Advice for Dance and Drama Award institutions for the 2021 to 2022 academic year.

The guide sets out the funding rules for the Dance and Drama Awards (DaDA) scheme and forms part of institutions’ Education and Skills Funding Agency’s funding agreements. Institutions must comply with the rules and must be able to show they comply at any audit.

Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) provides the funding for the DaDA scheme.

Only institutions who are ESFA approved to administer the scheme can offer DaDA funding to students.DaDA offers income assessed support for tuition fees and living costs. It is available at a number of high quality private dance and drama institutions in England. DaDA is designed to contribute to the costs of studying for talented young people who want to become professional actors and dancers.

Only students enrolled on the Trinity College London (TCL) level 5 and 6 Professional Diplomas in Dance, Acting and Musical Theatre are eligible for DaDA funding.

Students must be studying one of following TCL diploma courses:

  • level 6 Diploma in Professional Acting (3 years)
  • level 5 Diploma in Professional Acting (1 year)
  • level 5 Diploma in Professional Dance (Classical Ballet or Contemporary Dance) (2 years)
  • level 6 Diploma in Professional Dance (3 years)
  • level 6 Diploma in Professional Musical Theatre (3 years)

Students who may also be enrolled on a Higher Education (HE) degree programme alongside the TCL diploma course are not permitted to access HE student support as well as being in receipt of DaDA funding.

The most important criterion in allocating DaDA funding is for institutions to identify students with the most potential to succeed in the profession based on their talent as judged at audition.

Changes for the 2021 to 2022 academic year

The UK left the European Union (EU) and free movement between the UK and the EU has ended.

As a result of the changes, from the 2021 to 2022 academic year, EU students with settled and pre-settled status and all Irish citizens will be eligible to apply for living costs support, as well as tuition fee support.

EU students who started a DaDA funded course in the 2019 to 2020 or 2020 to 2021 academic years will remain eligible for DaDA support for the duration of their course. All EU continuing students (except Irish Nationals) must have successfully applied to the EU Settlement Scheme.

Irish Nationals do not need to apply to the EU settlement scheme.

DaDA funding in the 2021 to 2022 academic year

Income assessment

Students starting their TCL course in the 2021 to 2022 academic year have their eligibility for DaDA funding determined by the institution. Institutions do this at audition, based on students’ talent and potential to succeed in the industry.

Institutions assess the amount of financial support a student is entitled to, based on nationally set income bands. Household income is used to determine the level of financial support for both fees and living costs (maintenance).

Institutions will normally use the income assessment undertaken at the beginning of the students’ first academic year on the TCL diploma course to set the amount of tuition fee support for the whole of their course. However, an income assessment must be undertaken each year to establish the amount of living costs support the student is entitled to receive.

Institutions are required to undertake income assessments for new starters (for both tuition fees and living costs) and for students who are returning for their second and third year (for living costs only) using the income bands for the 2021 to 2022 academic year. Where information provided by returning students shows a change in their circumstances that has significantly increased or decreased their household income, institutions may wish to use their discretion to reassess them for tuition fees.

Student eligibility


To be eligible to receive DaDA funding in the 2021 to 2022 academic year, students must be aged:

  • between 16 and 23 at the start of the academic year to apply for a dance course
  • between 18 and 23 at the start of the academic year to apply for an acting course


Institutions can only give DaDA funding to students who satisfy one of the following residency conditions:

  • a UK or Irish national and have lived in the UK, EEA, Gibraltar or Switzerland for at least 3 years prior to the start of the course
  • a family member of a UK or Irish National, where both UK or Irish National and family member have lived in the UK, EEA, Gibraltar or Switzerland for the past 3 years
  • an EU, EEA or Swiss worker, or the family member of an EU, EEA or Swiss worker with settled or pre-settled status under the EU settlement scheme and have been living in the UK, EEA, Gibraltar or Switzerland for the past 3 years
  • the child of a Turkish worker and have been living in the UK, EEA, Gibraltar or Switzerland for the past 3 years
  • is recognised as a refugee by the UK government, or the spouse or civil partner or child of a refugee, granted Humanitarian Protection or indefinite leave to remain.

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who were resident in the UK before or on 31 December 2020 are entitled to apply for the EU settlement scheme. The closing date for applications is 30 June 2021.

EU students who started a DaDA funded course in the 2019 to 2020 or 2020 to 2021 academic years will remain eligible for DaDA support for the duration of their course. All EU continuing students (except Irish Nationals) must have successfully applied to the EU Settlement Scheme.

Irish Nationals do not need to apply to the EU settlement scheme.

Allocations to institutions

DaDA funding is intended to contribute towards the costs of training. It is not intended to cover all costs of the training in full.

ESFA issued allocation letters to each institution confirming their total amount of DaDA funding in March 2021.

Institutions should use allocations to support continuing students already in receipt of DaDA funding and then for new students applying for the first time.

