Photography - BA (Hons)
On our BA (Hons) Photography course will develop a creative, professional identity and signature style by combining technique, theory and ethical practice with experimentation. You will explore contemporary photographic practice, including documentary, moving image, landscape, portrait and fine art photography, gaining a rounded knowledge of these varied and exciting disciplines....
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. Any arrangements put in place by the University for the 2021/22 academic year 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.
On our BA (Hons) Photography course will develop a creative, professional identity and signature style by combining technique, theory and ethical practice with experimentation.
You will explore contemporary photographic practice, including documentary, moving image, landscape, portrait and fine art photography, gaining a rounded knowledge of these varied and exciting disciplines.
Collaboration with other disciplines is encouraged, developing new ideas and connections with subjects such as graphic communication and film and animation. The course will show you how creative, documentary and arts-based photographers can become commercially successful in diverse careers from galleries and publishing to advertising campaigns.
What's covered in this course?
You will learn through practice, by developing confidence as a contemporary photographer. Your learning will be informed by developing a deeper understanding of current photographic practice, from commercial briefs, to publishing, exhibiting, editorial and photojournalism.
You will learn from award-winning staff with international reputations and a wealth of industry experience, having worked for clients such as: the BBC, the Brit Awards, British Telecom, Channel 4, The New Yorker, The Guardian, The Sunday Times Magazine, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, Marie Claire, Condé Nast, Studio Wayne McGregor, Microsoft, Save the Children, Oxfam, The Red Cross, NHS, the Royal Society of Arts, Tate Britain, Lancôme, Chanel Beaute, London Fashion Week and the Royal Opera House.
There is also a dedicated technical support team and exceptional facilities situated within the City Centre Campus. These include industry-standard photographic studios, darkrooms, television studios, editing suites, a giant green screen studio and an extensive Hires and Loans department.
We will help you to collaborate both within the University (for example, with the Fashion, Conservatoire, Acting or Product Design courses) as well as externally, with live briefs for real clients. You will also have the opportunity to study abroad for part of the course, or to go on trips to destinations such as New York, Berlin and Paris.
We also have exceptional levels of external engagement, with visiting lectures given by nationally and internationally-recognised photographers, as well as having numerous links with industry, workshops, seminars, masterclasses, careers advice, portfolio reviews, mentorships and placements.
In an environment of imagination and experimentation, we will nurture your talent and help you to develop into an employable and creative photographer.
"My time at the School was a great training ground to learn and develop the necessary skills to transfer into a creative career. The lecturers have the ability to help mould creative ideas into academic projects, and provide research direction along the way, which produces creative fuel and inspires self-initiated learning." Nathan Spencer, Photography BA (Hons) graduate
Why Choose Us?
- The School of Visual Communication prides itself on a long established national and international reputation for inter-disciplinary practice. All our courses celebrate innovation and allow you to realise your creative ambitions.
- You will be taught by tutors who are still practising within the industry and can help you to gain a foot hold in the profession.
- Our course has produced numerous award-winning students, locally, nationally and internationally.
- We allow students to explore a range of related careers, such as retouchers, filmmakers, creative directors, picture editors or continuing education (such as an MA or PhD).
- We have won the AOP student photographer of the year for 2015 and 2016.
We accept a range of qualifications, the most popular of which are detailed below.
112 UCAS tariff points from A/AS Level with a minimum of 2 A Levels.
|LEVEL 2 QUALIFICATIONS|
|IELTS||Minimum overall score of 6.0, with 6.0 in writing and no less than 5.5 in the remaining three skills.|
|Plus one of the following Level 3 (and above) Qualifications|
|A Level and Advanced VCE||
|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||
|Foundation Studies (Art and Design, and Art, Design & Media)||
|IBO Certificate in Higher Level||
|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||
|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|
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|
6.0 overall with 5.5 minimum in all bands.
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).|
International students who cannot meet the direct entry requirements can begin their degree studies at Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC).
Applications from mature students (21+) with alternative qualifications and/or considerable work experience will be considered on their merits.
Fees & How to Apply
- UK students
- International students
Award: BA (Hons)
Starting: Sep 2021
- Full Time
- 3 years
- £9,250 per year
- Apply via UCAS
Award: BA (Hons)
Starting: Sep 2021
- Full Time
- 3 years
- £13,200 per year
£150 free credit (home/EU students only)
For 2021 entry, all new home/EU undergraduate students will receive £150 worth of free credit to spend in a host of ways, on books and a range of learning materials.
