Leading the World

In 2018, for the third year in a row, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland was recognised as one of the world’s top 10 performing arts education institutions by the prestigious QS World University Rankings.

Linda Innes explores what makes RCS rank so highly amongst the world’s conservatoires and what this international ranking means to students and staff here now.

It was in the middle of Beast from the East, the worst snow storm to hit Scotland for decades, that the QS World University Rankings were announced, cementing the Royal Conservatoire’s position as one of the world’s top 10 conservatoires and performing arts institutions for the third year in a row. Across the globe, the RCS social network lit up. 

“Wonderful news. So proud to work with you” @ClanMhuirich

“C’Maaaan!!!” @JackLowden

“Wow! Simply wow… and huge congratulations to all concerned!” @SarahSe

This new world ranking placed RCS fifth for performing arts education, putting it in the good company of The Juilliard School, University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, and the Paris Conservatoire. “It’s a tremendous achievement,” says Principal Jeffrey Sharkey. “It is to the credit of our students, staff and Board of Governors – they are all responsible for ensuring that Scotland’s contribution to performing arts education is recognised across the globe.” This global recognition cannot be underestimated – the QS World Rankings are universally respected and the No. 1 ranking source for prospective students (Hobsons International Student Survey, 2017).

So what is it that makes RCS stand out on the world’s stage as a leader in performing arts education?

Head of Research, Professor Stephen Broad, believes it is a mix of the institution’s reputation amongst academic peers, as well as its excellence in performing arts research.

No.1 in Scotland

for graduate employability (HESA 2016/17)


applications from 63 nations

2/3 of research

recognised as internationally excellent and world leading

“The methodology behind these rankings means it is our peers in conservatoires and universities across the globe who are citing institutions they know to be leading the field with world-class output,” Stephen explains. “This is one of the only institutions in the world to offer all of the performing arts within the one campus, and the cross-collaborative curriculum that is so distinctive to RCS makes us a world leader in our academic practice. “Also, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) results in 2014 certainly put RCS on the map. 67% of our research was judged to be internationally excellent and world-leading. Suddenly, people began to look towards our conservatoire to see what we are doing next.” Following the first-ever QS World Rankings in Performing Arts Education publication in 2016, RCS saw an impact on application numbers almost immediately. The upwards trend has continued; the number of students applying to study at RCS since 2015 has risen by 22% – with an almost 50% spike in applications from international students, and a 42% rise in EU applications since 2015. For Assistant Principal, Dr Lois Fitch, the reputation of RCS has no doubt helped establish its position on the global landscape and further enriches the student experience. “RCS is both a national and an international conservatoire and these two remits quite comfortably co-exist,” says Lois. “Being recognised as one of the best places to study the performing arts gives huge visibility on the international landscape and we can easily see how this has impacted application numbers. “Our international reputation has meant students of more than 60 nationalities are choosing to study here, and more and more fellow institutions and professional companies are coming to us as a potential partner. Not only does this create a richly diverse and exciting learning environment but it also enables us to create even more opportunities for our students and staff, to ensure we sustain this high level of excellence across all we do.”

22% rise

in EU applications to RCS (source UCAS)


students in 2018

50% rise

in International applications since 2015

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