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Manchester’s Arden Theatre School drops audition fees to broaden access to drama training

A drama school in Manchester has scrapped audition fees for prospective students to make its courses more accessible to young people from all backgrounds.

The Arden School of Theatre has removed the £45 audition fee for all four of its degree courses in acting, musical theatre, dance and theatremaking, which have fees of £8,900 per year.

It comes amid ongoing debate around the barriers facing young people from lower-income backgrounds when entering the industry, with drama schools regularly charging fees of more than £50 for auditions.

A 2017 report by the Labour Party claimed drama school audition fees, which are charged by most institutions, were “unjust and unfair”, and contributed to the under-representation of working-class talent across the arts.

Drama school audition fees are ‘unfair’ and a barrier to working-class actors – Labour report [1]

Robert Owen, head of the Arden, said the decision was part of the school’s ambition to make the arts more accessible, warning that auditioning for drama schools could be prohibitively expensive for young people who also had to pay for travel and other expenses.

The Arden is part of UCEN Manchester, whose dean, Michael Walsh, said: “As an inclusive provider of higher education, we believe everybody should have the opportunity to pursue their ambitions and income shouldn’t be a factor in that. Audition fees are clearly a barrier to some people and it felt like the right time for us to do something about that and set an example to others.”

The Arden is the second drama school to drop audition fees in the past year, following a similar move by the Liverpool School of Theatre, which said it wanted to encourage applications from working-class young people.