Drama school is a massive goal for many actors. We see the prestigious alumni that have walked through the halls of these schools and crave the same training. But there are so many drama schools, and unless you’re rich, you’re probably not going to be able to apply to them all.
So in this article, I’ll be listing the top 12 acting schools in the UK. Whether you’re from here or any other country, if you’re looking to get some of the best acting training in the world, this list will help you out.
In preparation for this article, I’ve done in-depth research into each one of the schools on this list and will be talking about the BA(Hons) Acting courses that each of these schools run.
Table of Contents
RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts)
Founded in 1904, RADA is possibly the most prestigious drama school in the world. With many top British actors training at RADA, their list of alumni is long. You’ll learn through playful exploration and the understanding of fundamental acting techniques, such as those created by Stanislavski and his successors.
With a major focus on voice and movement, sight-reading, speech study, vocal practice and moving in a pure and expressive way. RADA also has classes on-screen acting, which is great in the modern day. Many schools focus solely on theatre, which is great, but screen acting is a whole different ball game. RADA also focuses on improv, dance, combat, individual and choral singing, and the Alexander technique.
Students training at RADA will get the opportunity to meet and work with working industry professionals, and over their 3 years, will get to perform in many shows and showcases that are seen by the top agents and casting directors in the country. If you’re looking to audition for a drama school, RADA is a must!
Alumni: Alan Rickman, Michael Sheen, Tom Hiddleston, Aimee Lou Wood, Taron Egerton, Ioan Gruffudd, Dean Norris, Matthew Rhys, Sean Bean, Ben Whishaw, Kit Young, Fiona Shaw, Jonathan Pryce, Andrew Lincoln, Stephen Mangan, Mike Leigh, Sally Hawkins, Iain Glen, David Harewood, David Harewood, Ralph Fiennes, David Bradley, Richard Attenborough
LAMDA (London Academy of Dramatic Arts)
Founded in 1861, LAMDA is the oldest drama school in the UK. LAMDA graduates work around the world from Hollywood to London, from the Royal National Theatre to Broadway. In fact, Benedict Cumberbatch, who did a masters at LAMDA, is now the president of the school.
Despite LAMDA being the oldest drama school in the UK, it puts a lot of focus on staying up to date with the industry. LAMDA focuses on training for all aspects of drama, theatre, film, TV and audio drama while learning the core skills needed within acting, voice work, movement and music.
Students will learn from many different practitioners and their techniques, such as Stanislavski, Laban and Chekhov. You’ll get the opportunities to work with professional writers and directors, develop new projects, and work from the ground up. As well as creating short films and audio dramas, in fact, in 2018 LAMDA partnered with Audible to create 4 new Audible Originals.
Students will also perform in many productions, short films, audio dramas and showcases during their time. Top agents and casting directors often attend these productions and showcases and keep their eye out for talent.
Graduates will finish their training with a professionally shot showreel and voice reel, and will also have access to the Genisis LAMDA Network, which partners graduates with LAMDA alumni mentors. Allowing you to meet, call or text whenever you need to chat with someone more experienced.
Alumni: Benedict Cumberbatch, Jim Broadbent, Sam Claflin, Iwan Rheon, Rose Leslie, MyAnna Buring, John Lithgow, Alistair Petrie, Ruth Wilson
The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
The RCS has consistently ranked top in the QS Performing Arts rankings and The Guardians UK University Rankings for Drama & Dance, at some points placing as high as 3rd internationally, With the course taking place in Glasgow, it gives students a different living experience to studying in London.
While studying at RCS, students consistently collaborate and create new works, as well as get great opportunities to grow their network as an actor, making essential connections in the industry. The RCS programmes over 600 performances per year over multiple courses. This adds to the glowing creativity that the school has.
The course focuses on the fundamentals like acting technique, voice, movement and script study. During the second year of the BA Acting course, students get to explore Shakespeare through workshops and performances. Students even get the opportunity to collaborate with the Globe Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company workshops.
