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What Are the Best Acting Schools in the UK?

By Liza, published on 13/02/2019 Blog > Arts and Hobbies > Acting > The Best Drama Schools in the UK: pick yours!

Studies show that more and more people wish to express their artistic talents and pursue their dream of becoming actors or theatre performers, and are thus looking to audition for drama school this year. Given the number of existing schools, it can be rather tough to decide which one to approach.

Most drama schools have an audition fee, and every audition takes quite a lot of time, which is why it is so important to find the best-suited schools in the first place. You should probably take some acting classes before you try so that your auditions are a success from the start!

 If you are looking to enrol, and although it is always important to do your own research, this list will give you a pretty good overview of the landscape in the UK. To build up this list, we have focused on reputation, alumni, teaching staff, facilities and industry standings.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to move to London to train in drama – or indeed study acting abroad. True, many of the best drama training institutions in the UK are based in the capital but living away from home can be prohibitively expensive. Elsewhere in the UK, there are many celebrated courses at universities and colleges offering thorough training in acting, leading to a degree too.

The Best Acting Schools in London

 Best Acting Schools in the UK “Acting is not about being someone different. It’s finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there.” ― Meryl Streep (Source : Unsplash)

London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, London

LAMDA is one of the oldest drama schools in the world and has proven to be excellent. It was founded in 1861 and since then has produced some fantastic talents such as Donald Sutherland, John Lithgow, Jim Broadbent, Swoosie Kurtz and Brian Cox.

Graduates of this drama school usually end up with amazing roles and have already won 4 Academy Awards, 16 Golden Globes, 36 Olivier Awards and 12 Tonys. In addition to benefiting from brilliant courses, being able to quote LAMDA on your resume will unquestionably make you score major points for your future career (and showbiz connections).

So what can you find at LAMDA?

For one, their list of short courses hits on salient points of any actor’s career:

Introduction to Drama School is a 2-week summer seminar that touches on every aspect of performance from how to move to how to project your voice. You will also receive instruction on abstract concepts such as improvisation and concrete aspects of theatre acting, specifically Shakespeare.

Besides this fairly general course, you may enrol for:

  • Shakespeare Summer Courses – either a 4- or 8-week summer course meant to give a deeper understanding of poetic drama.
  • Introduction to Screen Acting: this course will teach you the particulars of acting in front of a camera rather than on stage.
  • Audition Techniques is for anyone who anticipates majoring in acting or the performing arts; it covers how to move and use your voice effectively. Also helps build confidence in the run-up to your school entrance audition.
  • Acting in English is designed specifically for speakers of other languages. Lessons such as audition techniques and improvisation are complemented by lessons on how to use English effectively – to project emotion, in character building and in dialogue.

Note: while the minimum age to partake of these lessons is 16, there is no maximum age so, if you were looking for a new project to sink your teeth in, you might consider one or more of these courses!

Besides short courses held over the summer, LAMDA has a fully developed curriculum for anyone desiring a future in the film industry.

You may prefer directing, producing or editing to acting. If so, LAMDA is ready for you with a 2-year programme that will train you in set decoration as well as lighting and audio production.

Does all of this sound exactly what you’re looking for?

Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, London

The prestigious RADA was founded in 1904 and in addition to being considered one of the top acting schools, it is known as the most difficult school to get into. Classes sometimes only involve one teacher and a maximum of three students. It is whispered that The Beatles became legendary because their RADA-trained manager taught them how to be dramatic.

Anyone who manages to get into RADA will definitely be on agents’ and casting directors’ radar right after graduation. Graduates include Anthony Hopkins, Mike Leigh, Peter O’Toole and many more famous actors.

Like LAMDA, RADA offers an array of short courses, albeit with a wider selection, open to anyone over the age of 16.

You may learn clowning, study musical theatre, or enrol in their physical theatre workshop enticingly titled Releasing the Beast.

Naturally, Shakespeare and Audition Techniques feature, as well as a Taste of RADA workshop, where you could sample every aspect of actors’ training they have to offer.

RADA’s BA (Hons) course lasts three years and covers everything from singing and voice training to movement and professional development. It will prepare you for performance in a variety of media including stage, television and film.

Is there a difference between them? Isn’t acting acting no matter where it is performed?

Oh, no, aspiring actor! How you move on stage is vastly different from how you would move in front of a television camera, which, in turn, differs greatly from filming for the silver screen.

You would learn all of the techniques for each of these types of acting as well as producing, editing, lighting and sound techniques.

If theatre acting is your passion you may extend your tenure by one year to include their theatre lab.

This four-term course culminates in an ensemble venture led by a professional director who will ensure you are stage ready… by actually putting on a public performance!

