Reasons Why Performers Don’t Refer To Their Vocational Training As University

Over my last three years of training, I have found one question very tricky to answer…

“What do you do?”

Okay, the first part is simple to answer. “I’m a student.”

But then comes the dreaded part…

“What do you study?”

Yeesh, right okay – Now you have 3 options.

Option 1 – “I’m at a vocational” – Do non stagey folk even know what that means??

Option 2 – “I go to a dance college” – Does that make you sound like you can’t do anything else so dance is the easy option?

Option 3 – “I do dance at uni.” Which is naturally followed by “oh cool what university do you go to?” Which you just know after you’ve told them, you will receive a blank look accompanied by a fake nod of recognition, even though you know they don’t have a clue where you’re talking about.

Also, we performers have pride in what we do, it is bloody hard work – calling it university gives totally the wrong impression – they will suddenly picture the scenes of Fame and High School Musical and imagine that you spend your days skipping about merrily in a studio… just… no. So here are a few reasons why performers prefer not to use the university reference.

Time Schedule:

University – Usually consists of about 8 hours of lectures and seminars a week. Lectures are basically another, more uncomfortable place to sleep than the bed you have just dragged yourself from.

Vocational – 8 hours a week?!? To us, this is unthinkable – try 8 hours a day of strenuous activity, where blood, sweat and tears are shed on a daily basis and are basically mandatory


Work Load:

University – I know, it’s hard. I don’t dispute the yuckiness of end of year exams, constant essays and a 10,000+ word dissertation to finish it all off.

Vocational – I don’t dispute it because at vocational you do it all too (along with termly assessments where the marks are basically subjective) but instead of leisurely taking time to do it on your days off from uni, it all has to be done at 8 o’clock in the evening when you’ve been slogging your guts out all day and want nothing more than a long hot bath to sooth your aching muscles and to curl up in the safety of your duvet – where nobody can tell you you’re doing it wrong.

tired dancer

Social Life:

University – Uni is basically, one big party. You enjoy cheap student nights out several times during one week – even if you have a lecture the next day – it’s okay to sleep through it.

Vocational – Social life? Sorry, whats that? Not only is it impossible and deadly to go out midweek (try and pirouette in your 9am ballet class on a hangover and you’ll be on your arse before you can say tequila), but by the time the weekend comes around you are a) too tired or b) working, because its the only time you can. However, if you do manage to bite the bullet and drink past the tiredness, you can say bye to the little money you have, student deals don’t exist on the weekend.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 23.39.58


University – “Oooh, Criminology? They must be super smart…”

Vocational – “Oh right, they do dance do they? They must not be able to have done anything else. It can’t be that hard to prance about in a studio all day.” UHEMM… My sopping wet leotard says otherwise.


Reading all of that you think, then why the hell did you decide to do that instead of university? Crazy fools. Believe me, I have asked myself that question several times and have come to one conclusion. Yes. We are all mad. And I mean, clinically insane!! We all believe that this thing called performing is in our blood, we are under some mad impression that it is ingrained in our DNA and there is some outer force telling us we HAVE to do it! But, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Daisy x

P.s I’m adding a disclaimer to this as it seems that some people are getting the wrong idea about the article’s intention. It is, by no means, written to belittle/diminish/undermine university students AT ALL, it is merely a piece of entertaining writing, tailored to a specific audience and to share the experience with everybody. I don’t wish to offend anybody and I hope it can be read and differences of opinion can be appreciated. 🙂

29 thoughts on “Reasons Why Performers Don’t Refer To Their Vocational Training As University

  1. Nauseating piece of writing, all courses are different, and you choose what you do, so stop comparing it to tell us how great you are. This is coming from someone with a medical degree who couldn’t write essays until the early hours of the day due to being in a life saving theatre all night.
    I hope

    Liked by 2 people

    • The two subjects are very different, to say the least. I appreciate your input (and highly respect your profession and the years of work it must have taken). Obviously upon writing I was prepared, and expecting, opinions such as your own on the subject matter. Thank you for taking the time and effort to read and comment, however I would appreciate something a little more constructive next time – I am always looking to improve my writing.


