From a movement class at RADA / Image by Clare Park


History: The Conservatoire was established in 2001 to secure the future of conservatoire-level vocational training in dance and drama in England. It has a unique structure, made up of eight affiliate schools. All are small, specialist, vocational training institutions with international reputations for high quality training in dance, drama or circus arts.

Address: Very spread out - the Conservatoire's schools are based in London, Bristol and Leeds. LCDS, RADA, LAMDA, Circus Space and Central School of Ballet are located in central London, with Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance based just outside London in Twickenham. The Northern School of Contemporary Dance is in Leeds, and the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School is based in the Clifton area of Bristol.

Ambience: All the institutions buzz with the creative energy generated by passionate young performing arts students. London, Leeds and Bristol are all fabulous for culture-lovers.

Who's the boss? Veronica Lewis MBE (LCDS) and Edward Kemp (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) are the joint principals of the Conservatoire.

Prospectus: Contact the schools directly as these will obviously vary.

What you need to know

Easy to get into? No – entry is by way of a tough interview and audition process, and competition is extremely fierce. Applications are made directly to each affiliate school.

Vital statistics: All the colleges offer rigorous training aimed at producing professional dancers, actors, circus performers, stage managers and technicians of the highest quality. The Conservatoire maintains good employment rates in the dance, drama and circus arts professions. It estimates that between 83 and 98 per cent of its students find relevant professional employment after completing their training. RADA's courses are validated by King's College London; BOVTS courses are validated by the University of the West of England; NSCD, LCDS, CSB, LAMDA and Circus Space courses are all validated by the University of Kent.

Added value: All are leading lights in their respective spheres. The training is highly demanding, both physically and mentally. Superb links to the profession, with guest directors and designers. Agents and casting directors keep an eye out for talent amongst the students.

Teaching: Quality of teaching scored very highly in the 2012 National Student Survey, with 97 per cent of respondents agreeing with positive appraisals of teaching.

Any accommodation? None of the schools offer on-campus accommodation, but all offer free advice on where to stay nearby.

Cheap to live there? Depends where you are. Expect to pay £100 or more a week in London, £65 in Leeds, with Bristol a bit more.

Transport links: Great - big city locations mean these institutions are all very well connected by public transport.

Fees: They’ve gone for the money shot - the full £9,000 per year for new home and EU undergraduates. Postgraduate students starting in 2013 will pay £4,870 per year.

Bursaries: The Conservatoire offers a range of scholarships in the form of fee discounts and bursaries. See here for details.

The fun stuff

Nightlife: London, Leeds and Bristol are all brilliant for night-owls, if you've still got the energy after a day's training that is.

Glittering alumni: Daniel Day-Lewis; Jeremy Irons; Helen Baxendale; Jim Broadbent; Anna Maxwell Martin; Richard Harris; Richard Attenborough; Kenneth Branagh; Glenda Jackson; choreographers Siobhan Davies, Richard Alston and Akram Khan; and dancer Javier de Frutos. More recently, Dominic Cooper, Andrea Riseborough, Gemma Arterton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ruth Wilson, Tom Hiddleston.