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Music, dance and drama

Pride and Prejudice performed at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre in London

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Why study music, dance or drama in the UK?
Courses and qualifications
: Dance, drama, film and TV  /  Music
Entry requirements
Student experiences

Why study music, dance or drama in the UK?

UK schools, colleges and universities are ideal places to start a career in the performing arts. There are unique opportunities for students to learn directly from professionals – the UK ranks second in the world for collaboration between universities and businesses (BIS), and has the largest creative sector in Europe (CBI).

The UK is home to world-class theatres (there’s no better place in the world to study Shakespeare), concert venues and opera houses, the world’s largest arts festival (the Edinburgh Festival) and countless plays, musicals, comedies and dance performances – from famous classics to cutting-edge works by new artists.

There is a lot of interest in new talent – student productions often attract large audiences, and many organisations give scholarships and research grants to support the arts. Each year the Arts & Humanities Research Council gives £98m to postgraduate students and researchers, for example, and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts runs scholarships as well as the illustrious BAFTA Awards.

Interested in studying dance performance or choreography? In this video Kate Lawrence, a lecturer in Theatre and Performance at Bangor University, explains why you should:


How about theatre and performing arts? Here Anna Furse, Head of Department of Theatre and Performance at Goldsmiths, shares what it’s like to study in the UK:

Courses and qualifications

Dance, drama, film and TV

UK schools offer GCSEs (usually taken by students aged 14–16), AS- and A-levels (for students aged 16–18) in subjects including Drama and Theatre Studies, Dance, Film and Media Studies, as well as International Baccalaureate and Scottish Higher qualifications – these are ideal if you plan to study the subject further at college or university.

Further education qualifications include BTEC First Diplomas and National Diplomas in Performing Arts (Dance and Acting), Moving Image Production and Multimedia, BTEC HNDs and Foundation Degrees in Film and Television Production, Theatre and Design Practice, Performing Arts (dance or drama) and Creative Digital Broadcast Technology. Film, TV and media production courses are also popular.

Higher education courses are offered by universities, specialist performing arts schools and some colleges. There are undergraduate degrees in all branches of drama, dance and film (most lead to a BA qualification), and there’s a growing range of courses – you could study technology or Digital Film and Television, for example, and have the chance to work with technical experts, actors and designers.

At postgraduate level, many students choose taught master’s courses that lead to an MA qualification – these usually focus on practical elements such as performance and the production of original work (such as scriptwriting and producing plays), as well as the theory and history behind the practice. You could go on to a PhD or MPhil qualification, where courses require more independent research.

Iris from Taiwan, BA Music at Manchester University:

‘I chose to study in the UK because it has a really rich music culture, and a really high quality of education. Teachers and professors give a lot of academic support, and a lot of resources for you to explore many different things.’

Watch Iris on video below!


UK schools and further education colleges offer a broad range of courses for students interested in music – from extracurricular activities and clubs to advanced qualifications. You can lay the foundations for further study by taking GCSEs, AS- and A-levels, International Baccalaureate or Scottish Highers in music.

In further education, there are even more options for vocational and practice-based courses. You could study for a BTEC HND in Music Performance or Production, for example, or take a BTEC First Diploma in Performing Arts (Music), and move on to choose from a range of National Diplomas, including Production, Performing or Composing.

At higher education level – including foundation degrees, undergraduate (BA, BSc or BMus qualifications) and postgraduate (such as MA, MMus, PhD and DMus qualifications) – there are courses in everything from Popular Music Performance to Sound Engineering, Audio Production and Recording Arts, Music History, Literature and Theory, as well as opportunities to study emerging areas such as music psychology. Many courses teach music alongside another subject, such as business and management, languages or education.

Many of these degrees are taught at the UK’s conservatoires – specialist institutions for music, dance and drama. Find out more at Conservatoires UK and UCAS Conservatoires.

Professional experience

In all fields, students in the UK often have the opportunity to do a work placement – this means you spend time working in a real studio, theatre or production company, to build your skills and boost your CV (check your visa status allows this). Find out more about working alongside your studies here.


Entry requirements

When applying to a music, dance or drama course in the UK, institutions are likely to consider:

  • Your qualifications and past exam grades. If you’re applying to an undergraduate course, for example, universities usually ask for a good A-level, International Baccalaureate or equivalent qualification in that subject.
  • Your skills and suitability for the course, based on your experience and interests. For example, even if you haven't studied drama before, perhaps you have acted in school plays or volunteered at your local theatre.

Many institutions hold auditions and interviews as part of the application process. Ask your chosen institution if you need to attend in person – many accept video recordings or hold interviews via Skype, and some hold auditions around the world so that more international students can attend.

  • If English isn’t your first language, you may be asked for evidence of your English language skills, such as an IELTS or equivalent qualification. If you need a visa to study in the UK, you may need to take an English language test approved by UK Visas and Immigration – find out more here.

All schools, colleges and universities have different entry requirements, so make sure you read the course details thoroughly and ask your chosen institution directly if you have any questions.

Most higher education applications are handled by UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). UCAS Conservatoires is a separate application system for performance-based and specialist professional courses in music, dance, drama and production. These include both undergraduate and postgraduate courses, with a focus on practical training. You can find out more and apply online by visiting the UCAS Conservatoires website; information about entry requirements is on this page.

Student experiences

Click for more student and alumni stories: