About dgtherunner

Currently working at Edge Hill University as system officer for the VLE, but I'm a librarian at heart. I blog very occassionally about all sorts of stuff, library and technology, running and the trials of being a mum of three dramatic and sporty children.

So your child want’s to go to do a Musical Theatre Degree?

A parents guide to the costs

I’m writing this, not to try to scare people, but as a realistic guide to the minefield that is applying for, auditioning for and then funding a Musical Theatre course, particularly at the ‘big’ London schools.  I also wanted to share just how much it all costs, as many of these costs are buried in small print and it’s really hard to tell a child who has achieved their dream degree offer that they can’t accept it because of the costs.  Much of this information is the same for dance and drama courses, but I’ve not been through that process.

It’s a wonderful feeling when someone tells you your son or daughter is talented and has the potential to undertake professional musical theatre training.  They’ve probably sung, danced and acted all their lives and you’ve probably already spent a small fortune on shoes, costumes, classes, exams and tickets to shows, not to mention petrol driving them around!  However all of this will pale into insignificance when they aim for the big time.


Degree courses (eligible for student loans – but see later note about student loans)

If you want to go to the top name theatre schools, you need to apply early.  Aim for the October deadline that Oxbridge applicants have when applying.  If you are applying for theatre schools you will have lots of forms to complete:

UCAS – university based courses, including GSA, Bird, Italia Conti etc

CUCAS – Ucas conservatoire degree courses such as Trinty Laban, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama

It costs £24 to apply through UCAS (less if you only apply for one course) and £25 to apply through CUCAS.

If  you are applying to private colleges which don’t use UCAS (such as Arts Ed, Mountview  and Laine) you will need to fill in their own application form.  There is a fee for completing the form but it includes the audition fee.

Diploma courses (eligible for DaDa funding)

Applications for level 6 diploma courses are applied for directly to the school.  Again there will be a fee to apply that includes your audition fee.

Audition fees

Each school, whether UCAS, CUCAS or private school charges between £30 and £50 per audition.  You will need to travel to the college for the audition.  A few southern and London schools offer regional first auditions, but if you get through to a recall you will have to travel and stay in London, or wherever the school is based.  Watch out for seat sales and book as far in advance to get the cheapest rail fares and cultivate any friends in London with spare rooms!

Audition day

Most auditions start with registration before 9am and last up to 6 hours.  The format is broadly similar at each audition:

Dance: group dance class which usually has some technique and learning a routine.  Only one of the courses my son applied for had a solo dance requirement, but some courses are more dance focussed and will require a dance solo.

Singing:  most times the song is performed in front of other auditionees, but it may just be to a couple of tutors.  You will need two contrasting songs.  Some require one of the songs to be from a pre-1960 musical, while others allow pop songs.  Check the criteria carefully.  Some have prescribed lists, particularly for recalls.  Most auditions have an accompanist and you will need original copies of the music, marked up with any cuts.  One school required backing tracks downloaded to an electronic device (phone or ipod) so it’s worth making sure you can find a backing track if your song is a bit obscure!

Acting:  Most auditions require two monologues to be prepared, generally one Shakespeare type and one modern.  Some have prescribed lists you have to pick from. Check requirements carefully!  Again you will need an original copy of the text and the tutors make ask about the context within the play.  Monologues are usually performed to other auditionees.  There will usually be some other form of workshop which varies from place to place, but usually involves some basic improvising.

Your child may not be asked to perform all of the pieces they have prepared.  Usually only one song and monologue will be heard at the initial part of the audition.

Most places have some recall process, some cut part way through the day where unsuccessful auditionees are dismissed.  Others have recalls on a different day.  Personal interviews are usually part of the recall process, but students will be asked to do additional dance, singing or acting.  One school also had a basic physical examination.

Take food and water with you as there generally isn’t time to go out for food.


When your child accepts a place you will often be asked for a deposit of £200 – £400.  Some are refundable if you decide not to take up the place before the start of the course, but others aren’t.  The deposit is usually refunded when you register for the 3rd year of the course and the colleges recommend you use the money to apply for Spotlight, or have professional headshots taken.  Private Universities expect you to accept or reject places quickly, usually within 3 weeks and pay the deposit then.  This often means you have to make a choice before all your offers are in.  If the course is applied for through UCAS they cannot demand you make a choice before all your offers are in.  Contact UCAS if you need assistance with this.