      • I appreciate your effort in trying to write an article that compares the two courses, but to do so you need to have had experience in both courses, both vocational and university. I go to university but train over 5 hours a day in contemporary dance. Get your facts straight because this is truly embarrassing and pretty offensive to dancers who are now performing for companies that have trained in universities..


      • Though, do you not feel that much applies to yourself in comparison to people participating in other courses? I know that many successful people within the industry came from the likes of roehampton, Chichester etc and am not trying to discredit it at all


    • This is exactly why it’s written because people in other professions class dancing or performing or even teaching dancing as a not a proper job! I have heard it said this week. Because you work in a hospital does not mean your job is any more ‘proper’ or you have work harder to get there! Doctors get told how a,axing their job is and praise upon praise (which I don’t disagree with) performers and teachers get told there job is not a proper job!
      That is the difference and the need for this writing!


    • I am a performer and I love your reply!! Sadly the industry is full of self righteous little twonks who all beleive they are better than “normal” human beings because they have a “talent” which is ironic in today’s industry where talent has completely taken a downward turn! The X factor generation have no grasp of what the industry is because for the most part their deluded teachers at their ridiculously over priced college which is one of the 10 million that have arisen in the past four years, has told them what the industry is, falsely! Because the “teachers” enjoy feeling important!! And then the “agents” of which there are now a trillion, come into college and tell you how hard it is! And they of course glamourise it completely because you silly Gits hold onto every word they say!! Get over yourself your lucky to do what you do! Doctors have a bad day at work someone dies, you have a bad day at work and you forget a step ball change!! Come join the real world, you will one day and dam it’s gonna hit you hard!!!!


  2. I appreciate your motivation to write this, and that dance school is incredibly difficult. But university is flipping hard work! I have 32 contact hours a week, plus an essay with a ridiculous reading list every week. When I’m not in lectures (which you *have* to pay attention in if you want to pass exams) or labs, I am supposed to be making notes on all the recent developments in my field. For my third year exams, I revised for an average of 10h per day from February til June. I had Easter Day and two other Saturdays off revision in that time. I don’t do it because I want to, and I’m not abnormal for working that hard at my university, it’s just what’s expected. And if you don’t, you fail and get kicked out, no second chances. During term time, we all have a social life but at the expense of sleep, so we all spend the whole term completely exhausted the whole time. I’m not saying this to try and prove that it’s harder than what you do, but my advice for your writing is that you don’t need to dominish other people’s hard work to get across your own challenges, or at least know what you’re saying is true first!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. doctor, you’ve missed the point somewhat. she’s written this because the rest of the courses have been comparing themselves to ours and shitting all over performance courses our entire lives (despite the fact they all have a favourite tv show, film and love seeing shows. I wonder if those performers trained.) she did not write it to give herself a pat on the back (not meaning to speak for you daisy), its a defence and its greatly needed by all of us who get treated like were lazy or thick as pig shit daily by everyother profession because were ‘not neccessary’ or ‘do it because we love attention’.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. i enjoyed this article! I am a final year medical student but also studied for a year at a vocational dance school (NSCD,UK) and can safely say my diploma at vocational dance school was in some ways the hardest thing I have ever done and I to struggled telling people where and what I did. I’ve still yet to feel the tiredness in my body I felt on a daily basis at NSCD and still yet to receive so much constructive Criticism it’s constructivity starts to lose its value!

