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Design for Performance: Theatre, Film and Live Events - BA (Hons)

  • UCAS Code: W460
  • Level: Undergraduate
  • Starting: September 2021
  • Study mode: Full Time (3 years)
  • Location: City Centre

Are you looking for a course that can act as a springboard for a rewarding career in design and production for theatre, festivals, exhibitions, nightclubs, live arts and more?

This degree will enable you to make creative and informed contributions to contemporary performance design practice. Ambitious in its approach, this course includes design and production for theatre, events, museums, concerts, exhibitions, festivals, environments, nightclubs, film, live arts and scenography.

You will benefit from the collaboration of ideas within a multidisciplinary School, on a course that reflects the dynamic crossover common to creative arts in the 21st Century. Imagination, experimentation and risk-taking are fundamental to our students, as the challenges and opportunities are so varied on this course.

What's covered in the course?

You will develop a clear understanding of the scope and breadth of contemporary Design for Performance, engaging with a variety of individual and collaborative opportunities. You will work with traditional and experimental formats from stage design to live arts, and site-specific festivals to themed environments. Using hands-on making, technical skills, 2D and 3D design, craft techniques and digital platforms, you will be able to determine your own career path in this expansive and growing industry. 

Our approach is to offer a first year experience that educates and supports students to develop skills and understanding that encompass spatial, figurative and performance design. From these underpinning principles, students tailor their second and third year study to areas of performance that are of particular interest to them. Because flexibility is built into our course design, you are able to study the same modules together regardless of your specific area of interest – this fosters a studio culture rich in diversity and collaboration. 

You will be supported by an experienced team who will assist you with your exploration of the traditions, theories and practices that are pertinent to your individual student journey. Learning is demonstrated through an accumulation of individual, collaborative, realised, speculative and live projects, along with a suite of high profile industry opportunities. 

This ensures that the course remains relevant and able to respond to the needs of the contemporary and future workplace and indeed to the discipline as a whole.

"The course gave me the opportunity to explore a wide variety of career options in the entertainments industry. I developed key skills for each step of the design process, from concepts to completion on site, gaining experience and having a lot of fun along the way! I would recommend this course to anyone who has a passion for designing and creating exciting experiences for all areas in the entertainments industry." Millie Proud

Why Choose Us?

  • The School of Visual Communication prides itself on a long-established national and international reputation. It consists of a range of courses that celebrate innovation and allow you to realise your creative ambitions.
  • Live project partnerships have included; Birmingham Repertory Theatre, MAC Birmingham, LIve Nation, Merlin Entertainments, Boomtown Festival, Casson Mann and the V&A.
  • Our end-of-year awards are sponsored and presented by high-profile names, with most award winners offered placements which have led to permanent employment.

Design for Performance Overview Image

Students outside Millennium Point

Open Days

Our Virtual Open Day for this course will take place on 22 November 2020. Book now and we will email you with a link to the Virtual Open Day for your subject area of choice.

Register your interest

This course is open to International students

Visual Communication Right Column

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 graduates work across a number of industries including film, television, theatre, events and exhibitions. Examples of jobs secured by recent graduates are:

Entry Requirements

We accept a range of qualifications, the most popular of which are detailed below.

Essential Requirements

112 UCAS tariff points from A/AS Level with a minimum of 2 A Levels.

In addition to qualification applicants will also need a good portfolio.