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.
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.
You will be able to download SPSS and Nvivo to your home computer to support with your studies and research.
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 access to LinkedIn Learning, which offers over 5,000 in-depth and bite-sized courses.
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.
Project materials (mandatory)
This course includes project work that requires you to develop and produce a portfolio or collection. You'll be expected to provide the materials for use in your individual major projects; costs will vary depending on the materials selected.
Clothing and safety equipment (mandatory)
This course requires the purchase of safety equipment in order to use the workshop facilities, including darkroom PPE.
Excess printing (optional)
Once you have spent your £5 credit, additional printing on campus costs from 5p per sheet.
Field trips (optional)
This course includes the option of additional trips that may enhance your experience, at extra cost.
You may wish to join a union or professional body related to this course.
Personal equipment (optional)
Whilst not essential is it adviced you own a computer or laptop capable of design and video editing.
Gallery visits (optional)
It is advisable for all Creative Arts students to visit exhibitions, galleries and other creative and cultural institutions and events depending on your own individual area of interest. Travel and entry costs may be associated with this.
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.
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
There are three ways to apply:
1) Direct to the University
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.
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.
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:
Why does this course appeal? What areas are of particular interest?
If you have a specific career in mind, say how your chosen course will help you pursue this goal.
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.
Course in Depth
In the first year of the course we will provide you with the foundations of photographic and moving image practice. This will include essential technical skills using our state-of-the-art facilities, an understanding of how to harness and develop your creativity, means of communicating a message through your work, and an appreciation of the ethical and social issues that all modern photographers should be aware of.
This module introduces the universal principles and theories of visual communication. 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 all subject areas, seek advice from experts in other disciplines and work collaboratively with students from all Visual Communication subject areas.
This module will introduce you to historical and contemporary concepts within a number of photographic genres. The module is designed to establish basic workshop skills that are specifically the building blocks for future modules. This module is structured to you with an appropriate level of digital techniques that both support the module and are transferable. The module will result in a body of work that is the outcome of a set project and one day briefs.
This module is about moving from the safety of the classroom and into the exterior world. As part of the module you will be expected to take your work into a public domain. You will be honing your practice through engagement and collaboration with external bodies, and beginning to identify your direction of study. The module is designed to establish advanced workshop skills and an appropriate level of enterprise skills.
Building on the key principles articulated in the three modules in your first semester, this complementary, contextual studies module will explore seminal design movements and practitioners of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It will provide you with a broad contextual framework that will underpin your design practice, both at university and in the future.
In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete at least 20 credits from the following indicative list of OPTIONAL modules.
Each of the following modules is worth 20 credits:
Narrative (Space and Place)
Narrative (Time and Sequence)
Narrative (Sound and Movement)
Narrative (Text and Image)
Narrative (People and Identity)
Core modules are guaranteed to run. Optional modules will vary from year to year and the published list is indicative only.
In the second year, you will further develop your signature style, moving rapidly towards your chosen career goal. This will be achieved by developing your portfolio, your photographic intelligence and your conceptual knowledge. Furthermore, you will start to define the type of photographer that you want to become, becoming increasingly specialised in that area.
Creative briefs will help you to understand personal photographic direction and may include a collaborative module may allow you to work with Graphic Designers, Illustrators, Sound artists, Film makers, animators and galleries.
You will also be encouraged to collaborate with those outside of the school, building industry links that enhance your work and skills.
You will also gain essential business skills to prepare you for undertaking commissions and projects. Live briefs are a key part of the second year, so you that you experience what it is really like to work as a professional creative photographer.
You will begin to focus on a more discreet area of specialism, preparing you for your final year of study. You will work within smaller groups, alongside a tutor with expert knowledge in your chosen specialist area. You will also identify and research an area of your profession, developing numerous life and creative skills that will enhance your abilities and aspirations beyond graduation. This aspect of the programme will be supported by seminars and lectures from industry experts and practitioners.
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.
This flexible module allows you to identify direction within your own practice and future aspirations. You will undertake approaches that will help define your area of practice, which is personalised to your own interests. The structure of this module encourages the development of a more focused, in depth and advanced study through the use of self-directed projects.
In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete at least 20 credits from the following indicative list of OPTIONAL modules.
Each of the following modules is worth 20 credits.
