Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts

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Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts
LIPA big.jpg
LIPA's main entrance, on Mount Street
General information
Town or city Liverpool, Merseyside
Country England
Coordinates 53°23′58.4″N 2°58′20.3″W / 53.399556°N 2.972306°W / 53.399556; -2.972306Coordinates: 53°23′58.4″N 2°58′20.3″W / 53.399556°N 2.972306°W / 53.399556; -2.972306
Construction started 1990
Completed 7 June 1996
Cost £20m
Design and construction
Architect David Watkins – Brock Carmichael Architects

The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) is a performing arts university situated in the English city of Liverpool. LIPA offers training in Acting, Applied theatre & Community Drama, Creative Technologies & Performance, Dance, Music, Management of Music, Entertainment, Theatre & Events, Sound technology, Theatre and Performance Technology and Theatre and Performance Design. It offers eleven full-time BA Honours degrees, as well as three Foundation Certificate programmes of study in Acting, Dance and Popular Music and Music Technology.

LIPA offers full-time one year masters-level degree courses in Acting (Company) and Costume Making.

The Education Guardian has previously ranked the university No. 1 in the UK for several of its degree courses.[citation needed] LIPA is regularly amongst the top 10 in rankings for specialist institutions.[1] LIPA has been awarded gold by the Government's Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), which rates higher education providers by teaching quality.[2]

In September 2003, LIPA launched LIPA 4–19; a part-time performing arts academy for 4 to 19-year olds. Since then, a satellite school and associate academies have also been launched. LIPA started its own primary free school in 2014 and its own sixth form free college in September 2016.



The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts was started by Sir Paul McCartney and Mark Featherstone-Witty RNOM OBE.

It was a meeting of two ideas: McCartney had known since 1985 that the building which had housed his old school — the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys – was becoming increasingly derelict after the school's closure, and wished to find a productive use for it; Mark Featherstone-Witty had set up the Brit School in London and wanted to try his ideas on a bigger scale.

Featherstone-Witty had been fired up by Alan Parker's 1980 film Fame, about the New York High School for the Performing Arts. The film inspired him to think about what training would have best prepared him and others for lasting work in the arts and entertainment industry. The film gave him the idea that performing artists needed to train in all three performing arts (acting, dance and music) at the same time. Then he read a book about musicians who had failed to understand they were entering a business, despite the phrase "show business". He also took on board the idea that performers formed the tip of an arts and entertainment employment iceberg. Performers were a fraction of the employment. From these basic concepts, he created a blueprint for a new type of training and then spent three years quizzing the industry and refining his philosophy. By 1985 he had nearly 50 artists, directors, choreographers and entrepreneurs backing him.

Record producer Sir George Martin knew that Featherstone-Witty was looking for somewhere to develop a school, and that McCartney was looking for someone who could save the building, and so introduced them to each other. The struggle to create the facility and the school took seven years and is described in more detail on LIPA's website, and in a book by Featherstone-Witty. It took £20m for the facility, the curriculum and the support to maintain and develop all three.


LIPA was opened by Her Majesty The Queen on 7 June 1996, and since then its range of courses has expanded with each new academic year. From the start, the desire and so the challenge was to achieve excellence with access.[citation needed] The final solution was to offer higher education courses to achieve excellence and a range of open and flexible learning courses to achieve access. To this day, both embody the heart of the Institute.[citation needed]

LIPA celebrated its tenth birthday in January 2006 with a performance at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall and a new book, 'LIPA – The First Ten Years in Pictures',[3] written by Mark Featherstone-Witty.

There have been a variety of highlights, the most rewarding being the achievement of the initial dream of sustained work. A recent survey of graduates who left in 2007 showed that 96% were in work, and 87% of those were working in the performing arts.[4] To sustain this, the curriculum is constantly being revised.[5]

LIPA was designated in 2006 – the first new higher education institution to have been started from scratch in living memory. As a performing arts HEI, LIPA is attended by the highest number of international students in the UK.[6]

LIPA has been awarded the Gold Standard from Investors in People – the only HEI to have achieved this level in the UK.[7] LIPA also has the highest concentration of Fellows and Associates recognised by The Higher Education Academy.

In March 2012, LIPA announced that it had purchased John Lennon's old art school building, the former Liverpool College of Art for £3.7million to expand its teaching accommodation.[8]

In 2014 building work started on the Art School, which was completed, finally, in August 2016, creating high quality teaching and performance space.

In 2014 LIPA opened its own Primary School, under the Free School programme, nearby.

Using the same programme, LIPA opened its own Sixth Form College in September 2016.

The primary and sixth were, at opening and afterwards, oversubscribed.


There were 5,225 applications to the institute through UCAS in 2010, of which only 208 were accepted, giving the Institute an overall acceptance rate of 4%. The Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts takes a holistic approach when assessing prospective students.

Undergraduate tuition fees: £9,250 GBP (2018), International tuition fees: £16,200 GBP (2019)

Current courses

Foundation Certificates

  • Foundation Certificate in Acting
  • Foundation Certificate in Dance
  • Foundation Certificate in Popular Music and Sound Technology

Undergraduate (Degree)

Masters (Degree)

  • Master of Arts in Acting (Company) - In association with Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse
  • Master of Arts in Costume Making


LIPA does not issue its own degrees, so rather than issuing Honorary degrees like other British universities, it awards "Companionships". LIPA awards companionships to individuals in recognition of their contributions to the world of art and entertainment, particularly within the sectors to which LIPA is linked.