The RCS boasts strong connections with companies such as the BBC, National Theatre of Scotland and the Citizens Theatre, allowing great opportunities for future graduates.
Students also get to practice their technique with screen and radio classes, as well as perform in multiple performances and showcases in both Glasgow and London, allowing casting directors, agents and other potential employers from all over the country to see students perform. In fact, in 2019, 85% of RCS graduates gained agent representation within a month of graduation.
Alumni: James McAvoy, Ncuti Gatwa, Katie Leung, Tom Ellis, Richard Madden, David Tennant, Colin Morgan, Tony Curran, Alan Cumming, Michelle Gomez
Bristol old Vic Theatre School
Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, in Bristol, is a very well respected school with a long list of well-respected alumni.
Through your study, students will focus on everything from the fundamentals of acting, voice and movement, to screen acting, clowning and period movement. Along with this, course leaders are constantly adding and improving the courses to ensure it students are given the best and most up to date training they can provide.
With opportunities to perform in the prestigious, Bristol Old Vic Theatre, the oldest English speaking theatre to be continually producing work, to the Tobacco Factory Theatres.
Bristol Old Vic Theatre School allows students to dedicate their final year to prepare for life in the professional entertainment industry. Enhancing actors understanding of self-presentation, marketing and career management.
If you look at their list of alumni, they must be doing something right, right?
Alumni: Sir Daniel Day-Lewis, Sir Patrick Stewart, Gene Wilder, Olivia Coleman CBE, Naomie Harris OBE, Jeremy Irons, Mark Strong, Antonia Thomas
Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama
RWCMD is a very well known and well-respected school in the industry. Many students from all over the UK and the world apply to study here. Based in the heart of Cardiff you get a very different experience to living in London, with Cardiff Castle less than half a mile away from the school.
With a large focus on acting methods, voice and movement, the course also focuses on acting for screen, singing, professional studies, Shakespeare and comedy, with multiple opportunities to perform publicly throughout.
RWCMD make an effort to develop both the skills and the knowledge that is needed to sustainably work in the entertainment industry.
Final year students get to join The Richard Burton Company, which brings professional directors and the students from the Stage Management and Design courses together with the actors to create professional productions. They produce 15 shows each year ranging from new writing to the classics. Many casting directors and agents attend these productions looking for new talent.
Alumni: Anthony Hopkins, Eve Myles, Rob Brydon MBE, Ruth Jones MBE, Kimberley Nixon, Aneurin Barnard, Dougray Scott, Mark Lewis Jones
Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts
Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts is a drama school based in south London, founded in 1945, with a worldwide reputation for excellence. The renowned Dame Judi Dench became President of the school in 2006.
Training is split between skills classes focusing on the necessary fundamentals and performance projects from world-renowned classics and contemporary texts. Throughout training, you’ll touch on all of the areas that modern actors are expected to touch on. Acting on stage and screen, improv, voice, singing, movement, Alexander technique script study and more.
Actors also get to collaborate with other courses in order to enhance creativity and make connections with other future graduates. The course also ensures actors develop independence and confidence in their abilities, and get the opportunity to work with the schools’ liaison manager to help understand and prepare for their future as an actor. This is great to see, as many schools only focus on acting ability rather than career.
Actors will also perform in multiple public performances working with professional working directors, allowing more connections to be made. These performances and showcases will be seen by professional casting directors, agents and industry professionals. Students will also be given time to reflect on their acting practice, and learn to improve through self-reflection, an ability that can be very helpful for all actors.
Students will also graduate with a voice reel and a film showreel, necessary assets as a modern actor.
Alumni: Eddie Marsan, Craig Parkinson, Amanda Holden, Josh Dallas, Brendan Coyle, Joseph Gatt, Louisa Harland, Kathryn Prescott
Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
Founded in 1906, RCSSD is a well-reknowned school with many talented graduates. Actress Zoë Wanamaker is now Vice President of the school, a role previously held by the late Carrie Fisher, both of which studied at the school.
The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama creates a freeing environment that is curated for active learning and discovery, allowing actors to grow their natural ability to self express within a class or a rehearsal.