Stage and screen acting methods are very different Acting for the silver screen is very different from television acting Source: Pixabay Credit: 27707

Rose Bruford college of theatre and Performance, London

Rose Bruford College was founded by Rose Bruford (a professional actress and speech teacher) and is known to be a very good drama school with a solid reputation. The University-level degrees it delivers are approved by the University of Manchester, and the school is renowned to be one of the complete providers for brilliant theatre-focused courses throughout Western Europe. Famous graduates include Greg Hicks, Roy Williams and Cheryl Fergison.

Rose Bruford’s curriculum is a bit more segmented than the schools we’ve covered thus far.

If your desire is to act – on stage or on screen, there is a BA Honors course for that.

However, if you wish to work behind the scenes designing sets, lighting or costumes, there is a wholly separate curriculum for those aspects of the entertainment industry.

And then, if you just can’t get enough of science and methodology of acting, you may pursue postgraduate studies at Rose Bruford: International Theatre Practice, Collaborative Theatre Making and Actor and Performer Training are just some of the specialities you may research.

What we love about this school is its diverse curriculum.

You may take classes part-time or full-time, in-house or online. There is even a programme for American Theatre and Musicianship!

Sylvia Young Theatre School, London

Sylvia Young is unusual in many ways, the main one being that it is a performing arts school meant primarily for school-aged children.

Established in 1972, Sylvia Young is one of the rare drama schools that offer part-time classes for adults, which can be a good option if you aspire to work whilst studying. The full-time acting course for children launched in 1981 and hasn’t stopped training rather amazing talents since then.

The full-time syllabus for children includes a standard academic curriculum taught three days per week. Thursdays and Fridays are given over to the performing arts, teaching students early how to hone their craft.

No need to worry about GCSEs; the faculty at Sylvia Young will help get your kids ready!

Classes for adults cover both singing and acting, mostly as separate programmes, with teachers who are active in the industry.

Sylvia Young undoubtedly offers a variety of very qualitative acting training, both for stage and screen performers, as well as other arts. Surely you will have heard of the school’s famous alumni Nick Berry Adam Woodyatt and Perry Fenwick!

Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, London

Mountview, as it is often quoted, is presently one of the leading drama schools in the UK. The school was founded in 1945, and has since then trained performers such as Brendan Coyle and Denise Welsh, and places a strong emphasis on professional stage training.

A part of Mountview’s appeal surely must be its expansive curriculum.

Should you be uncertain whether acting is your destiny, you may sign up for part-time or full-time foundation courses in musical theatre or acting for stage and screen, just to have a try.

Conversely, if you are certain your name should be in lights, you might enjoy their BA Honours programme in acting, musical theatre or even go for their actor-musician degree, if you are multi-talented!

Even their audition process is outstanding.

Difficult as it is to spot genuine talent, let alone in a 3-minute monologue, they invite every candidate to spend the day with them and present an assortment of audition challenges designed to help you maximise your acting ability.

No worries about what is expected of you: on their web page, they list specifics of what material you might perform for your audition. If you sign up early, you will have plenty of time to prepare!

It is also said that Mountview supports all students for months and even years after they have graduated. So if you believe you have what it takes (the auditions are known to be rather tough and teachers pretty demanding), then you should definitely consider applying to Mountview.

With all of these great acting schools in London alone, making a choice might be difficult so we offer them side by side. 

Overview of Select Criteria for Acting Schools in London

Name of SchoolMinimum AgeWhat they TeachPart-time
Full-time
LAMDA16Degree plans
Foundation courses
Short courses
Full time only
RADA16Degree plans in acting or theatre production
Short courses
full time only
Rose Bruford16Masterclasses, short courses in acting, directing and musicianship
Foundation courses
Degree plans
full-time only
Sylvia Young4academics and performance
Adult classes
full time and part time
Mountview16Foundation courses
Degree programmes in theatre production, stage management and acting, also actor-musician
full time and part time

Search for “acting classes London” to find other, smaller schools or private tutors (such as here on Superprof!

The Best Acting Schools in England

Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Bristol

Not far from Cardiff, in the south of England, students have several options for world-class training to degree level. In Clifton, the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School is known as one of the country’s leading conservatoire drama schools, providing foundation courses and the three-year BA in acting.

You may hold that your child shows promise as an actor; in fact, s/he quite enjoys taking centre stage!

If you wish to help cultivate that talent, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School is the place to turn to. They offer courses in theatre skills and filmmaking to teenagers, while children as young as seven may enjoy their Activ8 programme.

Through a combination of ensemble work and role play games, youths can gain practical experience in theatrical techniques and improvisation.

Naturally, these youth courses are hosted in addition to professional training courses, degree courses and adult short courses.

The school has the advantage of having an international reputation for its brilliant training in voice, movement and creativity in preparation for careers mixing all aspects of the entertainment industry.

