Visual Communication - MA

Full Time, Part Time
September 2016, September 2017
£6,500 per year for UK/EU Full Time 2016 entry (view all fees)

We create innovators and leaders in the field of visual communication, challenging and stimulating you to produce original, cutting edge design. Our Master's in Visual Communication is interdisciplinary and specialist in approach, reflecting the dynamic and contemporary practices within creative industries.

We have strong partnerships with senior practitioners and industry specialists who help design the course, and a team of enthusiastic and engaging tutors, with expert knowledge.

New for 2017/18

Visual Communication

If you’re looking to start this course in 2017, it's important to know that the content and structure are undergoing a substantial review and are likely to be different to what is outlined here. We’ll publish more detailed information about the changes over the next few months. If you’re starting in 2016, the course content/structure won’t be affected by the review.

Sign up for course updatesMore about our new curriculum

What's covered in the course?

You'll be able to specialise by choosing one of 12 awards:

  • MA Visual Communication
  • MA Visual Communication (User Experience Design)
  • MA Visual Communication (Digital Interface Design)
  • MA Visual Communication (Illustration)
  • MA Visual Communication (Graphic Design)
  • MA Visual Communication (Typographic Practice)
  • MA Visual Communication (Brand Experience Design)
  • MA Visual Communication (Advertising Design)
  • MA Visual Communication (Film)
  • MA Visual Communication (Animation)
  • MA Visual Communication (Motion Design)
  • MA Visual Communication (Photographic Practice)

The structure of our MA Visual Communication degree is designed with imaginative approaches to visual practice in the creative industries.

As a creative practitioner you are inspired to create and engage with industry, alongside taught elements. Throughout the course you will have the chance to develop deep specialist knowledge, both in design and research. The course provides an immersive and advanced learning experience for both advanced practitioners and recent graduates, within the broad field of Visual Communication.

Our Visual Communication Master's course is designed to provide you with the best possible chance to further your skills and widen your knowledge of the communication arts. The programme is rooted in practice, teaching you interdisciplinary design and research processes.

The variety of subjects covered within this degree allows you to receive guidance in forming a more specific interest for Master's level study. Whether you have a definitive subject in mind, such as the design of print within a digital environment, or you have a broader interest in the study of communication design, the programme is both interdisciplinary and specialist in approach, echoing the dynamic changes within its related industries.

As a school, we have strong industry connections which include live partnerships and collaborative projects. We have ongoing dynamic dialogues with international players in the creative industries. These leading professionals have provided us with direct feedback, identifying our programmes as world-class models of creative education and fully supporting contemporary practice in an international context.

We have a continuously developing and progressive vision of employability. We feel that as a creative practitioner you will need to adapt and respond to the demands of industry.

Why Choose Us?

  • The School of Visual Communication is one of the largest of its kind in the UK, with an international student body.
  • Based in the Parkside Building, we offer outstanding facilities such as a Hollywood-standard MILO unit - one of only two owned by universities in Europe.
  • Here at the School of Visual Communication, your knowledge will be challenged and developed and your creative practices will thrive. Graduates of our MA Visual Communication course have produced meaningful work that is groundbreaking within the creative industries. You will enhance your research knowledge and skill, with the chance to take on further study at PhD level.
  • You will be supported by a high-profile group of practitioners, theorists, academics and professionals in the creative and cultural industries who will enable you to realise your potential.
  • Our involvement with the visual arts extends from staff and students exhibiting in major venues such as the Ikon, the Venice Biennale, and the Shanghai Biennale, or working in community-based art initiatives across the world.
Visit our open day

Postgraduate Open Day

Our next Postgraduate Open Day will be on Wednesday 23 November, between 2pm and 7pm. Come along to find out more about our courses and see our facilities.

Register now

This course is open to International students

School of Visual Communication

Discover the School of Visual Communication

Visit our School site for more student work and extra information about how we're transforming the futures of creative practitioners.

Visit the School website

Where our students go

Our students have gone on to work with companies such as:

  • Genie World
  • In Easy Step

And in jobs such as:

  • Marketing Assistant & Graphics Designer
  • Digital Producer

New £10,000 postgraduate loans

You may be able to take advantage of the government’s plans to make loans of up to £10,000 available for postgraduate study.