    🙂 keep going performers 🙂 you’re fab

    Liked by 2 people

  5. People choose the course they want to do so doing dance is no reflection on your ability to do anything else, just on your choices. I appreciate it is hard work. What does reflect on your ability is the way you talk as though you know what university life is like while you clearly have no idea. Science, maths, engineering courses all can demand attendance for 35 hours, assignments to be done late into the evening. People who sleep through lectures or don’t attend, usually fail. And bloggers who criticise things they know nothing about merely make themselves look stupid, which I know most dancers are not. What you do learn at uni is that you can’t state something as a fact without a reference to back it up. Where is your reference to back up the 8 hours a week ‘fact’?


    • I appreciate this but this article was merely aimed to be a little tongue in cheek piece about the stereotypical version of uni, not just a scrupulous attack against it. it was not intended to offend (as I mention in the end) – and if you do wish for me to reference a fact of these specific contact hours, I can. Obviously as I haven’t attended a major university myself I have a stereotypical view of it from what my friends have told me, much like people have a stereotypical view of dance courses, which was part of the reason I wrote this blog, maybe someone could do one on the truth about uni.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. My daughter has just finished uni with an engineering degree. Her contact hours were 30+ per week at a top 20 uni. I can assure you it took hard work & commitment from her. Her lectures started at 9am most days & often finished at 4:30-5pm. She then had to spend evenings studying/researching in the library towards exam time often going home at midnight. She did do partying too as her student union is one of the best in UK but at no time did she have to work just 8 hours per week.


  7. Totally agree daisy . I study circus and everyone thinks it’s easy going n fun . 12 hour days say different . Screw the haters all the performers love the article and know where your coming from !


  8. I would just like to say that I feel the need for a disclaimer a sorry state of affairs and although agree totally with why you have added it, should an individual think that this post is belittling (etc) University in any way, then the problem therein lies with the individual and not with the content of the post.

    People chose their own paths for their own reasons and this article illustrates (excellently) the path and the reasons of us performing folks’ choices. That’s it, in a nut shell. Great post

    *Takes Bow*
    [I didn’t do anything but I can’t resist!]


  9. I enjoyed your piece. I fully understand the workload you have as much as I can from an outsiders persecutive as many friends of mine are in training at the moment. Just as a note, many college courses have fewer hours than others, I, however, had a 40 hour week- on a good week. That was just lecture time. I had two assignments minimum a week and quite often a lot more. Trying to fit in exercise was challenging but I’m now doing what I’ve always wanted to do- and I shed blood, sweat and tears to get here!
    All the best in your training- maybe we’ll all see you in stage some day!


  10. I study music and musical theatre at University, and my course is like a weird mix of the two! I have the same lengths of days and work as vocational, on top of a couple of lectures, and the added bonus of not being able to go out ever because I’m in acting classes until late! I feel the pain on both sides! :’) Really enjoyed this x


  11. As a new dance student I really like this article and think that it is very accurate (from the dancing point of view)… I’m not saying that those people who go to uni don’t put in lots of hard work too of course… I have a couple of friends studying engineering who have 30ish contact hours a week, but then I have another friend who studies history and has 10 hours a week… whereas then there’s me who has minimum of 9-11 hour days 6 days a week, without show rehearsals or lectures for the teaching qualifications which I am completing… it is clear that this article isn’t written to say that either uni or dance/vocational students have an ‘easier’ option than the other, it is just to show that those people who choose to follow the performing arts aren’t the typical stereotype of ‘dumb’ and ‘that’s the only thing they can do’ … many people when I’ve met them and said that I am a dance student, they’re reaction is ‘ohh she must not be cleaver enough to have got into uni’ whereas in reality, there is not a university in the country which offered the qualifications I want/need for my job as a dance teacher and a performer.