IELTS Minimum overall score of 6.0, with 6.0 in writing and no less than 5.5 in the remaining three skills.
A Level and Advanced VCE
  • BBC / 112 UCAS points
  • A maximum of 4 subjects are considered. These can be other A/S Levels (as long in a different subject) A-Levels or Level 3 equivalents.
AS and AS VCE Considered with a maximum of 3 other Level 3 qualifications (AS Levels must be in different subject to A-Levels) to obtain 112 pts
Access to HE Diploma
  • Pass with 60 credits overall. At least 45 credits at Level 3.
  • BA (Hons) Product and Furniture Design & BA (Hons) Landscape Architecture - Construction, Planning, Built Environment and Art and Design subjects preferred but other subjects also considered.
  • BA (Hons) Art and Design, BA (Hons) Fine Art, BA (Hons) Jewellery and Objects, BA (Hons) Horology - Arts, Media and Publishing subjects preferred but other subjects also considered.
  • BA (Hons) International Jewellery Business - Arts, Media and Business subjects preferred but other subjects also considered.
  • BA (Hons) Graphic Communication, BA (Hons) Illustration, BA (Hons) Photography, & BA (Hons) Design for Performance - Arts, Media and Publishing subjects preferred but other subjects also considered.
  • Pearson BTEC National Extended Diploma (2016 – present)
  • Pearson BTEC Extended Diploma (QCF) (2010 - 2016)
  • BTEC Level 3 National Diploma (2002 – 2010)
Foundation Studies (Art and Design, and Art, Design & Media)
  • Distinction
  • Can be considered alongside other Level 3 qualifications (AS Levels must be in different subject to A-Levels) to obtain 112 pts
IBO Certificate in Higher Level
  • Students who do not complete the IB Diploma will be considered on the basis of their IB Certificates if they obtain a total of 14 points or above from three Higher Level Subjects
  • Considered with other acceptable level 3 qualifications to meet 112 UCAS Tariff Points
International Baccalaureate Diploma

Obtain a minimum of 28 points overall

Irish Leaving Certificate (Highers) Pass the Irish Leaving Certificate with a minimum of 112 tariff points, achieved in five Higher level subjects.
OCR Cambridge Technical Extended Diploma DMM
Scottish Advanced Higher
  • Achieve a minimum of 112 tariff points achieved in either three Advanced Highers or from a combination of two Advanced Highers plus two Highers.
  • Where three Advanced Highers have been taken achieve a minimum of grades CCD
  • Where a combination of Highers and Advanced Highers have been taken you must achieve (grades of CD in two Advanced Highers plus grades of CC in two Highers).
  • Merit overall
  • Design, Surveying and Planning T Level considered for BA (Hons) Product and Furniture Design & BA (Hons) Landscape Architecture courses
UAL Extended Diploma in Art & Design Merit overall
UAL Extended Diploma in Creative Media Production & Technology Merit overall
UAL Extended Diploma in Performing and Production Arts Merit overall
Other qualifications

If you have a qualification that is not listed in the table please refer to our full entry requirements on UCAS.

Further guidance on tariff points can be found on the UCAS website.

Additional information for EU/International students

In addition to qualifications, applicants will also need a good digital portfolio.

Please see your country page for further details on the equivalent qualifications we accept.

In addition to the academic entry requirements listed above, international and EU students will also require the qualifications detailed in this table.

EU/Non-EU (International) Qualifications Requirements

Minimum overall score of 6.0 with no sub-test below 5.5.

If you do not meet the required IELTS score, you may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English courses. Please note that you must have a Secure English Language Test (SELT) to study on the pre-sessional English course. More information.

International Baccalaureate Diploma (or equivalent, including internationally accredited Foundation courses).

Country-specific entry requirements and qualifications.


International students who cannot meet the direct entry requirements can begin their degree studies at Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC).

Mature Applicants

Applications from mature students (21+) with alternative qualifications and/or considerable work experience will be considered on their merits.

From A/AS Level with a minimum of 2 A Levels

Don’t meet our entry requirements?

You could apply for a foundation course or a course at our International College. These routes have lower entry requirements and act as the bridge to a full degree. To find out more, please select your status:

Home student International student

  • UK students
  • International students

Award: BA (Hons)

Starting: Sep 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

Award: BA (Hons)

Starting: Sep 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 3 years
  • TBC

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form and equal opportunities PDF form instead. The University reserves the right to increase fees in line with inflation based on the Retail Prices Index or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament up to a maximum of five per cent.

Guidance for UK students


UK students applying for most undergraduate degree courses in the UK will need to apply through UCAS.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is a UK organisation responsible for managing applications to university and college.

