Acting (The British Tradition) - MFA

Full Time
September 2018
£9,900 per year for UK/EU Full Time 2018 entry (view all fees)

This two-year Master of Fine Arts in Acting is rooted in practice and designed with international graduates in mind. Studying here will help you develop a deeper understanding of the processes of acting through an exploration of play texts from the British and European traditions, providing you with a progression route to an acting career or to further study at MPhil or PhD level.

This conservatoire-level actor training has a research focus which enables graduates to develop high-level, innovative approaches to practice. The programme cultivates originality of thinking and self-direction in order to tackle technical, interpretive and scholarly problems within the field of acting and performance.

What's covered in the course?

Studying a postgraduate acting degree at the Birmingham School of Acting will advance your knowledge of the non-naturalistic forms of theatre that form the bedrock of the British Tradition. The British tradition of acting is long-admired and internationally renowned. With great historical context, the British performing arts continue to spark inspiration and discussion both in terms of research and practice.

Throughout this course you will explore style in relation to theatre performance, drawing your focus towards understanding the world of the play. You will gain significant experience in acting in classical forms of theatre and other forms that make specific stylistic demands.

The course is delivered through various modes of study, such as research through practice, practice-based learning, workshops, performances, lectures and seminars as well as private study. This provides you with the unique experience of working in a range of styles and genres.

In 2015 we were ranked as one of the top ten Universities in the UK for Drama and Dance by the Guardian, with outstanding facilities and a team of staff who engage directly with industry. Based at our City Centre Campus you have access to multiple resources across the University.

We have relationships with the Shakespeare's Globe (London), Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Birmingham Royal Ballet as well as being centrally located a short walk away from numerous arts organisations.

Why Choose Us?

  • Our industry connections stem from internal and external sources. Birmingham School of Acting staff have vast, and notable experience, both home and internationally. Staff have worked with well-known individuals, projects and companies such as the BBC, the NHS, X Factor finalists, West End stars, British repertory and festival theatres and much more.
  • The University the largest producer of creative professionals outside the South East and the UK's most successful recruiter for art and design in China and Malaysia. We also run courses in Hong Kong and Thailand.
  • As a course designed specially with international students in mind, there is no place better to study your MFA in Acting (The British Tradition) than in Birmingham, at the heart of Britain.
Visit our open day

Postgraduate Open Day

Our next Postgraduate Open Day will be on Saturday 4 November 2017, between 12 and 3pm. Come along to find out more about our courses and see our facilities.

Book your place now

This course is open to International students

Birmingham School of Acting

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Visit our School site for more student work and extra information.

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New £10,280 postgraduate loans

You may be able to take advantage of the government’s plans to make loans of up to £10,280 available for postgraduate study.

More about postgraduate loans

Entry Requirements

UK students

Previous performance training is essential for this course. A first degree in drama, acting or performing arts, or performance experience will be required in addition to an audition and interview.

The normal entry requirement is a first degree in a related subject area (e.g. Acting, Drama, Musical Theatre, Performing Arts, English and Drama) but potential students with a degree in another discipline or with experience in a related professional area would also be considered.

You should normally possess a first degree, performance diploma or equivalent qualification.

You will also be considered if you do not meet the above entry requirements, but possess an appropriate level of performance skills and professional experience.

International Students

Entry requirements here


To maximise your learning experience, the intake for the course is restricted to 14 students each year. Admission to this course is via audition. Please see our 'Guidance for Applicants' for more information.

UK or EU students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
MFA Sep 2018 FT 2 years £9,900 per year

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form instead.

International Students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
MFA Sep 2018 FT 2 years £15,500 per year

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application 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.

Please download the guidance for applications if you wish to apply for the MFA Acting (The British Tradition).

The majority of applicants for this course register for and attend an audition in the USA in conjunction with the University/Resident Theatre Association (U/RTA). Alternatively, online auditions and in-person auditions in the UK are available. All details regarding the audition process are included within the guidance for applicants below.

Please note: if you are auditioning in the USA and are an American applicant, this course is eligible for US Federal Loan applications for tuition fee and living cost funding. If you are successful in gaining a place on the course, you are responsible for applying for your tuition fee and maintenance loans if this is how you wish to fund your studies. We will provide guidance and information at the point of offer regarding the US Federal Loan system and how to apply.

