Although qualifications are not essential for performing arts roles in the UK, studying Dance, Drama or Theatre Studies at university can help candidates to further their career.
A lot of different factors should be considered when choosing a university, including the quality of the teaching and the content of the course. So let’s explore some of the best universities for Dance, Drama and Theatre Studies undergraduate courses in the UK, as ranked by the Complete University Guide independent review system.
Lancaster University tops the Complete University Guide’s list. Candidates who wish to apply for the Dance, Theatre and Performance degree should be aiming to achieve (or have already achieved) AAB-ABB grades (or equivalent) in their A-levels.
The first year of the course introduces students to theoretical and practical knowledge relating to different genres or performance and media, ranging from Shakespearean drama through to contemporary post dramatic theatre. Students can specialise in their second and third year, and may focus solely on theatre performance if they wish. Students may also develop related skills, such as Art and Design for productions.
University of Birmingham
At the University of Birmingham, the Drama department focuses on the interrelationship between practical and theoretical work. The degree is assessed based on essays, seminar work and contributions to practical performances.
Following on from core modules in the first year, students can choose a mixture of theoretical topics and practical modules. Theoretical topics include subjects such as the political context of theatre. Practical modules include; acting, directing and playwriting.
University of Exeter
The University of Exeter Drama BA (Hons) ranks very highly in terms of student satisfaction. It is one of the largest university drama departments in the country.
Prospective candidates may be required to produce grades as high as AAA to be accepted on to the standard Drama course. The course is largely taught through studio sessions, although students are expected to develop a strong grasp of critical theories and theatre histories. Elective modules include; gender and performance, site-specific performance, new media, dramaturgy and playwriting, and theatre and religion.
Edinburgh Napier is consistently the highest ranked Scottish university on the Complete University Guide’s list for Drama, Dance and Theatre Studies. The university runs a special course called Acting for Stage and Screen, which offers a performance-based approach to learning.
The university houses the country’s only Screen Academy, which allows students to understand the different ways that their performances may be interpreted on screen, as opposed to the way that acting in done on stage. The highlight of this course is the potential for a full run in a production shown during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Edinburgh Napier also offers a wide range of Theatre Studies courses at Masters Level.
University of Warwick
The University of Warwick claims that over 90% of its Theatre and Performance Studies graduates are working within 6 months of graduating. Undergraduate course in Performance Studies aim to teach students the value of performance both inside and outside of traditional theatres. Students will discuss contemporary material relating to performance in public spaces, ritual performances, and performances in virtual and imagined spaces. The course is delivered via practical and seminar-based modules. Elective options for students include; Food and Performance, Theatre History and Historiography, Intercultural Performance, African and South African Theatre, and Marketing for Performance.
University of Glasgow
The drama courses at the University of Glasgow are primarily focussed on theatrical performances. The early stages of the course focus on why theatre and performance is important to society, and what functions are performed by theatrical events. During the second year, students will study the history of theatre and performance, and think about major works from the classical to contemporary periods. In the third year, students focus on theory and analysis of performance.
University of Essex
The University of Essex do a range of different acting and drama courses, including a course on Acting and Stage Combat. This particular course is the United Kingdom’s first full-time course dedicated to stage combat and related stage performance skills. All stage combat modules are taught by specialists who have a wealth of experience in live action performances.
As well as armed and unarmed combat skills, students are also taught how to use weaponry in a historical context. Other skills, such as sports for performance and physicality in performance, are also taught as part of the course. A variety of different assessments methods are used during the course, but students are expected to take part in a graduation performance in their final year.
University of Surrey
One of the unique programmes which is offered by the University of Surrey is the Actor-Musician BA (Hons). This course is ideal for those who want to develop their all round performance skills. Skills-based classes which are offered through the course include; dance, voice, acting, musicianship, composition, group singing and contextual studies. Students will also be given the opportunity to showcase their work in front of industry agents and invited guests.
University of Manchester
There are a number of different options at the University of Manchester for those who want to study the performing arts. One exciting option is Drama and Screen Studies BA (Hons). Students study performance and gain performing skills, whilst also taking the opportunity to study the theory behind cinema and television. Modules look at international cinema as well as English language cinema. Historic material is also considered.
University of Bristol
The University of Bristol offers an array of different Theatre courses, including Theatre courses which are combined with language elements. The 4 year Theatre with Innovation MArt course allows theatre students to combine their theatrical ideas with innovative ideas from across the artistic spectrum. The innovation side of the degree focuses on how the performing arts can take advantage of digital media and other new media to create sustainable and environmentally friendly performances. This degree aims to give students skills that can be used at every step of creating a production, from finance through to marketing, through to staging the actual performance.