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UK's Top Drama Schools

There are hundreds of drama schools right across the UK, from Aberdeen to Brighton, Belfast to Newcastle, and Cardiff to Norwich. But if you’re looking to train with the best of the best, or want to follow in the footsteps of top TV, film and theatre stars, such as Tamsin Outhwaite, Ewan McGregor, Denise Van Outen and Keeley Hawes, then you’ll want to enrol in one of the UK’s top drama schools.

The Conference of Drama Schools has 21 members, which are said to be the best drama schools in the UK, including the Central School for Speech and Drama and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Here we will give you the low down on some of those drama schools and universities, along with other famous drama schools in the UK, which have produced some of the country’s finest actors and singers.

Central School for Speech and Drama
Founded in 1906 by Elsie Fogerty, the Central School of Speech and Drama’s mission has always been to offer a new form of training in speech and drama for young actors and other students.

The London-based school, which offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses, as well as running a Saturday school and summer school, has forged a partnership with the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art. This partnership has helped to provide a unique centre for the training of actors for a wide range of employment in classical and contemporary theatre, television and film.

Guildhall School of Music and Drama
The Guildhall School of Music opened in September 1880 in a disused warehouse in the City of London. With 62 students it was the first municipal music college in Britain, and by 1887 it had outgrown its first home and moved to new premises on John Carpenter Street.

Initially, all teaching was on a part-time basis but full-time courses were introduced in 1920 and departments of Speech, Voice and Acting were added. By 1935 the Guildhall School of Music and Drama had added "and Drama" to its title. In 1977, the school moved to its present premises in the heart of the City of London's Barbican but continues to be owned, funded and administered by the Corporation of London.

The Guildhall School of Music and Drama now has around 690 full-time students each year, with about 570 of these studying undergraduate and postgraduate music courses, and the remaining 120 are acting students. Famous names to have graduated from Guildhall include film and stage star Ewan McGregor.

Sylvia Young Theatre School
Offering both part-time and full-time courses, the Sylvia Young Theatre School is well known in acting circles, having trained the likes of Nick Berry (EastEnders/Heartbeat), Adam Woodyatt (Ian Beale in EastEnders) and Perry Fenwick (Billy in EastEnders) since opening its doors in 1972.

The Sylvia Young Theatre school launched its full-time course in 1981, with stars such as Spice Girl Emma Bunton, Denise Van Outen (Chicago on Broadway), Billie Piper (Dr Who), Samantha Janus (Game On), Leticia Dean (Sharon in EastEnders) and Dean Gaffney (Robbie in EastEnders) all making the grade on this course.

Located in Marylebone, London, the school offers different styles of acting classes, from improvisation to scripted work, as well as singing and dance lessons. There is also a Saturday school and a summer school.

Stagecoach Drama School
Founded in England in 1988 by Stephanie Manuel and David Sprigg, Stagecoach Drama School currently has more than 500 drama schools throughout the UK.

Along with holiday workshops during the school holidays, Stagecoach Drama schools offer an Early Stages course for children aged four to seven, an intermediate course for youngsters serious about taking up a career in acting, and a Further Stages course, an advanced class for teenagers aged 15+. At Stagecoach, youngsters learn acting, dancing and singing.

Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama

With a hall of fame boasting the likes of Robert Carlyle, John Hannah, Billy Boyd (of Lord Of The Rings fame), and Angela Lonsdale (Emma Watts in Coronation Street), the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama is the place to train as an actor in Scotland.

Founded in 1847 through the creation of the Glasgow Athenaeum, the Academy’s aim was, and still is, to ‘provide a source of mental cultivation, moral improvement and delightful recreation to all classes’.

In 2003, Prince Charles succeeded his grandmother, The Queen Mother, as patron of the Academy, and will help to maintain the school’s place as a vibrant conservatoire for the 21st century.

Along with a three-year undergraduate acting course and a postgraduate course, the Academy also operates a Junior Academy of Music and a Junior Academy of Drama for youngsters eager for a head start in their careers.

Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama is the national conservatoire of Wales and was established in 1949 at Cardiff Castle, where it occupies purpose-built accommodation. Providing specialist practical and performance-based training to 550 students, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama offers both undergraduate and postgraduate courses. The college also presents more than 300 public performances every year, including concerts and guest recitals, opera, musical theatre and a range of drama productions.

Oxford School of Drama
The Oxford School of Drama is a very small drama school, accepting just 18 students on the three-year course and 16 on the one-year course. Totally independent with no university quota to meet, there is tough competition amongst the UK’s elite wannabe actors to win a place at the school.

Along with the three-year diploma and one-year acting course, the school also provides a six-month foundation course for those wanting to learn basic acting skills before progressing to one of the other courses.

Famous graduates from the Oxford School of Drama include Lee Boardman, who will always be famous for playing drug dealer Jez Quigley in Coronation Street, and Christina Cole, who played the title role in both series of Hex on Sky TV and Nora in the BBC’s dramatisation of Anthony Trollope’s He Knew He Was Right.

The Academy Drama School
Founded in 1985 by Tim and Judith Reynolds, the Academy Drama School was opened to provide full and professional instruction for those with the desire and talent but not the money to pay for it.

There are a number of courses on offer at the school including, two years professional training in the evening and at weekends for students aged 20+, foundation training on Monday and Wednesday evenings for students aged 18+, and a Saturday course for students aged 18+.
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