Modernizing European Higher Music Education Through Improvisation

Institutions: Glasgow

Glasgow: Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

We have been teaching the performing arts in Glasgow since 1847. Building on our roots as a national academy of music, we have grown over the past 170 years to be one of the most interdisciplinary and collaborative institutions in the world and are consistently ranked within the world’s top 10 performing arts institutions (QS World Rankings, 2016, 2017, 2018).

The Royal Conservatoire started life as the Glasgow Athenaeum in 1847, which aimed to “provide a source of mental cultivation, moral improvement and delightful recreation to all classes.” The Athenaeum was formally opened by Charles Dickens, who delivered the inaugural address at the first ‘soiree’.

For the first 39 years, the Athenaeum only offered music classes, and, in 1886, drama was introduced to the curriculum. It was from the Athenaeum’s School of Music that the Scottish National Academy of Music was formed in 1929. This grew in prestige and, by 1944, its international standing was recognised by King George VI, who approved that the prefix ‘Royal’ be added to the Academy’s title, making it the ‘Royal Scottish Academy of Music’. At that time, the then Queen Elizabeth graciously assumed the role of Patron, a role in which she continued as Queen Mother until her death in 2002.

These exciting developments were not confined to music. In 1950 the Glasgow College of Dramatic Art was created with the aim of training actors and directors for the professional theatre. Soon after, the college’s curriculum expanded to include technical courses and, in collaboration with the University of Glasgow, diploma courses with a strong academic element. In 1962, the college opened the first television studio to be located within a UK drama school – evidence of the pioneering spirit still apparent in our institution today. The title of Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama was approved in 1968, which reflected the happy union of music and drama in a single Academy, dedicated to excellence across the spectrum of the performing arts.

Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, the Academy continued to develop its programme provision and enhance its international reputation. The first degree courses were introduced, validated by the University of Glasgow. Then in 1993/94 the Academy became the only UK conservatoire to be awarded its own degree-awarding powers by the Privy Council. New undergraduate and postgraduate programmes were also added, meeting new and future needs. We recruited our first research students in 2000/1: another key milestone, particularly because of our radical practice-based approach to research.

In 2011 the institution became the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – a name change which signified our national status and our growing curriculum, with degrees now offered across the whole performing arts. This established the Royal Conservatoire’s place as a world-leading conservatoire, with a new collaborative curriculum across music, drama, dance, production and film.


Royal Conservatoire of Scotland