More about postgraduate loans


Combined with the expertise of staff and teaching, our partnerships have been recognised by industry professionals. Accredited by Creative Skillset the School of Visual Communication supports and prepares talented and creative professionals, with the skills and creativity sought by industry.

As a Creative Skillset accredited course, we have been identified as a centre of excellence with industry standards of quality. Nurturing both your technical and production skills, you will gain the experience and abilities needed to succeed in the wider creative industry.

Entry Requirements

UK students

An undergraduate degree in a relevant subject or equivalent qualifications or professional experience.

UK or EU students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
MA Sep 2016 FT 1 year £6,500 per year
PT 2 years £3,250 per year
Sep 2017 FT 1 year TBC
PT 2 years TBC

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form instead.

International Students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
MA Sep 2016 FT 1 year £12,000
Sep 2017 FT 1 year £12,000

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form instead.

The University reserves the right to increase fees broadly in line with increases in inflation, or to reflect changes in government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament.

Portfolio Guidance

Your portfolio might be viewed when you are not present, therefore make sure it is easy to use. Think of it like a book. Your name and a title on the outside will be useful - this also helps distinguish the front from the back!

Portfolio Content

Be relevant

Include relevant work related to the subject area of interest. Know about the course you are applying for. Show ideas generation, experimentation and risk taking. Within your portfolio, are you able to demonstrate knowledge of the subject discipline, practitioners and individuals that have inspired you?

Think about the basics

Show examples of paintings, drawings, photographs, three-dimensional work, time-based work and anything else relevant to the area of practice.

Tell a story

Try to show one full project from start to finish with the preparatory drawings included. Annotations are helpful as they show how you research and reflect on the development of your work.

The Finished Article

Include three to four final pieces that you are able to talk about. This might include 3D models rather than photographs.

The Sketchbook

Include sketchbooks. This will give us an understanding of how you think (through your annotations) and allow us to see the development of your drawing. (If the portfolio is digital, photograph or scan some of the best pages).

Additional costs

Our courses include activities such as performance, exhibitions, field trips and production of works or artefacts which may require you to purchase specific equipment, instruments, books, materials, hire of venues and accommodation, or other items. Many of these activities are essential and compulsory parts of your learning experience.

The link below gives you an estimate of the possible costs associated with key activities on specific courses. Please bear in mind that these are only estimates of costs based on past student experience and feedback. The actual costs could vary considerably (either greater or lower than these estimates) depending on your choices as you progress through the course.

All our students are provided with 100 free pages of printing each year to a maximum total value of £15.

Find additional costs for your course

Your personal statement

Your personal statement is a highly important part of your application. It gives you a crucial opportunity to say why you’re applying and why the institution should accept you.

Here are the key areas you’ll need to address:

Course choice

Why does this course appeal? What areas are of particular interest?

Career plans

If you have a specific career in mind, say how your chosen course will help you pursue this goal.

Work experience

Mention any work that is relevant to your subject, highlighting the skills and experience gained.

School or college experience

Highlight skills gained at school/college, eg summer schools or mentoring activities.

Non-accredited skills or achievement

eg Duke of Edinburgh Award, Young Enterprise scheme.

You should also mention your future plans – if you’re planning to take a year out, don't forget to give your reasons. Talk about any subjects you’re studying that don’t have a formal assessment and any sponsorships or placements you’ve applied for. And don't be scared to add in details about your social, sports or leisure interests.

Get more information on writing personal statements.

This course is available part-time

Got any questions?

Search our Frequently Asked Questions for a range of information about our courses and studying here.

Financial Support

We offer further information on possible postgraduate financial support. This includes the type of loans, grants and scholarships available both from the government and from Birmingham City University.

Did you know that you will soon be able to apply for a postgraduate loan of up to £10,000 for some courses and options?

Postgraduate loans

PG Cert Proficiency

The delivery of the programme is split into three stages: PG Cert, PG Dip and MA. Through the completion of modules you will attain your MA in Visual Communication. The modules are designed to echo the three stages of a designer's development, as identified by Kees Dorst - developing your proficiency, expertise and mastery. Each stage contains a 45 credit aspect and a 15 credit aspect.

