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Dance and drama courses scrapped due to budget cuts

Students hold a save the arts protest at Belfast Met. Picture by Hugh Russell

Popular dance and drama courses have had to be sacrificed by a college facing a 3 million budget shortfall.

Belfast Metropolitan College explained it, like other public bodies, had to take difficult decisions due to spending cuts.

This week, actor Dan Gordon led a `save the arts' protest outside Belfast Met's Titanic Quarter building. Mr Gordon said the decision appeared to be linked to a plan to shut down the college's Tower Street campus in east Belfast.

Mr Gordon said the courses allowed young people, particularly those from less wealthy backgrounds, access to the arts.

Although the aged Tower Street building had evolved from Rupert Stanley College to Belfast Institute to Belfast Met, he added, performing arts made a home for itself.

"Despite difficult conditions and only modest support a dedicated staff created a specialised unit adapting and creating substantial facilities and a theatre," Mr Gordon said.

"Many of the young people progress into the business and those who don't go on to be be better at whatever career path they choose to take. This was the nearest thing we had to a drama school and now its being crushed along with the hopes and dreams of the young people who could have accessed it."

A Belfast Met spokeswoman said the college was facing a cut of 2.6m in the next academic year.

"As a consequence, we have had to unfortunately take the decision not to offer dance and drama courses in the forthcoming academic year. This does not affect our current dance and drama students who will continue their course in our Tower Street site next year, as planned," she said.

"We are now in the process of contacting those who had applied for places in September to discuss their options.

"At present, there is no timescale to close the Tower Street campus. At a minimum it will remain open for the 2015/2016 academic year. However, even with considerable investment, it would not be possible to transform Tower Street into the sort of learning environment which we believe our students deserve."

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