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10 tips on how UCAS clearing can help you study drama

A lighting rigging workshop in the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama’s Embassy Theatre. Photo: Patrick Baldwin A lighting rigging workshop in the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama’s Embassy Theatre. Photo: Patrick Baldwin
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Clearing is the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service system for matching spare places to students who need them in the few weeks before term starts. Here are 10 things you need to know about it if you want to study drama-related courses at university.

1. Clearing is not just for grade droppers

If you didn’t get the grades to meet the requirements of your first-choice course, then you might be able to get a place on a similar course elsewhere through clearing. “We’re also open for new applications from late applicants,” says Anna Travers-Rose, spokeswoman for Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, which is using clearing for the first time this year but only for its production arts course. Almost any course in clearing gets applications from students who didn’t register earlier in the academic year alongside grade droppers.

2. Most university drama courses are in clearing

University drama courses at, for example, Kent, De Montfort and Anglia Ruskin universities and many more institutions are part of the clearing system. From today, any such course that still has places will be accessible via clearing. But be aware that these tend to be courses with a fairly high academic content. They are not necessarily intended for the vocational training of actors and theatre technicians.

3. Clearing rarely applies to vocational performance courses

Drama schools do not use clearing for their acting and musical theatre courses, and several of them – LAMDA, for example – do not use clearing at all. This is, firstly, because performance courses are heavily oversubscribed and there are no places left. And, secondly, because successful applicants have to go through a thorough audition process, which is hard to manage when time is short.

4. Clearing is good for technical theatre courses

Many drama schools and universities have some technical theatre and non-performance places available through clearing. “This year, we have spaces remaining on DATE (drama, applied theatre and education) as well as a small number of our BA (hons) theatre practice courses including production lighting, design for the stage, scenic art, and technical and production management,” says Megan Hunter, spokeswoman for the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. An interview is usual. “All students will be interviewed by a core member of staff before a decision is made,” says Hunter.

BA student at Central working on realising a model box design. Photo: Patrick Baldwin
BA student at Central working on realising a model box design. Photo: Patrick Baldwin

5. It’s best not to delay

Clearing’s main purpose is to find suitable students to fill leftover places. Obviously, there are only a limited number of these. Once clearing gets underway, the number of available slots drops every day as students accept offers. It is therefore in your interests to start doing your research and using the system as soon as possible, or you might miss out.

6. It’s essential to ask careful questions

University drama courses are much easier to get into. You are much more likely to get an offer in a drama department than a drama school and it may be more academic and less vocational than you need, so don’t snatch at the first offer you get just because you’re so relieved it has been made. Michael Moor, theatre agent and former head of musical theatre at Guildford School of Acting, advises: “Check first that the course is what it claims to be. Second, that you’ll get 30 hours of tuition a week. And third, that the course will give you industry links and an industry showcase.”

7. Universities and colleges are usually happy to chat informally

Contact them and ask questions. Central, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and many others welcome enquiries. BOVTS runs open days at this time of year for students and parents. And Central has a website dedicated to clearing and adjustment 2018 at cssd.ac.uk/content/start-central-2018

8. You need to be available

You will not simply be offered a place, for most practical theatre training courses, on the strength of your exam grades and your UCAS form. Staff will want to interview you. Keep your diary clear for the next few weeks and be prepared to talk to someone, if and when invited, about your interest in, and experience of, technical theatre.

9. Accommodation may be a problem

As a late arrival in the system, as far as the particular college or university that has offered you a place is concerned, you may find that the best student accommodation has already been taken. Most institutions will do their best to help you in this situation but, if it is too far to commute from home, you may have to start off in accommodation that would, perhaps, not have been your first choice.

10. Remember, 2019 isn’t far away

Bear in mind that you don’t have to start your training this year at all. If you don’t fancy the first come, first served and sometimes stressful experience of clearing, consider leaving it until next year. Then you can apply at (relative) leisure during the year without the pressure of not knowing your grades. Meanwhile, you can work to earn some money. You will need it once you start.

Old Vic Theatre School; Royal Central School of Speech and Drama; UCAS

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