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National Institute of Dramatic Art

The National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) is Australia’s leading centre for education and training in the performing arts. Founded in 1958, NIDA uses a conservatoire model, where students learn through practical experience, working on real productions. NIDA offers Bachelor’s, Master’s and Vocational degrees in subjects including acting, writing, directing, scenic construction, technical theatre, voice, costume, props, production design and cultural leadership.

National Institute of
Dramatic Art
Established1958; 61 years ago (1958)
Location, ,
Australia (Map)

33°54′57″S 151°13′31″E / 33.9158°S 151.2252°E / -33.9158; 151.2252Coordinates: 33°54′57″S 151°13′31″E / 33.9158°S 151.2252°E / -33.9158; 151.2252
National Insititute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) logo.jpg

NIDA also delivers short courses to thousands of students every year across Australia and internationally. The NIDA Open program is Australia’s largest non-profit, performing arts short course program.

In 2018, NIDA was ranked as the 10th best drama school in the world by The Hollywood Reporter[1] and in the Top 5 Undergraduate Schools for an Acting Degree in 2019.

NIDA's main campus is based in the Sydney suburb of Kensington, located adjacent to the University of New South Wales (UNSW), and is made up of a range of rehearsal and performance venues.

NIDA receives funding from the Australian Government through the Ministry for the Arts, Department of Communications and the Arts, and is a member of the "Australian Roundtable for Arts Training Excellence (Arts8)," [2] an initiative between the national performing arts training organisations and the Australian Government providing training for emerging artists.


National Institute of Dramatic Art theatre
The National Institute of Dramatic Art complex with interior neon lights

NIDA was founded in 1958 as the first professional theatre training school in Australia. The idea of a national theatre training school was initiated by the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust (AETT) in the mid-1950s. With the support of the then Vice-Chancellor (later Sir) Philip Baxter, NIDA was established in the grounds of the University of New South Wales.  Robert Quentin, later Professor of Drama at UNSW, was appointed the inaugural Director.

Teaching began in 1959 and in 1960, the first 23 students graduated with a Diploma in Acting; today, NIDA welcomes over 200 full-time students to the Kensington campus, more than 12,500 NIDA Open participants from across Australia take part in part-time and short classes, and 2,900 clients attend NIDA Corporate’s training for professionals each year.

NIDA has always been more than just an acting school. From 1961 it offered both acting and production streams, and in the early 1970s design, technical production and directing streams were introduced. In 1991 NIDA expanded into the study of theatrical crafts – costume, properties, scenery and staging - and over the 2000s developed post-graduate courses in voice, movement studies, production management and playwriting. The current courses in six undergraduate, five post-graduate and four vocational diploma disciplines reflect NIDA’s ongoing responsiveness to industry demands.[3]


Entry to NIDA's Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Fine Arts and Vocational courses is competitive, with more than 1,500 applicants from around the country competing for an annual offering of approximately 185 places across the six undergraduate, five post-graduate and four vocational diploma disciplines.

NIDA's Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting is particularly competitive, with approximately 1,000 applicants per year attempting to secure one of 24 spots in the program.


NIDA is located on Anzac Parade in the Sydney suburb of Kensington, across the road from the University of New South Wales. The campus was first opened in 1987, followed by additional buildings opened in 2001, which were awarded the 2002 Sir John Sulman Medal for public architecture.


The NIDA campus has six professional performance venues[4] , in addition to studios and rehearsal rooms. As the largest of the performance venues at NIDA, the Parade Theatre offers seating for audiences of up to 709 people in its three-tiered, horseshoe-shaped auditorium. The Playhouse is a 155-seat amphitheatre, designed for more intimate productions. NIDA has three smaller black box theatres – the Space, the Studio Theatre and the Reg Grundy Studio – that are frequently adapted to suit different production needs.


The Rodney Seaborn Library is a specialist library for NIDA students, graduates and staff and is also open to the general public by appointment. Created in 1980.

The NIDA Archives collects, organises and preserves archival records created by or relating to NIDA.

Other facilitiesEdit

The NIDA campus includes rehearsal rooms, multi-media and computer-aided design (CAD) studios, a sound stage, a lighting studio, production workshops, audio-visual facilities, and the Reg Grundy Studio film and television training and production facility.


Graduates from the National Institute of Dramatic Art include:





Scenic ConstructionEdit


Conservatoire ModelEdit

Industry engagement and collaborative student learning are core part of NIDA courses. NIDA utilises a conservatoire model, where students learn by practical application through in-house productions and working with professional companies on short-term placements. In addition to classwork, students will work on multiple practical projects during their time at NIDA, ranging from full theatrical productions to short films. Depending on the program, students may also undertake interstate and international trips as part of the learning process.

Short CoursesEdit

NIDA delivers hundreds of short courses every year across Australia and internationally through NIDA Open and NIDA Corporate.

NIDA OpenEdit

NIDA Open is Australia’s largest non-profit, performing arts short course program. In 2018, more than 15,000 students attended NIDA Open courses in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra, Darwin and other locations. NIDA Open offers courses for children and young people from preschool through Grade 12, as well as adult courses, in acting, comedy, costumes, props, make-up, design, directing, filmmaking, musical theatre, physical theatre and movement, presenting, technical theatre, stage management, voice and writing.

NIDA CorporateEdit

NIDA Corporate offers practical skills-based training in professional communication, presentation and leadership for individuals and businesses in the public and private sectors. NIDA tutors specialise in theatre and performance education and draw on that expertise to deliver high-quality training for professionals across a range of industries. Tutors include voice specialists, movement and body language practitioners, film and theatre directors, actors and television presenters. In 2018, more than 9,000 participants attended NIDA Corporate training.


In 2012, former NIDA board member and Liberal senator Chris Puplick, who had served on the board from 1994 to 2000[5] and 2007 to 2010,[6] wrote an essay titled "Changing Times at NIDA" which was published in the October issue of the publication Platform Papers. In the essay, Puplick criticised the teaching standards of the school and its director and chief executive, Lynne Williams, stating that she has had no significant experience in theatre to head the school and that her style was "Thatcherite".[7] Soon after Puplick's statements were reported, chairman of NIDA's board, Malcolm Long, and Lynne Williams replied back to the comments, with Long stating that Williams had the complete support of the board and described Puplick as "an apparently disaffected former board member." Williams had defended herself stating her management style was not "Thatcherite". Long also mentioned that amongst Williams' supporters were Cate Blanchett and Ralph Myers.[8] Supporting Puplick were actor, director and a graduate of the school Jeremy Sims, who had launched the essay,[9] and Kevin Jackson, who had taught acting at the school for 27 years.[8]


  1. ^ "The Old Globe and University of San Diego - The 25 Best Drama Schools for an Acting Degree, Ranked". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  2. ^ Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (15 September 2008). "Arts training bodies". Archived from the original on 21 August 2008. Retrieved 3 October 2008. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ " History".
  4. ^
  5. ^ Taylor, Andrew (19 September 2012). "New drama playing in the wings". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  6. ^ Eltham, Ben (21 September 2012). "NIDA dramatics ignore play on arts education". Crikey. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  7. ^ Taylor, Andrew (17 September 2012). "Drama at NIDA: former board member slams falling standards". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  8. ^ a b Taylor, Andrew (19 September 2012). "Act II of NIDA drama as bosses hit back". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
  9. ^ "The NIDA controversy". Radio National. 31 October 2012. Retrieved 5 January 2017.

External linksEdit