Applying through UCAS
 Register with UCAS
 Login to UCAS
 Complete your details
 Select your course
 Write a personal statement
 Get a reference
 Pay your application fee
 Send UCAS your application

International students

There are three ways to apply:

1) Direct to the University

You will need to complete our International Application Form and Equal Opportunities Form, and submit them together with scan copies of your original academic transcripts and certificates.

2) Through a country representative

Our in-country representatives can help you make your application and apply for a visa. They can also offer advice on travel, living in the UK and studying abroad.

3) Through UCAS

If you are applying for an undergraduate degree or a Higher National Diploma (HND), you can apply through the UK’s Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

You can request a printed form from your school or nearest British Council office. You will be charged for applying through UCAS. Birmingham City University’s UCAS code is B25 BCITY.

Portfolio Guidance

If your application is progressed, you will be asked to submit a portfolio of your creative work. Your portfolio is your opportunity to show us examples of your work and creative interests to support your application.

If you are a UK home-based student this can be submitted digitally or you can physically bring it in. Please see our portfolio guidance page for tips and advice on putting your portfolio together.

If you are an EU or International student you will be asked to submit a digital portfolio as part of your application. Please see our international portfolio guidance page for guidance on how to create and submit your portfolio. 

Personal statement

UK / EU students are required to submit a personal statement as part of their application for this course.*

The personal statement 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.

*Non-EU students are not required to submit a personal statement when applying for this course.

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.

Based on the past experience of our students, you might find it helpful to set aside about £50 for each year of your studies for your personal stationery and study materials. All our students are provided with 100 free pages of printing each year to a maximum total value of £15.

Accommodation and living costs

The cost of accommodation and other living costs are not included within your course fees. More information on the cost of accommodation can be found in our accommodation pages.

Worried about personal statements?

Worried about personal statements?

If you've got no idea where to start or just want to check you're on the right track, we’ve got expert advice and real examples from our students to help you nail your personal statement. You can even download our ultimate personal statement guide for free.

Get personal statement advice

Loans and Grants

Financial Support

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

Year one

Your first year of study will introduce you to the basic skills and critical framework within Design for Performance.

You will be taught through a series of modules, which provide you with the knowledge to further explore this ever-expanding discipline.

In order to complete this course you must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 100 credits):

Introduction to Visual Communication
20 credits

This module introduces the universal principles and theories of visual communication, celebrating the wider opportunities for interdisciplinary practice within the School. The aim of the module is not only to introduce you to the principles within your own chosen subject area, but also to provide opportunities to take workshops in other subject areas, seek advice from experts in other disciplines and work collaboratively with students from across the Visual Communication subject areas.

Principles and Practice of Design for Performance
20 credits

The aim of this module is to introduce you to the main principles and common practice found within Design for Performance, creating a solid foundation of knowledge and skill based activity. Emphasis will be placed upon providing a holistic view of the Performance Designer’s creative process.

Enterprise of Design for Performance
20 credits

This module will consolidate your practice undertaken in the previous Level 4 projects. Allowing you to develop further your creative process as a designer for performance, it will build on and extend your visual and technical vocabulary, and prepare you for progression to level five.

20 credits

Throughout your first year, a series of Perspectives lectures will be delivered on a regular basis, exploring a wide range of themes appropriate to the analysis and production of visual communication outcomes. These lectures will be coupled with studio-based discussions and/or activities considering discipline-specific research. Discourse follows on from this lecture series, and is a module in which you will produce a written response. The module, and preceding lecture series, will supply you with a broad contextual framework that will underpin your practice.

In order to complete this course you must successfully complete at least 20 credits from the following list of OPTIONAL modules:

Narrative (Space and Place)
20 credits

The ‘Space and Place’ optional L4 module is designed to equip students with a good understanding of the issues surrounding these two areas. This will be achieved through a conceptual and practical understanding of the narrative process.

