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Design for Performance: Theatre, Film and Live Events with a Foundation Year - BA (Hons)

Clearing places available

72 points required

Work out your points with our UCAS points calculator

  • UCAS Code: W46F
  • Level: Foundation
  • Starting: September 2020
  • Location: City Centre
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72 points

(or equivalent) is the minimum you will need to be considered for this course in Clearing.

Use the UCAS Tariff Calculator to work out your points.

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Please note: the entry requirements listed below are relevant for main cycle applications and may not be applicable during Clearing.

This four-year Design for Performance degree course with a Foundation Year has been specifically designed to allow you to undertake an additional year of study which will build stronger creative footings to ensure successful progression through your chosen degree program. 

Working in a lively and energetic environment, you will be given the freedom to expand your knowledge of practical skills, creative exploration and conceptual development, underpinned by broad critical understanding, academic writing and emerging theoretical principles. 

There will be a range of opportunities to work on collaborative and individual projects aimed to develop employability partnerships and to identify the role of developing practitioner. BA teaching staff from across both schools will work closely with you throughout the course to prepare you for progression. 

After successful completion of the foundation year, you will have the flexibility to switch (should you wish to change direction) onto a number of related undergraduate degree programmes within Birmingham School of Art or the School of Visual Communication. 

BA (Hons) Design for Performance

Make creative and informed contributions to contemporary performance design practice with our unique, future-focused BA (Hons) Design for Performance course. 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 multi-disciplinary School, in a course that reflects the dynamic crossover common to creative arts in the twenty-first 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.  Working 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 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?

  • Your Foundation Year gives you the chance to explore Graphic Communication, Illustration, Design for Performance, Photography, Fine Art and Art and Design. You will have the flexibility to switch (should you wish to change direction) onto a number of related undergraduate degree programmes within Birmingham School of Art or the School of Visual Communication.
  • 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.
  • Your portfolio will be showcased to a number of potential employers through our home-grown and independent talent pool, We Grow Cherries, as well as during your graduate show.
  • Live project partnerships include; Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Merlin Leisure, Live Nation and Casson Mann.
  • 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.

Students outside Millennium Point

Open Days

Our Virtual Open Day for this course will take place on 26 September 2020. Book now and we will email you with a link to the Virtual Open Day for your subject area of choice.

Book now

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:

VisCom blog feature box for course pages

School of Visual Communication blog

Take a look at our blog to see the latest news and events from the School and get an insight into life as a Graphic Communication, Illustration, Photography or Design for Performance student here. 

Read the latest post 

Entry Requirements


(or equivalent) is the minimum you will need to be considered for this course in Clearing. Use the UCAS Tariff Calculator to work out your points.

Got your results?

If you've already received your results and have enough points for this course you can apply online now.

Apply now

Waiting for results?

Download our guide to Clearing to prepare ahead of results day and get your results day 2020 questions answered.

Get advice

Please note: the entry requirements listed below are relevant for main cycle applications and may not be applicable during Clearing.

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

Essential Requirements

80 UCAS tariff points.

Typical Offers (UK students)
UK Qualification Requirements
A level  CDD. Must be offered along with either one A-level or one BTEC Subsidiary Diploma/ OCR Cambridge Technical Introductory Diploma qualification.

Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma

Access to HE Diploma 60 credits overall - 15 credits at level 2 and 45 credits at level 3

Scottish Higher

Achieve a minimum of 80 tariff points achieved from either five Highers or a combination of two Highers offered with two Advanced Highers.

International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme

Obtain a minimum of 24 points overall. Students who do not complete the IB Diploma and who achieve the minimum of 11 points from two Higher Level subjects, will be considered on the basis of their IB Certificate.

OCR Cambridge Technical Certificate

Must be offered along with either two A-levels or two BTEC Level 3 Subsidiary Diplomas of 80 tariff points. Cannot be offered as a standalone qualification.

Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Diploma

MM. Can be offered along with either one A-level or one BTEC Subsidiary Diploma/ OCR Cambridge Technical Introductory Diploma qualification to achieve a minimum of 80 tariff points.

Scottish Advanced Higher

Achieve a minimum of 80 tariff points achieved in either three Advanced Highers or from a combination of two Advanced Highers plus two Highers.
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

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.

