Study Acting In The UK: A Comprehensive Subject Guide

Steeped in centuries of theatrical tradition and home to some of the world’s most iconic drama institutions, the United Kingdom has long been a coveted destination for aspiring actors. Whether you’re a local looking to hone your craft or an international student dreaming of treading the boards in London’s West End, this comprehensive subject guide is your key to unlocking the vibrant world of acting education in the UK. Join us as we embark on a journey through the stages, studios, and scripts that define the British acting landscape.


Table of Contents

What is Acting?

Acting is an art form that transcends mere imitation; it is the craft of embodying characters, breathing life into stories, and connecting with audiences on an emotional level. At its core, acting is about authenticity, empathy, and the ability to convey a wide range of emotions convincingly.

Actors are the conduits through which playwrights’ words, screenwriters’ visions, and directors’ guidance come to life. They transform themselves into the characters they portray, delving deep into their psyches to understand their motivations, fears, and desires. This process involves more than just memorising lines; it requires a profound understanding of human nature, psychology, and the nuances of human behaviour.

In the UK, acting is steeped in a rich history, dating back to the works of William Shakespeare and beyond. The country’s theatre traditions have evolved over centuries, producing legendary actors and playwrights, and shaping the very essence of the dramatic arts.


Why Study Acting?

Studying acting can be a rewarding and enriching experience for a variety of reasons. Here are some compelling reasons why one might choose to study acting:

1. Passion for the Art: Many individuals are drawn to acting because they have a deep passion for the art of storytelling, character exploration, and performance. Acting allows you to immerse yourself in different roles and stories, giving life to characters and narratives that resonate with audiences.

2. Self-Expression: Acting provides a unique platform for self-expression. It allows you to express emotions, thoughts, and experiences in a creative and controlled environment. Through acting, you can explore your own inner world while portraying the experiences of others.

3. Empathy and Understanding: Acting fosters empathy and a deeper understanding of the human condition. By stepping into the shoes of diverse characters, you gain insight into different perspectives, cultures, and backgrounds, which can lead to greater compassion and tolerance.

4. Communication Skills: Acting hones your communication skills, both verbal and non-verbal. You learn how to convey ideas, emotions, and messages effectively, which is a valuable skill in many aspects of life, from public speaking to interpersonal relationships.

5. Confidence Building: Acting can boost self-confidence. Facing an audience or a camera and delivering a performance can help you overcome stage fright and develop a strong sense of self-assurance.

6. Creativity and Imagination: Acting encourages creativity and imagination. It challenges you to think outside the box, improvise, and find innovative ways to bring characters and scenes to life.

Best Universities for Acting in the UK

Here is a list of the top UK universities in this field according to the Complete University Guide: 

RankUniversity Name
1University of Cambridge
2University of Oxford
3University of Edinburgh
4The University of Manchester
5Lancaster University
6University College London (UCL)
7University of Bristol
8University of Warwick
9University of Aberdeen
10University of Glasgow
11University of East Anglia (UEA)
12University of Birmingham
13University of Leeds
14Queen Mary University of London
15Edinburgh Napier University
16Guildhall School of Music & Drama
17Royal Holloway, University of London
18Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
19Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music
20University of Reading
21Northumbria University, Newcastle
22Nottingham Trent University
23Queen's University Belfast
24Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
25University of Wales Trinity Saint David
26Manchester Metropolitan University
27University of Kent
28Arts University Bournemouth
29Liverpool Hope University
30University of York

Entry Requirements for a Acting Degree

Entry requirements for acting degree programmes in the UK can vary depending on the institution and the specific course. However, here are some common entry requirements and considerations:

1. Academic Qualifications:

  • Typically, candidates are required to have a minimum of two A-levels or equivalent qualifications. Subjects related to performing arts, drama, or theatre studies are often preferred.
  • Some institutions may accept a BTEC Extended Diploma or other vocational qualifications in performing arts or related fields.

2. Auditions: Most drama schools and acting programmes in the UK require applicants to audition. The audition is a crucial part of the application process and assesses your acting skills, potential, and suitability for the programme. Be prepared to perform monologues, participate in group activities, and demonstrate your passion for acting.

5. English Language Proficiency: If English is not your first language, you may need to provide proof of English language proficiency through tests like IELTS or TOEFL, as the programme will be conducted in English.

7. Age Requirements: Some acting programmes may have age restrictions, so it’s important to check the specific requirements of the institutions you are interested in.

8. Portfolio: Depending on the programme, you may be asked to submit a portfolio of your previous work, which could include recordings of performances, essays, or other relevant materials.

Jobs for Acting Graduates

Here are the career prospects for graduates in this field:

  1. Actor/Actress: The most obvious career choice for acting graduates is to pursue roles in theatre, film, television, and radio. This may involve performing in plays, TV shows, films, commercials, voice acting, and more.

