A guide to cukas



CUKAS is the Conservatoires UK Admissions Service. It deals with applications to conservatoires (or more informally ‘music college’) for 7 places. These are:

  • Royal College of Music (RCM)
  • Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM)
  • Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance (TL)
  • Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD)
  • Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS)
  • Birmingham Conservatoire (BC)
  • Leeds College of Music (LCM)

It has some major differences to UCAS including application deadlines, references, grade requirements and replying to offers so I created this to help all future applicants through a (potentially) tricky system that many schools/colleges haven’t heard of!

Non-CUKAS conservatoires

There are also 2 other main conservatoires in the UK that do not use the CUKAS system, these being the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama (GSMD). Applications to both of these institutions have to be submitted directly to each conservatoire which can be quite a time consuming process. Make sure you leave enough time to fill in all of the application and be aware that GSMD has a deadline of 10th October 2012 whereas the RAM has a deadline of 1st October – the same as the CUKAS deadline.


The deadline for ‘on time’ applications for 2013 entry is 1st October. This is very early and 2 weeks before the Oxbridge/Medicine/Dentistry deadline for UCAS and so you need to ensure that your head of 6th form / tutors know this when advising you with your personal statement and sorting out references.


There is an application fee for CUKAS of £16 regardless of whether you apply for one or multiple courses for 2013 entry. On top of this, for each conservatoire you have to pay an audition fee and these range from £45 to £90 so if you are applying to quite a few places can get quite expensive. Below is a table that summarises the fees and more info can be found at http://www.cukas.ac.uk/students/applying/howtoapply/fees


Conservatoire:  Fee for on time auditions (£):  Fee for late auditions (£):  Fee for 2 instruments(£):   

Birmingham Conservatoire606090

Leeds College of Music5050100

Royal College of Music9090150

Royal Northern5565N/A

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland456090

Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama606590

Trinity Laban Conservatoire7014080

NB. This is an abridged version. The full version can be found here: http://www.cukas.ac.uk/students/applying/howtoapply/fees. It is worth noting that all conservatoires apart from Leeds College of Music consider fee waivers. That is, if you are struggling to pay the audition fees you can talk to the individual conservatoires and see if they will waive the fee. This has to be done before you apply so make sure you leave enough time to investigate this. Don't do what I did and submit your application at 8pm on 30th September...


Personal statement

The same as with UCAS, your personal statement is 4000 characters (including spaces so approximately 1 page of A4, size 12 font). However in contrast to UCAS the personal statement is not the main decision maker – that is your audition. Although saying that, it is important to make it really good so that you stand out and can give the audition panel some insight into what you enjoy musically, other extra curriculars, what has inspired you etc. Guidance is available for the personal statement here http://www.cukas.ac.uk/students/applying/howtoapply/personalstatement/ and in the ‘suggestions’ section as well: http://www.cukas.ac.uk/students/applying/howtoapply/personalstatement/include


Auditions are held between November and December and you will generally get a reply from the conservatoires before Christmas as to whether they are going to offer you a place or not. When researching conservatoires, be very careful to check whether they have specific audition requirements (set pieces) for your instrument and whether they want you to play scales/arpeggios. Obviously this can be a major factor in where you apply. For instance I didn’t apply to Guildhall as they had a set piece that looked impossible and that I wouldn’t have had time to learn in 3-4 months.


You need to have 2 references for CUKAS: a music referee and a personal referee. Unlike UCAS, these are not done electronically and have to be posted to each individual conservatoire. My head of 6th did my personal reference, and my head of music by music reference but I think you can ask your instrumental teacher to do it. Because I had also applied through UCAS, my teachers ‘copied and pasted’ some of what they had written for that into my CUKAS ones. Be aware that your references need to be at the different conservatoires by the end of October so allow enough time for your teachers/tutors to write them. Offers There are 4 different kinds of offers on the CUKAS system. These are:

  • Guaranteed conditional
  • Guaranteed unconditional
  • Reserve conditional
  • Reserve unconditional

If you hold a ‘guaranteed’ offer then well done, you have been offered a place. This means when you meet your conditions i.e. A Level grades you will be accepted. ‘Reserve’ offers are a bit more complex. If you hold a reserve offer you don’t actually hold an offer of a place and so you are more or less on the waiting list. This means that if you firm a reserve offer you may end up with no place in September as it is not until you receive a ‘guaranteed’ offer that you actually have a place. I have been told by several conservatoires (including RCS and Trinity) that the probability of a reserve offer turning to a guaranteed offer is quite slim so bear this in mind if you accept this kind of offer.

Replying to offers

A bit complex is this one. CUKAS does not have a strict ‘firm’ and ‘insurance’ policy like UCAS. It depends on what kind of offer you have as to whether you have a first and second choice. If you have a ‘guaranteed’ offer (conditional or unconditional) then you cannot put any offer as your second choice (i.e. you must decline them all). This is because the offers are so low for music college e.g. EE that it would be expected that you would meet them. If you put a ‘reserve’ offer as your first choice and you put a ‘guaranteed’ offer as your second choice, if the reserve place doesn’t make you an offer, you will be accepted by the second (guaranteed) place.