Students spend time working with the body, voice and imagination, allowing exploration and development through methodologies that allow actors to show a professional discipline. Students of RCSSD will experience and learn the techniques that will lead to deeply rooted characters in both psychological and physical embodiments.
During the second year of training, actors will continue to build on their core training, expanding their physical, vocal and emotional range to meet the demands of a range of performance styles. They will also learn to use these fundamentals in new and theatrical contexts, including television and radio.
During the third year, independence is most important as the course transitions from personal development to career orientation, allowing actors to focus on becoming industry-ready. While experiencing a range of texts, actors will perform in productions, allowing them to bring their training all together into single pieces of work, allowing agents, casting directors and other industry professionals to see them perform.
They will also get the opportunity to speak with actors, agents and casting directors to develop an understanding of the industry.
Alumni: Dame Judi Dench, Martin Freeman, Andrew Garfield, Christopher Eccleston, Sir Lawrence Olivier, Kit Harington, Sir Laurence Olivier, Zoë Wanamaker, Jason Isaacs, Graham Norton, Jerome Flynn, Carrie Fisher, Dawn French, Nonso Anozie, Hugh Bonneville, Philip Glenister
Guildhall School of Music & Drama
Founded in 1880, Guildhall School of Music & Drama aims to develop tenacious and versatile actors who are able to work confidently in, stage, screen and other forms of media, with confidence to work on both classical and contemporary texts. The school is constantly evolving to meet the modern demands of the industry.
Rather than breaking actors down, to build them back up, Guildhall strives to connect with actors authentic selves and grow each actor as a unique individual, focusing on their own strengths and weaknesses.
During the first 2 years, actors will spend their time learning the fundamentals and expanding on their experiences. Time is divided between class and projects, with more emphasis on classes to begin with. But gradually spending more time on projects as students progress their training.
At Guildhall, everything focuses on development. When working on productions, the ability to develop and learn from experience is very important. Actors spend a lot of time studying acting practice, voice, movement, screen, industry, self-led practice and reflective practice. Learning to practice alone and practice through reflection is very important for the modern actor.
By the time students reach their 3rd year, they will have developed their own processes for working. They will then spend most of their time rehearsing and performing to audiences through showcases and productions of varying styles and scale.
Actors will also have time to prepare for the industry. With support and guidance through talks with directors, agents, casting directors, actor mentors who are currently working in the industry, and tax advisers. Actors will also get access to Guildhalls industry consultants to assist in the transition from training to the professional working world.
Alumni: Daniel Craig, Damian Lewis, Lily James, Ewan McGregor, Anya Chalotra, Hayley Atwell, Mirren Mack
Rose Bruford, was founded in 1950 and aims to produce artists who are physically and vocally flexible, intellectually alive and curious. Over the 3 years, actors will train in a variety of methodologies and experience contemporary, classical and experimental work.
The school, which was once home to the legendary Gary Oldman, strives to not only train brilliant actors but also prepare them for the industry. During their first year, actors will get introduced to the core skills and acting concepts that all actors need, as well as training in voice and movement.
In order to remove blocks in emotional and imaginative spontaneity, students will learn to use methodologies created by Meisner and Stanislavski. They will also begin to apply the fundamentals of acting to scenes that are chosen for their naturalism.
During their second year, actors will get to refine their core abilites, as well as get introduced to other techniques and skills. Including stylised and Shakespearean text, theatre-making, clowning and ensemble work. Students will also get the opportunity to take optional modules in motion capture and spoken word theatre, very cool!
During their final year, students will learn to approach radio and microphone technique, as well as learn to act to camera with television and film projects. They will also prepare to transfer into the industry with a showcase in London, while preparing for public performances that will be seen by industry professionals.
Alumni: Gary Oldman, Stephen Graham, Lake Bell, Tom Hopper, Pam St Clement
East 15 Acting School
Founded in 1961, East 15 is a relatively new drama school. But in the last 50 years, it has developed a strong reputation. Their goal to create talented and distinctive actors who have the skills to survive within the industry is well pronounced.