  2. Stage Manager: Graduates can work behind the scenes as stage managers, overseeing the technical aspects of theatre productions, ensuring smooth performances, and coordinating with cast and crew.

  3. Director: Some acting graduates transition into directing, where they guide actors and production teams to create compelling performances on stage or screen.

  4. Playwright/Screenwriter: With a strong understanding of dramatic storytelling, graduates may choose to write plays, screenplays, or scripts for various media.

  5. Drama Teacher/Instructor: Acting graduates can teach drama and theatre arts at schools, colleges, or acting academies, sharing their knowledge and skills with aspiring actors.

  6. Theatre Producer: Graduates can work as producers, responsible for overseeing the financial and logistical aspects of theatre productions, including fundraising, budgeting, and marketing.

  7. Casting Director: Casting directors are responsible for selecting actors for specific roles in film, television, and theatre productions. A background in acting can be beneficial for this role.

  8. Arts Administration: Graduates can work in arts administration roles, managing the operations of theatre companies, arts organisations, or cultural institutions.

  9. Voice Coach: Some actors choose to become voice coaches, helping actors improve their vocal techniques, accents, and articulation.

  10. Film and Theatre Critic: Graduates with a deep understanding of the performing arts may pursue careers as critics or reviewers, providing insights and evaluations of productions.

Salary for Acting Graduates

Check out the average salary for graduates in this field: 

Low skilled: £17,500

Medium-skilled: £18,000

High-skilled: £20,000

Topics for Acting Dissertation

Below, we present a diverse array of research areas, each offering an opportunity to delve into the complexities of acting and make a significant contribution to its advancement:

  1. The Evolution of Acting Techniques: Explore the historical development of acting techniques, from classical methods like Stanislavski to contemporary approaches, and their impact on the art of performance.

  2. Representation in Theatre: Investigate the representation of various social, cultural, or identity groups in theatre productions and how it has evolved over time.

  3. The Influence of Technology on Theatre: Analyse how advancements in technology, such as digital projection and virtual reality, are changing the way theatre is created and experienced.

  4. Gender Roles in Acting: Examine the portrayal of gender roles in acting and theatre, including the challenges faced by non-binary and transgender actors.

  5. Diversity and Inclusion in Casting: Investigate casting practices and the push for more inclusive and diverse casting choices in theatre, film, and television.

  6. Adaptations of Classic Texts: Analyse the ways in which classic literary works are adapted for the stage, considering the challenges and creative choices involved.

  7. The Impact of Theatre Education: Study the influence of theatre education on the personal and professional development of students, including its role in building confidence and communication skills.

Which Acting School has the Highest Employment Rate?

One of the most prominent ways to be a successful actor in the UK is none other than getting into acting school. Numerous UK universities have excellent outcome. Take University of Surrey for an instance, their graduates have an unrivalled employment record in all performance media. In the Graduate Outcomes survey 2023, results show that 99% of their undergraduate Guildford School of Acting students go on to employment or further study.

How Much Does it Cost to Study in the UK

One of the most important things to consider is how much the degree is going to cost. Here is a general guide for 2023/2024:

  • For home students in England, universities can charge up to a maximum of £9,250 per year for an undergraduate degree.
  • In Wales, institutions can charge up to £9,000 for home students. However, Welsh students can apply for a fee grant to cover some of the cost of their tuition fees. This grant is currently not repayable or income-assessed.
  • Northern Irish universities will charge up to £4,275 for home students and may charge up to £9,250 for students from elsewhere in the UK.
  • Scotland does not charge home students fees at the undergraduate level; however, students from England, Wales, or Northern Ireland are expected to pay up to £9,250 per year. International students from outside of the UK will pay significantly more to study in Scotland.
  • International students can expect to pay between £10,000 and £26,000 annually for lecture-based undergraduate degrees at universities across the UK. An undergraduate medical degree can cost overseas students up to £58,600 per year. As for postgraduate degrees, the average cost is estimated to be around £17,109 per year.
Besides the tuition fees, there are also several other cost considerations such as food, accommodation, phone bills, books, social life, memberships, and others. Remember to check out our free student budget calculator

Other Subjects to Consider

Given that you are interested in this subject area, you might also want to consider the following options: 

Frequently Asked Questions

Consider your interests, passions, and career goals. Research various degree programmes and their content to see which aligns best with your aspirations.

While earning potential is important, it’s also crucial to select a degree that you’re passionate about and suits your skills. A balance between your interests and potential career prospects is ideal.

Location can impact your overall university experience. Consider factors like cost of living, proximity to industry hubs, and personal preferences.

Evaluate tuition fees, available scholarships, and potential for part-time work. Create a budget to ensure you can manage your finances during your studies.

Consider combining your passions with practical skills. For example, if you love art but want job security, explore fields like graphic design or digital marketing.

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