Design for Performance - BA (Hons)

UCAS Code:
Full Time (3 years)
September 2017

Make creative and informed contributions to contemporary performance design practice with this unique, future-focused programme of study. Ambitious in its approach, this course includes design and production for theatre, events, dance, puppetry, museums, concerts, exhibitions, festivals, themed environments, nightclubs, film and live arts.

Negotiate your own path within a framework of core art and design methodologies. Benefit from the cross-pollination of ideas within a multi-disciplinary School, in a course that reflects the dynamic crossover common to creative arts in the twenty-first century.

What's covered in the course?

Imagination, experimentation and risk taking are fundamental to our students as the challenges and opportunities are so varied on this course. A member of the Association of Courses in Theatre Design, this course provides a broad platform of skills, both traditional and digital to best equip our graduates for employment.

Because flexibility is built into our course design there are no subject routes -  you are able to study the same modules together regardless of your specific areas of interest. This fosters a ‘studio culture’ rich in diversity, collaboration, ambition and intersection.

The School has outstanding facilities, including studios, workshops and ‘The Shell’, a completely flexible, state-of-the-art, experimental production space. You will benefit from the insight and experience of staff, who are experienced designers, makers and educators, as well as a dedicated technical support team.

You will have the chance to develop and respond to a wide variety of high-profile projects and opportunities. These have included innovative paper installations, collaborative music videos, placements at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, live project briefs for Madame Taussauds, exhibition designs for Casson Mann and sculptural installations for major UK festivals.

Our end-of-year awards are sponsored and presented by high-profile names, and the course consistently achieves excellent National Student Survey (NSS) results.

"The course gave me the opportunity to explore a wide variety of career options in the entertainments industry. I developed key skills for each step of the design process, from concepts to completion on site, gaining experience and having a lot of fun along the way! I would recommend this course to anyone who has a passion for designing and creating exciting experiences for all areas in the entertainments industry." Millie Proud

Why Choose Us?

  • The School of Visual Communication prides itself on a long-established national and international reputation.  It consists of a range of courses that celebrate innovation and allow you to realise your creative ambitions.
  • We have the only in-house active agency in the region, which allows you to gain first-hand experience of real-life briefs set by clients.
  • Your portfolio will be showcased to a number of potential employers through our home-grown and independent talent pool, We Grow Cherries, as well as during your graduate show.
  • Live project partnerships include; Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Merlin Leisure, Live Nation and Casson Mann.
  • The course consistently achieves excellent NSS results.
  • Our end-of-year awards are sponsored and presented by high-profile names, with most award winners offered placements which have led to permanent employment.
Student ambassador helps Open Day visitor

Open Day - 29 November 2016

Our next University-wide Open Day will take place on Saturday 19 November 2016. Come along to find out more about our courses and see our facilities.

Register now

This course is open to International students

School of Visual Communication

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:

  • Tate St. Ives
  • Merlin Leisure
  • PropTarts

And in jobs such as:

  • Artists
  • Arts officers, producers and directors
  • Graphic designers

Entry Requirements

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

UK students

In addition to qualifications, applicants will also need a good portfolio.

Typical Offers
UK Qualification Requirements 2017/18
GCE A Level/ AS Level BBC at A-Level or 112 UCAS tariff points from A/AS Level with a minimum of 2 A-Levels
Access to Higher Education Diploma Pass overall with 60 credits, 45 at Level 3 and 15 at Level 2. Must be in a relevant subject pathway
BTEC National Diploma (12-units not including early years) D*D* or combined with other level 3 qualifications to achieve a minimum total of 112 UCAS points
BTEC Extended Diploma (18-units not including early years) DMM - 112 UCAS points
BTEC Subsidiary Diploma/ National Award (6-units not including early years) Combined with other level 3 qualifications to achieve a minimum total of 112 UCAS points
BTEC Diploma in Foundation Studies in Art and Design Distinction
International Baccalaureate Diploma 14 points overall
Irish Leaving Certificate 112 UCAS points - Higher Levels
Scottish Higher/ Advanced Higher 112 UCAS points
Welsh Baccalaureate (core plus options) Grade Pass plus grades CC at A-Level (or equivalent qualifications) to achieve a minimum total of 112 UCAS points
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.
EU/International students
EU/Non-EU (International) Qualifications Requirements 2017/18
IELTS Non English speakers require IELTS 6.0
International Baccalaureate Diploma (or equivalent, including internationally accredited Foundation courses). 14 points overall
Country-specific entry requirements and qualifications.


