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Design Management - MA

Do you want to be a design thinker? Is your goal to use a design strategy to transform businesses, cultures, and lives? Alternatively, do you want to develop your own design business? If your answer is yes, then this course is for you! This course invites designers and non-designers to apply design thinking and business-speak to create innovative and purposeful outcomes....

Studying with us in 2021/22

It is possible that the 2021/22 academic year may be affected by the ongoing disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.  Information about the arrangements the University has put in place for the 2021/22 academic year in response to Covid-19 and the emerging variants can be found here.

Should the impact of Covid-19 continue in subsequent years of your course, any additional and/or alternative arrangements put in place by the University in response will be in accordance with the latest government public health advice, pandemic-related/health and safety legislation, and the terms and conditions of the student contract.

  • Level Postgraduate Taught
  • Study mode Full Time
  • Location City Centre
  • School Birmingham School of Architecture and Design
  • Faculty Faculty of Arts, Design and Media


Do you want to be a design thinker? Is your goal to use a design strategy to transform businesses, cultures, and lives? Alternatively, do you want to develop your own design business? If your answer is yes, then this course is for you!

This course invites designers and non-designers to apply design thinking and business-speak to create innovative and purposeful outcomes. On this course, you sharpen your strategic edge through expanding your entrepreneurial and business capabilities. If you are a non-designer, you learn to be a creative thinker.

The postgraduate course is available as a full time (1 year), part-time (2 years), and via ‘workbased learning’ (2 years) while you remain employed.

You bring the knowledge from your past education and practice, combine them with the subject knowledge of design management, and create solutions that are not just aesthetically pleasing but also functional, viable, and purposeful. The course brings excellent networking opportunities for you to facilitate knowledge building and collaborative learning.

On this postgraduate course, we teach you the interdisciplinary issues that design managers work with, such as business, marketing, technology, and art. Immersed in practice, you acquire the skills and the confidence to manage and lead a project. You are encouraged to push the boundaries and to put forward new, improved ideas that are innovative and purposeful.

Design thinking, design strategy, creativity, research, and problem solving are applied extensively to all the modules. You undertake projects individually and in a team, where you learn communication, management, and interpersonal skills. You work with industry partners with the utmost professionalism. You pursue an industry-based inquiry, which may be a placement. And, you acquire and apply people management, client management, and project management tactics while working on industry projects and teams.

With an MA in Design Management, you are acquiring skills that empower you to apply to jobs in a diverse range of fields, and you can pursue further research by conducting a Ph.D.

This course is open to International students.

What's covered in this course?

You’ll learn from our team of commercially active staff, who ensure the content stays industry relevant. Alongside the opportunity to complete a six-week placement option, you will have the chance to work on commercial projects with established businesses. Previous projects have included working on a brand review with GKN, a FTSE 100 British multinational company specialising in aerospace.

Tailor the programme to suit you. The curriculum has a distinctive professional focus and embraces business management, marketing, design strategy, entrepreneurship, innovation, sustainability, design leadership and design practice.

Your focus will also include project management, intellectual property law and finance. There is also a strong emphasis on the development of evidence-based decision making, high level leadership and communication skills.

Why Choose Us?

  • You will take charge of your learning by tailoring your education focused on your career goal and design specialism.
  • You can study whilst remaining in full time employment via work-based learning.
  • You can network and collaborate during a six-week industry enquiry.
  • You will work on industry projects from around the globe.
  • You will experience innovation in real-time: You will work collaboratively with peers from other disciplines and industry partners. You will co-create and design new solutions for companies in collaborative projects.
  • You will create exhibitions of your work: You will have the opportunity to talk about your work to a diverse audience from different schools in Birmingham City University and outside during student-led exhibitions on the course.
  • You have the option of choosing the course with a professional placement module, which enables you to do a work placement (with extra fees) for six months.

Entry Requirements

Essential Requirements

The course is aimed at designers with an interest in developing their business and management skills, and non-designers with an interest in working within design. You are expected to have:


Either a first or second class honours degree in a related subject, or, equivalent qualifications/experience. Non-standard applicants with a non-design related degree and/or extensive work experience are offered a place on the course on a case-by-case basis. They may be invited for an interview.

A background or proven interest in design or design management.

A personal statement outlining personal goals and a plan to use the course to achieve these.

