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Visual Communication - MA

  • Level: Postgraduate Taught
  • Starting: January 2021
  • Study mode: Full Time
  • Location: City Centre

Our MA Visual Communication course is interdisciplinary and specialist in approach, reflecting the dynamic and contemporary practices within the creative industries. We create innovators and leaders in the field of visual communication, challenging and stimulating you to produce original, cutting edge work and research.

The structure of our course is designed with imaginative approaches to visual practice in the creative industries.

What's covered in the course?

You'll be able to specialise by choosing one of 5 awards:

  • MA Visual Communication
  • MA Visual Communication (Photography)
  • MA Visual Communication (Graphic Communication)
  • MA Visual Communication (Illustration)
  • MA Visual Communication (Film & Animation)

As a creative practitioner you are inspired to create and engage with industry alongside taught elements. Throughout the course you will have the chance to develop deep specialist knowledge in graphic communication, photography, illustration, film and animation, and research. The course provides an immersive and advanced learning experience for both advanced practitioners and recent graduates within the broad field of visual communication.

Our visual communication Master's course is designed to provide you with the best possible chance to further your skills and widen your knowledge of the communication arts and industries. The programme is rooted in practice, teaching you interdisciplinary design and research processes.

The variety of subjects covered within this degree allows you to receive guidance in forming a more specific interest for Master's level study. Whether you have a definitive subject in mind, or you have a broader interest in the study of visual communication, the programme is both interdisciplinary and specialist in approach, echoing the dynamic changes within its related industries.

As a school we have strong industry connections which include live partnerships and collaborative projects. We have ongoing dynamic dialogues with international players in the creative industries. These leading professionals have provided us with direct feedback, identifying our programmes as world-class models of creative education and fully supporting contemporary practice in an international context.

We have a continuously developing and progressive vision of employability. We feel that as a creative practitioner you will need to adapt and respond to the demands of industry.

Why Choose Us?

  • The School of Visual Communication is one of the largest of its kind in the UK, with an international student body.
  • Based in the Parkside Building, we offer outstanding facilities such as a Hollywood-standard MILO unit - one of only two owned by universities in Europe.
  • Here at the School of Visual Communication, your knowledge will develop, you will be challenged and your creative practices will thrive. Graduates of our MA Visual Communication course have produced meaningful work that is ground breaking within the creative industries.
  • You will enhance your research knowledge and skill with the chance to take on further study at PhD level.
  • You will be supported by a high-profile group of practitioners, theorists, academics and professionals in the creative and cultural industries who will enable you to realise your potential.
  • Our involvement with the visual arts, culture and institutions extends to staff and students exhibiting in major venues such as The REP, The Ikon Gallery, The Venice Biennale, The Hong Kong Design Institute and the Shanghai Biennale, and working in community-based art initiatives across the world.
  • Our Masters graduates have located themselves across the globe, including Shanghai, Spain, Malaysia, London, Hong Kong, Birmingham, India, Kuwait, Thailand and Taiwan to name but a few. We are a truly global Master course. 

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 students have gone on to work with companies such as:

  • Nicemonster Studio, UK
  • Gjun Institute, Taiwan
  • The One Academy Penang, Malaysia

And in jobs such as:

  • Photography producer
  • Graphic designer
  • Director of Animation

New £10,906 postgraduate loans

You may be able to take advantage of the government’s plans to make loans of up to £10,906 available for postgraduate study.

More about postgraduate loans

Entry Requirements

Essential Requirements 

An undergraduate degree (2.1 and above) in the same subject, or a very closely related subject, equivalent qualifications or professional experience.

A digital portfolio that shows examples of creative visual work, including developmental work and final outcomes. Please include at least 15-20 pieces highlighting your area of practice.

As part of your application please include the following:

  • Highlight any competition entries and live projects, exhibitions, collaborations (if applicable).
  • Highlight any evidence of industry experience (if applicable).
  • Produce an essay or other written assignment, which demonstrates your ability to conduct research related to art and design and shows your knowledge of historical or contemporary creative practice.
International Students

Entry requirements here

International Students

Don't meet our entry requirements? You could apply for courses at our International College.

Apply now

  • UK/EU students
  • International students

Award: MA

Starting: Jan 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 1 year
  • £7,400 per year
  • Full Time
  • 18 months (including Professional Placement - see below*)
  • £8,200 per year

Award: MA

Starting: Jan 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 1 year
  • £12,800 per year
  • Full Time
  • 18 months (including Professional Placement - see below*)
  • £14,100 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.