Analytical and Creative Practice
45 credits

The first aspect of your degree will challenge you to identify your needs and respond through an engaged and reflective manner. You will be expected to formulate strategies, and respond creatively. You will establish evaluative criteria for creative practice.

Dissemination - Case Study in Specialism
15 credits

This aspect of the programme will allow you to develop deep specialist knowledge into your area of interest. You will explore the trends and innovations within contemporary practice, directly related to your area of practice; producing a case study for assessment.

PG Dip Expertise

The delivery of the programme is split into three stages: PG Cert, PG Dip and MA. Through the completion of modules you will attain your MA in Visual Communication. The modules are designed to echo the three stages of a designer's development, as identified by Kees Dorst - developing your proficiency, expertise and mastery. Each stage contains a 45 credit aspect and a 15 credit aspect.

Contextual and Creative Practice
45 credits

In the PG Diploma stage of the programme you will be encouraged to build a professional network, based upon the setting of a strategic career goal. You will progress the proficiency of your creative practice into expert knowledge and awareness. You will develop a confident understanding of both your individual work and that of the industry.

Dissemination - Instructional Lecture in Specialism
15 credits

You will have the opportunity to support and contribute to undergraduate delivery with the school; developing essential time management, presentation skills and self-reliance. This module is designed to equip you with transferable skills which will further your career prospects.

MA Mastery

The delivery of the programme is split into three stages: PG Cert, PG Dip and MA. Through the completion of modules you will attain your MA in Visual Communication. The modules are designed to echo the three stages of a designer's development, as identified by Kees Dorst - developing your proficiency, expertise and mastery. Each stage contains a 45 credit aspect and a 15 credit aspect.

Advanced Practice and New Knowledge
45 credits

In the mastery stage of your MA in Visual Communication you will build upon the knowledge and skill you have developed throughout the programme. Producing work, practical or conceptual; and demonstrating advanced practice, with the support of formal research.

Dissemination - Publication and Symposium in Specialism
15 credits

Within this module you will be expected to demonstrate your advanced subject knowledge and research ability. You will demonstrate professional design and production skills. The module is designed to make you publish and present work with established techniques of research and enquiry. You will demonstrate your ability to interpret knowledge within your specialist area, producing meaningful work.

Course structure

Our MA in Visual Communication is delivered through a one year programme for full-time students. You will study throughout the duration of three semesters; each semester takes place over a 15 week period.

The processes of design thinking - research, analysis, evaluation, creativity, craft and production - across all specialisms within visual communication are central to this course.

You'll have the chance to learn in our R&D labs that we've developed as a result of our partnerships with organisations, practitioners and industry. The labs allow you to take part in learning, teaching, research, innovation and professional development in visual communication. Learning will be achieved through the development of a critical understanding of practice. You will be taught methods that will cover the systematic analysis of media and practice, and the determining of key and advanced practice-based principles. You will establish evaluative criteria and learn how to apply your knowledge to practice.

Here at the School of Visual Communication, we aspire to make you feel comfortable through encouraging a sense of community. We use one room for all meetings and teaching, to offer space for lectures and workshops as well as group work. We strongly believe that the support of a learning community will encourage you to take risks, and be innovative in your work.

As a Master's student you will engage with external associates and develop strategies that will aid in the implementation of your craft skills, knowledge and practice.

The programme is delivered by a team of committed, enthusiastic and experienced team of staff. In addition we welcome external academics, creative practitioners and other in-house staff who will provide you with a wealth of industry knowledge, skills and influence.

Once you have established your specialist area of visual communication, you will receive specialised support from expert individuals within the School.

Student stories

Lorentz Gullachsen

A photographer who has shot internationally for over 25 years. He has won many awards for his work including the Association of Photographers' Gold, multiple Design and Art Direction (D&AD) awards for photography, as well as winning at the London Photographic Awards and the Sun Awards.

View more examples of student work...

Further Study

As a postgraduate Visual Communication student you have the chance to apply for further study within the University. Previously, several graduates of our MA Visual Communication have been accepted onto the PhD programme here within the Faculty of Art, Design and Media.

Throughout the duration of this programme you will develop a Master's level of skill and knowledge, which will enable you to progress onto further study.