Prospective companions usually attend the Institute at least once before they are invited to become companions to give masterclasses to students, or to participate in "Conversation with" type question and answer sessions. Some then revisit the Institute at later dates.

A list of companionships awarded to date are listed below.

2018[9] Toyah Willcox; Nile Rodgers; John Leonard; Paul Burger; Ali Campbell; Felice Ross; Dean Lee.

2017[10] Woody Harrelson; Chris Difford; John Caird; Jon Burton; Kay Hilton; Jo Collins; Mary Ward; Jon Driscoll. Tony Wood was also presented as an honoured friend.

2016[11] Martin Levan; Tim Prentki; David Babani; Darren Henley; Christopher Manoe; Alan Lane; Christopher Shutt; Tom Robinson. Tetsuo Hamada; Paul Whiting were also presented as honoured friends

2015[12] Gemma Bodinetz; Fran Healy; Noddy Holder; Conor Murphy; Hugh Padgham; Scott Rodger; James Thompson; Sharon Watson. John T Rago was also presented as an Honoured Friend

2014[13] Don Black; Samuel West; Adrian Jackson; Nick Starr; Colin Richmond; Patrick Woodroffe; Briony Albert; Giles Martin. Janice Long and Suzahn Fiering were presented as Honoured Friends.

2013 Keith Johnstone; Mark Ronson; Stephen Mear; Xenon Schoepe; Andy Hayles; Seymour Stein; Rowena Morgan was also presented as an Honoured Friend

2012 Matthew Bourne; Pam Schweitzer; Kevin Godley; Gary lloyd; Michael Harrison; Jason Barnes; Owen Lewis; Victor Greenberg was also presented as an Honoured Friend

2011 Colin Eccleston; David Bell; Paule Constable; Caroline Elleray; Chris Johnson; Steve Nestar; Billy Ocean; Hannah Waddingham; Spencer Leigh was also presented as an Honoured Friend.

2010 Alan Moulder; LaVelle Smith Jnr; Dave Pammenter; Christopher Oram; Jonathan Pryce; Heather Knight; Midge Ure; Mark Summers was also presented as an Honoured Friend.

2009 Will Young; Joe McGann; Pippa Ailion; John Fox; Richard Hudson; Natricia Bernard; Tony Platt

2008 John Hurt; Trevor Horn; Cathy Dennis; Ann Harrison; Nitin Sawhney; Lea Anderson

2007 Anita Dobson; Alan McGee; David Pugh; Ralph Koltai; Steve Levine; Ben Elton

2006 Lynda Bellingham; Sir Ken Robinson; Jörg Sennheiser; Terence Stamp; David Stark

2005 Guy Chambers; Robin Gibb; Alec McCowen; Tim Wheeler

2004 The Bangles; Ken Campbell (actor); Tim Firth; Terry Marshall; Arlene Phillips; Willy Russell; Jon Webster

2003 Barbara Dickson; Anthony Everitt; Nickolas Grace; Andy McCluskey

2002 Stephen Bayley; Anthony Field; Thelma Holt; Anthony H Wilson

2001 Joan Armatrading +; Benny Gallagher; Malcolm McLaren

+ denotes a Companion who is also a LIPA Patron.

Notable alumni

See also


  1. ^ Elson, Peter (20 February 2013). "Paul McCartney's "Fame School" to reign in Spain". liverpoolecho. Retrieved 25 March 2018. 
  2. ^ "McCartney Uni sees number of firsts given soar". ITV News. Retrieved 25 March 2018. 
  3. ^ Featherstone-Witty, Mark (23 January 2006). "LIPA in Pictures: The First 10 Years". Schools for Performing Arts. Retrieved 1 August 2017 – via 
  4. ^ "LIPA". Retrieved 1 August 2017. 
  5. ^ "About Us". Retrieved 1 August 2017. 
  6. ^ "International Students". Retrieved 1 August 2017. 
  7. ^ "LIPA website – 'LIPA sets new standard in performing arts sector'". Archived from the original on 18 November 2016. Retrieved 1 August 2017. 
  8. ^ "Paul McCartney's LIPA buys John Lennon's art college building". BBC. 30 March 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2017. 
  9. ^ "Nile Rogers among new LIPA Companions". Retrieved 27 July 2018. 
  10. ^ "LIPA News: Hollywood A-lister among new LIPA Companions". Retrieved 1 August 2017. 
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 July 2016. Retrieved 26 July 2016. 
  12. ^ Pattinson, Rob (28 July 2015). "Sir Paul McCartney back in Liverpool for annual LIPA graduation ceremony". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 1 August 2017. 
  13. ^ Lorna Hughes (11 July 2014). "Legendary lyricist Don Black to be honoured by LIPA". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 1 August 2017. 

External links

  • LIPA 'History Page'
  • LIPA website
  • LIPA Learning Resources Centre website
  • LIPA 4:19 – weekend & summer schools for 4–19 year olds
  • LIPA Sixth Form College
  • LIPA Alumni website
  • "BA (Honours) Acting". Retrieved 1 August 2017. 
  • "The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts guide". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 August 2017. 
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