Guidance for Applicants

Personal statement

UK / EU 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


*Non-EU students are not required to submit a personal statement when applying for this course.

Additional costs

Our courses include activities such as performance, exhibitions, field trips and production of works or artefacts which may require you to purchase specific equipment, instruments, books, materials, hire of venues and accommodation, or other items. Many of these activities are essential and compulsory parts of your learning experience.

The link below gives you an estimate of the possible costs associated with key activities on your course. Please bear in mind that these are only estimates of costs based on past student experience and feedback. The actual costs could vary considerably (either greater or lower than these estimates) depending on your choices as you progress through the course.

All our students are provided with 100 free pages of printing each year to a maximum total value of £15.

View additional costs for this course

Sorry, this course is not available part-time

Got any questions?

Search our Frequently Asked Questions for a range of information about our courses and studying here.

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 will soon be able to apply for a postgraduate loan of up to £10,000 for some courses and options?

Postgraduate loans

Year one

Your first year of study follows an integrated learning mode, with modules designed to teach problem solving, evaluative and interpretative methods. You shall investigate through practice the key developmental stages of British theatre performance. With particular focus on Renaissance theatre, Restoration theatre, and the Well-Made Play, as well as contemporary playwrights.

You will be taught through a series of workshops, which explore the demands of a specific dramatic forms. These workshops will delve into particular aspects of the British tradition, allowing you to broaden your in-depth knowledge of key periods and specific eras in performance history. You will also focus on developing your performance skills, engage with contextual studies and are required to keep a workbook throughout your studies.

Through keeping a workbook you establish and develop your ability to critically reflect upon your own work.

Our visiting tutors' and guest directors' inspiring, and continuous interactions of British performing arts means you will truly learn from the experts. In your first year of study you will form an acting company alongside your fellow students; this will widen your understanding of the practice and acting traditions within the UK.

Modules explained:
75 credits

This module is divided into three forms of assessment accumulating 300 hours of study:

  • Shakespeare / Jacobean – worth 30 per cent of the module
  • Restoration – worth 30 per cent of the module
  • Well-Made Play – worth 40 per cent of the module.

Each workshop will explore different styles and genres in British Traditional theatre across a set number of academic weeks. The first workshop focuses on English Renaissance theatre; investigating Shakespeare and the Jacobean era. The second explores Restoration comedy, and the third investigates the Well-Made play. 

60 credits
  • Movement (15 credits)
  • Voice (15 Credits)
  • Singing (15 Credits)
  • Acting skills (15 Credits)

This module will enable you to develop your professional skills in practice, with a focus on acting, movement, voice and singing. At Birmingham School of Acting we believe it is important that you develop skills which support professional development, enhancing your practical portfolio as well as developing a deep awareness of context.

Contextual Studies
30 credits

Within the contextual studies module you will expand your awareness of dramatic forms, text and style. Contextual Studies will develop your knowledge of the acting world, and simultaneously broaden your research skills. You will reflect critically on your findings, leading you to produce scholarly work that responds to a manner of issues.

15 credits

Throughout the duration of the programme you will be asked to keep a reflective journal. This journal will be presented in the form of a workbook, which is a combination of a rehearsal and class notebook, and a reflective journal. It provides further opportunities for you to reflect critically on your experience, understanding and development.

Research methodology

The research methodology module is designed to prepare you for your research project in the second year. Providing a regular forum in which you are introduced to essential research skills and methods.

Year two

In the second year, your studies will allow you to form a deeper understanding of the demands of non-naturalistic dramatic texts and forms of theatre of the British tradition.

With a particular focus on two key elements of the British tradition, you will explore the narrative aspect of the drama and its implications for actors, and the actor's relationship with the audience. You will also develop your understanding of the demands of performance spaces, working in a range of theatre spaces in the city. We aim to challenge your perspective, allowing you to see these elements as creative factors in theatre performance.

We will work to assist your professional and personal development. You will explore, in-depth, your own practice and research interests in order to produce an original, informed and innovative research project.