International students who cannot meet the direct entry requirements can begin their degree studies at Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC).

The UCAS tariff is changing

If you're considering applying for this course to start in September 2017 onwards, it's important to know that the UCAS tariff system is changing.

UCAS tariff points – the points system most universities use to compare different qualifications – will be introducing a new system on how points are calculated.

More about the new tariff

From A/AS Level with a minimum of 2 A Levels

UK or EU students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
BA (Hons) Sep 2017 FT 3 years £9,250 per year Apply via UCAS

International Students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
BA (Hons) Sep 2017 FT 3 years £12,000 per year

The University reserves the right to increase fees broadly in line with increases in inflation, or to reflect changes in government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament.

Guidance for UK/EU students


UK and EU 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

Non-EU (International) students

There are three ways to apply:

1) Direct to the University

You will need to complete our International Application Form and submit it together with scan copies of your original academic transcripts and certificates.

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.

Portfolio Guidance

Your portfolio might be viewed when you are not present, therefore make sure it is easy to use - think of it like a book. Your name and a title on the outside will be useful - this also helps distinguish the front from the back!

Be relevant
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?
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.
Tell a story
Try to show one full project from start to finish with the preparatory drawings included. Annotations are helpful as they show how you research and reflect on the development of your work.
The finished article
Include three to four final pieces that you are able to talk about. This might include 3D models rather than photographs.
The sketchbook
Include sketchbooks. This will give us an understanding of how you think (through your annotations) and allow us to see the development of your drawing (if the portfolio is digital, photograph or scan some of the best pages).

What's included

The course is a member of the Association of Courses in Theatre Design (ACTD) allowing access to the organisations activities including conferences, exhibitions and UK student representation at the Prague Quadrennial.

During the course, there are a number of large-scale collective group projects, where the basic materials include brown paper, cardboard, wood and paint are supplied by the course.

All students are provided with access to the online training site  This provides a wealth of video tutorials to supplement your activities in the studio and allow you to be supported during your self-directed study.

Adobe accreditation is also available for all students. This allows you the chance to take an exam in the various software packages hosted by Adobe and be awarded a qualification at the end of each. Microsoft Office 365 and 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage space is provided free to all students. 

Additional Costs

Materials and equipment
All first-year students will be required to engage in a number of 2D and 3D design activities appropriate to the discipline. As such, you’ll need to budget around £150 for initial design equipment and materials.

A number of collaborative projects are undertaken, with the main materials provided by the course, with specific details funded by the students.  An example would be a group-based music video, where the main scenery is constructed from the timber provided by the course but specific props/costumes are sourced and paid for by the group.

Materials and equipment for the final year is varied and driven by the individual student needs, in line with the philosophy and breadth of the course.  Some students will spend very little, while other students incur more costs through venue hire, installation production or specialist materials.  For more expensive projects, students seek funding through various mechanisms, including the Student Unions Eco Fund.
Trips and travel
There are a number of live projects we undertake, which require field visits.  A coach may be organised, or alternatively students may make their own travel arrangements. 
As part of the School there are a number of optional educational trips organised that aim to add richness to your experience but these are not part of any course assessment. Recent examples include:

  • Berlin Field - £320
  • Paris photo - £280
  • New York - £639
  • Thailand exchange - £1200

Laptops and digital equipment
You’ll require a laptop computer (PC or Mac OS), although you can also hire a laptop for up to six hours a day from the University.
Apple also offer a discount on laptops for UK students - go to Apple for Education for more details.

Your personal statement

Your personal statement is a highly important part of your application. It 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:

Course choice

Why does this course appeal? What areas are of particular interest?

Career plans

If you have a specific career in mind, say how your chosen course will help you pursue this goal.

Work experience

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.

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.

Loans and Grants

Financial Support

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

Year one

Your first year of study will introduce you to the basic skills and critical framework within Design for Performance.  You will be taught through a series of modules, which provide you with the knowledge to further explore this ever-expanding discipline.

You will develop skills and understanding that encompass spatial, figurative and performance design. From these fundamental principles, you can tailor the remainder of the course to areas of performance that are of particular interest to you and your future career aims.