Manchester Metropolitan University School of Theatre, Manchester

MMU is a popular choice for actors in the North West of England. This well-known school has trained great talents such as Amanda Burton, Steve Coogan and Richard Griffith. The university school also works closely with BBC North and Granada, and thus will guarantee a spot on a map for most alumni actors.

Their curriculum tends to be more formal, offering two main degree programmes: a BA Honors in Acting and one in Drama and Contemporary Performance.

That latter is a most intriguing syllabus, with each term requiring a completed performance project before moving on.

If you are looking for classical education in the art of dramatic acting in the Manchester area, look no further: this three-year programme will certainly fit the bill!

The teaching is mainly centred on physical theatre practitioners such as Grotowski, and works of Brecht and Stanislavski’s philosophies and teachings.

Look for acting classes Manchester for more acting schools near you!

Guildford School of Acting, Guildford

GSA has progressively built a reputation of providing quality training to its actors and performers. If you’re anywhere around the area, or you’re in the position where a part-time acting course is your only choice, you will never go wrong with an acting school like GSA.

The school offers professional teaching and academic degrees in theatre, dance, acting, musical theatre and production skills such as stage management, lighting and sound design. Following a re-structure in 2016, GSA now includes great academic programmes in Theatre & Performance and Dance which had previously been part of the university’s School of Arts.

Under its revamped class structure, you will find an all-inclusive performing arts curriculum:

  • Foundation courses in Acting, Musical Theatre,
  • BA and MA degree programmes in Acting and Theatre
  • BA Honours and PhD in Dance
  • BA Honours in Musical Theatre and Actor Musician
  • BA and MA programmes in Theatre Production and Production Management

In addition to this expanded course list, children as young as five may enjoy Saturday classes consisting of acting, singing and movement – how to position oneself on stage and moving within the camera’s range.

Anyone who hopes to take the art and craft of acting seriously could certainly benefit from any of these courses!

Anyone who is looking for an engaging pastime would fare well, too!

Learn how to sword fight in acting school Have you ever wondered why period dramas look so realistic? Get the answer in acting school! Source: Pixabay Credit: Petra Solajova

East 15 Acting School, Loughton

E15 drama school was founded in 1961 by Margaret Walker. The school’s approach is mainly based Mr Stanislavski’s works. E15 provides very good training for both stage and screen acting.

They offer a range of undergraduate courses in subjects as diverse as stage combat and creative producing for theatre and short film. These courses follow a standard syllabus; three years of development and discovery in the art of stage and screen acting.

Once you’ve nailed your performance or producing skills through their three-year programme, you may consider moving on to their Masters’ programme in either acting or directing.

The school also provides extra courses such as combat, fencing, etc. which can provide future performers with great added value. Graduates include the well-known Alan Ford, Billy Murray and David Yates.

Oxford School of Drama, Woodstock

Oxford’s drama school is one of the youngest best drama schools in the UK. While it has been around for no more than 26 years, it has already produced a respectable amount of talented and famous performers (Lee Boardman, Christina Cole, Catherine McCormack).

While they do offer foundation courses and a one-year, intensive course, participating in this school’s three year degree programme is a bit like peeling an onion.

Year One focuses on the technical aspects of the craft: voice, movement, characterisation; even stage combat.

Your second year enhances your technical development as a performer while branching out into voice acting and acting through song, finishing off with your first public performance.

The third year touches on all of the previously-studied aspects but revolves around live performances.

Your final term would be spent in London to give you better exposure to casting agents and access to open auditions.

The school chooses to train only 18 students per course, hence great competition to get in. Also note that Oxford’as drama school is absolutely independent, which means it is not attached to any of the Universities in the UK.

Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, Liverpool

Even though this article is mainly about acting, we just have to gush a bit about the many study programmes on offer at LIPA: Stage Management, Creative Technologies, Sound Technology, Applied Theatre…

Now that we have that out of our system, we’ll gush about the acting programmes LIPA has on offer.

The internationally renown Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts delivers its own BA (Hons) acting course. The school offers around 36 places per year and potential entrants are expected to have attained a minimum of 64 UCAS points but the faculty is also looking for key attributes in their students, including self-awareness, commitment and an entrepreneurial spirit to create new work.

Their one-year, intensive foundation course is a great starting point to your education in acting. It gets the nuts and bolts of the craft out of the way; sort of an introduction to what is expected of actors on a modern or classical stage.

Now suitably prepared, you may move on to their BA Honours programme, a 3-year, full-time endeavour that will make you ready to face every acting challenge from physical roles to emotional ones.

Not every actor stays in the limelight for the duration of their career; many move behind the camera.

