My experience as a GSA student

by Chloe Coombes

Life at GSA, for me, can be summed up into two words: Stimulating and memorable.

What stood out for me most about GSA compared to other conservatoires was that it is the only drama school in England that is situated on a university campus. GSA has always been my top choice of drama school for this reason. This has many benefits as a student, we get access to all the societies, facilities, and support that the University of Surrey has to offer. It is conservatoire standard training within a university campus really is the best of both worlds!


For our third-year performances, there are three theatres on campus. The Bellairs Theatre, with a capacity for 190 seats, the PATs building with a capacity for 128 and the Rex Doyle Studio Theatre with a capacity for 80. Having multiple performance venues is a real benefit.

Being part of the University of Surrey, we also have access to the facilities Surrey offer. For example, the Disability and Neurodiversity team who can help us get a diagnosis or support us with a pre-existing diagnosis. Whatever the problem, no matter how obscure, there will be somewhere on campus for us to go for help.

Student Life

Life at GSA is never dull. Alongside high energy classes, there are always tons of extracurricular activities to get involved with.

After lessons, GSA offers additional dance classes for students, at a discounted student rate. These are great classes to meet people on other courses, learn a new style, develop an existing style or for additional exercise.

Throughout the year there are competitions that students can participate in such as: Black History Spoken Word, Singer Songwriter and Choreography competitions. These events offer great opportunities to share work, support course mates, and socialise with other courses and year groups. 

Supporting the 3rd year shows is a big part of student life, I try and see as many as I can. Current students get to see the shows for £5 a ticket or, if on a budget, we can volunteer to be part of the front of house team for that show and see the 3rd year show for free.

With course sizes being small (there are only 15 of us on Applied and Contemporary theatre) GSA has a friendly, community feel. The central foyer is always a hub for socialisation between classes with other courses, but it can be dangerous for the student bank account as the vegan brownies from the café are too hard to resist.

GSA students can also partake in the societies Surrey has on offer, from Pet Society to Surfing. Plus, new societies can always be created if there is enough student interest.


GSA has a brilliant reputation in the performing arts world. The students are hardworking and are taught by industry-leading teaching staff. Within the classes, many of the faculty are still active in the theatre industry. This provides students with the best, most recent industry knowledge. Small class sizes offer more meaningful interactions and feedback with tutors. 

Applied and Contemporary Theatre has 20 hours of contact time a week with other courses offering as many as 40! Each week we have a meeting with our student representatives, who are elected by the cohort, and our year tutor. These meetings have been beneficial in developing a student voice and allowing us to touch base with our tutor weekly. One to one sessions are also available with our year tutor, which can be requested as and when needed. Student voice is crucial at GSA. Students run a termly EDI (equality, diversity, and inclusion) discussions where we can raise any concerns and suggest ways to implement change.


GSA being situated in Guildford is another selling point for me. The majority of conservatoires are located in London, which is great for some, but London would have been a bit too chaotic for me. From Guildford, London is only 30-40 minutes away on the train, so seeing theatre shows in the evening or at weekends is easy. Guildford has a range of restaurants, shops, and pubs and is only a 15-minute walk away from campus. This is great for socialising but also for finding part time jobs. Guildford houses performance venues such a G-Live, The Boileroom and the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.

My first year at GSA flew by. The next two years promise to be full of hard work, fun and personal growth. If you’re considering studying at GSA my advice is go for it, you definitely won’t regret it!