Narrative (Time and Sequence)
20 credits

The ‘Time and Sequence’ optional L4 module is designed to equip students with a good understanding of the issues surrounding these two areas. This will be achieved through a conceptual and practical understanding of the narrative process.

Narrative (Sound and Movement)
20 credits

The ‘Sound and Movement’ optional L4 module is designed to equip students with a good understanding of the issues surrounding these two areas. This will be achieved through a conceptual and practical understanding of the narrative process.

Narrative (Text and Image)
20 credits

The ‘Text and Image’ optional L4 module is designed to equip students with a good understanding of the issues surrounding these two areas. This will be achieved through a conceptual and practical understanding of the narrative process.

Narrative (People and Identity)
20 credits

The ‘People and Identity’ optional L4 module is designed to equip students with a good understanding of the issues surrounding these two areas. This will be achieved through a conceptual and practical understanding of the narrative process.

Core modules are guaranteed to run. Optional modules will vary from year to year and the published list is indicative only.

Year two

Your second year is designed to broaden your experience and increase your critical approach to the role of the designer within performance.

Through a combination of theory and experiment, you will learn how to evaluate and apply principles to practice.

In order to complete this course you must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 100 credits):

Context of Design for Performance
40 credits

To further develop a creative understanding of the practical and technical vocabulary of Design for Performance, this module aims to develop your awareness of the breadth of practice within this industry and your potential role within it.

Identifying Direction
40 credits

This flexible module reflects upon the range of experiences in Level 4 and Level 5 to allow you to identify a specific direction for your own practice and future aspirations. This will then form the initial stage and design of your Level 6 study. In this module, you will explore possible approaches, areas of research and projects that will help define your area of practice.

Live Project
20 credits

This module provides an opportunity for you to apply your knowledge and skills to an external, professional brief. The brief will be set by an external client/ agency, in consultation with your supervisor, and it could be a ‘real life’ problem to be solved, or a simulation. It is an opportunity for you to engage in a professional manner with an aspect of your subject area, which contributes to the development of employability skills within the supportive infrastructure of the University. Where appropriate, the project may involve interdisciplinary collaboration with students from other courses. In this way, it reflects the collaborative, flexible nature of employment within the Creative Industries.

In order to complete this course you must successfully complete at least 20 credits from the following list of OPTIONAL modules.

Work Placement
20 credits

The purpose of this module is to enable you to develop professional attributes and subject skills through experience in the work place, and to critically reflect upon your learning in that context. You will normally be expected to arrange your own placement, with support from academic staff and ADM Careers+.

Collaborative Practice
20 credits

The module is an opportunity to learn and critically reflect on the skills of collaboration by enabling you to create an interdisciplinary project with students from complementary disciplines, or with academic staff. Collaboration is a vital employability skill within the Creative Industries and this module allows you to develop these skills, making use of University facilities and with the support of academic staff. Within this module framework, several kinds of collaborative opportunities are available. For example, with the approval of your supervisor, you can determine a project based on your own interests; your supervisor may set you a predetermined project to enable you to work with other students in a way that is appropriate to your subject area; or there may be opportunities for you to collaborate with staff on research projects. In all cases, you must apply your subject skills to an interdisciplinary project which will be agreed in advance with your supervisor.

Core modules are guaranteed to run. Optional modules will vary from year to year and the published list is indicative only.

Year three

During your final year of study you will be supported in establishing the confidence to acknowledge and assert your own distinctive work identity.

You will take a critical view of the world of Design for Performance, identifying your own aspirations and place within the field. The work will be challenging, yet you will experiment and establish a solid foundation in the basic skills and conventions of the field.

In order to complete this course you must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 120 credits):

Critical Practice
60 credits

Level 6 Critical Practice constitutes a step progression from Level 5, building and elaborating a more advanced expansion of study. Critical Practice provides the opportunity to adopt an increasingly autonomous commitment to the individually chosen direction(s), from the wide spectrum of Visual Communication and Creative Design Practice. These directions are established with guidance and academic rigour through individual tutorials, guest professionals, workshops, group discussion and peer participation.