With a focus on training through Stanislavski and Laban, the program has developed to have an emphasis on TV and film, to reflect the work actors are likely to get.
In their first year, students will focus on the fundamentals. For example, acting method, voice, singing and movement. But they will also approach learning through improvised situations. At first, staying away from scripts, allows actors to focus on technique.
Actors will also learn to self assess and recreate through observation, explore through co-operation, develop self into character and learn to change and adapt through physical and psychological realism.
During the second year, actors will continue to improve on the fundamentals while moving from improv to text. They will get to build characters independently through stage, screen and radio, working on projects from nineteenth-century naturalism to Shakespeare to contemporary British writing.
During the final year, actors will focus on understanding the demands of the industry, while taking part in a range of productions including short films to help understand the demand and commitment required for different roles. Students will also produce an industry showcase presented to industry professionals, including casting directors and agents.
Professional development workshops are also available on topics such as audition technique, cv and letter writing, tax and self-employment and marketing and self-promotion.
Alumni: Patricia Allison, Catherine Tate, Elizabeth Henstridge, Stephen Daldry, Alison Steadman
Founded in 1911, Italia Conti aims to produce versatile performers who can work in a wide range of styles and media. With it’s focus on vocal and physical training, they teach actors to create and develop characters through the exploration of many techniques.
Italia Conti believes that, rather than moulding an actor into an individual technique, actors should be given a toolbox of techniques that they can then grab from. During the first year, actors will grasp a firm understanding of the core principles of Stanislavski, Uta Hagen, Michael Checkhov and Max Stafford-Clarke. They will learn to create emotionally and psychologically real characters through improvisation and text, with an emphasis on collaboration. They will also recieve regular classes in TV and radio.
During the second year, students will adapt the core principles of the methods they have learnt to meet the demands of performance. They will expand their knowledge and skills in comedy, clowning, Shakespeare, stage combat, social dance, accent training and acting through song. Students also work on two plays, with a focus on ensemble and stylised performance.
During their final year, students are encouraged to engage with the profession in multiple ways in order to maximise their employability. An effort will be made to bridge the gap between the classroom and the professional work, allowing the transition to be as smooth as possible. And students will get to perform in three professional productions with professional directors.
As well as this, students will get to have mock auditions throughout the year run by casting directors from the RSC and the Royal National Theatre. Aswell as mock agent interviews with agents who provide feedback, one to one sessions with the schools’ industry liaison and multiple workshops throughout the year.
Alumni: Russell Brand, Karen Gillan, Naomi Campbell, Pixie Lott, Kedar Williams-Stirling, Daniel Mays, Joe Tracini
GSA (Guildford School of Acting)
Founded in 1935, Guildford School of Acting aims to help actors develop their imagination, range, skills and technique through play, improv and scene work.
During the first year, actors will spend most of their time learning the fundamentals of acting technique and the methods of Stanislavski and other practitioners. As well as spending time developing the voice and movement. Students also get to explore Shakespeare, historical naturalism and Russian text with a tutor through scene work. This includes Ibsen, Gorky, Chekhov and Strindberg.
In the second year, students will continue to further develop the fundamentals, as they did in their first year. But they will also develop further abilities in screen acting and advanced texts including comedy of manners, Chekhov and Shakespeare. Actors will get to devise their own work and will be able to perform in multiple in house studio performances.
In the final year, actors will transition to preparing for the industry. By taking the skills they have developed over the past 2 years, and performing in multiple productions from studio to large scale theatre, to devised productions. Actors will also be able to perform in showcases that casting directors and agents may attend.
Alumni: Bill Nighy, Owen Teale, Ella Balinska, Claire Cooper, Justin Fletcher MBE, Caroline Sheen
Ultimately, whichever school you choose, you’re going to get amazing training. But it’s important that you make the right decision for yourself. If you can, try to travel to the school for your audition. You have to trust your gut, and when you’re at the right school for you, you’ll get a feeling in your gut.