Theatre College Will No Long Give Grades to Improve Mental Health

One of the most prestigious theatre programs in the United Kingdom will be trying something new come Fall. First year students at Cardiff’s prestigious Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama won’t receive academic marks comparing them with classmates.

According to The Stage, "Rather than having a numerical mark attached to their feedback, students are only given written comments. The college hopes this will encourage them to focus more on their personal development and dissuade them from comparing themselves with others."

Students who still want academic marks can opt-in for them. 

The school began implementing this plan with two of their courses, acting and design for performance, this year. They plan on extending it to more courses this coming fall. 

Director of Student Experience at the school, Brian Weir, told The Stage, “Across the higher education sector overall, and within performing arts in particular, mental health issues are well documented. Students have got enough challenges when they come to us with regard to adapting to the training model and working out where they fit within the college, so let’s not also the put them in a position where they are comparing themselves to each other. That can’t be healthy,” he said. “This project aims to show students that the college is interested in them as a person, not as a ranking."

Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama - credit Simon Gough

Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama - credit Simon Gough

According to research by WalesOnline, Figures show surging numbers of students seeking help from mental health and counseling services at Welsh universities and across the UK.

Institutions put the increase down to factors including financial and study worries, but say it also reflects the success of their proactive mental health services and less stigma.

Kevin Child, director of student services at Swansea University said last autumn that numbers of students seeing its well being and support services soared more than 21 times from 80 in 2011 to 1,700 in 2016.

At the same time Cardiff University said numbers using its counseling and wellbeing services rose more than three times from 1,187 in 2013 to 3,694 in 2016-17.

Reaction to this new plan has been met with mixed opinions. Many are supportive of it, calling it a major step in improving the student experience. Many are also decrying the plan saying that it's an overreaction that will only hurt the students more once they enter the professional industry.  

Either way, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama is forging ahead with their plan. As Mr. Weir tells The Stage, "We’re not interested in what you perceive to be the value of a grade, we’re interested in striking up a relationship with you that’s about your progression as an individual, not that we think that is worth 62 or 73’.”