Extra information for EU/International students
EU International applicants should note that this course requires a high standard of reading, writing, and listening skills; full-time/part-time students are expected to have a minimum English standard of IELTS 6, with a minimum of 5.5 in each of the listening, reading, writing and speaking components.
International International applicants should note that this course requires a high standard of reading, writing, and listening skills; full-time students are expected to have a minimum English standard of IELTS 6, with a minimum of 5.5 in each of the listening, reading, writing and speaking components.
Work-Based Work-based learning students who are based in countries where English is not the first language should note that this course requires a high standard of reading, writing, and listening skills; full-time/part-time students are expected to have a minimum English standard of IELTS 6, with a minimum of 5.5 in each of the listening, reading, writing and speaking components.
International Students

Entry requirements here

Fees & How to Apply

  • International students

Award: MA

Starting: Jan 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 15 months
  • £6,600 per year
  • Full Time
  • 18 months (including Professional Placement - see below*)
  • £7,260 per year

Award: MA

Starting: Jan 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 15 months
  • £13,200 per year
  • Full Time
  • 18 months (including Professional Placement - see below*)
  • £14,520 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.

Access to computer equipment

You will require use of a laptop, and most students do prefer to have their own. However, you can borrow a laptop from the university or use one of our shared computer rooms.


You will receive £5 print credit in each year of your course, available after enrolment.

Field trips

All essential field trips and associated travel costs will be included in your course fees.

Access to Microsoft Office 365

Every student at the University can download a free copy of Microsoft Office 365 to use whilst at university and for 18 months after graduation.

Key software

You will be able to download SPSS and Nvivo to your home computer to support with your studies and research.

Key subscriptions

Subscriptions to key journals and websites are available through our library.

Free access to Rosetta Stone

All students can sign up to the online learning language platform for free through the Graduate+ scheme.

Free Adobe Creative Cloud licence

Students studying on this course can request a free licence to install the entire suite of applications on up to two personal devices.

Media consumable items (mandatory)

This course requires the use of consumables including stationary materials.

Excess printing (optional)

Once you have spent your £5 credit, additional printing on campus costs from 5p per sheet.

Books (optional)

All module key texts will be in the University library, but in limited numbers. You may choose to purchase a copy.

Placement expenses (optional)

If you choose to undertake a placement, you'll need to budget for accommodation and any travel costs you may incur whilst living or working away from home.

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.

*Professional Placement option

The Professional Placement version of the course is optional and is offered as an alternative to the standard version of the course.

This will allow you to complete a credit bearing, 20 week Professional Placement as an integral part of your Master’s Degree. The purpose of the Professional Placement is to improve your employability skills which will, through the placement experience, allow you to evidence your professional skills, attitudes and behaviours at the point of entry to the postgraduate job market. Furthermore, by completing the Professional Placement, you will be able to develop and enhance your understanding of the professional work environment, relevant to your chosen field of study, and reflect critically on your own professional skills development within the workplace.

You will be responsible for finding and securing your own placement. The University, however, will draw on its extensive network of local, regional and national employers to support you in finding a suitable placement to complement your chosen area of study. You will also benefit from support sessions delivered by Careers+ as well as advice and guidance from your School.

Placements will only be confirmed following a competitive, employer-led selection process, therefore the University will not be able to guarantee placements for students who have registered for the ‘with Professional Placement’ course. All students who do not find a suitable placement or do not pass the competitive selection process will be automatically transferred back to the standard, non-placement version of the course.

Personal statement

Students are required to submit a personal statement as part of their application for this course.

Your postgraduate personal statement is going to shine a light on your personal experience, academic success, personal skills and any other factors that will support your application for further study.

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

Your passion and motivations

Studying a postgraduate course usually means you want to specialise in something. So what’s driving you?

Why this course?

Show that you’ve researched the course offering. What is it about this particular course that appeals to you? Is it the lecturers? The modules? Etc.

What makes you a good postgraduate candidate?

Tutors want to know that you can handle postgraduate study, so show them how your undergraduate experiences or work life has equipped you for a more advanced level of study. Key areas to address are research and group work but this can vary depending on your chosen course.

Relevant academic or work experience

Add anything relevant that relates back to your chosen course and shows how your skills will contribute towards your learning. What extra-curricular activities have you taken part in? What awards have you won? What employment or voluntary experience do you have that has helped you develop transferable skills? How do these specifically relate to the course you are applying for?

You should also mention your future plans and how a postgraduate qualification fits in. Try to look beyond your postgraduate study – do you plan to jump straight into a specific career or follow your studies with a research degree? Lastly, use plain, professional English and, where possible, utilise the language of your chosen industry.

