Best Drama Schools in the UK | Leading Acting Training in the UK
best drama schools in the UK

Best Drama Schools in the UK

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We believe the best drama schools in the UK are RADA, LAMDA, Guildhall, Bristol Old Vic and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. 

Many of you are looking to audition for drama school this year. It can be tough to work out which schools to approach, especially in the UK where you are completely spoiled for choice. Most drama schools have an audition fee, and every audition takes time and effort to prepare, so you need to find the drama schools that suit you and prioritise those. As with any list of this nature, it’s subjective, but here are what we believe to be the best British acting schools. The majority of acting schools listed here are based in London, but there are a number of great acting schools throughout the UK. It’s always important to do your own research, but this should be a helpful starting point. For this list we have looked at reputation, alumni, teaching staff, facilities and industry opinions.

This list of best drama schools in the UK should give you an overview of the landscape in the UK. Most of these drama schools offer various courses, but we’re looking at the core program of each which in most cases is a 3 year bachelor of acting. My personal view is to always aim for these flagship courses, as they will offer the best training and help you most of all in the industry.

Leading Acting Schools in the UK

#1 Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA)

The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art is the leading drama school in the UK. It is one of the oldest drama schools in the world and has a formidable reputation. Like with any drama school, the teaching staff at any one time makes a huge impact on the quality of the school. However, RADA always maintains a great reputation and being the national school, receives plenty of funding for facilities and resources.

Alumni: Sally Hawkins, Ralph Fiennes, Tom Hiddleston
Course Length: 3 Years
Location: London

Apply for RADA

#2 London Academy of Performing Arts (LAMDA)

If you find yourself at LAMDA you are in luck. This is one of the best drama schools in the world. A three year course that focuses on voice, movement and acting. Though LAMDA doesn’t have the same ring to it as RADA, these two schools are definitely on equal footing, and it would be a tough choice if you were offered a place at both schools.

Alumni: Jim Broadbent, Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Lithgow
Course Length: 3 Years
Location: London

Apply for LAMDA

#3 Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Guildhall is another staple of the London acting schools. This school offers a rigorous training for actors and is well known for producing fantastic graduates. There is a great community at Guildhall and the smaller class size means that you get more personalised training. And like with most of the leading acting schools in England, the facilities are incredible.

Alumni: Orlando Bloom, Lily James, Ewan McGregor
Course Length: 3 Years
Location: London

Apply for Guildhall

#4 Bristol Old Vic Theatre School

The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School is a powerhouse. As you can see from the Alumni listed below, they have produced a number of incredible actors. One of the reasons I like this school is because it’s outside of the main hub of London. Bristol is still a decent sized city, but it doesn’t have the intensity of London. This allows you to focus more on your acting, and also allows you to EAT as it’s less expensive! Bristol is a great city and I think a fantastic place to train. (And just take a look at some of their alumni!)

Alumni: Daniel Day Lewis, Olivia Colman, Patrick Stewart
Course Length: 3 Years
Location: Bristol

#5 Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Not only is the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland a fantastic acting school, I believe its location makes it a really special place to train. Living in London can be intense, and so being based in Glasgow (though rather chilly) allows actors to focus more on their training and get out of the rat race of London. Glasgow is not a small city, but it does have a very different energy to London. This school was founded in 1847 and has an amazing track record of training actors. Like a few other schools listed on this list it’s not just a drama school, there are courses in music, dance and much more. I personally feel drama schools like this are really exciting. There is something magical about walking to acting class with dancers stretching in the hallways and Opera singers practicing their scales. RCS is a very creative hub and working and collaborating with other creatives while training can be really powerful.

Alumni: David Tennant, James McAvoy, Robert Carlyle
Course Length: 3 Years
Location: Glasgow

#6 Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts

Mountview is one of the leading acting schools in the UK. This school should definitely be on your list if you are auditioning for top tier acting schools. They have a strong theatre focus, but as with any modern school, will give you a great foundation in all areas of the industry. The school is based in Peckham, South London, and has fantastic facilities. Oh, and the school president is currently Judi Dench, so you’re not in bad company!

Alumni: Eddie Marsan, Amanda Holden, Maria Aberg
Course Length: 3 Years
Location: London

#7 Central School of Speech and Drama

A highly regarded acting school, Central School of Speech and Drama is a great place to train as an actor. It offers comprehensive contemporary training, as well as classical training for actors.

Alumni: Andrew Garfield, Kit Harington
Course Length: 3 Years
Location: London

Apply for Central

#8 Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama

Like some of the other drama schools listed here, such as Bristol Old Vic and RCS, though RWCMD is based in Cardiff it absolutely rivals the major schools on this list. This school is known to be an incredibly supportive environment for students, and has very close ties with the industry. Well known playwright Simon Stephens called it one of the most thorough acting training courses in Europe!

Alumni: Rob Brydon, Anthony Hopkins
Course Length: 3 Years
Location: Cardiff

#9 Manchester Metropolitan University School of Theatre

MMU is definitely worth adding to your audition list this year, especially for actors in the North of England. The majority of acting schools on this list are in London, but if you want to stay local and not head to the big smoke MMU will still give you some of the best acting training in the country. Manchester is an exciting city, and a great place to train. The facilities and teaching staff of this school definitely rival some of the big players in London.