  12. This blog clearly isn’t a hating on uni courses or to say they work less or to big up what she does and feed an ego.
    Many uni courses have long hours like engineering, sciences etc, many however do have only 8 or so lecture hours , so she is generalising, but it isn’t an unfounded generalisation in the slightest. I went to a drama school I know the hours she put in, and many of my friends went to uni some studying biochemistry ( by no means a easy subject) with long hours, they still had more time free than performers often get in a week when on their courses.
    Uni courses in general have more time free than performing arts courses, and unfortunately there is a preconception when you tell people what course you do, that its just a doss or that it isn’t a proper career choice.
    There wouldn’t be so many performers sharing and agreeing with this article if there wasn’t a lot of truth to what she says. She’s merely stating it out in the open in a very admirable and tongue in cheek way. It isn’t belittling uni courses. Read her disclaimer before you start getting on your high horse and appreciate the point she’s making , which is a very valid one.


  13. I love this and I want to relate but feel I can’t as I’m doing Mt at an actual Uni, however, although they’re not vocational colleges, university’s do performance degree’s which are pretty hard work also. In at 8am for cardio every morning, finishing at 9pm most days, particularly during rehearsal periods! ..and then unfortunately have exam to! the struggle is reeeeal..


  14. My friend starts dance college at 8am and finishes around 7/8pm, sometimes without a lunch break, then goes to the gym (mostly for 2 hours) before doing theory work and prep at home. Then on Friday night travels home (3 hour + journey) so he can teach for 10 hours on Saturday (all lessons needing to be planned in his ‘spare time’) to make enough money to live as there are no student loans available for a diploma course. Then he has Sunday morning to do more theory and prep for the week before travelling back to college for Monday 8am start. I’ve never met any uni students who do these sort of hours consistently throughout their term and if you’ve never taught a dance class you have no idea how tiring teaching 10 hours solid is. It’s ridiculously hard. I don’t know how he copes!!


  15. This article regardless of what background you come from is clever as its highlighting unfortunately the stereotypical view we all have when it comes to education and careers. I myself was not only an A Grade student offered many university places but also came from a theatrical family background and had many dance/ drama college places awarded to me. I have been lucky to have both sides of the education system and since been working professionally teaching and choreographing all over the world but agree with what daisy is saying yet sympathise with the views raised by others. The underlining part of this article is that still in todays world despite us giving everyone the tv/film/theatre escapes from “normal jobs” ( as it’s normally put) which jobs do involve incredible skill, determination and educational studying, the entertainment industry is still seen as a career that doesn’t require any incredible skill, determination and educational studying. The failure in society is that still the arts is vocational and no recognised educationally on the same level and so therefore more often than not branded as just a hobby not a possible “real” career option! There is a big difference for example in the difference of dance taught at university and dance taught at a vocational school. Issue…………. the dance you do at a dance college is actually training people to dance whereas educational dance focusses more on the history, theories and general contemporary movement side. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this dancers should be able to turn there abilities to many styles of dance yet have a main as a focus……. just like programme so you think you can dance are trying to prove! Particularly the above issue was apparent when I went to my uni auditions and had more knowledge of dance than the majority in the room who were intrigued by what a pas de bouree was or even now people taking GCSE dance because it seems like a good fun option to add to the list ( making it seem like it doesn’t actually require any technical ability and anyone can do it!) My peers in my year group were prime examples of this……….. i had to help with choreography as the majority hadn’t taken a dance lesson in their lives or originally did ballet at 5 so was gonna be easy to pick up……….. point taken this was 10 years ago now but even looking at students i teach now….. its still sad to see this more often the case by large.
    Then I can’t count on my hands anymore how many times in my career people have asked me what my real job is, or said thats nice dear or must be nice to prance around for fun. Not only that how even when teaching children parents have had the audacity on many occasion to say – this isn’t a career choice you know, this is just a fun child care option or don’t pay as think its okay to come to class without paying for the training they are getting then getting angry when we ask for it as if its not a worthy subject they are learning? We too have bills to pay as performers/teachers and lets be honest no one walks out of Tesco or Sainsburys without paying for what they take off the shelves so why should an arts subject be any different?
    Truth is hours of training at the barre is like hours of studying how to perform open heart surgery just in a different classroom on a different subject. Now yes one is life saving so you can say has more importance greatly yet the gruelling hours of bleeding feet, corns, possible broken toes, physio, endless pairs of shoes,practicing something repeatedly over and over again, sweat and tears isn’t really any different and certainly doesn’t mean that it should be classed as pointless when compared to another career. The arts contribute to making everyones lives fresh and ripe with colour and give everyone the release and happy time from their day to day jobs. The question really should be what would you do if there was no tv/film, no theatre, no music, no art, no interesting stories to read and watch etc not only that but how it can develop and benefit those with special needs is something else that should really be taken into account!!!! The quicker society realises that the arts enrich lives immensely and are people’s “real jobs” and have much worth the better………… its exactly the same as going to the office except our offices are theatre’s, film sets, art studios. Our work days can often be like a doctors. We continually have to be learning new styles, new techniques, scripts, keeping in shape, auditioning, working a part time job possibly and then perform at night as well as many supporting families and loved ones. Days are normally at least 14 hour days 6 if not 7 days a week. we aren’t moaning about the hard work or the effort we just need the acceptance and recognition that actually what we do, does has a purpose and is significant like other career options. Everything is taken for granted on some level but often performers to get up the ladder have to do work for little or no pay just to be in a room and get a chance to show someone big in the business that they have the talent and ability they are searching for or even just a connection to different network in the hope of being discovered. Not only that the industry has let this become a norm……….. because you are always told from the outset you are replaceable and someone will do it if you aren’t prepared to! I know internships exist earlier in other careers but don’t know many middle aged people not getting paid for what they do in an office, school, livery yard, doctors surgery and so on, It shouldn’t matter if you are an engineer, doctor, shop assistant, box packer, lorry driver…… everyone deserves the right to be recognised for the individual gifts that they can bring to the table including a mutual understanding about how despite the job may have a different skill set / ability required it still is a recognisable skill set and has upmost value to perform said job. I am sure has everyone from every background has a viewpoint on this article Daisy has written…….. the answer is simple though…… despite skill set, intelligence, college, university etc everyone deserves respect for their chosen field as in this world we all need each others skills to make us greater human beings and enable us all to be the best we truly can be…………so break the stereotype!