*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.

Portfolio Guidance

Your portfolio might be viewed when you are not present, so make sure it is easy to use. Your name and a title on the outside will be useful, this also helps to distinguish the front from the back. Most importantly, do not worry, this is your showcase.

Portfolio Content
Be relevant, be current and show the most recent things that you have been working on. Include relevant work related to the subject area of interest. Know about the course you are applying for. Show ideas generation, experimentation and risk taking. Within your portfolio, are you able to demonstrate knowledge of the subject discipline, practitioners and individuals that have inspired you? It’s sometimes very useful to unfinished projects and on-going projects, as this is an indicator of commitment to your subject and yourself.
Think about the basics
Show examples of paintings, drawings, photographs, three-dimensional work, time-based work and anything else relevant to the area of practice. Show your web presence, social media interactions and the competitions that you might have entered.
Tell a story
Try to show one full project from start to finish with the preparatory drawings, ideas, contact sheets etc. Annotations are helpful as they show how you research and reflect on the development of your work.
Include three or four final pieces that you are able to talk about in some depth.
If you have any written work, please include this. A PDF of your dissertation is good to read.
The Sketchbook
Include sketchbooks. These will give us an understanding of how you think (through your annotations) and allow us to see the development of your drawing. (If your portfolio is digital, photograph or scan the pages from your sketchbooks and put them into a PDF). 

Download our checklist to help you to complete your application.

Download checklist

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.

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. 

The additional costs listed here are to be used for indicative purposes only and are based on the additional costs for the 2018/19 academic year. The additional costs for 2019/20 will be published as soon as possible.

View additional costs for this course

Financial Support

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

Did you know that you can apply for a postgraduate loan of up to £10,906 for some courses and options?

Postgraduate loans


In order to complete this course you must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 160 credits):

Analytical and Creative Practice
40 credits

This module develops analytical, reflective and evaluative design skills, which, through creative thinking, experimentation and iterative design processes, enables you to define your specialist area(s) of professional practice.

Contextual and Professional Practice
40 credits

This module develops deeper analytical and evaluative skills, promoting critical awareness within your specialism, and advancing your professional relationships through engagement with externally generated professional briefs (Competition or Live), OR self-directed negotiated proposals or brief(s).

Didactic Presentation in Specialism
20 credits

The process of constructing and delivering a lecture or other creative forms of presentation to a peer group is an immersive learning process. It requires advanced subject knowledge and a critical thinking approach. Peer learning is a fundamental component of this module.

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 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.

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

Dissemination: Case Study in Specialism
20 credits

This module emphasises learning that is achieved through an integrated understanding of theory and practice, including the systematic exploration and analysis of current and historical media and practice. This will be achieved through advanced scholarship within, and beyond, your specialist practice, applying a rigorous critical perspective.

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

Course structure

Our MA in Visual Communication course is delivered over one year for full-time students. You will study for three semesters, each semester takes place over a 15 week period.

The processes of design thinking - research, analysis, evaluation, creativity, craft and production - across all specialisms within visual communication are central to this course.

You'll have the chance to learn in our Research & Development labs that we've developed as a result of our partnerships with organisations, practitioners and industry. The labs allow you to take part in learning, teaching, research, innovation and professional development within visual communication.

Learning will be achieved through the development of a critical understanding of practice. You will be taught methods that will cover the systematic analysis of media and practice, and the determining of key and advanced practice-based principles. You will establish evaluative criteria and learn how to apply your knowledge to practice.

Here at the School of Visual Communication, we aspire to make you feel comfortable by encouraging a sense of community. We use one room for all meetings and teaching, to offer space for lectures and workshops as well as group work. We strongly believe that the support of a learning community will encourage you to take risks and be innovative in your work.

As a Master's student you will engage with external associates and develop strategies that will aid in the implementation of your research and craft skills, and of your knowledge and practice.

A team of committed, enthusiastic and experienced staff deliver the programme. In addition, we welcome external academics, creative practitioners and other in-house staff that will provide you with a wealth of industry knowledge, research opportunities, skills and influence.

Once you have established your specialist area of visual communication, you will receive specialised support from expert individuals within the School.

Classroom activities

Classroom activities will include critical writing workshops, research development activities, micro projects, case studies and student lecture presentations.

