University or Conservatoire?

So you’ve decided that you aspire to complete a performing arts degree, but now there’s a million options of where to train and how to train. Unlike most degree subjects, performing arts students have many options of how to take their training to the next level, after they leave college.

You’ll usually have two options: Study at a conventional univeristy (e.g The University of Chichester) or at a Conservatoire.

A Conservatoire is essentially an institute offering specialist training in a specific subject. There are dance, musical theatre, music and drama conservatoires across the country, although many are based within London. Conservatoires usually offer a variety of course levels, including diplomas, degrees and post graduate studies.

Studying for a degree at a conventional univeristy, basically means that you’d be studying dance at an institute that also offers courses in other subjects. Some universities specialise in certain types of courses, for example, Arts University Bournemouth only offers arts-related degrees.

The question is: how do you choose between them? Below are some pro’s and con’s of each, to help you decide…



  • Specialist, rigorous training
  • Lecturers with specialist, industry knowledge
  • Loads of performance opportunities, often in major theatres/venues
  • Excellent training facilities
  • Really good opportunities for networking, as you will constantly be surrounded by industry professionals


  • Competitive atmosphere- you are treated as a pre-professional, which some students may find a little intense
  • Auditions are very tough – loads of people apply each year, meaning that the audition process is usually rather difficult
  • Fees- usually, degree courses are capped at £9,250 per academic year, however some conservatoires can charge you more than this (meaning you can’t get a student loan to cover your full costs)



  • There are lots of universities in the UK offering performing arts courses, meaning that you have a wide choice of where you’d like to study
  • University experience- you’ll usually have access to a Student Union, plus will have lots of opportunities to socialise with others
  • Universities usually offer their own student accommodation to first year students, which can be cheaper than having to rent privately
  • Balance of theoretical and practical work


  • Fewer practical classes per week than most conservatoires
  • Often more theoretical (written work), which some students may not enjoy as much
  • Courses not always specific to the style that your’re interested in- e.g. you may have to study a ‘Dance’ course in a university, whereas you could focus on studying a specific ‘Contemporary Dance’ course at a conservatoire

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