Alumni: Steve Coogan, Richard Griffiths
Course Length: 3 Years
Location: Manchester

#10 Oxford School of Drama

This is a much smaller school, especially when compared to some of the performing arts powerhouses such as Guildhall or RCS. But I think this is what makes this a very special training environment. For me, drama school training must be as personal as possible. If you feel supported and nurtured you are going to thrive. Though this is a newer school, I think it’s worth taking a look at. (And come on, The Queen went there!)

Alumni: Claire Foy, Lee Boardman
Course Length: 3 Years
Location: Oxford

Other Notable British Acting Schools

  • Sylvia Young Theatre School 
  • Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance 
  • East 15 Acting School
  • Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts 
  • Birmingham School of Acting
  • Drama Centre London

How to get into a UK Acting School

Getting into one of these top British acting schools would be a dream come true for any young actor. You would secure a world class training and be in a position to head into the industry in a very advantageous position. Graduating from any of these schools, but particularly colleges like RADA and LAMDA, will give you a very good chance of landing an agent and getting straight into the industry at a high level. So how do we make this dream come true?

Well you’ve taken the first step, you are researching the best acting schools in London and the rest of the UK, to see all your options. I then recommend choosing between 3-6 acting schools to audition for. If you go more than that your head might explode with the amount of monologues floating around in there. Even 6 could be too many, but I am assuming some of these will be spread out over the year. If you are up for the challenge and have the money to invest you definitely can do more, but you just don’t want to stretch yourself too thin.

Once you have done your research and picked your schools, we move onto the next step. Now you need to apply! This process is pretty straight forward with most of these drama schools, and can all be done via their websites. Don’t try to be too fancy here, there is no secret application formula to help you get in, with drama school it’s 99% about your ACTING. But make sure it’s clear, honest and get a friend to give it a look over if there is any written elements to the application (we don’t want any typos).

Applications are all done, congrats! Now it’s time to start preparing your monologues. Choose monologues that resonate with you! Generally speaking aim for pieces that are close to your age and feel comfortable to perform – they don’t want to see accents or crazy characters in these auditions, so keep it simple. I always recommend getting the monologues on their feet. What I mean by that is don’t just read them in once in your head and move on, but get up on your feet, and say them out loud. See how they feel when you roll them around in your mouth! When you do this you get a better feel for whether a monologue will work for you.

Selecting monologues can be tough work, but you have to do it. Don’t aim for perfection, and don’t be too picky. It’s better to spend your time preparing the monologue than it is choosing the monologue. Decision paralysis is a real problem, and you can take weeks going around in circles. I know actors who have changed monologues just days before their big audition, and it doesn’t bode well. BE DECISIVE.

Once you’ve picked your pieces it’s time to read the play and then, read it again and again. Pick apart the play, the character, the relationships – be a detective! Drama school panellists want to see specificity. They don’t want to see work that is generalised. Too many actors think that performing a monologue is about performing an “emotion” and so the work becomes a wash. Pick it apart and really put your stamp on the piece. As you start gaining confidence with your piece, get in front of a few people. I generally recommend seeing a coach or someone that isn’t your mum, but if she is all you’ve got, then do it! It’s important that you are comfortable performing in front of people as nerves are a big factor in drama school auditions. The year I got into drama school I worked with a coach on a weekly basis in the lead up and I found that incredibly helpful. Another option is to look at joining us in our online acting training, we have helped countless actors get into these top drama schools.

Shakespeare. So I’ve been talking already about putting in the work and making sure you are well prepared with your monologues. I’ve encourage you to be a detective and to make sure your work is well thought out and specific. But remember, you are auditioning for British drama schools and who is the most famous Brit? SHAKESPEARE. Most drama schools require you to perform at least one Shakespeare monologue and for me this is the most important part of a drama school audition in the UK. Dive into the language and really spend the time to connect with Shakespeare’s complex language. If you haven’t worked with Shakespeare much, it will feel stilted and over the top. The simple solution, read his plays and say his words as often as possible. Get up every morning in the lead up to the auditions and read a sonnet or monologue. The more you do this, the more his language will begin to feel natural.

Once all this preparation is done, you simply have to try to get yourself in the right headspace for the audition. Undoubtedly, you will be nervous, so what can you do to centre yourself? For me it’s a good nights sleep, and a solid vocal warm up and meditation on the day. But find your own process, for some it might be a boxing class or yoga, for others it might be just listening to music. When you arrive at the audition it can be tricky knowing how much to interact with the other actors. For me, I like saying hello and having a chat, and find that it relaxes me, but if you need your alone time then that is fine as well.

Once you walk into that audition room there is nothing more you can do. Have fun, and enjoy it! We always have to hope as actors that our preparation will be there, and the rest is a little bit of magic.

Conclusion

So there you have it, a comprehensive list of the best acting schools in the UK, and a few recommendations on how to audition. Remember getting into an elite British acting school is very tough, and can take many years to finally get accepted. It’s also very subjective, so try not to take the rejection too personally if it doesn’t go your way. I have known actors who get into one school right off the bat, and don’t even get a callback for another. If you are working on your drama school auditions it would be amazing to work with you in our online acting program. We have tailored this program to help actors work consistently on their craft in the lead up to a Drama School audition.

About the Author

Andrew Hearle

is the founder of StageMilk. Andrew trained at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, and is now a Sydney-based actor working in Theatre, Film and Television.

About the Author

Andrew Hearle

is the founder of StageMilk. Andrew trained at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, and is now a Sydney-based actor working in Theatre, Film and Television.

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