Where to start?
When thinking about and exploring funding for higher education courses in the arts, particularly the performing arts it can be far more difficult to find the support and direction as to what route to take and whether you are eligible for specific loans or bursaries depending on the course, place of study and individual circumstances. Regardless, in all cases, it is essential to factor in the additional expenses as well as the standard cost of tuition fees; such as living costs: rent, transport, food, books, etc. As a great deal of drama schools are in London itself, the expenses and cost of living in London is extortionate and therefore needs to be considered when applying. Interestingly, in a Drama UK survey, graduates from 2006-2008 repeatedly reported high debt levels, and some wished they had taken a year out to save money before starting their course.
As well as the obvious option of government student loans, there are other options such as reaching out to any trusts, companies, or local authorities, that might be willing to sponsor you or support you in some way. Lots of local businesses or trusts that support training in the arts are worth approaching as they may have pockets of money that they can use for causes such as this. It is even worth asking at your local library for more information on surrounding businesses or trusts they might know about. Furthermore, contacting and approach family contacts as well as trade unions and other professional bodies is always a good starting point. There is also the option of trying approaching individuals in the profession, but remember that well known actors and directors receive hundreds of requests from students every year – so you must think about what makes your application so special and different from every other applicant?
UK Government Student Loans
If you are a UK or EU national, are enrolling on an undergraduate degree course (normally a BA (Bachelor of Arts) or FdA (Foundation Arts Degree)) and have lived in the UK for a minimum of three years before the date of enrolment (official start) of your course, you could be eligible for one or more of the following:
• a non-means-tested Tuition Fee Loan up to the fee level charged at the institution where you study
• a means-tested Maintenance Loan for your living and study costs
• a means-tested government Maintenance Grant (or ‘Special Support Grant’ for students eligible for certain benefits)
• additional means-tested grants if you have a dependent child or adult
• additional grants if you are Deaf, have a disability or are dyslexic (known as the Disabled Students Allowance)
• a National Scholarship Programme award.
For many undergraduate degree courses the annual tuition fee for 2012/13 is £9,000. You can apply for a loan to cover some or all of this amount. If you have previously attended a degree, FdA, HND (Higher National Diploma) or similar course your entitlement to help with tuition fees and any other support will be affected.
The maximum rate of Maintenance Loan depends on where you study and where you live during your course.
The Maintenance Loan rates for new students in the 2012/13 academic year are available in this guide.
As an example, the maximum loan for students studying in London in 2011/12 was £7,675 a year for those living away from home and £4,375 for those living at home.
All students can get 65% of the loan. The remaining 35% is dependent on your household income and the level of Maintenance Grant (if any) you will receive. If you get a Maintenance Grant, your Maintenance Loan will be reduced by 50p for every £1 of grant received. However, a cap is applied to how much your student loan for living expenses can be reduced in this way.
In 2012, the loan for living expenses could be reduced by no more than £1,625. This means that students from lower-income households get a higher proportion of their government help in the form of a grant and so end up with less of a loan to pay back after they have graduated and are in work.
Please note that students who already have an Honours degree and are considering studying for a second one will not be eligible for the Maintenance Grant, the student loan for fees or the student loan for living costs.
Dance and Drama Awards (DaDAs)
- The Dance and Drama Awards (DaDAs) were introduced in 1999 and offer annual scholarships to exceptionally talented performing arts students studying at some of the country’s leading providers of vocational training in dance, drama and musical theatre.
- They are funded by the government through the Education Funding Agency (EFA), DaDAs offer reduced tuition fees and assistance with living costs for the duration of the course at 19 schools across the country including 5 Drama UK member schools.
- Following a review of the scheme in 2012, the government has confirmed that from 2013:
- Funding for the DaDA scheme will remain at approximately £14m per year.
- Students who are the most talented and likely to succeed in the industry will be eligible to apply for means-tested support towards fees and living costs.
- New students who are offered awards will be funded to the end of their courses
- Arrangements for DaDA students who received their awards for courses starting prior to 2013 will remain unchanged.
- Income assessment of the Awards means that support for students from low income households will be increased. For example, a student whose annual household income is under £30,000 will pay no fees for their course. If their household income is under £21,000 they will also receive up to a maximum of £5,185 per annum in a grant to help with living costs.
- Students in receipt of a DaDA award are not eligible for Student Loans.
Scholarships and Bursaries
- Some Institutions have their own Scholarships or Bursaries to cover course fees for selected students but these usually only cover a portion of the costs.
- Applicants should contact the institutions directly to find our whether they qualify, preferably at the time of first application.
Full Cost or Independent Courses
- Some Drama UK accredited courses do not attract any goverment funding and are described as full-cost courses. These are mainly one or two year courses at either foundation or postgraduate level.
- The students on these courses are not eligible for Student Loans or any Government grant help. No distinction is normally made on these courses between Home, EU or Overseas Students.
- Students offered places on courses at DaDA awarding schools who are not specifically offered a DaDA scholarship will be unfunded and responsible for their full course fees and all living expenses.
- The total cost of funding one year on a full cost course, including living costs, can be in excess of £20,000. Possible sources of support are detailed below.
Career Development Loans
- A Professional and Career Development Loan may also be another option to support your costs.
- Loans are for people looking to train in order to enhance their career or make a career change.
- Amounts that can be applied for are between £300 and £10,000.
- If successful in your application, you would only begin repayments after study.
- While the student is on the course, the government pays the interest that accrues and the first repayment instalment on the loan up to five months after graduation.
- To be eligible, you’ll need to be 18 years old or over.
Access to Learning Fund
- Students in financial hardship who need extra help to start a course or stay in higher education, could get help from the Access to Learning Fund
- Your university or college decides:
- who gets the money
- how much you can get
- Any money you get is paid on top of your other student finance.
Other Sources of Funding
- It is also possible to raise some funds from charities, trusts and foundations.
- Although, raising funds in this way is hard work, and rewards careful research, as remits for funding tend to be highly specific.
- Examples of fundraising could be:
- Setting up a ‘Go Fund Me’ page
- Charity Concert
- Sponsorship events
Personal Funding Options
After exploring the various funding options available to me, based on my own financial circumstances and the courses I wish to apply for, I have come to the conclusion that I must limit myself to the Drama Schools which offer undergraduate degree courses and are entitled to student loans or government funding to cover the course fees (in the same way it would cover a traditional university qualification). I feel that not only do these courses offer me my best opportunity of getting advanced specialist training at prestigious and recognised institutions, whilst still being able to manage the course costs over three years as well as being able to financially support myself to live.
The schools I have been looking into are mainly through UCAS, CUCAS, or are well renowned and accredited institutions that also have their tuition fees covered by the government through the traditional student loan scheme. I know a great deal of friends and acquaintances you have recently enrolled or recently graduated from performing arts schools that were privately funded, and although the training is very good, the courses are usually not full degree courses and therefore the only qualification one leaves with is a diploma – whereas I know that I would prefer a degree qualification. Considering all this, I decided to refrain from auditioning or applying for any privately funded schools as I know this is not a realistic option for me and my family.