Trips and visits

While there are no timetabled trips or visits within this course, we encourage you to explore Birmingham's creative sector. By immersing yourself within the industry, whether it's through volunteering, or taking on research roles, you will widen your professional skills palette. Birmingham is a diverse and vibrant city, with a thriving creative industry. It is advisable that as a student you engage as much as possible with the activities and events that relate to your desired profession.

As a school we have several industry partnerships, and there will be opportunities for you to network. Networking will allow you to enhance your contacts with industry, and you will be able to form professional relationships that may lead to further employment, or expereince-based opportunities.

Student stories Steven Spencer

I decided to study at the University because I wanted to learn more about making films. I was impressed by the equipment they have available – it was ideal for film andanimation. I'd already studied for a degree in animation but I wanted to learn new things and gain some insight into the film side of things. It also helped give me realise which direction I wanted to go in.

Studying here helped me develop my own style and helped me to mature in my work and self-development. I would recommend it to anyone. I've gained work through coming to university – my final project was a film called My Brown Friend, which won the Royal Television Society award. I filmed it at the University; it was a great way to build up my portfolio and opened up a lot of other opportunities for me, allowing me to pitch for other film and music video projects. Things just rolled on from there. I use the work that I produced at University as a sort of a calling card and if I hadn't done my MA, I wouldn't have got to the level I'm at today.

Enhancing Employability Skills

This course enables you to develop your practice within the field of visual communication. You will do so through a range of relective learning methods that will enhance advanced subject knowledge, developing your creative and innovative thinking, critical awareness and analytical practice. You will gain a comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to your own research and advanced scholarship.

You will establish a deep and clear understanding of how meaning is constructed with visual communication, across a range of media. You will acquire the skill and knowledge to produce meaningful and creative visual work within your own specialism.

The course will encourage you to challenge yourself, exceed your boundaries and produce work that is original, and significant. You will develop as a creative individual equipped not only for a career in your specialism, but with transferable skills which will benefit a whole range of professional contexts. Through research theory and practice, you will develop new knowledge that will pave the way for imaginative visual communication research. You will be able to engage directly with industry, with the possibility of collaborations, much like recent graduate Diane Maybey. Diane published work in partnership with Birmingham Children's Hospital. She also produced an environmental therapeutic illustration for CAMHS Leicester Partnership Trust and is currently studying her PhD, researching into Therapeutic Storytelling.


While placements are not a compulsary aspect to this course we will encourage you and expect you to continuously engage with external associates such as practitioners, employers, clients and researchers. We feel that it is vital that you develop your own connections with the creative industries, expanding your network and providing opportunities for work.


OpportUNIty Student Ambassador

OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.

It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.

Graduate Jobs

Our graduates have gone on to work within the communication industries, both within the UK and further afield. The nature of the programme provides students with the skills to either undertake further study at PhD level, or develop careers as innovative practitioners in the industry. We have graduates working in locations across the world, applying their expertise internationally, in countries such as India, Thailand, China, Spain, Malaysia and the UK.

As a School, we are very proud of the professional creative practitioners that we produce, and we stay in contact with our graduates. More than half of our graduates have recently become employed within a visual communication company at senior or mid-management level, with others working freelance, starting their own businesses, taking on further placements or progressing to PhD level.

International Students

Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.

The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.

Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:

Further Information

This course is specially designed to cater to both home and international students and has an international element in content and approach, with students joining us from a variety of backgrounds. We encourage you to share your experience and culture, to bring different research approaches and perspectives to the course.

With the UK's diverse and continuously changing creative industries, you will benefit from adapting and responding to industry change. The course will help you to develop and nurture imaginative approaches to visual practice in the creative industries.

Our international students

Yifan Ling

Yifan has become a bestselling graphic artist since graduating in 2006. She's recently been given a Professional Achievement Award at the Education UK Alumni Awards 2016, organised by the British Council.

More widely known by her pen name, Buddy, Yifan has been creating manga comics professionally for 12 years. During this time, she has published more than 20 books internationally and her online manga story ‘Guarding’ has been viewed by over 110 million people.

Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC)

International students who have a serious interest in studying with us but who perhaps cannot meet the direct entry requirements, academic or English, or who have been out of education for some time, can enter Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC) and begin their degree studies.