The research project is a key component of your second year, it is an opportunity to showcase and apply the knowledge you have learnt throughout your course. You will be able to produce either a dissertation or a research through practice performance piece. This particular module will allow you to develop your knowledge and produce work of a professional standard. You will create work that has the possibility of laying out a potential pathway for yourself within the field.

Modules explained:
90 credits
  • Production 1 (30 Credits)
  • Production 2 (30 Credits)
  • Production 3 (30 Credits)

In your second year of study the production module aims to draw together the experience you learn from the skills modules, as well as your first year workshops. You will apply all elements of your learnt knowledge, and skill to fully-mounted productions staged in local performance venues.

30 credits
  • Movement (10 Credits)
  • Voice (10 Credits)
  • Singing (10 Credits)

Much like the skills module in your first year of study this module will enhance your professional and practical skills.

Research project
60 credits

The research project allows you to conduct a piece of empirical research about an area, or issue that you are passionate about. Developing the knowledge learnt in the research methodology module you will produce a research project. The project can take the form of research through practice, centring on an aspect of performance with a critical evaluation, or of an entirely written submission in the form of a dissertation.

Professional Development

As a research-based degree you are expected to conduct a significant amount of self-directed study as well as attending timetabled sessions. The skills you will learn across the programme will allow you to develop both academically and professionally. You will be expected to reflect on your own development throughout the course.

As an intense programme, the course is delivered over a minimum of 30 hours per week of practice-based learning, challenging your intellectual, imaginative and physical skills.

This course is aimed at international students with previous performance training and offers those with a passion for live performance the opportunity to explore just what it is that makes British acting unique.

From Shakespeare to the pantomime, Restoration comedy to contemporary situation comedy, the British tradition of acting focuses on the importance of narrative, depth, dimension and consistency of character, technical precision, and the actor’s relationship with the audience.

Professional Development

The course offers significant opportunities to develop your acting skills and your understanding of the nature of the theatre event.

We encourage you to take responsibility for your own development within the course, as well as offering laboratory experience through a series of acting workshops.

A full-scale production in term three of the course offers the opportunity to draw together all of the knowledge and skills you’ve learned so far through performance practice.

The final research project provides the means to investigate in depth an aspect of non-naturalistic theatre within the British tradition.

Further study

Graduates of this course have developed essential skill and knowledge required for further study. The course prepares you for progression to further study by providing you with opportunities to explore current study and research, within the field of acting and beyond.

If you wish to develop your studies to the next level this course will give you the confidence and advanced scholarship knowledge required for PhD study.

Trips and visits

Studying the British tradition offers you the chance to explore prestigious venues and facilities that have impacted British performing arts throughout history. This programme includes a number of field trips which inform and support the delivery of the course, offered in terms one and two. These can include theatre visits, educational tours, museums and art galleries. In the past we have conducted annual day trips to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, taking part in workshops concerning acting, voice and movement.

Trips are coordinated to deepen your knowledge and understanding of acting and the industry. It is important particularly for international students to begin to attend productions in Birmingham or elsewhere in the UK as this will deepen your understanding of British theatre.

The School frequently produces performances in venues across Birmingham throughout the year. We recommend you attend these performances not only to familiarise yourself with the Birmingham performing arts industry, but to network and broaden your knowledge.

Zoe Matthews

Life as a postgraduate student

Masters student Zoe Matthews shares her experience at Birmingham School of Acting.

Read Zoe's blog

Enhancing your employability skills

As a graduate of this course you will be able to return to careers in the performance industry or in education with additional skills and a clearer understanding of British actor training and style. This will inevitably increase your employment opportunities, giving you a competitive edge in a highly competitive field.

You will have the right tools to teach, or mentor specialising in the British Tradition. You will be knowledgeable in a range of traditional British theatre forms, being able to reflect this through practice. Your knowledge of style and genre will enhance your employability, certainly if you are an international student as you will learn unique skill and knowledge unlike any taught internationally.

The various modes of teaching, such as studio-based workshops, presentations and productions will transform your confidence. These methods of study provide you with the ability and skill to translate your knowledge to others, whether that is through production or teaching. Through your understanding of style you will adapt and become versatile, knowing how to respond to the demands of the audience, space and the text itself.

