Our Guide to the Top Drama Schools in Scotland

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Scotland has gifted us many fine actors. David Tennant, Kelly Macdonald, and the late Robbie Coltrane are among many who have called the country home. 

It is also home to a number of fine drama schools, providing a well-worn path to a lauded acting career. While success is still absolutely attainable without formal training, the ability to develop so intensively – and within such safe confines – is hard to replicate elsewhere. 

If you’re debating whether drama school is a fit for you, attending open days, asking these questions, and exposing yourself to a range of perspectives can help, but ultimately, there’s no objectively right or wrong answer – there’s only what’s right or wrong for you. 

To help you in your research, we’ve broken down each of Scotland’s leading drama schools, exploring what makes them unique, the specific training they offer, and how to apply.

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Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS)

RCSThe country’s only royal conservatoire-level institution, RCS has consistently ranked in the top 10 of QS’ World University Rankings for Performing Arts and in the top three of the Guardian’s list of UK universities for drama and dance. It’s also now one of Scotland’s busiest performing arts venues, with close to 600 public performances each year. RCS further sets itself apart as one of 18 members of the UK-wide Federation of Drama Schools (FDS). 

Established: 1847
Duration: Three years full time
Qualification: BA Acting, BA Musical Theatre
Location: Glasgow
Tuition fees: £1,820 (Scottish students); £9,250 (rest of UK students); £19,314 (international students) per academic year 
Notable alumni: Alan Cumming (Schmigadoon!), Ncuti Gatwa (Sex Education), James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class)

Application and audition process

  • Prerequisites: 3 passes (Scottish Highers); 2 passes (A Levels); international equivalent 
  • Register on the UCAS Conservatoires website (£26.50 fee) 
  • Apply for chosen RCS course(s) (£55 fee each) 
  • First audition
  • Recall auditions (up to four total) 
  • Outcome sent to UCAS Conservatoires account

Acting Coach Scotland (ACS)

ACSSelf-described as a “revolutionary alternative” to the traditional drama school route, ACS has made a name for itself by adopting small class sizes and championing lesser-known acting methods, such as Practical Aesthetics. 

Established: 2008
Duration: One to two years full time
Qualification: 1-Year HNC Foundation Acting Course, 1-Year Professional Diploma for Stage and Screen, 2-Year HND Acting and Performance
Location: Glasgow
Tuition fees: £5,400 (1-Year HNC Foundation Acting Course); £8,250 (1-Year Professional Diploma for stage and screen); £15,000 (2-Year HND Acting and Performance)
Application and audition process

  • Prerequisites: None 
  • Apply for one course via the ACS website (no fee) 
  • Audition and interview (40–60 minutes, working one-on-one with staff on two contemporary monologues) 
  • Outcome emailed within 10 working days

Edinburgh Napier University

ENUEdinburgh Napier University is a well-regarded public university located in the heart of the country’s capital. All acting students have the opportunity to present their own fully supported show at Edinburgh Festival Fringe – the world’s largest arts festival. 

Established: 1964
Duration: Two to four years full time
Qualification: BA (Hons) Acting and English, BA (Hons) Stage and Screen Acting
Location: Edinburgh
Tuition fees: £1,820 (Scottish students); £9,250 (rest of UK students); £14,170 (international students) per academic year 
Notable alumni: Rory Douglas-Speed (Hollyoaks)
Application and audition process

  • Prerequisites: Grade B in English and a related performance-based subject/international equivalent 
  • Register on the UCAS website (£22.50 fee for one course, £27 for up to five courses)
  • Video audition (two monologues: one Shakespeare, one original; 16 bars of a song sung a capella) 
  • Outcome sent to UCAS account

GPRO

GPROLike Acting Coach Scotland, GPRO offers an alternative avenue to conservatoires and universities. Channelling a boutique feel, cohorts are kept small, while classes mirror the variety of training you’d expect anywhere else. Graduating students take a showcase to London, where they have an average representation rate of 86%.

Established: 1994
Duration: One to three years full time
Qualification: 1-Year HNC Acting & Performance, 3-Year Musical Theatre Course
Location: Glasgow
Tuition fees: £4,750 (1-Year HNC Acting & Performance); £7,950 (3-Year Musical Theatre Course) 
Notable alumni: Holly Jack (Waterloo Road)
Application and audition process

  • Prerequisites: None. Assessment made entirely on the audition day 
  • Apply for one course via the GPRO website (£25 fee)
  • Audition and interview (five hours, including monologue/song work and a selection of taster classes)
  • Outcome emailed within three working days

Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh (QMU)

QMUQMU placed 12th in the Guardian’s top UK universities for drama and dance for 2023. A six-minute train ride from the city centre, Queen Margaret University offers students the ability to choose from a variety of module options to personalise the training (think Shakespeare, physical theatre, and playwriting).