- Work Placement
- Collaborative Practice
Core modules are guaranteed to run. Optional modules will vary from year to year and the published list is indicative only.
In the final year you will, under expert tutor guidance, define your own projects, ensuring that your university work is tailored perfectly to you. You will work towards a final outcome, again chosen by you, such as a book, magazine, film, installation, exhibition and/or portfolio. As before, we will help you to develop your business profile and to become a practising photographer before you have graduated, which only goes to strengthen your portfolio and your employability.
We will be there to support you both professionally and pastorally. As well as our own expert tuition, we have a wide range of world-class photographers and portfolio reviewers who will inspire you to take your work to the next level. You will have access to the huge network of contacts that the University has, both nationally and internationally, as well as our close links with other courses within the University.
You will also undertake a piece of critical writing that examines the business practices of your chosen career.This will equip you with the necessary knowledge to approach the commercial photographic market, preparing you for your future aspirations and increasing your level of employability, allowing you to flourish not just while studying, but for many years after.
In exploring your own creative direction you will conduct a project over several weeks, in negotiation with your tutors, which will allow you to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the issues and concepts chosen and further refine your visual identity as a contemporary photographic based practitioner.
You will develop your skills to source, synthesis and apply research, allowing you to work independently and articulate ideas that are central to your professional practice.
The purpose of this module is to enable you to undertake a sustained, in-depth and theoretically informed project. It is a culmination of your three years of study and should be a personal inquiry, of a professional and innovative standard and a celebration of you as a work ready practitioner.
You will develop a final major body of work, demonstrating your skills and knowledge which will be showcased at our Graduate Shows. You will have an exhibition, showcasing your individual creative signature, communication, information and problem-solving skills. You will develop your negotiation and planning skills, and will produce meaningful creative work.
During the Photography course you will develop yourself as a creative practitioner, developing hands-on experience, producing high quality, dynamic work. Creative thinking is encouraged throughout and you will experience a high level of industry engagement through creative practice-based learning.
Studio contact sessions usually consist of lectures, tutorials, workshops, seminars and group activities in numerous combinations. Additional to these scheduled hours you will be expected to undertake guided independent learning. You will use the facilities within the Faculty and beyond to further develop your individual projects.
The school offers a suite of optional technical workshops including printmaking, studio lighting and a wide range of software packages.
Trips and Visits
While you study the course you will be offered opportunities to go on group excursions both in the UK and abroad. We usually have about three overseas trips a year which we offer both at subject level, such as the Photography trip to Paris Photo Fair, as well as School-level trips to destinations such as Venice, New York and Berlin. We also run an exchange with a Thai university, with additional ‘study abroad’ opportunities, including Erasmus exchanges.
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 BA (Hons) Photography student, we do encourage you to take advantage of these trips as we see them as adding extra value to your course and they do offer additional research opportunities.
As graduating students you will naturally follow your own career path and that may mean going straight into industry.
However, many students look at the opportunities that we offer for postgraduate study at Birmingham City University. It is important to keep your options open and researching further into your area of study brings many rewards.
The School runs a one-year MA Visual Communication as a natural progression from its undergraduate courses. Should you wish to, you will be encouraged to continue your journey with us and develop your practice further.
Enhancing employability skills
Our BA (Hons) Photography course is designed to enhance your skills and aptitude, preparing you for a career in a landscape that is continuously changing. Within Visual Communication, specifically photography, there are a variety of career opportunities you may wish to explore. As a creative practitioner you will be able to generate a range of potential ideas and visual developments.
You will have the skills that demonstrate sound judgements in accordance to the theories and concepts of visual communication subjects, responding to the demands of industry.You will develop an in-depth understanding of the relationship between theory and practice through research, this will not only allow you to undertake further study, it will allow you to produce meaningful, well-informed work.
You will gain an understanding of the underlying concepts and established principles that govern creative practice. Alongside this you will develop a range of working strategies, methods and materials, learning how to apply these to production. You will also discover, and respond to, the influence of audiences, clients, markets and other participants in relation to Visual Communication practice.
You will benefit from hearing the expertise and having the chance to network with our high-profile guest speakers. We also host guest workshops from industry practitioners including regular portfolio reviews.
This course supports fully self-directed study and the development of individual practice. There are opportunities for field trips and study abroad that will add value to the degree course.