Throughout the duration of the course you will be encouraged to critically reflect upon yourself and your peers. This will allow you to develop the ability to critically feedback and develop your work, allowing you to progress further. We aim to install confidence within your professional development, making you aware of the skills that you hold and teaching you how to apply them in a professional context.


While there are no compulsory placements within this programme we do not discourage you to be proactive, formulating your own relationships with local theatre venues and companies.


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 OpportUNIty students

In the past we have employed students to work in the School of Acting's reception, presenting our students as the first point of contact for visitors. We have confidence in our students who do a fantastic job representing their school and its student body.

Graduate jobs

Graduates from this programme often go on to become teachers, researchers, mentors, trainers and actors.

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

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

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

Our international students

Our MFA Acting (The British Tradition) course has been specially designed to cater for an international cohort; using research and practice to establish and develop a Master's level of knowledge concerning the British Tradition. International students will notice a difference between conservatoire-level training in the UK compared with that in other countries.

As a postgraduate student you will benefit by immersing yourself within an acting school with a variety of courses. The School is rich in diversity, with a combination of home and international students. You have a unique opportunity to learn from others, sharing and discovering new cultures and experience.

In the past we have had a high level of American applicants studying our MFA in Acting (The British Tradition). As an international student, studying the British tradition in an energetic and creative city offers a unique and fulfilling experience.

There is no other School more suited to host your studies. Located within the West Midlands, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, you will be at the heart of British arts and culture. Experience first-hand the culture of Britain, indulge yourself in context and allow your studies to be shaped by historical, authentic British settings.

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 acting course is most popular with international students from:

USA Flag


Our Facilities


Birmingham School of Acting (BSA) is based at the University’s City Centre Campus. A part of the Arts, Design and Media faculty, BSA is based within Millennium Point but also has access to facilities at the Parkside building.

The Parkside building boasts state-of-the-art facilities such as radio and television studios, edit suites, photography studios, and much more. In addition to this we are currently constructing a new £40 million home for the Birmingham Conservatoire, due to open in 2017.

Rehearsal space

There are ten rehearsal spaces, a ‘black box’ performance studio, showers, lockers and workshop space within the Birmingham School of Acting. The ‘black box’ performance studio, also known as the Patricia Yardley Studio, is our in-house performance theatre. Using variable acoustics which can be adjusted, and housing a fully operational lighting rig and a quadraphonic sound system.

Each studio contains: specialist acoustic panelling; specialist sprung floors; a heating system that radiates heat equally around the studio; and an air replacement system that maintains a constant room temperature.


Students regularly perform at professional theatres across the West Midlands, including The Birmingham Central Library Theatre; Crescent Theatre; Hippodrome Studio (Patrick Centre); The Old Rep Theatre and The Drum.

Meet our staff

Our staff have not only have extensive expertise, but they continue to work and thrive within industry.

Alex Taylor

Course Director MFA in Acting the British Tradition, MA in Professional Voice Practice

Alex Taylor has worked extensively in the UK, USA and South East Asia as a director, an actor and as a voice specialist. From 1984-1990 he was the Director of the School of Theatre, Manchester Metropolitan University and, at thirty, was the youngest drama school principal in the UK. He created one of the first honours degree courses for intending actors in Britain. Subsequently, he became one of the Master Teachers at the Juilliard School, New York.

In 1993 he joined the School of Drama at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. While in Hong Kong, Alex starred as Sweeney Todd in Stephen Sondheim’s 'Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street' and as Albin in Jerry Herman’s 'La Cage Aux Folles' at City Hall.

He also directed productions for the Academy, the National Theatre of Korea and led masterclasses in Acting and Voice at the Shanghai Theatre Academy and the University of Korea. Now living and working in the UK at Birmingham School of Acting, he has directed over thirty productions.

He has recently worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company as a voice coach on a range of productions and directed productions of 'Once On This Island' and Martin Sherman’s 'Bent' for professional theatre companies in Hong Kong.

UK prospective students:

UK enquiry form

+44 (0)121 331 5595

EU / International prospective students:

International enquiry form

+44 (0)121 331 5389

Already applied?

Email the applications team

+44 (0)121 331 6295