoting employability. We want our graduates to leave, full of ideas, heads screwed on, ready and willing to work.
Auditions went well and we ended up making some firm offers. It'll be interesting to see how many take us up. This first cohort of auditionees are likely to be in high demand, but St Mary's really does have something unique to offer for those who are committed to the idea of becoming an actor.