Mature Applicants

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

  • UK/EU students
  • International students

Award: BA (Hons)

Starting: Sep 2020

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

Award: BA (Hons)

Starting: Sep 2020

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 4 years
  • £12,800 per year

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.

Places available to start in September 2020

If you'd like to start this course full-time this September, you can apply through Clearing.

Got your results?

If you've already received your results and have enough points for this course you can apply online now.

Apply now

Waiting for results?

Download our guide to Clearing to prepare ahead of results day and get your results day 2020 questions answered.

Get advice

International and part-time students can apply online as normal using the links above.

Want to start in September 2021?

You can apply via UCAS from September 2020.

Portfolio Guidance

You are not required to submit a portfolio 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. 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 your course. 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.

View additional costs for this course

Foundation year

Working in a lively and energetic environment you will be given the freedom to expand your knowledge in conceptual development, practical skills and creative exploration underpinned by broad critical understanding and emerging theoretical principles.

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

Understanding Context
20 credits

This module explores the term ‘Context’, what it means to a practitioner and how you can apply it to your own work. You will explore how the context of your work can radically alter its meaning.

You will experiment with the design and layout of gathered information, supported by relevant seminars and workshops. Experimenting with layout and physical compilations of information you will produce a zine and/or other production. This will evidence carefully considered documentation techniques alongside an understanding of the word ‘context’.

Creative Development & Production
40 credits

Artists work in a globally influenced, culturally diverse, and technologically advancing world. Their art is a dynamic combination of materials, methods, concepts, and subjects that challenge traditional boundaries and defy easy definition.

This module will look at experimental approaches to drawing to identify radical new solutions from the perspective of the contemporary world we live in. Your brief is to apply the process of ‘rework’ to found imagery, object/s and or photographs. 

You will explore your ideas through a series of workshop activities that enhance established techniques and encourage new experimentation.
You will be encouraged to explore innovative ways of recording imagery that integrate with your developing practice.

Perspectives on Practice
20 credits

During this module you will meet lecturers, researchers and partners from across BCU, the city and further afield to open your understanding of practiced based creative work. Through lectures and workshops, you will be introduced to the versatility of subject areas in terms of ideas, development, research, materials, techniques and contexts.

Creative Realisation
40 credits

Creative realisation is not just about the practice of producing creative responses, it is about identifying the factors that generate creative thinking and facilitating the process. For this module you will draw on your own creative strategies to facilitate the development of a project that is appropriate for progression onto your chosen BA (Hons) course.

Successful completion of your Foundation year will guarantee progression to any of the accredited degree courses listed above.

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
40 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.

Foundation Year

You will work individually and collaboratively to develop a stimulating visual portfolio of work that evidences your enthusiasm for further study within a specific subject area.

BA teaching staff from across both Birmingham School of Art and the School of Visual Communication will work with you throughout the course and you will have full access to all of the University facilities.

The two first semester modules will run in conjunction with each other to enable understanding of the relationship between developing work and potential contexts.

These modules will form the building blocks for future work and will focus on developing confidences with techniques, learning skills and productivity. The two final semester modules will run in conjunction with each other to enable a positive integration between Perspectives on Practice and Creative Realisation.

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.

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.

Examples of recent students' projects
Ben Ryan

Chris Morris
'Erryday' Festival Hub

Lucy Norton
Advert for Yorkshire Sculpture Park

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 your self 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. All of these were produced over an intensive four-week period.

View examples of student work...

Collaborative practice

Collaboration is a vital employability skill within the creative industries and the Collaborative Practice module on this course 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. See below for an example of one of these projects:

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. Where possible, UK trips are free or heavily subsidised.

As a Visual Communication 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.

Graduate stories
Hannah Turton

Hannah Turton won the Merlin Award at the Viscom awards after designing a new Madame Tussauds for Birmingham, featuring famous names hailing from the city in the areas of music, television and film, history and sport. The award recognises young, talented designers with a flair for attraction and exhibition design and includes a four-week placement at Merlin, one of the world's largest entertainments companies.

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.

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.

Design for Performance graduates work in a range of careers including:

  • Theatre designer
  • Production designer
  • Performance practitioner
  • Events designer
  • Prop maker
  • Costume designer
  • Exhibition designer


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.

