The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Conservatoire Rìoghail na h-Alba), formerly the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (Scottish Gaelic: Acadamaidh Rìoghail Ciùil is Dràma na h-Alba[2]) is a conservatoire of dance, drama, music, production, and film in Glasgow, Scotland.[3] It is a member of the Federation of Drama Schools.[4]

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Scottish Gaelic: Conservatoire Rìoghail na h-Alba
The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Former name
Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama
Established1993 – granted degree-awarding powers
1847 – Glasgow Athenaeum
PresidentNicola Benedetti (Honorary)
PrincipalJeffrey Sharkey
PatronCharles III
Students1,220 (2019/20)[1]
Undergraduates900 (2019/20)[1]
Postgraduates320 (2019/20)[1]

Founded in 1847, it has become the busiest performing arts venue in Scotland with over 500 public performances each year. The current principal is American pianist and composer Jeffrey Sharkey. The patron is King Charles III.


The Royal Conservatoire has occupied its current purpose-built building on Renfrew Street in Glasgow since 1988. Its roots lie in several organisations. Officially founded in 1847 by Moses Provan[5] as part of the Glasgow Athenaeum, from an earlier Educational Association grouping, music and arts were provided alongside courses in commercial skills, literature, languages, sciences and mathematics. Courses were open and affordable, including day classes for ladies, and the Athenaeum had a reading room, news room, library and social facilities. Apprentices could also be members. Rented accommodation was found in the Assembly Rooms, Ingram Street, with major lectures taking place in the City Halls. The chairman at its inaugural Grand Soiree in the City Halls in December 1847 was Charles Dickens when in his opening remarks he stated that he regarded the Glasgow Athenaeum as "an educational example and encouragement to the rest of Scotland". Its Dramatic Club was formed in 1886 a year before the institution moved to purpose-built premises, inclusive of a major concert hall/theatre, in St George's Place close to West Nile Street, designed by architect John Burnet.[6]

In 1888, the commercial teaching separated to form the Athenaeum Commercial College, which, after several rebrandings and a merger, became the University of Strathclyde in 1964. The non-commercial teaching side became the Glasgow Athenaeum School of Music.

In 1893 additional premises linked through to Buchanan Street and included a new Athenaeum Theatre facing Buchanan Street designed by architect Sir John James Burnet. In 1928 the premises were substantially extended with a gift from the philanthropist Daniel Macaulay Stevenson. In 1929 the school was renamed as the Scottish National Academy of Music to better reflect its scope and purpose.[7] This major acquisition of space at the corner of St George's Place (later renamed Nelson Mandela Place) and Buchanan Street was the Liberal Club (now not required by that party), designed originally by architect Alexander Skirving and remodelled by architects Campbell Douglas and Paterson in 1907.[6][8]

Its principal from 1929 to 1941 was William Gillies Whittaker. In 1944, it became the Royal Scottish Academy of Music.

The Royal Scottish Academy of Music established a drama department called the Glasgow College of Dramatic Art during 1950. It became the first British drama school to contain a full, broadcast-specification television studio in 1962. In 1968 the Royal Scottish Academy of Music changed its name to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) and introduced its first degree courses, which were validated by the University of Glasgow.

During 1987–88 the academy moved to its present site some two hundred yards north in Renfrew Street at Hope Street, across from the Theatre Royal, the new building having been designed by architect Sir Leslie Martin with executive architects William Nimmo and Partners.[6][8]

In 1993 RSAMD became the first conservatoire in the United Kingdom to be granted its own degree-awarding powers. Research degrees undertaken at RCS are validated and awarded by the University of St Andrews.[9] RCS is one of four member conservatories of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.

Incorporation of full title

From 1 September 2011, the RSAMD deferred to its full title The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The name has deep roots and the change was confirmed after a long consultation process that involved the principal John Wallace and the academy's board of directors, as well as past and present students and staff, arts & academic institutions, politicians, and the Royal Protocol Unit.[10][11]

The principal said the change was necessary as it was no longer simply a music and drama academy. Undergraduate courses in areas such as Digital Film & Television, Production Arts and Design, Production Technology and Management, Musical Theatre and Modern Ballet (in partnership with Scottish Ballet) have been added to the degrees the Royal Conservatoire offers. He felt it was best to choose a name that was representative of all disciplines offered.[12]

International ranking

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland has been consistently ranked among the best schools in the world in Quacquarelli Symonds (QS)'s Performing Arts ranking since the latter was established in 2016. The Conservatoire has been in the top 10 five out of six years, reaching 3rd place in 2017[13] and 2021.[14] In 2022, RCS ranked fifth in the world for Performing Arts Education. [15]


The Whittaker Library is housed in the Renfrew Street campus. It contains one of the largest collections of sheet music, scripts and other performing items in both the United Kingdom and the world.[16]

In 2010, RCS opened its second campus near Cowcaddens, now known as the "Wallace Studios at Speirs Locks".[17] This building was designed by Malcolm Fraser. It opened predominantly to house the Modern Ballet and Production courses, as the Renfrew Street campus was struggling to accommodate the combination of new courses and higher intake levels. In 2014, a £2 million extension to this second campus was built, creating even more rehearsal spaces and improved facilities for the students.



See also


  1. ^ a b c "Where do HE students study?". Higher Education Statistics Agency. Retrieved 1 March 2020.
  2. ^ "Acadamaidh Rìoghail Ciùil is Dràma na h-Alba - Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama". Am Faclair Beag. Cairnwater Consulting and Akerbeltz. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  3. ^ "QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017 – Performing Arts". Top Universities. QS Quacquarelli Symonds. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
  4. ^ Granger, Rachel. "Rapid Scoping Study on Leicester Drama School" (PDF). De Montfort University Leicester. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  5. ^ Smith, John Guthrie (1886). The Parish of Strathblane. Glasgow University. p. 38.
  6. ^ a b c Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, 150th Celebration, by Grace Matchett and Frank Spedding, published in 1997
  7. ^ "Extension of premises". The Glasgow Herald. 9 June 1928. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
  8. ^ a b "The Athenaeum, St George's Place (renamed Nelson Mandela Place) off Buchanan Street, Glasgow". Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  9. ^ "Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – University of St Andrews". Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  10. ^ "New name for RSAMD arts academy". 31 August 2011 – via
  11. ^ "Universities Scotland member RSAMD becomes Royal Conservatoire of Scotland". Universities Scotland. 1 September 2011.
  12. ^ Tumelty, Michael (4 July 2011). "Change the academy's name, but not its soul". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
  13. ^ "Performing Arts". Top Universities. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  14. ^ "QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021: Performing Arts". Top Universities. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  15. ^ "World top 5 for performing arts education in QS World University Rankings 2022". Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
  16. ^ "The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Chooses Koha". PTFS Europe. Retrieved 12 January 2023.
  17. ^ "Speirs Locks Studios". Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  18. ^ "Jeffrey Sharkey". Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Retrieved 12 December 2023.
  19. ^ "John Wallace". Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Retrieved 12 December 2023.
  20. ^ "Kenneth Barritt". Herald Scotland. 21 May 1997. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  21. ^ "Death of former principal of scots music academy". Herald Scotland. 14 June 1989. Retrieved 9 October 2019.

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