Major Project
60 credits

The purpose of the module is to enable you to undertake a sustained, in-depth and theoretically informed research project exploring an area that is of personal interest to you. It is important that we can support you appropriately, so you will be guided towards choosing a research topic which is relevant to your discipline and in which your lecturers have expertise. The outcome may take the form of a written dissertation or a practice-based portfolio.

Year one

You will develop skills and understanding that encompass spatial, figurative and performance design. From these fundamental principles, you can tailor the remainder of the course to areas of performance that are of particular interest to you and your future career aims.

You will develop your technical, creative, analytical, interpretive and reflective skills; helping you to understand traditional performance design and its relationship to contemporary practice. Through your modules, you will discover the application and use of colour, light, scale, composition, the figure and space.

Fundamental visual communication issues will be addressed through a series of core lectures and theory seminars. You will also have the opportunity to work with other students from across the school by selecting one of five in house options.

Shakespeare paper installation

Our first year students recently created a life-size installation featuring more than a dozen of Shakespeare’s most famous creations handcrafted from paper and cardboard as part of the figure in space module.

The show displayed scale models over six feet tall, a three-meter-high balcony and even a walk-in tavern, and was made as a tribute to mark 400 years since the Bard’s death.

Students used techniques learned on the course to sculpt 780 meters of corrugated cardboard and nearly 5,000 meters of brown paper into the entire setting and characters.

See more images of the Shakespeare paper installation

We are interested in allowing you to discover your own personal direction within this ever expanding and exciting area of design.

Year two

You will receive opportunities for placement, field study, collaborative and interdisciplinary work. We shall help you to develop your own personal direction, focusing towards the establishment of a specialised and flexible area of practice.

You will learn how to effectively communicate information, arguments and analysis in a variety of forms to specialist and non-specialist audiences. You will enhance your ability to work collaboratively within a working environment, demonstrating knowledge of the main methods of enquiry within the field.

Collaboration is a vital employability skill within the creative industries and the Collaborative Practice module in your second year allows you to develop these skills. Within this module you are able to create an interdisciplinary project with students from complementary disciplines across the School and wider Faculty. 

Your second year of study is crafted to allow you to develop your critical awareness, and formulate approaches to solving problems. You will develop your own individual style and perspective, drawing upon your own influences and direction.  Helping you to further understand the creative role, opportunities and responsibility of the contemporary designer.

Year three

You will be required to demonstrate, within your work, a particular view of what constitutes a design proposition. You will enhance your communication skills, allowing you to develop confidence and understanding, allowing you to capably articulate your views and knowledge to others.

The final year of the programme is designed to help you demonstrate a systematic, extensive and advanced knowledge of contemporary Design for Performance. You shall work autonomously or collaboratively to a professional standard on self-generated projects, with creativity and imagination.

Classroom activities and projects 

Once you enter a studio you will feel part of a shared community, you’ll find yourself engaging in messy workshops, creative group work and working on live briefs.

Design For Performance requires a multitude of approaches and we believe that the best way to learn is by doing, throwing yourself in at the deep end and accepting that mistakes are part of the process. The activities and projects undertaken on the course are active, hardwork, memorable, realistic and fun.

In your first year, for example, you may take part in group work in which the group is expected to work together using nothing more than £500 worth of brown paper and card. Past versions have included WW1 trenches, Frost Fairs and a Shakespearean pub complete with characters from the play and the bard himself. 

Study and work abroad

If you are interested in undertaking part of your studies abroad, the Erasmus scheme may be of interest to you. It allows higher education students to study for part of their degree in another European country.

It is open to undergraduates in their second year (or above) and offers a unique opportunity to enhance your CV and experience new cultures. If you study with us you will have access to an Erasmus co-ordinator, who can provide information about which institutions we have links with.

Find out more

Further study

As graduating students you will follow your own career path, which may mean going straight into industry. However, many students look at the opportunities we offer for postgraduate study at the University.