Established: 1875
Duration: Two to four years full time
Qualification: BA (Hons) Acting and Performance, BA (Hons) Drama, BA (Hons) Performance
Location: Edinburgh
Tuition fees: £1,820 (Scottish students); £9,250 (rest of UK students); £7,000 (international students) per academic year 
Notable alumni: Kevin McKidd (Grey’s Anatomy)
Application and audition process:

  • Prerequisites: 4 passes (Scottish Highers)/3 passes (A Levels)/international equivalent; English or Drama at Higher/A Level preferred
  • Register on the UCAS website (£22.50 fee for one course, £27 for up to five courses)
  • Outcome sent to UCAS account 

University of Glasgow

UoGThe University of Glasgow placed 19th in the Guardian’s top UK universities for drama and dance for 2023. As with QMU, students can opt to explore optional courses – including applied theatre, writing for performance, and queer performance. The University of Glasgow also boasts strong links with universities in Australia, Europe, and North America, resulting in the possibility of studying up to a year abroad. 

Established: 1451
Duration: Four years full time
Qualification: MA (Hons) Theatre Studies
Location: Glasgow
Tuition fees: £1,820 (Scottish students); £9,250 (rest of UK students); £19,920 (international students) per academic year 
Notable alumni: Gerard Butler (300)
Application and audition process:

  • Prerequisites: 4 passes (Scottish Highers)/3 passes (A Levels)/international equivalent, including English and a humanities subject at Higher/A Level 
  • Register on the UCAS website (£22.50 fee for one course, £27 for up to five courses)
  • No audition requirement 
  • Outcome sent to UCAS account 

University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI)

UHIWith equal emphasis placed on performance and entrepreneurship, the University of the Highlands and Islands offers a range of highly specific career pathways – including arts administration and drama therapy – with the potential for a professional placement while studying. Students in the HNC programme can collaborate with the BA cohort for scratch night performances, and the BA students end their final year with a showcase.  

Established: 1992
Duration: 1–4 years full time
Qualification: HNC Acting and Performance, BA (Hons) Drama and Production
Location: Inverness, Moray (HNC Acting and Performance), Shetland (BA (Hons) Drama and Production)
Tuition fees: HNC Acting and Performance: £1,285 (Scottish students), £7,110 (rest of UK students), £7,440 (international students); BA (Hons) Drama and Production: £1,820 (Scottish students), £9,250 (rest of UK students), £13,020 (international students) per academic year
Notable alumni: Nicholas Ralph (All Creatures Great and Small)
Application and audition process

  • Prerequisites: 2 passes (Scottish Highers)/2 passes (A Levels)/international equivalent, including English at Higher/A Level 
  • Register on the UCAS website (£22.50 fee for one course, £27 for up to five courses) 
  • No audition requirement 
  • Outcome sent to UCAS account 

University of the West of Scotland (UWS)

UWSMarked by its “cross- and interdisciplinary design,” the University of the West of Scotland’s course exposes students to the array of performance disciplines, from acting to writing to directing. Discovery is the intention of the training, so it is well suited to future multi-hyphenates or those still getting a feel for the craft they wish to pursue. The final assessment is a portfolio that encapsulates the career path each individual has then decided on for themselves. 

Established: 2007 (previously the Paisley College of Technology, established in 1897)
Duration: Four years full time
Qualification: BA (Hons) Performance
Location: Ayr
Tuition fees: £1,820 (Scottish students); £9,250 (rest of UK students); £14,500 (international students) per academic year 
Application and audition process

  • Prerequisites: 4 passes (Scottish Highers)/3 passes (A Levels)/international equivalent 
  • Register on the UCAS website (£22.50 fee for one course, £27 for up to five courses)
  • In certain circumstances, an audition or interview may be required 
  • Outcome sent to UCAS account  

Open to considering international programs, too? Check out our guides to the UK acting conservatoires you should know, the 25 top acting colleges in the US, and Australia’s big five acting conservatoires.

Check out Backstage’s UK audition listings!

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