Throughout your course you will be encouraged to take on placements, and network with industry. Our students have taken on numerous exciting and challenging placements with organisations such as Tatler magazine, Free Radio, and Birmingham City Council. Birmingham has illustrious and vibrant creative industries and as a school we have many industry connections. We will encourage you to actively seek work, helping you to develop your professional skills.
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.
Links to industry
Our links include: GRAIN Photography Hub and Network, BOM (Birmingham Open Media), Flatpack Film Festival, Studio Wayne McGregor, Free Range, Central School of Make Up and Terry Manduca Photographers Agent. Take a look at how students have worked with industry here.
We are in partnership with Grain, The Hub for Photography in the West Midlands. And as part of this partnership, we hold symposiums, portfolio review days and lectures. Research projects are embedded in the future plans for this initiative, bringing wider benefits to the university.
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:
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, or any other countries, you should consider studying with us as we offer a wide curriculum that has internationalization built into the modules. We actively encourage learning across creative disciplines, group projects and live briefs. We have also established relationships with numerous colleges and industry overseas.
A fine example of this is Lichao Meng who joined us from China. We helped to develop Lichao’s understanding of photography and develop his strengths, so that by the end of the course he had created a stunning portfolio and graduated with a First Class Honours Degree.
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.
Facilities and Staff
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
Course Director - Photography
With a passion for Landscape and Documentary photography Paul gained his Masters Degree after specialising in ‘Man’s degrading interaction with the environment’. His exhibitions have ranged from Landscape studies, to politics, to environmental issues.
Initially Paul trained as a studio practitioner before he ran his own commercial photography consultancy. Named Redhead Paul’s clients included organisations such as: British Nuclear Fuels Ltd, National Health Service, Mitchell & Butlers (Bass), Saucony and the BBC.More about Paul
Dr John Hillman
Associate Professor in Photography
Dr John Hillman is an educator, image-maker, researcher and writer engaged in the interdisciplinary areas of photography, image and visual culture. His interests lie in philosophical approaches to contemporary culture and understanding how images and media technologies shape our experience. What unifies all his interests is the exploration of how theory can enrich and offer new insights to creative practice and lived experience.More about John
Professor of Moving Image and Photography
Award winning artist, photographer and film maker with an international reputation for focusing on the intersection of the still and moving image.
Influences of identity, psychology, social conditioning, historical archives, and scientific/cosmological research constantly feed his practice. Expressed through conceptual documentary, choreographic and kinetically employed approaches. The work is often a primal and sensory experience and embraces the potential of collaboration, pushing the boundaries of innovative technology in creating new art and design languages.
His film and photographic installations for stage and screen focus on the symbiotic relationships of audience, choreography, sound, performance, design and filmic kinaesthetic connectivity, where image and process transcend their two dimensions when reacting with other mediums.
He collaborates frequently with choreographer, Wayne McGregor on numerous projects from film design for dance performance, to photographic and film creations. He has also worked with other globally renowned choreographers, directors, musicians, including Saburo Teshigawara, Phyllida Lloyd, Michael Clark, Zoviet France, Shobana Jeyasingh.More about Ravi
Professor Andrew Kulman
Principal Lecturer in Visual Communication
Principal Lecturer and Professor of Graphic Art. Award winning Illustrator with 30 years of industry engagement. Currently Head of Undergraduate Studies in the School of Visual Communication. Responsible for developing courses in the School of Art and initiating several outreach programmes for the University. Research areas include the development of autographic print processes in contemporary graphic art practice.More about Andrew
Deputy Head of Birmingham Institute of Creative Arts
George Hart was the first member of my family to go to University, which has given him an understanding of the challenges students face when going to Universities.
The enthusiasm of a wonderful art teacher at school inspired George to follow his creative ambitions and make the most of his talent. This encouraged him to apply to a Foundation Course at the University of Sunderland, followed by Degree at Norwich University of the Arts.
After the completion of his degree George worked within the creative industries for seventeen years as a Freelance Illustrator/ Designer, mainly working in London, but also nationally. Some of the commercial clients he worked with include companies such as The Sunday Times, Channel 4, Conde Nast Publishing, Hodder and Stoughton Publishers, Brian Eno & War Child, British Airways, Commonwealth Institute, etc.
During this period George undertook his MA in Illustration at the Royal College of Art. This proved both inspirational and pivotal in his work, but also highly important in his decision and desire to help develop future creatives.More about George