There are plenty of drama schools and theatre training courses to choose from, some accredited and some non-accredited, but it can be hard to know which one is right for you, which course to apply for, or what it means when a school is accredited. This blog will delve into what accreditation actually means and look at the pros and cons, so that you can make an informed decision about what is best for you.
There are four principal awarding bodies that offer accreditation and quality assurance of an organisation as a whole:
These awarding bodies offer validation for a specific course within an organisation:
Some schools are part of membership organisations, alliances or groups:
These schools are not accredited or validated by the member organisation, but they have grouped together to agree on certain values and to share best teaching methods. These include:
Accreditation sets the standard for high quality training of an institution as a whole. It looks at the general standard of training across the whole organisation rather than specific courses.
The Council for Dance, Drama & Musical Theatre – known as CDMT, or previously CDET – is the main awarding body for accreditation for performing arts training organisations. Before CDMT, there was an organisation called Drama UK but CDMT replaced Drama UK’s place when it dissolved in 2017. CDMT took the existing Drama UK schools and also added dance and musical theatre organisations to become CDMT as it exists today. CDMT is a private institution that awards accreditation to those who apply and meet its standards.
CDMT look into various areas to decide whether or not the school that has applied holds the highest standards of professional training. The inspection process consists of a self-evaluation submission by the applicant and a two-day visit to the organisation by three industry consultants.
When you see a school is accredited by CDMT, you know that the organisation will have undertaken full inspection and programme scrutiny by CDMT, to confirm that they meet the highest industry and institutional standards for performing arts training.
QAA claims to ‘safeguard standards and improve the quality of UK higher education wherever it is delivered around the world. They check that students get the higher education they are entitled to expect.’
The process for accreditation by QAA is in the form of a self-assessment from the institution, as well as meetings and an inspection from a review manager. Institutions have to apply annually to keep the accreditation award from QAA.
Ofsted is well known as the government body that inspects the standards of schools. You may have seen them at your primary or secondary school. They are also known to inspect the quality of some drama schools, they will give them a score out of Inadequate, Requires Improvement, Good or Outstanding.
Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), assesses colleges and universities on their teaching and how well they ensure excellent outcomes for their students in terms of graduate level employment or further study. They will award an institution with either Provisional, Bronze, Silver or Gold awards.
Validation is different to accreditation and looks into individual courses within an institution. It ensures that a course itself is of a high quality.
Trinity College London is the awarding body which validates Level 6 Diplomas in acting, dance, and musical theatre.
It will look at courses from an institution individually and award each course separately from the next; therefore in one institution one course may be validated by Trinity and another may not have passed the benchmark. It recognises those courses that are the same level as a degree but for a vocational qualification. Trinity College London also provides awards for graded exams (for example; Grade 8 singing exams). Institutions pay a fee for an external examiner to attend a one-off exam for the student/s to be levelled at a certain grade. You may therefore find that an institution includes a logo from Trinity College London even though it does not offer the Level 6 Diploma course.
Ofqual is the government body for regulating qualifications. It publishes guidance that organisations have to follow if they award qualifications to those under 18 that have to abide by the Education and Skills Act 2008.
University partners are another way for a course to be validated. The university will carry out its own assessment to ensure that a course is qualified for the level of degree the institution is offering. There are also some institutions that have been given TDAP (Taught Degree Awarding Powers) so that they can in effect become their own university.
These are organisations who have agreed to come together and share best practice and values.
The Federation of Drama Schools was founded in 2017. It is a group of drama schools that have come together to adhere to certain guidelines and core principles. To be a part of this group institutions must:
Conservatoires UK consists of a range of institutions that deliver a high number of contact hours between staff and students, focus on individual development, and have courses that teach a combination of intellectual and social skills. They encourage students to create and develop their own work for succeeding in the professional world.
Alliance of Musical Theatre Conservatoires (AMTC) is a newly formed group, launched in November 2018. It consists of five drama schools (Arts Educational Schools London, Mountview, Guildford School of Acting, Urdang Academy and Bird College), which say they have clubbed together to share best practice and work together to increase diversity and participation in musical theatre.
Diversity Schools Initiative have gathered five drama schools together to sign a contract to agree to improve diversity in their institutions. The schools have promised to work together to address the lack of diversity and find solutions to this. They will undergo auditing by Diversity Schools Initiative and will be regularly monitored. Director Steven Kavuma said that “by putting together this contract it is a way of schools saying they are committed to increasing and improving diversity of all kinds”.
The importance behind your decision on which drama school to choose lies in what is the best place for you. Not only the institution that you will best fit into, but also the right course that will allow you to thrive and succeed within the path you have chosen. Take a look at other areas of the Get Into Theatre site to help guide your research further.
QAA Handbook: Higher Education Review (Alternative Providers)
Published: 04 March 2019