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The Royal College of Music (RCM) is an institution over 100 years old, with royal patronage ever since its founding in 1882, first by the Prince of Wales (later, Edward VII) and now currently by Queen Elizabeth II. Prince Charles has been the president of the Royal College of Music since 1993.
So, given the College’s own high connections, does it underwrite its students in the same fashion? Studnets certainly benefit from facilities that are the envy of contemporaries, from a location in the heart of London’s South Kensington, to being taught by teachers at the very top of their game.
With around 650 students from over 50 countries, this cosmopolitan conservatoire lives up to its reputation as one of the world’s finest. The College offers three undergraduate programmes: a four year BMus undergraduate degree, BSc in Physics with Studies in Musical Performance (taught in collaboration with Imperial College London, next door) and a BMus Conversion Programme. They also offer a range of various Masters and Doctoral programmes. The Royal College of Music’s prestige is echoed in the calibre of its alumni: Benjamin Britten, Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams all passed through its hallowed halls.
The Royal College of Music has, for musicians, a truly fantastic location: it’s just across the road from the Royal Albert Hall. Yikes. And if being just yards away from a 5,000+ seat concert venue isn’t enough, the college has its own 400-seat Britten Theatre, used for opera, ballet, music and theatre performance. There is also a 150-seat recital hall, plus three smaller recital rooms. Its piece de resistance isthe450-seat, barrel-vaulted Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall, designed by Sir Arthur Bromfield.
Sir Arthur Bromfield is also responsible for the Royal College of Music’s world-famous façade; think St. Pancras, but symmetric. The astonishing building hosts all of the College’s eight academic faculties: Brass, Composition, Historical Performance, Keyboard, Percussion, String, Vocal, and Woodwind. It is also home to the College library, digital recording studios, and the fascinating Museum of Instruments.
The Royal College of Music’s location puts it slap bang in the middle of a coterie of significant cultural institutions. Occupying a prime position just off Exhibition Road on Prince Consort Road in South Kensington, the College is adjacent to Imperial College and five minutes’ walk from the Science, Natural History, and V&A museums. Being London, there’s quite a lot on offer elsewhere too. And being London, there’s plenty of public transport to get you there.
The Royal College of Music has a single hall of residence, College Hall, located in Shepherd’s Bush. College Hall is only a short bus or tube ride away from the College and houses 169 students in either large single, standard single or shared double rooms. Facilities include a laundry room, IT rooms and self-catering kitchens, and, most important of all, 22 practice rooms open 24 hours per day. Weekly rates at the College Hall range from £80 to £145, including bills.
Next to the Royal College of Music is the independently owned Queen Alexandra’s House. With 100 rooms available, this accommodation is catered and women-only. A separate application for a room at the Queen Alexandra’s House is necessary, as they have their own selection criteria. Rent amounts to around £2,500 per 12 week term.
Tuition fees for the 2012-13 academic year are to be set at £9,000 for all BMus and BSc programmes.
The Royal College of Music reckons you should expect to find living costs approaching (at least) £9,000 per year, and that’s on top of tuition fees. They also advise that for most students to live to their ideas of comfort, significantly more may well be needed. Regardless, this is London so everything from groceries to rent, and especially nights out, will be expensive.
Private rents (necessary for most students) can be had for £95-£130p/w so they say. Budgeting will be essential, and handily the College provides an estimated breakdown of a year’s expenses.
The Royal College of Music claims that “the most talented students have all their fees covered by scholarships and almost half of the RCM students receive some financial support from the College.” What do they have on offer, then?
Auditioning is part and parcel of the application procedure for every potential RCM student and every candidate is considered for a College Scholarship based on their audition. The Scholarship may be for anything up to the cost of a full three years’ tuition. Furthermore, the College also has four scholarships to offer on behalf of the National Scholarship Programme. These will be available for those students studying the BMus and will amount to £3,000 a year.
External organisations worth applying to for undergraduate and postgraduate funding include: the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Philharmonia Orchestra/Martin Musical Scholarship Fund, the Countess of Munster Trust, the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund, and local charitable organisations. See here for possible private funding sources.
The College also has an emergency Access to Learning Fund and Mid Term Study Support Grants if need for further financial assistance arises.
In London, the variety is endless. For those nights when you aren’t performing to the Royal College of Music’s packed venues, there is quite a lot happening elsewhere.
For instance, you could be watching your fellow students in similar events; there are more than 32,000 live music performances per year in and around London and nearly 7,000 of these are free.
Locally, Kensington is renowned for its exclusive bars and A-list clubs. Pints, or more likely cocktails, will cost a pretty penny or two. Elsewhere, there are boozers galore south and east of the river. There are superclubs in the O2 Arena, in Faringdon (Fabric), and Elephant and Castle (Ministry of Sound). There are also Shoreditchy bars in, well, Shoreditch, and the odd cheap student night at various London nightclubs.
There’s a reasonably light offering when it comes to sports and societies at the Royal College of Music. There is a college football team (combined staff and students), which plays other London-based music colleges. Students also have access to Imperial College’s indoor swimming pool and gym.
Like any active student union, the Royal College of Music’s Student Association is pretty adept at arranging parties and tours. They run the Royal College of Music’s student bar, BaRCM, too. If you’re looking thrills off-campus, they are also a sure hand at helping you navigate London’s clubs for Freshers’ Week.
The Royal College of Music claims that, “an unparalleled range of artistic and commercial collaborations has been forged to ensure RCM musicians connect effectively – and stay connected.” Let’s see. The Woodhouse Professional Development Centre runs workshops, seminars and lectures on the issues facing professional musicians. The renowned organisation offers the full range of Careers Service programmes such as CV workshops, practice interviews, and networking events.
Most important, though, are the performance opportunities on offer throughout your study: with a series of world-famous performers, conductors and composers regularly passing through the Royal College of Music’s doors, performance opportunities are in abundance.