Graduates: Training to put people in the picture: Alex Zeman reports on the growth in popularity of courses specifically tailored for arts administration

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Many people working in arts management and policy have learnt their trade 'on the job', perhaps with support from short courses in specific areas. Formal training is now proliferating, and employers are increasingly enthusiastic about it.

If you work, or want to work, in theatre, opera, dance, the visual arts, music, for an arts funding body or organisation promoting artists' interests, it is now that you should consider whether you would benefit from attending a specifically tailored course in administration, marketing, publicity or fundraising.

Thirty years ago, you would have searched in vain for organisations in the UK offering training geared to the needs of arts administrators. Twenty years ago you would have found one initiated by Professor Anthony Field and funded by the Arts Council. The position is now quite different. There is a handsome number of courses and new ones are springing up in what once would have seemed the unlikeliest of places.

Organisations offering a wide range of courses include the City University, De Montfort University (formerly Leicester Polytechnic), the Roehampton Institute and Birkbeck College (the extramural arm of London University).

Training is diverse. Many of the courses offer practical subjects including modules in finance (financial management, book-keeping and an introduction to accountancy), law (contract, employment, copyright and licensing are core subjects), and marketing (including the marketing mix, marketing audits, press and publicity). Other areas often included are fundraising, sponsorship and human resources management.

The courses also offer an exploration of how the arts are funded, of the socio-economic context in which the arts are - in current parlance - 'delivered'. The weight given to the practical and academic varies widely, and courses exist which are almost exclusively one or the other. Some offer the additional possibility of work experience, usually in the form of an unpaid secondment to an arts organisation.

The City University's department of arts policy and management has been running courses for more than a decade. It is entirely postgraduate, specialising in training and research within the realm of policy-making, heritage management and criticism.

It offers a competitive full-time diploma lasting for one year and a number of MAs. The department describes the typical entrant to the diploma course as ambitious, having some experience, and eager to acquire additional skills quickly. It adds that prospective students should have no doubt about their commitment to the realities of administering the arts in an increasingly demanding atmosphere.

The department's MAs are suited to those in search of a more contemplative atmosphere. They include programmes in arts management, arts management in education, museum and gallery management, and arts criticism. The Anglia Polytechnic University also offers an MA course, with a European perspective on the arts environment. Both the universities' courses can be taken one year full-time or two years part-time.

Students working full-time or with other commitments will be more interested in the courses run by the Roehampton Institute and Birkbeck College. Roehampton offers a part-time one year diploma, for which teaching takes place in the evenings. The course aims to give students 'the basic tools and methodologies of arts administration; and to provide, as a necessary context for such work, a thorough and detailed study of arts policy, mechanisms of funding and principles of organisation'.

Similarly, for the first time this year, Birkbeck is offering both diploma and certificate programmes in arts administration through its extra-mural department.

For school leavers who feel they have an 'early calling', or for mature students, undergraduate programmes also flourish. De Montfort University runs a full-time degree course, while the Dartington College of Arts runs an arts management module as a subsidiary element in their various performing arts degrees.

While entry to all of these courses is competitive, the qualifications required vary. City University stipulates a good degree, although states that exceptionally strong work experience can sometimes compensate for the lack of one. Anglia Polytechnic University cites a degree or equivalent, as does the Roehampton Insitute, which will also accept relevant professional work experience.

Birkbeck encourages students with few formal qualifications, which is in line with the college's overall policy. Entry to the De Montfort University and Dartington College of Arts' undergraduate programmes are made in the usual way through UCAS.

Training is not cheap and students need to carefully consider fees, and investigate sources of financial assistance. For the various MAs, diplomas and certificates, course fees range from around pounds 700 for a part-time year of study to pounds 2,300 for a full-time year. For undergraduate courses, students who have not previously benefited from a mandatory grant from their local authority are eligible.

Enlightened arts employers may meet some of the course fees, while local authorities have a very limited number of discretionary grants available. Trusts and foundations are worth approaching for financial 'top-ups', but only if there is one under whose particular auspices you happen to fall.

Neither the British Academy nor the Economic and Social Research Council (which often fund students on MA courses) are currently able to offer grants for these programmes, but it is worth keeping an eye open for developments in this area.

Finding the money for training can be hard and, if you are working, so can finding the time. The benefits are many, however. If you are in the field already, a course can give you a valuable critical perspective on your profession. If you are considering a career in the area, what better introduction?

A good course will also give solid training and/or academic study in specific areas. However, if you are considering a career in arts management or are serious about advancement within it, a qualification may soon be indispensable.

Selected organisations offering courses in arts management, administration and related subjects.

Anglia Polytechnic University, Anglia Business School, East Road, Cambridge CB1 1PT. Tel: 0223 63271 ext 2227.

Birkbeck College, Centre for Extra Mural Studies, 26 Russell Square, London, WC1B 5DQ. Tel: 071- 631 6633.

City University Department of Arts Policy and Management, Level 12, Frobisher Crescent, Barbican, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8HB. Tel: 071-477 8750.

Dartington College of Arts, Totnes, Devon TQ9 6EJ. Tel: 0803 863234.

De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester LE1 9BH. Tel: 0533 551551.

Farnborough College of Technology, Northampshire Business School, Boundary Road, Farnborough, Hampshire GU14 6SB. Tel: 0252 3912121.

Roehampton Institute, Department of Drama, Digby Stuart College, Roehampton Institute, Roehampton Lane, London SW15 5PH. Tel: 081-392 3000.

(Photograph omitted)