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Harvard theater school to go on ‘three-year hiatus’

The ART Institute is housed within the American Repertory Theater in the Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge. –Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

CAMBRIDGE — Harvard University’s struggling ART Institute, a graduate-level theater training program housed within the American Repertory Theater, has announced that it is suspending admissions for the next three years “to work on a strategic plan’’ for the Institute.

The move is the latest setback for the troubled school, which in January suspended admissions for the coming academic year after receiving a “failing’’ grade from the US Department of Education for saddling students with onerous levels of debt. In May, the Institute dropped off The Hollywood Reporter’s annual list of the 25 best drama schools for an acting degree. And in June, Scott Zigler, the Institute’s longtime director, announced he was leaving after more than 20 years to become dean of the School of Drama at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

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Over the past six months, the ART has labored to resolve the Institute’s problems, engaging its board of trustees, consulting with Harvard administrators, and exploring the option of partnerships with other Boston-area universities. With no good solution in sight, ART leadership decided to close the school temporarily to develop a plan.

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