Photography with a Foundation Year - BA (Hons)

Currently viewing course to start in 2024/25 Entry.

This four-year Photography Degree 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 programme....

  • Level Foundation
  • Study mode Full Time
  • Location City Centre
  • School School of Visual Communication
  • Faculty Faculty of Arts, Design and Media

This course is:

Open to International Students

Overview

This four-year Photography Degree 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 programme. 

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 Photography

On our BA (Hons) Photography degree you will develop a creative, professional identity and signature style by combining technique, theory, experimentation and ethical practice. 

You will explore contemporary photographic practice, including fashion, documentary, portrait, moving image, landscape 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 design, illustration and animation. The course will show you how creative photographers can become commercially successful in a diverse range of careers within the visual arts and beyond.

This course is open to International students.

What's covered in this course?

You will learn through practice, developing confidence as a contemporary photographer. Your learning will be informed by developing a deeper understanding of current photographic practice, from publishing and exhibiting to editorial and photojournalism work. 

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, Studio Wayne McGregor, British Telecom, Adidas, Channel 4, Condé Nast, The Guardian, Hyundai, Liverpool FC, Marie Claire, Microsoft, The Sunday Times Magazine, Tesco, The Daily Telegraph, the Royal Society of Arts, Tate Britain 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, music, 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 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?

  • Your Foundation Year gives you the chance to explore Graphic Design, Illustration, 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 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 practicing 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). 

Photography with Foundation overview course page image

Open Days

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Next Open Day: 23 March 2024

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Entry Requirements

These entry requirements apply for entry in 2024/25.

All required qualifications/grades must have been achieved and evidenced at the earliest opportunity after accepting an offer to help confirm admission and allow for on-time enrolment. This can also include other requirements, like a fee status form and relevant documents. Applicants can track their application and outstanding information requests through their BCU mySRS account.

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

UK students
Essential

80 UCAS tariff points.

Level 2 qualifications
GCSE GCSE English Language or English Literature and GCSE Maths at grade C/4 or above. If you do not have these or are not undertaking them, we accept other Level 2 equivalents, or we may ask you to pass BCU's GCSE equivalency tests.
Irish Leaving Certificate (Ordinary Level) See level 3 entry requirements under Irish Leaving Certificate for full details.
Scottish National 5 English Language or English Literature and Maths at grade C or above. If you do not have these or are not undertaking them, we accept other Level 2 equivalents, or we may ask you to pass BCU's GCSE equivalency tests.
Plus one of the following Level 3 (and above) qualifications
A Level and Advanced VCE
  • CDD / 80 UCAS points
  • A maximum of 4 subjects are considered. These can be other A/S Levels (as long in a different subject) A-Levels or Level 3 equivalents.

AS and AS VCE

Considered with a maximum of 3 other Level 3 qualifications (AS Levels must be in different subject to A-Levels) to obtain 80 pts

Access to HE Diploma

  • Pass with 60 credits overall. At least 45 credits at Level 3.
  • Arts, Media and Publishing subjects preferred but other subjects also considered
  • Pearson BTEC National Extended Diploma (2016 – present)
  • Pearson BTEC Extended Diploma (QCF) (2010 - 2016)
  • BTEC Level 3 National Diploma (2002 – 2010)
MMP

Foundation Studies (Art and Design, and Art, Design & Media)

  • Pass
  • Considered with a maximum of 3 other Level 3 qualifications to obtain 80 pts

IBO Certificate in Higher Level

  • Students who do not complete the IB Diploma will be considered on the basis of their IB Certificates if they obtain a total of 11 points or above from two Higher Level Subjects
  • Considered with a maximum of 3 other Level 3 qualifications to obtain 80 pts

International Baccalaureate Diploma

Obtain a minimum of 24 points overall

Irish Leaving Certificate (Highers)

Pass the Irish Leaving Certificate with a minimum of 80 tariff points, achieved in five Higher level subjects.

OCR Cambridge Technical Extended Diploma

MMP

Scottish Higher/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.
  • Where three Advanced Highers have been taken achieve a minimum of grades DDD
  • Where a combination of Highers and Advanced Highers have been taken you must achieve (grades of DD in two Advanced Highers plus grades of DD in two Highers).

