The Northern School of Contemporary Dance is to become affiliated to the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama. The school is regarded as the leading contemporary dance school outside London and teaches degrees and diplomas accredited by the University of Leeds.
The conservatoire is an initiative financed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, launched in 2000 when the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the London Contemporary Dance School became founding affiliate schools. Bristol's Old Vic Theatre School is also in the process of joining.
The conservatoire is seen as an effective solution to the long-term crisis in performance arts funding. Affiliate colleges have to demonstrate excellence in teaching and employability.
Drama and dance schools have been relying on the government's Dance Drama Awards but the scheme has had many critics, including Peter Cheeseman, CBE, chair of the National Council for Drama Training. The awards were scholarship-based and given to the very best students.
Conservatoire funding ensures that all UK and European Union students have their fees paid, whatever their circumstances.
There is a fear that the schools will lose their autonomy. Many aspects of actor training cannot be measured or quantified, but Rada and the LCDS have found little change in their curricula. "Our existing courses have been validated by King's College London," said Rada's principal Nicholas Barter.
"We've been running a King's College MA for ten years."
In the long term, the conservatoire envisages having 1,000 students (it currently has 600). To achieve this growth it hopes to include three more small affiliated institutions.