  16. Rather than me talk about why what you have said IS offensive to people who work hard for their degrees and have to do so to even scrape a pass (people have already noted my thoughts!), I thought I would give some advice as to how to improve your writing.
    I understand why you have written this, but if you want to get your point across you cannot fight fire with fire. By shunning University courses with your stereotypes you are only doing to students what you have had done to yourself. You don’t like it so you’ve written an article, and now you’re doing it to other people…! This means you have completely devalued your point by being hypocritical. This will alienate your readers who may have enjoyed your blog posts otherwise.
    Just a thought.


  17. Ok – the thing is this: it’s possible to write about your OWN course without dragging other people’s. I wasn’t offended by this, but parts of it are just….inaccurate. Sleep through lectures? If I slept through a single lecture there’s no chance I’d be able to get a first class degree. The thing about uni is that some people don’t take it seriously and do it the way you described – going out partying during the week, dozing through lectures – but a lot of us are up reading what are essentially PhD level books and writing essays until 2am, missing important events to get work done.
    Thing is, your aim with this article was to show how performing degrees (which I toally don’t disrespect – I was really close to applying to CSSD and Rose Bruford) are AS GOOD as others, but you’ve just written a whole article on how they require LOADS MORE WORK. Which is just innacurate. I see where you’re coming from but this it completely belittling others instead of empowering yourself.


  18. I take football studies and can really appreciate how frustrating it can be when someone belittles my subject which quite frankly is as hard as any course Oxford or Cambridge have to offer. Furthermore, I feel that subjects like dance and football studies makes an equally (if not more!) valuable contribution to society than other subjects like medicine.