To add that layer of skill to your repertoire, you may continue your studies at LIPA. Through their Masters’ programme, you will learn about everything that happens behind the scenes to make actors’ performances shine.

Sir Paul McCartney raves that it is one of the best performing arts schools in the world!

Which are the best Acting Schools in the UK? “The theatre is the only institution in the world which has been dying for four thousand years and has never succumbed. It requires tough and devoted people to keep it alive.”
― John Steinbeck (Source: Unsplash)

The Best Drama Schools in Wales

Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff

Established in 1949 in Cardiff Castle, RWCMD (The National Conservatoire of Wales) is another top-level acting school in the United Kingdom, and even the world.

Most testimonials and articles concerning this school agree to say that it truly cares for its students and makes sure each one of them is taken care of during and after the studies, thus really helping them get onto their feet in the industry. To do so, the school nourishes very close partnerships with local TV stations and regularly invites casting directors. In addition to this, the RWCMD stages over 300 performances every year.

That is a fairly remarkable statistic for a school with only 22 undergraduate slots and a mere 10 in their Masters’ programme!

This school is unique in its course structure. Unlike other schools’ syllabi that devote a substantial amount of class time to theory and method, RWCMD compels you to get hands-on straight away.

Even as an undergraduate, you would devote yourself to physical and vocal work in the morning, with rehearsals in the afternoon.

No wonder it’s been voted the top drama school UK four years running!

Graduates include Sir Anthony Hopkins and Ruth Jones.  If you are anywhere near Cardiff or consider the idea of living in Wales, this drama school could be a very good option and will shine on your Curriculum.

The Best Acting Schools in Scotland

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow

Located in Scotland, RCS (formally RSAMD for Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama) is a solid drama school founded as long ago as 1847. Prince Charles is currently a patron of the Academy, helping to maintain a school’s place as a vibrant conservatoire.

Their curriculum is divided into three broad categories: acting, musical theatre and contemporary performance practice.

One outstanding feature of this school is their curriculum for actors who are deaf, called Performance in British Sign Language. It is the only one of its kind in the UK and throughout Europe.

The training included in this programme is much the same as their regular acting and musical theatre programmes. You will learn how to move, sing, dance and improvise.

And you would learn one skill that traditional acting students are not taught: puppetry.

Throughout these three-year programmes, every student will have the opportunity to work with established actors and performers, getting tips on how to improve their craft.

RCS also has Junior Academy of Drama for under 18-year-old youngsters who wish to get a head start in their performing career. It is definitely a fantastic school which no one seems to regret having been to. Certainly not Robert Carlyle, John Hannah or Angela Lonsdale!

Or look for an acting coach Scotland to help you in-between classes.

Which are the best Performing Arts courses in the UK ? A tutor with experience performing will charge more than one without. (Source: pixabay.com)

Please remember that as a matter of fact, an acting degree from a University is not the same as a degree from a reputable drama school, especially if that drama school is included on a list of the best drama schools in London or the best drama schools in the world.

Most casting directors will always look at someone with a degree from, let’s say, RADA rather than from Hull College; even if the 3-year program states to be identical.

Here is a summary table of the above-mentioned schools:

Name of SchoolLocationAlumni
SYLVIA YOUNG THEATRE SCHOOLLondonNick Berry Adam Woodyatt and Perry Fenwick
ROYAL WELSH COLLEGE OF MUSIC AND DRAMACardiffSir Anthony Hopkins and Ruth Jones
ROYAL CONSERVATOIRE OF SCOTLANDGlasgowRobert Carlyle, John Hannah or Angela Lonsdale
ROYAL ACADEMY OF DRAMATIC ARTLondonAnthony Hopkins, Mike Leigh, Peter O’Toole
ROSE BRUFORD COLLEGE OF THEATRE & PERFORMANCELondonGreg Hicks, Roy Williams and Cheryl Fergison
MOUNTVIEW ACADEMY OF THEATER ARTSLondonBrendan Coyle and Denise Welsh
MANCHESTER METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF THEATREManchesterAmanda Burton, Steve Coogan and Richard Griffith
LONDON ACADEMY OF MUSIC AND DRAMATIC ARTSLondonDonald Sutherland, John Lithgow, Jim Broadbent, Swoosie Kurtz and Brian Cox
BRISTOL OLD VIC THEATRE SCHOOLBristolDaniel Day-Lewis
GUILDFORD SCHOOL OF ACTINGGuildfordBrenda Blethyn
EAST 15 ACTING SCHOOLLoughtonAlan Ford, Billy Murray and David Yates
OXFORD SCHOOL OF DRAMAWoodstockLee Boardmann, Christina Cole, Catherine McCormack
LIVERPOOL INSTITUTE FOR PERFORMING ARTSLiverpoolLiz White

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