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Here Are The Top Drama Schools In The UK

Thinking about going to drama school to train as a professional actor? The first thing you need to understand is that there is a difference between studying Drama at a University or College which will usually be an academic course with some opportunities to perform, and attending a good Drama School, (which may well be part of a University) which will specialise in training you as a professional actor. It is difficult to know whether to go to Drama School or not. There is a lot of things to consider. It’s important to know what you will get out of it in the end. A good Drama school will have industry accreditation and end of course showcase with the aim of getting you an agent on graduation, it is geared to producing excellent actors who can hit the ground running within the industry.

Getting into a top drama school is very competitive, up to 100 applicants per place offered, more competitive than medicine! Places are offered after audition, (in most cases 2,3 or even 4 auditions!) the most prestigious schools also audition internationally in USA, Europe, Asia etc. Generally, successful applicants just need the minimum entry qualifications e.g. 2 A levels or equivalent for a degree in Acting or a degree to get on a Masters in Acting. Some schools offer a foundation course which is a good grounding for going on to a degree or diploma in acting. Each school will have its own specialisms and it is essential to study the prospectus carefully to make sure they offer the right thing for you, for example, some schools offer more screen acting, others theatre or musical theatre. A number of drama schools have joined up with other performing arts faculties and institutions of music and dance, forming Conservatoires.

These offer opportunities to collaborate in productions and performances as well as teaching and training. Some Drama Schools use the UCAS system for post 18, degree level applications, those in Conservatoires use UCAS Conservatoire application method, but many schools accept direct applications, so do your research. The vast majority of applicants will not be accepted on their first application but this does not mean they will not be successful in future applications, having gained more life experience.

The top UK drama schools form the Federation of Drama Schools, which has agreed standards and industry recognition. Studying at a top drama school will ensure high-quality training from leading industry professionals, membership of Equity, the performers union, and an automatic entry in Spotlight, the industries most popular casting platform on graduation.

The Top Drama Schools


Based in London and Wigan Greater Manchester, The Academy of Live and Recording Arts offers training in all areas of acting but is best known for its training for TV and Film. Apply direct.

Arts Ed

Based in London, it is well established as a drama school, and consistently comes in the top five drama schools for student satisfaction. Apply direct.

Bristol Old Vic

Opened in 1946 by Lawrence Olivier, it is recognised internationally for its training and is part of a conservatoire. It takes a small number of students each year. Apply direct.

Drama Centre

Part of University of the Arts, London, based in central London or Wimbledon, depending on which acting route you follow. Currently reviewing its courses, do look carefully at a current prospectus at what it will offer in the future.

Drama Studio

Based in London, it is partnered with the University of West London. Focussed entirely on acting the drama studio offers a traditional but relevant training for the range of performance opportunities available for graduates. Apply direct or via UCAS for degree courses.


based in Essex, founded 50 years ago out of the Joan Littlewood Theatre Workshop and boasts Alison Steadman as one of its alumni. Now part of the University of Essex, apply via UCAS for degree courses.

Guildford School of Acting

Part of the University of Surrey, the well regarded, GSA offers a range of acting courses and is known for its musical theatre training. Apply via UCAS for degree courses.

Italia Conti

Based in West London currently, but moving to new premises in Woking, Surrey in 2022. It is the oldest theatre arts training school in the world. It specialises in Acting, Dance and Musical Theatre. Apply via UCAS for degree level courses.


Internationally famous as an awarding body for drama qualifications, it offers high quality training for actors, in a conservatoire setting. Based in Central London, it has strong links with USA and Canada. Apply direct for all courses.

Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts

(LIPA) is based in Liverpool it this vibrant performing arts institution aims to train versatile actors and performers. Has a wide range of courses in performing arts including acting in screen and digital media and community theatre. Apply via UCAS for degree level courses.

Manchester School of Theatre

Part of Manchester Metropolitan University it is the leading drama school in the North of England and boasts Julie Walters among its alumni. Apply through UCAS for degree courses.


Based in a state of the art, purpose-built new centre in South London, Mountview is probably best known for its high quality Musical Theatre training. Apply direct

Oxford School of Drama

Based in the Oxfordshire countryside, Oxford School of Drama (not part of Oxford University) offers classical actor training on either one or three year, courses. Boasts Claire Foy as one of its Alumni. Apply direct.


Probably the most well-known Drama School in the World, with many famous faces gracing its alumni, including Glenda Jackson, Anthony Hopkins, Pheobe Waller Bridge. Based in Bloomsbury in London it offers an exceptional and traditional grounding in acting. Apply direct.

Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

(CSSD) offers a range of Acting courses including Musical theatre and Applied Theatre. Based in North London it boasts Dame Judy Dench and Kit Harrington as ex-students. Apply via UCAS for degree courses.

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

Consistently rated one of the best UK drama schools, and highly rated by students in NUS surveys, is part of the Birmingham Conservatoire. A great choice you don’t want to be based in London. Application via UCAS Conservatoires for degree courses

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Ranked in the Worlds Top 10 for performing arts education. Training here will allow you to work on projects with other students in film, dance and music. Based in Glasgow, application via UCAS Conservatoires, for degree courses.

Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama

Based in Cardiff, offers courses in Acting and Musical Theatre, has its own theatre company the Richard Burton Company producing around 15 productions a year. Apply via UCAS Conservatoires.

Rose Bruford College

Well regarded internationally, this drama school is based in Sidcup, Kent. This is a small college exclusively specialising in performance arts and recruits students from around the world. Tom Baker and Gary Oldman are among its graduates. For degree courses apply via UCAS.

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