The College was established in 1949 as Cardiff College of Music at Cardiff Castle, but has since moved to purpose-built accommodation within the castle grounds of Bute Park near Cardiff University. It later changed its name to the Welsh College of Music & Drama before being awarded its Royal title in The Queen'sGolden Jubilee in 2002, making it the fifth conservatoire to be awarded this title.
From its opening, the College's degrees were awarded by the University of Wales and in 2004 the College became part of the federal university. In 2007, however, it left the university and became a limited company under the University of South Wales Group, with its degrees now awarded by the University of South Wales.
The college provides education and training in the performing arts, with approximately two-thirds of its 550 students studying music-related courses and the rest studying drama-related courses. It was the first and is only one of two All-Steinway conservatoires in the UK, along with Leeds College of Music.