Get more information on writing personal statements.

Course in Depth


The module Design Research introduces you to Design Management. You learn the methods, tools, approaches of conducting a creative research in this field. You learn about various forms of research strategies, writing a literature review and its purpose, and methods for data collection, analysis, and synthesis.

In this module, you initiate your development plan, where you direct your learning by undertaking action research. You set yourself a goal and then make a plan on how you will achieve your goal. You begin by asking the questions, ‘where am I now?’, ‘where do I want to be?’, and ‘how do I get there?’. Your focus is beyond the Master’s. You evaluate your skills, knowledge, and learning style depending on where you see yourself in the foreseeable future, while identifying the gaps in your skills and experience. It is necessary that you strategise the way you will acquire the missing skills and knowledge while you are on the course.

The module, Design Strategy and Innovation, enables you to apply design thinking in creating new ideas. You examin the role of design and creativity in creating breakthrough innovations. The module bridges the languages of design and business. The curriculum enables you to apply design thinking for innovation, and evaluation of the return on investment. In this module you build strategies to establish design as a leading functional discipline.

The module, Global Perspectives, aims to broaden your thinking about the application and relevance of design management in various cultural contexts. This module introduces you to the different contexts in which Design Managers operate, the relationships they manage, the cross-cultural practices they have to navigate and their impact at a global level. You learn about successful practices of Design Managers from different parts of the world, and practices where they are positively impacting non-design sectors. As a result, you open your mind to different design cultures, design practices, and design attitudes.

The module, Leadership and Design Entrepreneurship, aims at embedding you in practice. The module introduces you to the multifaceted role of a design manager. You acquire project management and interpersonal skills whilst you work in a team on a live industry brief. You also have the opportunity to conduct an inquiry with industry which could be a work placement. On this module, you learn to manage client expectations and communicate with a diverse audience. You are expected to be an independent learner. As an independent learner you have to find opportunities to apply your knowledge to practice and show your leadership and entrepreneurial skills.

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 practical outcome with accompanying reflective, critical and contextual material. The main consideration when choosing your topic is that it must be relevant to your programme and you should consider the relevance of this topic to your future academic or professional development.

Course Structure

You can study full-time, part-time or by ‘work-based learning.’ Our UK and EU-based students can commit to the full Master’s programme or start with the Postgraduate Certificate and continue on to the Postgraduate Diploma and Master’s if they wish.

Work based learning allows you to accelerate your career by remaining in full time design-related practice during your studies. This is open to all our students provided you are fluent in English and work in design related positions. If you choose this option, you can relate your study directly to the workplace. Developed around personal and work related goals, work-based learning is based on a combination of standard and adapted course modules, involving approximately 15-20 days attendance, attendance is negotiated individually but usually involves a minimum of six visits to the University over two years.

Student stories

Korrakot Kulkraisri

Brand Strategies and Designer
Oglivy & Mather / Brand Union

My current role requires strategic planning skills, research and development of product branding opportunity, and management skills, focusing both start up business and re-branding. I handle design visual identity and create branding concepts solution for clients.

One of the most important highlights from my time on the course would definitely be my lecturers and friends. I don't think I could get a better support from Caroline and Nick - they are always there when ever we struggled with the work. The variety of students coming from different parts of the world and backgrounds broadened the scope of the course and opened up the real meaning of design.

Another important aspect I gained from this course was the ability to get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself to try something new and exciting. 


Enhancing employability skills

Many of our graduates are established designers working in architecture, fashion, graphics, interiors, jewellery, media, product, service, and design-related businesses. Design Management graduates have been successful in establishing and running their businesses. And, many have jobs in companies that are not in the field of design but require Design Managers to instil more human-centred approaches and processes in the business.

Career opportunities are found in design and brand consultancies, in-house design and marketing departments, and innovation teams. Graduates of this course hold job titles such as user researcher, UX designer, UI designer, senior designers, design managers, strategic designer, project and account managers, buyers, and marketing communication managers.

Student stories

Kaifa Huang (Kevin)

MA Design Management graduate

My current role is mainly about Real Estate advertising, both online and in print. I deal with data collection and research about creative inspiration, promotional materials design, copy writing translation (Chinese-English). 

When I was deciding to choose my specialism, the MA Design Management really stood out. I was impressed by the fact that it doesn’t only help designers to gain insights into business knowledge, communicate strategically with non-designers, and vice versa, but also help ‘manage’ design and designers in my future work.