Student stories

Lorentz Gullachsen

A photographer who has shot internationally for over 25 years. He has won many awards for his work including the Association of Photographers' Gold, multiple Design and Art Direction (D&AD) awards for photography, as well as winning at the London Photographic Awards and the Sun Awards.

Further Study

As a postgraduate Visual Communication student you have the chance to apply for further study within the University. Previously, several graduates of our MA Visual Communication have been accepted onto the PhD programme here within the Faculty of Art, Design and Media.

Throughout the duration of this programme you will develop a Master's level of skill and knowledge, which will enable you to progress onto further study.

Trips and visits

While there are no timetabled trips or visits within this course, we encourage you to explore Birmingham's creative sector. By immersing yourself within the industry, whether it's through volunteering, or taking on research roles, you will widen your professional skills palette. Birmingham is a diverse and vibrant city, with a thriving creative industry. It is advisable that as a student you engage as much as possible with the activities and events that relate to your desired profession.

As a school we have several industry partnerships, and there will be opportunities for you to network. Networking will allow you to enhance your contacts with industry, and you will be able to form professional relationships that may lead to further employment, or expereince-based opportunities.

Student stories Steven Spencer

I decided to study at the University because I wanted to learn more about making films. I was impressed by the equipment they have available – it was ideal for film andanimation. I'd already studied for a degree in animation but I wanted to learn new things and gain some insight into the film side of things. It also helped give me realise which direction I wanted to go in.

Studying here helped me develop my own style and helped me to mature in my work and self-development. I would recommend it to anyone. I've gained work through coming to university – my final project was a film called My Brown Friend, which won the Royal Television Society award. I filmed it at the University; it was a great way to build up my portfolio and opened up a lot of other opportunities for me, allowing me to pitch for other film and music video projects. Things just rolled on from there. I use the work that I produced at University as a sort of a calling card and if I hadn't done my MA, I wouldn't have got to the level I'm at today.

Enhancing Employability Skills

This course enables you to develop your practice within the field of visual communication. You will do so through a range of relective learning methods that will enhance advanced subject knowledge, developing your creative and innovative thinking, critical awareness and analytical practice. You will gain a comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to your own research and advanced scholarship.

You will establish a deep and clear understanding of how meaning is constructed with visual communication, across a range of media. You will acquire the skill and knowledge to produce meaningful and creative visual work within your own specialism.

The course will encourage you to challenge yourself, exceed your boundaries and produce work that is original, and significant. You will develop as a creative individual equipped not only for a career in your specialism, but with transferable skills which will benefit a whole range of professional contexts. Through research theory and practice, you will develop new knowledge that will pave the way for imaginative visual communication research. You will be able to engage directly with industry, with the possibility of collaborations, much like recent graduate Diane Maybey. Diane published work in partnership with Birmingham Children's Hospital. She also produced an environmental therapeutic illustration for CAMHS Leicester Partnership Trust and is currently studying her PhD, researching into Therapeutic Storytelling.


While placements are not a compulsary aspect to this course we will encourage you and expect you to continuously engage with external associates such as practitioners, employers, clients and researchers. We feel that it is vital that you develop your own connections with the creative industries, expanding your network and providing opportunities for work.


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.

Our graduates

Our graduates have gone on to work within the communication industries, both within the UK and further afield. The nature of the programme provides students with the skills to either undertake further study at PhD level, or develop careers as innovative practitioners in the industry. We have graduates working in locations across the world, applying their expertise internationally, in countries such as India, Thailand, China, Spain, Malaysia and the UK.

As a School, we are very proud of the professional creative practitioners that we produce, and we stay in contact with our graduates. More than half of our graduates have recently become employed within a visual communication company at senior or mid-management level, with others working freelance, starting their own businesses, taking on further placements or progressing to PhD level.

Graduate Jobs

Job roles that graduates have go on to work in include:

  • Visiting tutor at University of Worcester & Freelance designer/calligrapher.
  • Graphic designer at Dorna sports, Tarragona, Spain.
  • Fashion Illustrator & Lecturer at The One academy Penang, Malaysia.
  • Lecturer at Tunku Abdul Rahman University College, Setapak.
  • Producer at Central Studios, Shanghai.
  • Lead designer at agency: Jones & Palmer, Birmingham.
  • Senior Graphic designer: Cowan Design – Shanghai.
  • Graphic design tutor at European, Global University – Kuwait
  • Lecturer at Gjun Institute – Taiwan
  • Account Manager - Insignia Worldwide        Dubai
  • Lecturer at Hong Kong Design Institute.

