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Why drama is the one extra-curricular you should start at uni

19th April 2016

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Charles Runacres, now principal at Bellerbys Oxford, has involved many students in school drama throughout his career, including early outings for Dominic West and Damian Lewis. Here he considers the value of participation in drama and performance.

Far from being a ‘soft’ subject, drama can be a hugely beneficial and rewarding activity, especially for international students. At Bellerbys Oxford we consider drama a key part of our enrichment programme, with two drama societies and regular events including an ‘oxfactor’ open mic night. Whilst these activities are fun, they also improve students’ confidence, help them with their language skills and encourage fruitful collaboration with their peers.


Most of us will find jobs that involve working with and in front of other people. In the professional world we need to be able to confidently pick up the phone, give presentations and sell ourselves. Drama can help build this confidence and take the fear out of appearing in public. Improvisation exercises force you to think on your feet and get used to speaking to an audience.

First impressions are important. In everyday life we’re judged on how we present ourselves and drama can make you more aware of your own body language and conscious of the impression you’re making. You are encouraged to use your body expressively and to convey meaning through physicality. This enhanced social awareness can help students make sense of new cultures, with different conventions and customs.


Good communication skills are a necessity, and communication, both physical and verbal, lies at the heart of drama. For those whose first language is not English, drama can add real cross curricular value by improving your spoken English. Improv situations use language in an interactive context that makes the experience fun; enhancing your vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar as well as that all important confidence.


Our workplaces are increasingly team-based, with individualistic working becoming less common. Some subjects also require students to work in a group as part of the course, and receive a team mark – making cooperation vital. Drama helps develop invaluable collaboration and teamwork skill sets, as it is essential to work well with other students to successfully put together and perform a skit, song or dance. Working closely with other students also helps foster lasting friendships, breaking down barriers and bridging different nationalities and cultures.


Above all drama requires you to be creative and use your imagination. Critical thinking is encouraged and students are empowered to come up with original ideas and devise a means of presenting these ideas to their peers. Whether your passion is for musical theatre or mime, I would encourage all students to have a go. The benefits are guaranteed to extend beyond your studies into working life.

Bellerbys Oxford

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