Additional fees

Some student loan funded courses have ‘optional top up fees’ these can be several thousand pounds a year and there is some controversy as many students feel they are not optional, but integral course tuition.  Check individual course websites.

Kit List

If your child has been dancing for a while you probably know how expensive the kit will be, but be prepared to have to buy tap, ballet, jazz, and even ballroom shoes, and multiple leotards and other kit, possibly branded for your institution.

Student Loans

If you apply through UCAS or CUCAS your course will be eligible for a student loan to cover the full cost of tuition fees (currently £9250 per year).  You may also be eligible for a maintenance loan, but this is dependent on family income.

If you apply for a degree course, but not through UCAS or CUCAS then you are applying to a private university and you are only eligible for a tuition loan of £6165.  This may not cover the full amount of the course fees, which are typically between £12000 and £14000 per year.  There may be bursaries and scholarships to make up the difference, but these will be by an additional competitive audition and there may be a fee to apply.  BA degree courses are not eligible for DaDa funding.

More information on Student Loans for state and private university courses here https://www.gov.uk/student-finance/new-fulltime-students.  Check the websites of individual schools for details of bursaries and scholarships they offer.  Some of these may be based purely on talent, others are means tested.

DaDa funding

This is a government grant scheme for certain level 5 and level 6 diploma courses.  Level 6 diplomas generally have annual fees of between £12,000 and £16,000.  If you audition successfully for an approved course you can audition again for DaDa funding.  Each institution has its own allocation of DaDa funding and when its gone its gone.  DaDa funding can cover both tuition fees and maintenance, but both areas are means tested on family income.  If family income is above £30,000 there is no maintenance grant and you will be expected to contribute towards fees on a sliding scale up to a family income of £90,000 above which there is notsupport available.   More information on DaDa funding here https://www.gov.uk/dance-drama-awards


Some institutions have their own scholarships, these are always highly competitive and there are usually only one or two per course.  These may cover course fees, or top up private university student loans to cover the additional fees.  Some of these are also means tested, or only offered to students who fit various criteria.  Details are usually on the websites of the institutions.

Foundation courses

If you aren’t successful in getting into a degree level course you may be offered a place on a Foundation course.  These year long courses usually cost around £10,000, but no funding is available and they are not eligible for DaDa funding.  In most cases they do not lead directly onto a degree course and you will have to re-audition the following year.  The only assistance you may be eligible for is housing benefit, but you will need to fight for it and any income you earn will reduce it.  See this thread on Notapushymum.com for more information http://notapushymum.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=36&t=22879

Reserve Lists

Most courses have a reserve list which means they think you are good enough for the course, but either they already have someone in you category (tall, athletic male tenor; short brunette legit soprano etc) or they are waiting on other people’s responses.  This is a really frustrating place to be as you may have to accept or decline other places, including paying deposits before knowing if the reserve list is moving and you have got a place.  Reserve lists move throughout the summer and even into the first couple of weeks of term.

Keeping them positive

It’s worth doing plenty of research on different courses and talking to teachers to find the best courses to apply for.   Rejections in this audition process are common and it can become discouraging.  There are lots of courses around and you just need to find the right one for your child.  Many people audition for several years before getting the place they want.  My son has secured a place on a student loan funded degree, after a number of disappointments and Foundation offers that were financially beyond our reach.  Keep believing in them and good luck!

Websites of various Musical Theatre degree course providers (not a complete list)

Search on UCAS for other university based musical theatre courses around the country

Note – this information is correct as at April 2018.  These notes are based on my experiences supporting my son’s applications in 2018 and information from other parents with children auditioning for 2018 course starts.  Costs and details may change in future years.


Race day

I woke up to a 6am which meant I had time to get in some last minute stretching on the hurty hip, as well as making sure I got some breakfast.

We arrived at Victoria Park just after 7am, but we’d missed the bus my daughter should have been on to help on a water station with her Guides, so Paul had to negotiate the road closures to take her.

Carrying tables to the LiveWire tent served as a warm up and all too soon it was time for the off.

