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Competition fiercer for drama schools than for Oxbridge

Radcliffe Camera and All Souls College, Oxford University. Photo: Paul Wishart/Shutterstock Radcliffe Camera and All Souls College, Oxford University. Photo: Paul Wishart/Shutterstock
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Exclusive: Britain’s leading drama schools are almost twice as difficult to gain entry to than either Oxford or Cambridge universities, new research has revealed.

Data released to The Stage by the Conference of Drama Schools, which comprises 22 of the country’s leading theatre training centres, reveals the ratio of applicants to places offered within the CDS is almost double that for the UK’s two flagship academic institutions.

Statistics just released from the 2005 annual intake, when the CDS comprised 21 institutions, reveal a total of 11,184 applicants for 1,550 places, meaning that on average only one in every seven applicants gained entry. This compares to a level of around one in four for both Oxford and Cambridge.

The figures also show that for acting courses at CDS schools, the ratio of places to applicants is one in seven and a half, whereas for technical courses offered by the institution, it is around one in every six and a half. Despite being lower than the average across all courses at CDS schools, this is still more competitive than either Oxford or Cambridge.

CDS chair Alastair Pearce said the statistics “slayed certain mythological dragons”, including complaints that drama schools were admitting too many students.

He told The Stage: “This data demonstrates that while we have a lot of people applying, we know that the CDS section of the market is extremely picky and selective about whom we let in. If there is a thought that we are letting in too many people, then it’s just not true.

“But we’re not resting on our laurels – as an organisation, we are actively going out into the community to attract applicants from all social strata and of a balanced ethnicity, so that our intake can reflect the make up of society as a whole.”

According to the data, there are far more female applicants for positions on acting courses than males, with women accounting for two-thirds of applications to these courses.

Perhaps more surprisingly, the ratio is roughly the same for applicants to technical theatre courses, where women also outnumber men two to one when applying.

Meanwhile, the figures showed nearly half of all applicants only apply to one CDS drama school out of the possible 21, revealing that multiple applications are not as common as previously had been assumed. In fact, only a quarter of all applicants apply to more than three CDS schools.

The results, which have been constructed from a mixture of data from university applications body UCAS and the schools themselves, have become available to the CDS for the first time this year. It is planning to compare figures in future years to show how the sector is developing.

The results only apply to CDS courses – other university drama courses are not included in the data.

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