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

Our students come from across the globe. We have many from Asia, Europe and the United Kingdom.

Students come to study in the School of Visual Communication from all over the world and 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 internationalisation built into the MA modules. We actively encourage learning across creative disciplines and live briefs. We have also established relationships with numerous colleges and industry overseas.

Our international students

Yifan Ling

Yifan has become a bestselling graphic artist and was given a Professional Achievement Award at the Education UK Alumni Awards 2016, organised by the British Council.

More widely known by her pen name, Buddy, Yifan has been creating manga comics professionally for several years. During this time, she has published more than 20 books internationally and her online manga story ‘Guarding’ has been viewed by over 110 million people.

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 visual communication 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

Our Staff

Our staff have a varied and wide ranging set of abilities and cultural experience that allow them to be able to enhance your engagement, personal development and journey towards your Masters Degree.

They have specialisms in a number of fields including: photography, exhibition, fine art, illustration, UX/UI, film and animation, typography, branding, advertising, culture and language, computing and digital imaging, motion graphics and 3D art. 

We are members of the Higher Education Academy and the Royal Society of the Arts. 

Robert Gibb Staff

Robert Gibb

Course Director MA Visual Communication

Robert's areas of expertise are photographic history, commercial photography, fine art photography, curating and exhibition. After obtaining both his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in photography, Robert immersed himself into the commercial world of photography.

As subject leader, Rob currently teaches second-year students in a number of their modules, and final-year students in their specialist groups. He delivers lectures and workshops across all three years, and also liaises and teaches at overseas partner institutes.

Read Robert's full profile

Andrew Kulman Staff

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.

Read Andrew's full profile

Robert Sharl

Senior Lecturer

Robert Sharl is a Senior Lecturer in Visual Communications in the School of Visual Communications at Birmingham City University’s Faculty of Art, Media and Design. He is also Deputy Director for the MA in Visual Communication, and Course Coordinator for the University’s partner course in Visual Communications at the School for Higher and Professional Education (SHAPE) in Hong Kong. He joined the University in 1999.

Robert Sharl is changing the way that industry and the School of Visual Communications collaborate. Instead of having external businesses being a plug-in part to the students’ timetable, he puts the University to be at the centre of creative activities in the city.  It means that major events, such as the Flatpack Festival – a film festival that is held in Birmingham, are integrated into the curriculum.

“In the last couple of years, we have started to structure our courses around the external communication with industry.  It is a great benefit to both our students and the course. We are structuring our course around the commercial and professional world, ensuring that these events are central to what we do. It means that students can document aspects of the festival or event, as well as interview practitioners or assist in it.”

Before he was a lecturer, Robert ran a consultancy business that focused on digital, online and interactive media. He helped to develop the first cyber café in the city and was instrumental in making the Custard Factory the first public building in the UK permanently connected to the Internet. He worked as a consultant for Digital Central, helping music industry professional’s access funding for projects. He is working on a number of projects with Hong Kong photographer, Kwan Chun In.

Matt Tromans

Subject Leader Film & Animation

Matt is an experienced and dynamic creative producer, director and writer. His areas of expertise lie in film and narrative. He has major international feature film credits and a strong track record in critically acclaimed and commercially successful cinema. Matt has worked as a producer in Europe and America, and has extensive knowledge of film and other related industries.

Read Matt's full profile

Naomi Midgley - Staff

Naomi Kent

Printmaking Technician
Becky Howson- staff profile

Becky Howson


Becky is an experienced educator with 17 years of teaching in design. Printing, Typography and traditional Graphic Design techniques and processes are explored through practice, research practice and teaching inform one another. New work for exhibitions are developed and exhibited nationally and internationally, several times a year.

Carla Hamer- staff profile

Carla Hamer

Lecturer in Language and Culture

Carla is a full-time lecturer in Language and Culture and a part-time PhD researcher originally from Argentina. With over twenty years’ experience of teaching and lecturing, Carla has worked with a wide range of students in UK and overseas. Carla gained a First Class Honours degree in Fine Art and Art History before completing an MA in Contemporary Art, TEFL course and Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice. She subsequently began her PhD Practice-led Photography research at Middlesex University exploring the ethics of photography within the ethnographic turn in the arts.

Carla teaches Contextualised Language and Academic Skills for international students in the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media.