The School runs a one-year MA Visual Communication course as a natural progression from its undergraduate courses. You will be encouraged to continue your journey with us and develop your practice further.

Trips and visits

While you study the course you will be offered opportunities to go on group excursions both in the UK and abroad. There are usually three overseas trips a year, which we offer both at subject level, as well as School level, to Venice, New York and Berlin.

Locations do alter each year to allow for students to experience a range of cities. We always put on UK study trips to places such as London, Manchester, Oxford and Liverpool. 

As a Design for Performance: Theatre, Film and Live Events student, you’ll be encouraged to take advantage of these trips as we see them as adding extra value to your course and they do offer additional research opportunities.

Enhancing employability skills

The programme is designed so that you will complete your studies skilled, confident and ready to take on a creative career. Throughout the degree you will develop transferable skills, equipping you for creative practice. You will learn methods and techniques, with the ability to review, consolidate, extend and apply your knowledge and understanding in order to initiate and carry out projects.

You’ll develop the skill to identify and tackle problems, with confidence in communicating information and ideas. You will leave with sophisticated and professional communication and presentation skills.

Not only will you be able to work well within a team through collaborative practice you will also have confidence in your own abilities, with the talent and knowledge to independently produce creative work. Knowledge of the field will be developed throughout your studies, allowing you to critically evaluate historical, contemporary and personal practice.

The course will facilitate in the development of a wide range of both practical and knowledge-based skill. We will help you in your professional development, encouraging you to develop portfolios and gain extensive industry experience. You’ll be taught how to devise and manage design proposals, from conception to completion, readying you for a career in creative design. We’ll help you nurture your own creative flair and talent, with a focus on the creation of your own personal creative identity; something that will make you stand-out in industry.

Our Graduates

Elizabeth Howell - Design for Performance graduate

Elizabeth Howell, graduated in 2012
Producer at Tate St Ives

“I am the festival producer for SWITCH festival for Tate St Ives. I have been a tutor creating programming with a group of young people to create a festival of newly created artwork, DJs and VJs, and contemporary dance on the beach. I have curated an exhibition and produced an open call for moving image artwork from young people across the UK. My role consists of tutor, mentor, programmer, exhibition designer, copywriter, producer, production manager, lighting designer and community liaison.” 

Chris Morris, graduated in 2014
Creative Director, STAX Creations

“I started Stax Creations with two friends a few months before graduating. We began by making decor and pallet furniture for local events, and we now design and make large-scale immersive installations and stages for festivals, venues, bars and experiential marketing. Our clients include Cornetto, Coors, Heineken, Carlsberg, Bestival, The Zoo Project and Sound City Festival, taking us to Ibiza, London and all over the UK. We’re on a mission to gather as many creative designer/makers as possible in all disciplines to help us on our way as we grow.”

 Grace Burscough

Grace Burscough, graduated in 2013
Set Designer at Corporate Events

"I am currently working at an events company that caters for corporate clients, such as Nationwide, Heineken, Müller and BMW. It is an exciting role that involves designing and visualising a variety of live event formats, from exhibitions and roadshows, to business conferences and glittering award shows. I enjoy working across the different departments  – creative, technical and event management - and coming up with engaging solutions to clients' briefs, however detailed or open they may be."

Edd Musgrove - Design for Performance graduade

Edd Musgrove, graduated in 2012
Freelance Themed Entertainment Designer

“The course allowed me to follow my passion for themed entertainment and pursue it in my final year, along with giving me a huge foot in the door via the Madame Tussauds project, which set me up to be able to work in the field from day one after graduating. I'm a freelance themed entertainment designer with various large clients such as Merlin Entertainment and Compagnie Des Alpes. I've been able to work on projects for Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Legoland parks, Madame Tussauds and Sea Life locations across the world.” 