The Live Nation project has been in place for over ten years, with students working on sculptures for the backstage area of Download rock 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 Association of Courses in Theatre DesignAssociation 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

Margaret Street - Foundation course pages

Margaret Street campus

During your Foundation Year you will be based at our Margaret Street Campus - an impressive purpose built Grade 1 listed building. From industry-standard machinery in metal, wood and print, to our studio spaces and media suite, everything you need will be at your fingertips from day one.

See our facilities 

Jo Newman staff profile

Jo Newman

Course Director

As a practitioner she understands the urgency to ‘make’ and the excitement and frustration that comes with this. Jo has chosen to lead the Visual Arts and Communication Foundation Course so that she can introduce students to an environment where ‘making’ can be positively productive and can facilitate learning through creative exploration, providing a bedrock for future study. As an educator she teaches with both academic rigour and humour. Jo designs projects which aim to challenge students to stretch their understanding of art and design and she has admiration for the courage and curiosity of student perseverance.

Read Jo's full profile

Joe Miles

Lecturer in Photography

Specialising in commercial and editorial photography for national and international clients Joe works freelance alongside his work for the University. Experienced in both film and digital photography he is currently working with RED cameras, combining moving and still image. His extensive list of clients include: BBC, British Telecom, Fulham FC, Hyundai, Liverpool FC, Marie Claire, Microsoft, Nivea, the Times, Sotheby’s, The Sunday Times Magazine Tesco and the Young Vic Theatre.

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

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

Lara Farniss - Staff

Lara Furniss

Lecturer in Performance Design

With a BA (Hons) degree in Interior Design from Manchester Metropolitan University, and a Master of Fine Arts from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Lara has 20 years' professional experience working across many art and design disciplines throughout the UK, Europe and the USA, including sculpture, installation, interior, architecture, exhibition, event and scenography.

Lara has worked within a wide range of design studios as well as running her own studio and working as freelance designer, and projects range from experimental devised theatre to multi-million pound events.

Studios include Imagination, Event Communications and DEGW Architects. Clients include The Imperial War Museum, V&A Museum, The Field Museum (Chicago), Eureka! Children’s Museum, Ten Chimneys Foundation (Wisconsin), Ericsson, Barclays, BBC, Coca Cola, Schweppes and Grosvenor Estate Holdings.

Award-winning and high-profile projects include: ‘The Half - Photographs of Actors by Simon Annand’ for The Theatre Museum (V&A Museum) awarded ‘Best Exhibition on a Limited Budget’ at the Museums & Heritage Awards in 2006, and ‘Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne: A Life on Stage’ at the Ten Chimneys Foundation awarded National Historic Landmark status.

Alongside her commercial design work, Lara has designed over 20 theatre productions. Starting as resident designer for Cook County Theatre Department in Chicago, she has gone on to design for a wide range of theatres including The Performing Garage, New York and The Gate, London. In 2000 she was nominated for an Arts Foundation Fellowship in Theatre Design by Simon McBurney.

Lara’s research interests have emerged directly from her art and design practice, as well as her current experience as an academic within Higher Education. Her PhD study examines the processes of 21st Century design studios which do not define themselves by discipline.

Read Lara's full profile

Joanna Jarvis - Staff

Joanna Jarvis

Lecturer in Performance Design

Joanna graduated from the City of Birmingham Polytechnic (now Birmingham City University) with a degree in Theatre Design.

Her first design job was with a Theatre in Education group run by the National Trust. They toured the country creating experiential shows for primary school children in NT properties. For the show to work effectively the characters had to look correct for the period of house in which each show was set, and this need for accuracy fired her interest in the history of dress.

Joanna became a freelance designer and maker of period costume, often collaborating with the choreographer Mary Collins – who she met through the YNTT.

In 2012 they wrote a joint paper for the Oxford Dance Symposium about the development of choreography through the 18th century, and how dance costume was affected by styles of dress. Through this work Joanna discovered that although the development of ballet in the 18th century has been widely examined, very little has been written about the costumes, which have such a key role to play in the overall look of the performance. She has always been interested in the relationship between the performers in live performance and their audience, that strong emotional, and yet intangible, connection that develops when watching an effective performance.

In the late 18th century there was a relationship between costume for performance and fashion, and this is evident from the various garments named after actresses or the parts that they played. There is scope for greater analysis of how the fashionable body shape dictated form for some costume, how female dancers pushed the boundaries of acceptable forms of dress, and how fashion was itself influenced by styles seen on the dance stage. Joanna’s research is examining that relationship.

Read Joanna's full profile