Dance and drama schools' intakes are up to 50 per cent below target because students cannot afford to take up places, ministers have been told.
The failure of an interim support scheme for dance and drama students at private schools is to blame for the recruitment crisis, says the National Campaign for the Arts.
The scheme was introduced this year, backed by lottery money, to subsidise tuition fees for students accepted on approved dance and drama courses.
Cash to help cover up to half of fees is released by the Arts Council for England once a student has accumulated at least Pounds 1,250 from local authority discretionary grants and other sources. It was launched as a temporary measure to help students over the next two years while the government considered longer-term Dearing committee recommendations.
But a survey by the NCA found that nearly 40 per cent of English local authorities are not providing grants for students of dance, drama and stage management.
Almost three-quarters of authorities in the North and almost two thirds in the North- west were giving no grants. Some had not even heard of the interim scheme.
Another survey by the Council of Dance Education and Training and the National Council of Drama Training showed that half of places offered to drama students and one-third of places allocated to dance students were unfilled due to the lack of local authority support.
Jennifer Edwards, ACE director, has written to Baroness Blackstone, the higher education minister, calling for the creation of a hardship fund to help bridge the support gap.
She said the wide regional variations in levels of local authority support meant dance and drama students in some parts of the country were at a significant disadvantage.