Ready for the off.

Ready for the off.

The start was delayed a bit, but at 9.20am we were off.

The race went remarkably well.  I managed to keep a fairly even pace of around 10.15 minute miles, and even managed several sub 10 miles on the downhills.  As I knew I wasn’t ever going to be challenging for the lead, I started well down the field.  I think this helped as it meant I was passing people most of the way round – always a little boost. The sun was shining and the lovely countryside for most of the course meant I ran with a smile on my face most of the way!

My splits:

Mile Pace Elapsed time
1.0 mi 09:52 min/mi 00:09:50
2.0 mi 10:27 min/mi 00:10:23
3.0 mi 10:09 min/mi 00:10:06
4.0 mi 10:30 min/mi 00:10:23
5.0 mi 09:54 min/mi 00:09:54
6.0 mi 09:58 min/mi 00:09:53
7.0 mi 10:09 min/mi 00:10:05
8.0 mi 10:04 min/mi 00:10:02
9.0 mi 10:11 min/mi 00:10:06
10.0 mi 09:46 min/mi 00:09:42
11.0 mi 09:38 min/mi 00:09:34
12.0 mi 09:54 min/mi 00:09:51
13.0 mi 09:54 min/mi 00:09:50
13.3 mi 09:09 min/mi 00:02:57

The support on the course was fab.  My mum was on the bridge at the start and the end, another friend was halfway and I heard my daughter loudly cheering everyone on from her water station long before I saw her!

My daughter, one of the fab volunteers

My daughter, one of the fab volunteers

Paul popped up several times around the course and at 10 miles remembered I’d left jelly babies with him and helped me and several other runners on with them.

The last mile and a half were really hard especially after seeing a bloke stretchered off in a bad way as I turned into the park.   As I turned into Victoria Park I felt my hip go, but managed to grit my teeth for the last half a mile.

In the final straight on the track I heard my mate Laura screaming for me and managed a bit of a sprint and to finish with my arms aloft.

Crossing the line

Crossing the line

I was over the moon with my chip time of 2:13:30.  A pb for the course and much faster than anticipated.

With my medal

With my medal

I managed to get a post race massage from  physio station and Paul and my son got last minute places in the LiveWire mile.

LiveWire milers

LiveWire milers

I could barely walk by the evening, but still had a smile on my face from a race well run.

Great organisation and a great spirit all through the race.  Thanks to all the organisers and volunteers.

While I was training for the half, we found out that the daughter of one of the managers at work was suffering from a brain tumour and needed treatment in the USA.  As we were running for LiveWire we decided to raise money for the fund set up to support her and her family “Erin Grace Whatever it Takes”.  I’ve been amazed by people’s generosity and so far I’ve raised nearly £150.


This week started well with a 5 miler along the banks of the Mersey.


The Mersey looking lovely. Am I still in Warrington?


Ah yes, still in Warrington.

Thursday saw 9 fast intervals in the gym and 4.5 miles covered before work while youngest swam.

On Saturday I completed a Parkrun in just over 30 minutes.

On Sunday I set out for my long run.  My son came with me on his bike this week and we took the route up Sankey Valley Park to Newton.   In the first mile I tripped over some abandoned wire and immediately felt my hip tense.   I seemed to run it off, but by 6 miles my hip was hurting.   Made it home and ran all the way, but in lots of pain and hobbling by the evening. 

On Tuesday I decided to try a test run and set out for a 4 miler.  I managed 2 before the pain made me walk. 

I’ve decided to abandon the rest of this week’s runs, stretch and role the injury and hope for rhe best on Sunday.

I’m back!

No idea what week this is now, but the schedule is pretty much out the window anyway.  After my last update I kept up with my midweek runs, but collecting my eldest two from Scout/Guide camp meant I deferred the long run until Tuesday.

Unfortunately life got in the way then and a family crisis meant I only got one run in that week, 3 miles on a treadmill on the Friday.

Then we were off to Cornwall for a lovely holiday.  I did manage two cliff path runs (well run/walks, I don’t do hills!).   On the second week I fell awkwardly and jarred my knee which meant the 11 mile long run I had planned didn’t happen.

Better views than a treadmill!

Better views than a treadmill!


