Central cleared of racism

The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama – graded gold standard for its teaching, the highest achievable level - has been cleared of racism by rejecting quotas for black and mixed ethnic applicants.

But the external and independent Halpin Partnership Race Equality Review, commissioned the drama school’s board of governors, made a number of recommendations to improve its inclusivity.

Last year Central’s principal Professor Gavin Henderson faced calls for his resignation by a group of students when he rejected diversity quotas, insisting the first criterion had to be quality. Students staged a protest.

But the review found no evidence of racism. 

“We found that within Central there were numerous activities being undertaken, and that many of these had improved and/or expanded in recent years” the report said. “There was a strong wish from management, staff and students to support equality, not just race equality but disability, gender and LGBTQ+ equality and we found positive activities taking place across all these areas.”

This year Central has over 1,000 students from 60 countries.

But it recommended, among other things, clarification of race equality at every level; a more systematic approach to measuring the progress of improvement; publication of equality strategies, targets and progress; consultation with students and staff; and an increase in visible role models from different races.

The national average for BAME undergraduates is 15.2%, while at Central it is 16.4%, and the school has already set a target to increase the percentage by 5%. 12.5% of the UK population identifies as BAME.

John Willis, chair of Central’s governors, said the board were accepting al the recommendations, and investing £100,000 in accelerating improvements in diversity, including appointing a full-time equality and diversity advisor.

“The statistical evidence in the Halpin report indicates that Central performs well in race equality when measured against other arts providers in higher education” he said. “However, it is also clear that for some students and staff there is a gap between those statistics and their lived experience.

“The governors and senior management team fully acknowledge that we can - and we will - do better, working together with colleagues and students across the Central community.”


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