T-Levels

Pass overall (C or above on the core)

UAL Extended Diploma in Art & Design

Pass overall

UAL Extended Diploma in Creative Media Production & Technology

Pass overall

UAL Extended Diploma in Performing and Production Arts

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

Further guidance on tariff points can be found on the UCAS website.
Additional information for EU/International students
Essential

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
IELTS

6.0 overall with no less than 5.5 in each band.

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.

Fees & How to Apply

Please select your student status to view fees and apply
  • UK Student
  • International Student

UK students

Annual and modular tuition fees shown are applicable to the first year of study. The University reserves the right to increase fees for subsequent years of study in line with increases in inflation (capped at 5%) or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament. View fees for continuing students.

Award: BA (Hons)

Starting: Sep 2024

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

International students

Annual and modular tuition fees shown are applicable to the first year of study. The University reserves the right to increase fees for subsequent years of study in line with increases in inflation (capped at 5%) or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament. View fees for continuing students.

Award: BA (Hons)

Starting: Sep 2024

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

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.

Printing

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.

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.

Memberships (optional)

You may wish to join a union or professional body related to this course.

Personal equipment (optional)

Whilst not essential is it advised 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

  1. Register with UCAS
  2. Login to UCAS and complete your details
  3. Select your course and write a personal statement
  4. Get a reference
  5. Pay your application fee and submit your application

You are not required to submit a portfolio for this course.

Course in Depth

Foundation Year

Throughout the year you will be challenged with projects that question your current creative experiences and explore a breadth of experimentation to broaden your technical and critical understanding.

You will be encouraged to analyse methods and materials appropriate for creative development and to question your position in relation to historical, contemporary and future world scenarios. Both practical and written research tasks will be supported by one to one tutorials and small discussion groups to help you constructively build academic and social confidence.

The two first semester modules will form the building blocks for future work and will explore core principles of creative practice focussing on, the development of technical confidence, research, study skills and productivity.

The two final semester modules will give you greater autonomy, encourage positive integration between research and practice, challenging decision making and technical competency. This semester is designed to empower you with independent learning skills appropriate for your future BA studies.

In order to progress onto your BA Programme, you must successfully pass all four core modules (totalling 120 credits).

First Year

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.

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

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

Second Year

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.

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

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

Third Year

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

Download course specification

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Course structure

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.

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, 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.


Further Study

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.

Employability

Man with video camera

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. Our students have recently had the opportunity to meet international fashion photographer Lara Jade and international advertising and commercial photographer Perou. We also host guest workshops from industry practitioners including regular portfolio reviews.

Placements

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.

In the past our students have worked with companies such as Birmingham Open Media, The Imaging Warehouse and The Impossible Project.

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 AgentTake 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.

International

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, 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 Frist 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 & Staff

Parkside building exterior

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.

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 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

Our staff

Jo Newman

Foundation Course Director and BA course leader

Jo chose a career in education so that she could provide students with learning environments where conversations, ideas and materials can be selected, combined, analysed and shared, offering them a way of socializing, caring and questioning to grow their learning with meaning for their futures.

More about Jo

Joe Miles

Course Leader BA (Hons) Photography

Specialising in commercial and editorial photography for national and international clients, Joe currently leads the BA (Hons) Photography and BA (Hons) Fashion Imaging courses. Experienced in both film and digital photography he has worked with RED cameras, combining moving and still imagery. His extensive list of clients include:...

More about Joe

Nathan Tromans

Head of Birmingham Institute of Creative Arts

Nathan Tromans background as a Photographer, with an interest in contemporary art and music, provides the backbone to his role in encouraging interdisciplinary practice. Managing some 600 students across the UK, Hong Kong and Thailand, Nathan is committed to ensuring courses have vocational relevance and is active in developing a number of links...

More about Nathan

Nick Priest

Lecturer in Photography

Nick is the Level 5 Coordinator and Level 4 Lecturer on the BA (Hons) Photography course. He has a passion for all areas of photography and his practice has led him into documentary and portrait photography, shooting communities, people, places, and readings in psychogeography and sense of place, which is now where his practice lies. Nick’s work...

More about Nick

Jaskirt Boora

Lecturer in Photography

Jaskirt is an award-winning multi-disciplinary artist whose work focuses on a socially engaged practice, working with local communities. She is interested in celebrating untold stories while exploring visual representations of gender, ethnicity and place.

More about Jaskirt