Back in Warrington a cold hard look at the schedule made me realise I don’t have long left and I really had to buck my ideas up.

I ran 4 miles on Tuesday, but set off too fast and set myself back again mentally.   The 3 treadmill miles on Friday were really tough mentally as I never felt I could keep running.

4 miles through the park on Saturday cheered me up, especially as one of the mile split times started with a 9! (9:59 mins per mile, but still sub 10).

Sunday was a beautiful day and after sorting out the garden I set off to run 10 miles.    I chose a route I’ve done before in half marathon training.   It includes the only hill in Warrington,  so I figured if I can get round this I can probably finish the half.  My hubby came with me.  As he’s still injured he rode a bike and really helped me to keep going in the last few really tough miles.

At the top of the hill

So today I’m very proud of myself for completing the 10 miles, just don’t ask me to stand up too quickly.

Week 4

The weather on Sunday was so lovely that we had a family day in the garden and I planned to do my long run early on Monday.  Well, that didn’t happen,  but I did go out at Monday teatime and ran 6.5 horrible, hot,  dry, dull, slow miles.  Still it’s miles in the bank.

The rest of the weeks runs were much better.  Intervals on Wednesday (7 x 400m at 7mph) felt relatively easy and I even managed to extend the last one to get to 3 miles before the treadmill cut out. 

On Friday I ran in the gym again, but ran at 6.2 mph for 20 minutes and 6.3mph for the next 10.  I’m also feeling more flexible. 

Today I did the parkrun again.  Much cooler this week, and pouring with rain,  but I did a PB of 29.28!  Just got to wait for the official result confirmation. 

Week 3

A bit late with the week 3 update. A broken phone means I’ve not had as much web time as usual, but I’m back now with a shiny new Samsung.

Youngest hasn’t been swimming as much recently due to end of Primary School activities and now training is stepping down for the summer, so I’m missing quite a few of my regular run times. Week 3 was a really hot week and I only managed two mid week runs. The first was in the gym (air conditioning won over 27 degrees and full sun). With a bit of stopping and starting to overcome the 30 minute cut off on the treadmills, I ran the 3.5 miles from the schedule in a tiny smidge over 30 minutes.

The second was on Friday and I did run outside in the 28 degree heat and full sun. Got my husband to drop me 3 miles from home and I ran back. It was a hot run, but felt good and I got home in 30 minutes.

On the back of this success I got up on Saturday and did my first ever Parkrun. I even persuaded the two boys to join me. Eldest had a great race. On no training and wearing football trainers he did 23.17 for the 5km. Youngest decided he’s more of a swimmer than a runner and was walking when I caught him up at 3km. I slowed down to coax him round and then he tried to out sprint me for the line! We crossed the line together, but unfortunately the timing equipment broke so we didnt get an official time. I think we came in at around 31:30.

Week 2

Last weeks long run didn’t happen on Sunday, we ended up doing the annual school uniform shop instead, a different sort of challenge, but still wore me out.

I did the 5 mile long run on Monday evening instead.  It was a warm and airless evening and the run felt quite hard work, although it was nice to run along the canal again.

On Tuesday I did a gentle three miles while youngest swam through a lovely country park which is hidden in the middle of Warrington by the Mersey.  Hot and sunny today.

Thursday morning I was up for early morning training and did 3 miles on the treadmill.  The plan said ‘tempo run’ so I warmed up for a mile, then did two at 6.2 mph which is quite fast for me at the moment, but felt OK.  Not sure what I’ll do when early morning training finishes for the summer!

I had great plans to do my first ever park run on Saturday and my eldest was going to join me too, but then I realised my daughter needed taking to a party for 10am and with the best will in the world I couldn’t fit in both.  Now we’re both registered we are definitely going to do next Saturday!

I have managed this week’s long run on the right day though!  I got up early and did 6 miles before 8am.  Very pleased with myself.  My phone, which I use as a stopwatch, has completely broken so I had to use my wrist watch for timing (not ideal as it doesn’t have minutes marked) and a slightly modified route as I needed to drop some keys off with a friend, but it meant I didn’t stress too much about time/distance.  Still very muggy and airless weather, but at least I won’t have to run in the midday sun now.