Institutions should manage DaDA funding at their own discretion but in accordance with the criteria explained in this guide. This includes deciding whether they wish to allocate all the funding or hold a small contingency fund to respond to issues later in the year.

ESFA has based 2021 to 2022 academic year DaDA allocations on data from student numbers and spend from the last full year (the 2019 to 2020 academic year). Projected numbers for the 2020 to 2021 academic year have also been factored in. Each institution should be able to afford to support a similar number of students this academic year as they have done previously.

ESFA will make allocation payments in 2 instalments: approximately two-thirds in August 2021 and the remaining one-third in April 2022.

Institutions may use up to 5% of the total allocation of funding for administration costs.

Underspends and spending flexibility

ESFA will reconcile any underspent funds from institutions in the 2021 to 2022 academic year. Institutions cannot carry under-spends forward into future years.

As in previous academic years, institutions may use discretion and flexibility in their allocated DaDA funding. They can do this to provide partial funding for talented students if they have insufficient funds to provide the full support that the student would have been eligible to receive.

Institutions must ensure they communicate to students and parents how they are using this flexibility so that their use of DaDA funding is clear and transparent. Institutions must ensure that they only give out partial funding awards after all successful students applying for DaDA have been fully income assessed and the full DaDA funding process has been completed.

Application, income assessment and payment of DaDA

DaDA funding

The most important criterion in allocating DaDA funding is that institutions identify at audition those students with the most potential to succeed in the profession based on their talent.

When auditioning students, institutions must implement ‘The Code of Practice for Auditions and Interviews’ produced by the Council for Dance, Drama and Musical Theatre (CDMT). Institutions must set out the procedure’s students must follow to audition for a place and DaDA funding.

Provisional and final awards

Institutions may offer provisional awards and final awards. Institutions may offer provisional DaDA awards before a student formally accepts a place. Institutions should not offer provisional awards to students prior to 1 March 2021.

Institutions can only offer final DaDA awards when the student has formally accepted a place and they have received a completed DaDA application form and carried out a full income assessment.

DaDA application/assessment flowchart – new students sets out the application and assessment process for funding. The flowchart is for information only and ESFA recognises that processes may vary in individual institutions.

Institutions are reminded that CDMT will continue to manage the clearing process for the 2021 to 2022 academic year.

Applying for DaDA funding

Institutions should use the application forms supplied by ESFA when assessing the amount of DaDA funding a student is eligible to receive.

The self-declaration of income form enables institutions to carry out an initial assessment of the student’s household income and determine an indicative level of support they may be eligible to receive. The student should complete this form when they are offered a provisional place at the institution.

Institutions may make provisional DaDA funding offers at this stage. Any provisional amount of DaDA funding stated by the institution to the student must be clearly explained to the student as based on the information they supplied on the self-declaration form. The institution must make clear that the funding amount quoted to them is not guaranteed but is subject to verification and confirmation via the main DaDA application form.

Once a student has formally accepted their place, they must complete the main DaDA application form to determine the final amount of funding they are eligible to receive. Institutions can only confirm funding after they have undertaken the full income assessment using the information from the main application form and appropriate supporting evidence. Institutions must ensure that students fully understand this.

Income Assessment

Institutions use the student’s household income from the previous tax year for the income assessment. For the 2021 to 2022 academic year, this is the 2020 to 2021 tax year. Income evidence can include:

  • tax credit award notice
  • award of benefits notice or evidence from employment (P60, P11D) or self-employment

Institutions should also take unearned income into account such as:

  • shares and investments
  • savings
  • pensions
  • any income from rental property

Institutions must ensure the evidence they use in the income assessment is complete and fully covers the correct tax year.

Tuition Fees

The income assessment undertaken at the start of the student’s course for tuition fees should normally last for the length of the student’s course.

However, students and parents have a responsibility to report significant changes in their circumstances that may impact on the amount of DaDA funding they are eligible to receive; and institutions have discretion to reassess tuition fees at the end of the academic year only, where the student can provide evidence of a significant change of circumstances.

A significant change is a long-term change that will impact on the student’s circumstances going forward and/or changes that occurred for the whole of the previous academic year. Changes include both those that significantly decrease household income and changes that significantly increase household income. Examples include divorce or relationship breakdown, changes in employment, marriage or cohabitation.

In-year reassessment of tuition fee costs should only take place in exceptional cases such as disability or death of a parent or carer.

Living Costs (maintenance)

Income assessment for funding living costs must be undertaken on an annual basis. Students must submit a new application for living costs support each academic year.

Where there is a change in income (either a reduction or an increase), institutions should adjust the level of funding a student is entitled to each year, in line with the national income bands.

In-year reassessment of living costs support should only take place in exceptional cases, such as disability or death of a parent or carer.

In-year reassessment – independent students

A student may have their fees and living costs application reassessed in-year if their circumstances change and they can provide evidence that they have become an ‘independent’ student.