 Cat Casewell

Cat Casewell, Graduated in 2009
Visual Merchandising Assistant Manager at Selfridges

"I absolutely love my job. I love being a part of a wider team, all working towards one goal of delivering extraordinary customer environments every day and new scheme designs within the windows and visual moments within the store. I get to work within the Manchester and London stores, as well as getting the opportunity to travel to places like Paris, Milan and Copenhagen. Within these trips I get to explore different spaces, designs, displays, exhibitions and fashion shows. Visual Merchandising combined both my passion for events and the design of spaces with fashion.

I began working for Selfridges as a sales associate when I left the University. Later I got a job as visual merchandiser for menswear, then team leader, and now assistant manager for the store. No day is the same and no is job quite like this." 

Ryan Westwood

Ryan Westwood, graduated in 2013
Operations Manager at Mad Science

"Since graduating in 2013, I have been working for a company called Mad Science as their Operations Manager. This role involves training staff, creating new shows and events, preparing science themed show kits for the whole of the West Midlands and I even had the opportunity to work with huge corporate companies such as National Grid, Alton Towers, Warwick Castle and Seaworld. The course helped me get the experience and skills needed to be accepted for jobs such as this, as well as giving me the confidence to put my ideas forward and make them possible."

Emily Woodall

Emily Woodall, graduated in 2011
Junior Production Manager for Firecracker Works

"I currently work as a Junior Production Manager for Firecracker Works, a London based production company specialising is design, production and building within the events industry. I work on a variety of different briefs, from events, window displays, experiential activations to installations and interiors.

It is my job to conceptualise and create moods in response to the initial brief and then quote, oversee the logistics and be the 'go to' of the project in hand. I work within a team of spatial designers, project managers and production assistants with the aim to create bespoke design and build." 

Robert French, graduated in 2012
Scenic Designer/Maker at Stage Manager

"With confidence and skills gained from the Design for Performance course, I moved from strength to strength, starting off scenic painting on the new London Dungeons, then freelancing to be creative on various other theme park projects (Lego Land, Thorpe Park and York Dungeons). Now, I work closely with PropTarts as a set builder/ props maker/ assistant designer, as well as divulging into more stage management jobs for various productions in Oxford, In particular the Oxford Playhouse. Design for Performance was the perfect platform for me to start a career in the industry I love."


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.


BCU Graduate+

Through our courses we give you the skills and experience needed to get a head start when applying for jobs. But we offer something extra too – Graduate+.

Our unique programme gives you the chance to develop valuable skills outside of the more formal classroom learning. We award points for Graduate+ activities (including firewalking!) and these can be put towards a final Graduate+ award.

More about Graduate+

Graduate jobs

The School of Visual Communication offers a broad education, as well as the very specific subject skills so we see many graduates working in the creative industries but also in a variety of employment from management, education, tourism, marketing and freelance business.

Industry demands are constantly changing, so it’s important that we prepare you for all eventualities. The internationalisation components mean you are aware of global expectations and the possibilities of work outside the UK. All modules have transferable skills built into the teaching, meaning you are able to apply your knowledge to a variety of tasks and challenges.


You are required to develop strong networks, identifying opportunities and work placements appropriate to your practice. Visits to companies, interviews and live projects are an excellent way to introduce you and to develop these links.  More formal placements have included opportunities with Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham Costume Hire, mac Birmingham and 2000trees Festival.

Summer placements with high-profile internationally-recognised companies Merlin Entertainments and, most recently, Casson Mann have been offered as rewards for live project initiatives. These prestigious opportunities allow students to gain a real insight into the creative approaches used by these organisations.

Professional Associations

The School has great associations with many industry bodies and professional associations. We are members of the the Performance Design & Education CollectiveAssociation of PhotographersAssociation of IllustratorsD&AD (the professional association of designers and advertising), The Society of British Theatre Designers, The Association of Photographers in Higher Education, and the Royal Society of Arts.

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

Students come to study in the School of Visual Communication from all over the world but we have nurtured some long-standing relationships with Malaysia, Thailand, China and India.

If you are a student from these countries, or any other, you should consider studying with us, as we offer a wide curriculum that has internationalisation built into the modules. We actively encourage trans-disciplinary teaching, group projects and have established relationships with colleges and industry overseas.

