How can I get funding for performing arts training or drama school?

Training for a career in theatre is often a really exciting experience - but it can also be daunting, particularly when figuring out how you’re going to pay for it all. Taking into consideration accommodation, materials, travel, and other living expenses, a three-year drama school course can be expensive. So where do you start looking for funding to help train towards a career in theatre and what types of funding are available?

A good place to start looking would be to check out Get Into Theatre’s Funding Opportunities. On this page, you can find a wide range of bursaries, awards, and scholarships for training across on and offstage roles - you can even filter them for targeted opportunities if you’re from a Black, Asian or ethnically diverse background, from a low-income household or identify as D/deaf and/or disabled.


Types of training

One of the things to consider is what type of training is best for you. This might be a three-year bachelor’s degree, or a shorter diploma or master’s programme at either a university or a specialist drama school. Other approaches include (but are definitely not limited to) apprenticeships and short-term or part-time programmes, courses, or qualifications. The type of training available might depend on what role you see yourself in - for example, there are technical theatre and stage management apprenticeships, but these are less common for Performers. You can find some of these training opportunities on Get Into Theatre here.

Unsure what area of theatre you’d enjoy? Check out this ‘complete list of jobs in the theatre industry’ for some ideas.


Governmental funding and awards

If you’re looking to train here in the UK, the government offers several loan schemes and awards to support training for a career in theatre. For most of these schemes, you must be a UK national (but eligibility may differ if you’re a student from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey, or the Isle of Man).

  • Student Loans
    • This is your standard student finance option, offered to UK nationals studying on their first degree - this scheme looks to support tuition fees as well as living costs.
  • Gov 16 - 19 Bursary Fund
    • This fund provides financial support of up to £1,200 for those in care, a care leaver or a receiver of certain benefits who study at a publicly-funded school or college or are on an unpaid training course. The bursary can help with education-related costs such as lunch, equipment, or transport to school/college.
    • For ages 16 - 19
  • Advanced Learner Loan
    • This scheme provides support for older students in England studying on a Level 3, 4, 5 or 6 course. Loan eligibility does not depend on your income and there are no credit checks.
    • For ages 19 or over
  • Dance and Drama Award (DaDA)
    • This helps talented students aged between 16 and 23 with fees and living costs at one of 17 private dance and drama schools. The amount you are awarded is dependent on your household income, as well as where you live and study. You must be studying for one of these Trinity College London Diplomas:
      • Level 6 Diploma in Professional Acting (3 years)
      • Level 5 Diploma in Professional Acting (1 year)
      • Level 5 Diploma in Professional Dance (Classical Ballet or Contemporary Dance) (2 years)
      • Level 6 Diploma in Professional Dance (3 years)
      • Level 6 Diploma in Professional Musical Theatre (3 years)
    • For ages 16 - 23 for dance courses, and 18 - 23 for acting courses.

Non-governmental funding and awards

Besides government programmes, there are also a number of organisations and charities around the UK offering financial support for theatre training. Here are some examples:

  • National Youth Arts Trust
    • Music/Dance/Drama bursaries up to £1,000 each, for ‘talented young people aged 12 - 25 who can’t afford to access opportunities in the arts.’
  • Family Action
    • Education grants to help individuals on a low income/in receipt of benefits to begin their studies as well as supporting existing students to continue and complete their education.
    • Age 14+
  • Open Door
    • Provides financial support or resources to help prepare young people at the start of their training who want to pursue a career in acting, backstage or production arts.
    • For ages 18 - 26 (Actors), 17 - 26 (behind the scenes)
    • London, Essex, Sheffield, Rotherham and the East Midlands
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation
    • The ALW Foundation offer a scholarship for one student at nine different dance, music and drama schools/colleges to cover course fees.
    • Bristol, London, Surrey, Scotland, Wales
  • Alan Bates Award
    • A £5,000 prize for one acting student who is graduating from drama school to help launch their career.
  • Joseph Millson Bursary
    • A bursary for anyone aged 22 and over who wants to act but hasn’t attended drama school or had the means or capability to explore their potential.
  • Stage One Bursary Award
    • Financial and practical assistance for theatre Producers to get their first productions up and running and to accelerate their development as a Producer.

There are regularly new schemes and funding opportunities being created, and you might come across other organisations offering financial support - keep an eye out at your local arts venues and on social media, as organisations will often announce new programmes through these platforms.


Personal fundraising

Besides applying for funding from established organisations, you could also consider personal fundraising. This might include working part-time to save some money up or organising crowdfunding on a platform like GoFundMe. In the same vein, you could consider reaching out to friends and family to ask if they would consider pitching in to support your training endeavour.

The best thing you can do is to start thinking about funding as early as possible, once you decide where and how you want to train. Although securing funding for theatre training might be a daunting process, it’ll take one thing off your shoulders once you begin training and allow you to focus on getting the most out of your programme.



Written by Misha Mah 

Misha Mah is an early-career Production Manager and Producer, with an interest in immersive work and live events. She is a graduate of the University of Birmingham’s BA Drama and Theatre Arts course, and will be commencing on the MA Stage & Production Management programme at the Guildford School of Acting this fall. She is currently the Social Media Manager for The SM NEST, the network for early-career stage managers.


Blog image: Shutterstock

Published: 1 December 2021

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