An introduction to conservatoires
Conservatoires provide performance-based higher education, including music, drama, screen and production courses – both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
UCAS offers an application route to nine UK conservatoires – each has its own strengths and specialisms, so its important students do their research to find the right fit for them. The conservatoires in the UCAS Conservatoires scheme are:
- Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
- Leeds Conservatoire
- Royal Academy of Music
- Royal College of Music
- Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
- Royal Northern College of Music
- Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
- Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
Five differences between studying at a conservatoire versus university or college
- Facilities: Conservatoires tend to be smaller institutions which are focused on specific areas of study; such as music, dance and drama. They will, therefore, have specialist teaching and facilities dedicated to these areas.
- Specialist focus: Universities tend to be much larger and will often offer a broad range of courses which could include anything from maths and engineering to art, history and music.
- Practical study is the main focus: Both conservatoires and universities offer degree-level qualifications, however at a university practical study is typically an element of the course, whereas at a conservatoire it is the main focus, and the heart of what students do.
- Course structures: The year is broken down into a block of academic weeks, followed by a block of performance weeks. Performances and workshops are mostly held in the evenings and at weekends meaning graduates from conservatoires will be accustomed to the ways of working, hours, and expectations of the industry they are going to work in, as they will have practised this throughout their course.
- Teaching staff are working professionals: Professional musicians teach at conservatoires as part of their portfolios, and many teach at more than one conservatoire. There is a strong emphasis on one-to-one tuition, alongside group work and performances.
Supporting students applying to a conservatoire
Competition for places at conservatoires can be very high, and students can apply for up to six courses at once. Here’s what you and your students need to know to make an application.
1: Register with the UCAS Hub
Firstly, students need to register for the UCAS Hub – this is where they’ll be able to research their options and start an application.
During registration they must indicate they’re interested in a conservatoire by clicking the ‘Conservatoire’ option – this will ensure they see relevant information including deadline alerts.
2: Use the UCAS search tool
Conservatoire courses are listed in the UCAS Search tool. To search purely for conservatoire courses, students should add the ‘conservatoire’ filter:
As long as students are logged in to their Hub account they’ll be able to favourite courses to create their own shortlist of courses they’re interested in.
3: Apply directly from the Hub
Once a student has signed up for the Hub and they're are about to start their application, they'll be able to click on 'Conservatoires' as an option.
Differences to the undergraduate application:
- Students can make up to six choices
- There isn’t an ‘Employment’ section
- For most courses students will need to attend an audition or interview or send a recording or portfolio to each conservatoire. There’s usually a fee for this which we’ll collect during the application. However, in some cases students will need to pay the conservatoire directly.
Similarities with the undergraduate application
- Centralised registration and login – use their UCAS Hub credentials for their entire UCAS application.
- The look and feel – the user interface is consistent with our undergraduate application, and is mobile responsive.
- Application fee – the application for 2023 entry applications is £27 (£26.50 for 2022 entry applications).
4: Preparing for auditions and assessments
Auditions and assessments are a key part of the admissions process. Where possible auditions are in-person.
Check out our guidance on how auditions and assessments work and what to expect.
- Applying to a conservatoire (16.26 MB) – a presentation you can give to students interested in applying to conservatories.
- Free online training – we've produced a free online training module on our professional development module to help you understand the conservatoire application.
- Conservatoires UK guide to studying at a conservatoire – a guide created by Conservatoires UK.
- Guide to conservatoire assessments – a short guide to help students understand what to expect
- ucas.com/conservatoires – a dedicated page from which you can find our content for students looking to apply to conservatoires
- Discovery Days – at UCAS/Discovery students can explore all kinds of possibilities including conservatoire study.
- Virtual open days – we’ve created a centralised listing for upcoming uni virtual open days, and a handy video giving students tips on how to make the most out of them.