BCUIC is part of the global Navitas Group, an internationally recognised education provider, and the partnership allows students to access the University’s facilities and services and move seamlessly through to achieving a Bachelor’s degree from Birmingham City University.

Learn more about BCUIC

Popular home countries

Our students come from around the world but our visual communication course is most popular with international students from:

Parkside - City Centre Campus
Parkside - Milo Studio

Our visual communication degrees are housed in the state of the art £62 million Parkside Building, part of our City Centre Campus.

We offer extensive studio and workshop space and cutting-edge equipment such as Vicon 3D (an external tracking motion capture facility) and Gypsy (an exoskeleton-based motion capture system). Both of these systems extend the possibility for production of 3D animation and films.

You will enjoy access to our Hollywood standard MILO unit. We were the first School of Visual Communication in Europe to offer MILO motion capture technology, now one of only two owned by Universities in Europe.

We offer cutting-edge provision such as digital print centres and Sonny Ross became the first student on the Visual Communication course to master the art of the RISO machine. He has since used this to produce many successful RISO publications including “Rojo & Baxter” which has been a success at various zine and book fairs across the country.

The Parkside Building also offers:

  • exhibition space
  • digital and analogue photographic facilities and studios
  • dark rooms

Dr Clive Colledge

Course Director, MA Visual Communication

Clive Colledge is Course Director of the MA in Visual Communication at the School of Visual Communication, which is part of Birmingham City University’s Faculty of Art, Media and Design. He joined the University as a lecturer in 1999 and was awarded his PhD on advertising imagery for baby boomers in 2012.

An award-winning Art Director and Creative Director, Clive Colledge’s expertise lies in Advertising and Branding. He teaches postgraduates studying for the MA in Visual Communication. He is able to draw on his years of experience working in advertising when he teaches.

“The hands-on experience is a useful thing to draw upon, I try to get the students to think creatively and take risks in how they communicate: that is what I am really interested in.”

Clive is keen to bring in experts from the world of advertising into the lecture hall.  Among regular visitors to the department are:

  • Trevor Beattie, one of the world’s most celebrated Advertising Creative Directors. 
  • Ex graduates of the course, Max Burgoyne and James Beswick, now a creative team at Saatchi & Saatchi.
  • David Harris, Executive Creative Director of Wunderman.
  • Alumna Sarah Plant, who is now a Designer for Heinemann Publishers.

Clive is Chairman of the Graeme Robertson Trust, a charity that offers students or recent graduates help to enter the integrated advertising industry through an award scheme. “It’s a fantastic way to start your networking and is a really good charity and I’m proud to be involved with it,” he said.

Robert Sharl

Senior Lecturer

Robert Sharl is a Senior Lecturer in Visual Communications in the School of Visual Communications at Birmingham City University’s Faculty of Art, Media and Design. He is also Deputy Director for the MA in Visual Communication, and Course Coordinator for the University’s partner course in Visual Communications at the School for Higher and Professional Education (SHAPE) in Hong Kong. He joined the University in 1999.

Robert Sharl is changing the way that industry and the School of Visual Communications collaborate. Instead of having external businesses being a plug-in part to the students’ timetable, he puts the University to be at the centre of creative activities in the city.  It means that major events, such as the Flatpack Festival – a film festival that is held in Birmingham, are integrated into the curriculum.

“In the last couple of years, we have started to structure our courses around the external communication with industry.  It is a great benefit to both our students and the course. We are structuring our course around the commercial and professional world, ensuring that these events are central to what we do. It means that students can document aspects of the festival or event, as well as interview practitioners or assist in it.”

Before he was a lecturer, Robert ran a consultancy business that focused on digital, online and interactive media. He helped to develop the first cyber café in the city and was instrumental in making the Custard Factory the first public building in the UK permanently connected to the Internet. He worked as a consultant for Digital Central, helping music industry professional’s access funding for projects. He is working on a number of projects with Hong Kong photographer, Kwan Chun In.

UK prospective students:

UK enquiry form

+44 (0)121 331 5595

EU / International prospective students:

International enquiry form

+44 (0)121 331 5389

Already applied?

Email the applications team

+44 (0)121 331 6295