  19. Daisy… I demand you remove your disclaimer IMMEDIATELY. The irony of people taking offence at what you’ve written is just too amusing. By pandering to them, you’re just spoiling the fun. All of us who have trained as performers (dance in my case), know exactly what it feels like to have ‘University’ types turn their noses up at us. Until they have experienced that for themselves, they should move along and take their negativity with them.

    Other professions reward hard work with job stability, advancement and financial security. These words are alien to us performers. In 10 years of working in London’s West End, I have never had a ‘promotion’ or a ‘pay rise’. In fact I’ve never been paid more than the Equity minimum wage. That just about covers the extortionate rent on my studio flat, that I HAVE to live in to be where the work is. And between dance jobs, I’m a waitress… the bills have to be paid. Actually, the bills often don’t get paid, it’s the lottery of who sends the nastiest letter!

    At 34 I often wonder if it’s all been worth it. In other professions, age and experience are valued and, with age, I too feel I have the most to give. But the work is getting harder to find not easier, I’m fighting to stay off the scrap heap when I’m still young!

    The average ‘professional’ gets rewarded because society values what they do. A consultant doctor works 70, 80, 90+ hours a week. It’s tough! But earning £70,000-90,000 a year, they know that come retirement day, they will reap the rewards. I do something that demands just as much skill, just as much passion, just as much commitment, yet I will get the state pension and nothing else. And why? Because society does not value what I do.

    I started training to be a dancer at the age of 4 and it didn’t stop until I was 20. There is no big financial reward for all those years of study, and that’s fine, it’s a VOCATION, it’s not just a ‘job’ to me. And that’s what sets performers apart. We don’t begrudge people for earning more than us or having a better quality of life, because that’s not what we do this for. We would just like people to treat our PROFESSION with the same respect as any other!


  20. Great article! I’m currently training at an acting conservatoire in London. This article is very true, it’s not meant to put down those who are/have attended uni, but merely to bring the people attending conservatories up to the same level. Myself, along with the other performers in school training reading this post will all agree that we’ve all been thought of as ‘not ready for a REAL career’. When the actual reality is, we could be more ready! Trust me when I say it’s not easy to get in, we have a minimum of three stages for acceptance which includes multiple auditions and workshops. And I’m very proud to say I’ve earned my place. I wish ANYONE taking up degree level training in whatever field all the success, it’s all worth it and ALL important.


  21. Guys, I think we are missing out the point. I don’t think Daisy was, in any sort of way trying to imply that University life wasn’t hard at all. In fact I think through her comparison, she is trying to educate those, who are unaware of how intense and difficult a Performing Arts career can be, just like any other career is/can be. As a Performing Arts student, I have acknowledge how ignorant (without aiming offence to anybody) some people can be about Performing Arts. They ask you questions like “Did you pick it because it is easy?” “Do you have to do any written work?”or “Oh I bet it is so easy!” “that’s not a proper career” “actors are crazy”. Like what? :’) Imagine approaching an Engineer, a doctor or anybody else in a different career path, with these same questions. No matter what career you study or where you educate yourself, it always takes hard work and a lot of dedication to become who you want to be (INLCUDING PERFORMERS).But people forget that. Like other industries, the Performing Arts is one of the most competitive industries there is. Some Drama Schools audition over 4.000 per course a year and only give out 10, 12, or 14 places on each course, even less a year and getting 1 place out of 14, doesn’t happen because you got lucky, but because you worked your butt off to get it. In no means are any of us Performing Arts students trying to imply our career is better or harder than any other career, but we are trying to make people understand that Performing is still a “Proper job”. Yes, perhaps in this job, you might not save lives the way doctors do, or do some other incredible things that other professionals in other professions do. But just by being able to make somebody else happy, making an emotional connection with the audience, or inspire others to achieve their dreams, that is still pretty damn incredible to me. Have an awesome day everybody xo


  22. Great piece of work!! Love it!! people don’t change, is performers should be use to it by now 😂 wishing everyone with their training/studies all the best of luck


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