The highlight of the course would be creating so many useful and helpful contacts who really helped me with independent study, complete tasks more efficiently, strategic and effective communication. 


Keiran Clayton

Placement at Ikon, Manchester 

Working at Ikon for two weeks on a work placement gave me an amazing insight into a real furniture design industry.

During my time there I learned and worked on a number of different skills, particularly all about the development process that the team goes through to come up with a bespoke furniture solution and a wider view of interior design as a whole. My placement also gave me a real-life and in-depth insight into key areas of the industry such as safety, research, materials and CAD software.

But it wasn’t just about the technical skills. I also spent a great deal of time learning about the commercial side of things such as how the business works behind the scenes, time planning, and finance.

Read more about Keiran's placement


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.

International Students

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

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

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

Our course welcomes students from across the world. We have an excellent reputation globally, and have over 20 years’ experience teaching international students. Our international students are also able to take part in the work-based learning option for this course.

MA Design Management Hong Kong SHAPE

Hong Kong MA Design Management: SHAPE

MA Design Management also runs parallel at the School for Higher and Professional Education (SHAPE). The course at SHAPE, HongKong is designed explicitly for work-based applicants.

SHAPE logo

MA Design Management, SHAPE

MA Design Management in Hong Kong news

Facilities and Staff

Parkside and Curzon Buildings

Our Facilities

When you join Birmingham City University, the first thing you will notice is the exceptional quality of our campuses. With an investment of £340 million across our buildings and facilities, we are committed to giving you the very best learning environment to help shape your experience.

You will be based in our multi-million pound Parkside building – a state of the art facility located within our City Centre Campus. Here you will have full access to our recently upgraded, high spec CAD (Computer-Aided-Design) workstations situated within our dedicated computer labs and open access areas. We also provide access to leading edge digital design software, enabling you to explore technical drawing, graphics, 3D modelling, visualization, animation, computation, simulation, and virtual reality.

The Parkside Building is also home to our digital fabrication labs, where you will be able to explore 3D printing, laser cutting, water-jet cutting, CNC machining, ceramics, glass and traditional model-making, guided by our team of expert technicians with access to our on-site material store, and professional printing facilities.

You’ll also benefit from:

  • Design studios
  • Physical and digital library
  • Loanable laptops
  • Dedicated social spaces
  • Café’s

Photo Gallery

From industry-standard software, to our workshops and studio spaces, everything you need will be at your fingertips from day one. Working with our dedicated teaching teams and expert technicians, you'll be supported from concept through to completion.

Our staff

Dr Mersha Aftab

MA Design Management Course Director

Mersha believed that most effective teaching happens when students have space, which allows them to ask questions, make mistakes, and learn from their mistakes. By creating collaborative and interactive sessions that are similar to working outside of academia, with industry projects and live case studies, her sessions give students critical thinking and problem-solving techniques. Within the context of the projects, student teams are encouraged to take risks and to experiment. The combination of a safe environment and the experience of working in teams, allow students to get a voice, and peer-to-peer learning flourishes.

Mersha has expertise in integrated design education. She is continuously developing opportunities for her students to interact with different disciplines and exchange knowledge. She enjoys studio culture and encourages the active participation of students in her sessions. From lectures, seminars, discussion groups, and workshops, her sessions are creative, engaging and informative. Mersha’s research informs her teaching content. This ensures that students are equipped with the knowledge of Design Management that is relevant and applicable to the industry.

In her sessions, Mersha encourages her students to think critically. Her students are risk-takers and are champions of design-led innovation practices. 

More about Mersha

Nicholas Irvin

Lecturer in Design Management

Nick is lecturer in Design Management and this programme attracts students from a diverse range of design and non-design disciplines from the UK and overseas.

The programme focuses on the strategic value of design and its importance within a business context, which aims to develop the confidence; skills and knowledge for work in industry.

A natural people person, Nick is also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He is keen to provide further teaching and reflective design practice knowledge and experience in higher education, based on a career spanning 18 years in creative design practices, account/project management roles and teaching environments.

Previous positions include working in design consultancy, in design/brand role for EE (formerly Orange), within further education, having worked in-house for marketing and communications and for Birmingham City Council, where he managed a range of projects, including; contract management and design of digital advertising, involving external advertising partners, Ocean and JC Decaux.

Nick is also a member of the Chartered Society of Designers (CSD).

More about Nicholas