We take a pride in developing strong creative communities and these thrive on the injection of different cultural experiences. To develop a sense of sharing all experiences and ideas is fundamental to the philosophy of Visual Communication.

International student case study: Karolina Bielskyte

Karolina Bielskyte Case Study

Studying this course was the reason why I came to England. In this unique programme of study, I became an interdisciplinary artist experienced in design for theatre, film, performance, exhibitions and more.

The course enabled me to embrace various aspects of performance related design, unifying different techniques and combining them with my traditional art knowledge. I have explored storyboarding, set construction and dressing to filming and post-production. I really enjoyed my time on the course as the range of projects and the high quality of teaching developed the skills I already had, encouraged me to gain new ones and helped me to grow as an individual and an artist at the same time. Most importantly, course tutors never put me in any frames or made rules to restrict my individuality or creativity, instead always encouraged and lead me though my own individual development.

Soon after graduation, I won the Birmingham Repertory Theatre Award at the VISCOM Ian Emes Awards which led to backstage work experience at The REP Theatre. Here, I had the chance to work with a wonderful person, Milorad Zakula, the REP production Manager, along with artists Rob Olins, Douglas Benford and Lee Berwick to create ‘The Sound Of Memories’ - an interactive audio visual installation in the theatre foyer. While there, I was also involved into making of a 50 minute film production to be released in tandem with the new Pink Floyd album, and for ‘The Endless River’ directed by Ian Emes, I was both an art director‘s assistant and a performer as well!

Later on, I took an ERASMUS+ opportunity and a two month placement at a theatre company called ‘Chille De La Balanza’ (located in a former psychiatric hospital!) in Italy, Florence. Here, I helped set up a painting exhibition and worked on set designs for the show ‘Fathers and Sons’ by Ivan Turgenev.

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 theatre, performance and event design 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
Paul Barret - Staff

Paul Barrett

Course Director / Faculty Senior Learning and Teaching Fellow

Paul has been the course director for BA Hons Design for Theatre, Performance and Event (TPE) since 2001. A practising scenographer, his professional credits include designs for large-scale theatre, small-scale outdoor touring productions, corporate events and festivals. He has many years experience as a freelance designer, company director, educator and performer and is currently the Chair of the Association of Courses in Theatre Design.

Read Paul's full profile

Lara Farniss - Staff

Dr Lara Furniss

Senior Lecturer

Lara has twenty years professional experience working internationally across many art and design disciplines. This extensive cross-disciplinary professional experience directly informs Lara’s teaching, with a primary interest in developing new pedagogic approaches to non-discipline specific problem solving. Lara’s research interests have emerged directly from her professional practice and academic experience within Higher Education. Her PhD study explored evolving design practice and design education in the 21st Century. The study examined the processes of internationally renowned UK design studios and the implications for design pedagogy. Studios included Ron Arad Associates, Heatherwick Studio, Punchdrunk, Jason Bruges Studio and Assemble.

Read Lara's full profile

Joanna Jarvis - Staff

Dr Joanna Jarvis Dr

Lecturer in Performance Design

Joanna’s background is in designing and making period costume for performance. She has combined her studies of dress in the eighteenth-century with an interest in women’s attitudes to self-presentation through their clothes and current theories on the psychology of dress. This combination is providing a rich field of study with reference to women in the eighteenth-century.

Joanna sees her teaching as an opportunity to enthuse the next generation in dress as material culture and what it tells us about ourselves, our attitudes and the society in which we live.

Read Dr Joanna's full profile

Hollie Wright

Lecturer in Scenography

After graduating with a Master of Visual Communication Scenography, Hollie’s passion for immersive environments and dining experiences grew; working as a designer maker with experience in sculptural work and spatial design. Hollie’s professional credits span theatre, puppetry, and music festivals from Glastonbury and Download to Truck and Kendall Calling. Hollie has been lecturing on BA Hons Design for Performance and BA Hons Stage Management since 2006.

Read Hollie's full profile