This evidence could cover things such as:

  • they are married
  • they have financially supported themselves for 3 years or more
  • they are the natural or adoptive parent of a child who lives with them
  • they have no living parents
  • they are estranged from their parents

An independent student reassessment is undertaken on the student’s household income and that of their spouse or partner (if they have one).

Confirmation of DaDA funding

When institutions have assessed the main application and checked the evidence, they must notify students in writing to confirm the amount of tuition fees and any living costs funding they are entitled to receive.

Where a student is not offered DaDA funding, the institution must write to them to explain the reasons. The letter they give or send to the student should also set out details of their appeals procedure. If the student believes that the process used to come to the decision contains irregularities, they must be given the right to appeal under the institution’s procedures. If the institution is found to be in error, they must compensate the student appropriately.

Payment of DaDA funding to students

Institutions should make living costs payments directly to students once they have been fully assessed as eligible for DaDA. Institutions are free to determine the frequency of payments to students; however, it is recommended that payments are made in instalments, for example, on a termly basis. This ensures students do not receive funding they are not entitled to, if, for example, they withdraw from their course part way through the year. Where an institution issues a large amount of funding to a student, they should be aware that this is at their own risk. No additional funding can be claimed from ESFA in the event of any overpayment to students by institutions.

Institutions should make clear to students that continued receipt of DaDA is conditional on them meeting agreed standards set by the institutions, for example, relating to attendance, behaviour and progression.

Disabled Students Allowance (DSA)

DSA can provide support for the extra costs a student may incur as a direct result of a disability, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty. DSA does not cover disability-related costs a student may have if they were not attending a course, or costs that any student might have.

To apply for support, students must have been assessed as eligible for DaDA support (either for fees only or both fees and living costs).

ESFA will continue to assess all DSA applications from students.

Institutions are responsible for making payments:

  • to all suppliers
  • to assessment centres
  • for the purchase of specialist equipment
  • for study skills support for students
  • for general allowances

Institutions are required to communicate the type and amount of DSA support that has been agreed to students and to maintain records of expenditure for each student to ensure that the agreed maximum amounts are not exceeded.

Communications, governance and monitoring

Institutions are responsible for ensuring that information about DaDA is available to students through their literature and websites and that this information is up to date. ESFA will regularly review and update its student facing and institution focused information on GOV.UK.

Management information returns (MI)

At the end of October 2021, institutions must submit an in-year MI data return to provide information on students in receipt of DaDA in the 2021 to 2022 academic year.

In June 2022, institutions must complete and submit an end of year MI data return for the 2021 to 2022 academic year to support the monitoring of the DaDA scheme.

Audit and scheme protection

Administration and allocation of DaDA is subject to ESFA’s audit process. For audit purposes, and to provide accurate MI, institutions should maintain accurate and up to date records of students and funding. This includes recording students in receipt of DaDA on the budget management spreadsheet for the 2021 to 2022 academic year.

Institutions must comply with all aspects of the information on GOV.UK, with health and safety, equal opportunities and any other legal requirements applying to the institution. ESFA may withdraw DaDA funding at any time if this is not done or if the institution cannot provide sufficient evidence that it is financially viable.

Institutions will be subject to governance and audit regimes that include the requirement for Ofsted inspections and the publication of inspection reports. Institutions must permit any person authorised by Ofsted to inspect them. They must provide any such person with all the facilities they may reasonably require for making an inspection as and when required, in line with Ofsted powers of entry and access to documents and its Common Inspection Framework in accordance with section 131 and 132 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006.

Only institutions whose provision is assessed as Outstanding (Grade 1) or Good (Grade 2) at Ofsted inspection will be eligible to offer DaDA funding. ESFA will stop funding institutions if they do not maintain their levels of quality unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Ofsted inspections are undertaken in line with the Common Inspection Framework and other guidance current at that time. The Education Inspection Framework and the handbook for inspections can be viewed on the GOV.UK website. All inspection reports are published.

Institutions should ensure they are fulfilling their responsibilities for safeguarding all students. They should also ensure they are aware of the government’s prevent strategy about safeguarding young people from extremism and radicalisation: the prevent strategy.

ESFA may also withdraw DaDA funding where the institution fails to meet the qualification requirements of the DaDA scheme, for example:

  • it is no longer validated by TCL as eligible to offer the level 5 and 6 diploma qualifications
  • it is no longer able to maintain levels of quality, relevance to employers’ needs and the standards of performance that are currently set for the DaDA scheme.

If an institution closes, students can move to another institution with DaDA funding with prior ESFA agreement. In these circumstances, ESFA will fund the remaining period of the student’s support at the new institution but only at the fee rate that applied at the closing institution.

Further information

Information for students on the DaDA scheme is available on GOV.UK.

Published 3 June 2021 Contents