You will develop your technical, creative, analytical, interpretive and reflective skills; helping you to understand traditional performance design and its relationship to contemporary practice. Through your modules, you will discover the application and use of colour, light, scale, composition, the figure and space.

Fundamental visual communication issues will be addressed through a series of core lectures and theory seminars. You will also have the opportunity to work with other students from across the school by selecting one of five in house options. 

Examples of first year student work

Design for Theatre Performance and Events examples of student work first year 1
Design for Theatre Performance and Events examples of student work first year 2
Design for Theatre Performance and Events examples of student work first year 3
Design for Theatre Performance and Events examples of student work first year 4
Introduction to Visual Communication
20 credits

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.

Principles of Design for Performance
20 credits

The aim of this module is to introduce you to the main principles found within Design for Performance, creating a solid foundation of knowledge and skill-based practice. Emphasis will be placed upon providing a holistic view of the performance designer’s creative process. Through a series of theory-based lectures and hands-on workshops, you will individually weave together a range of visual ideas responding to the universal themes of space, narrative, performer, audience

Practice of Design for Performance
20 credits

You will be required to examine the architectural environment of the performance space through design; including the relationship between space, scenic components and the performer. Particular emphasis will be placed upon the realisation of a scale design through a full-size installation and its relationship to a live audience.

Shakespeare paper installation

Our first year students recently created a life-size installation featuring more than a dozen of Shakespeare’s most famous creations handcrafted from paper and cardboard as part of the figure in space module.

The show displayed scale models over six feet tall, a three-meter-high balcony and even a walk-in tavern, and was made as a tribute to mark 400 years since the Bard’s death.

Students used techniques learned on the course to sculpt 780 meters of corrugated cardboard and nearly 5,000 meters of brown paper into the entire setting and characters.

See more images of the Shakespeare paper installation

We are interested in allowing you to discover your own personal direction within this ever expanding and exciting area of design.

20 credits

Building on the key principles articulated in the three modules in semester one, 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. 

Text to design
20 credits

You will have the opportunity to select one of five option modules offered across the school: People and Identity, Sound and Movement, Space and Place, Text and Image, Time and Sequence.  Thematic in their approach, they are intended to offer you multiple approaches to the diverse practice of visual communication.

Enterprise of Design for Performance
20 credits

This module will consolidate your practice undertaken in the previous projects. Allowing you to develop further your creative process as a designer for performance, it will build on and extend your visual and technical vocabulary. You will use spatial and figurative work to produce a complete design concept for a performance based around a given text, and the final design concepts will be presented as an exhibition. 

Year two

Your second year is designed to broaden your experience and increase your critical approach to the role of the designer within performance. Through a combination of theory and experiment, you will learn how to evaluate and apply principles to practice.

You will receive opportunities for placement, field study, collaborative and interdisciplinary work. We shall help you to develop your own personal direction, focusing towards the establishment of a specialised and flexible area of practice.

You will learn how to effectively communicate information, arguments and analysis in a variety of forms to specialist and non-specialist audiences. You will enhance your ability to work collaboratively within a working environment, demonstrating knowledge of the main methods of enquiry within the field.

Your second year of study is crafted to allow you to develop your critical awareness, and formulate approaches to solving problems. You will develop your own individual style and perspective, drawing upon your own influences and direction.  Helping you to further understand the creative role, opportunities and responsibility of the contemporary designer.

Examples of second year student work
Design for Theatre Performance and Events examples of student work second year 1
Design for Theatre Performance and Events examples of student work second year 2
Design for Theatre Performance and Events examples of student work second year 3
Design for Theatre Performance and Events examples of student work second year 4
Context of Design for Performance
40 credits

To further develop a creative understanding of the practical and technical vocabulary of Design for Performance, this module aims to develop your awareness of the breadth of practice within this industry and your potential role within it. Focusing on creative responses to productions that are specifically non-textual based as a means to actively remove pre-conceived design parameters.

Live Project
20 credits

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, 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/ 

Collaborative Practice
20 credits

Collaboration is a vital employability skill within the creative industries, and this module allows you to develop these skills, making use of University facilities and with the support of academic staff. Within this module framework you are able to create an interdisciplinary project with students from complementary disciplines across the School and wider Faculty.

Identifying Direction
40 credits

This flexible module allows you to identify direction within your own practice and future aspirations. Students undertake approaches that will help define their area of practice, which is personalised to their 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 your second year you will have the opportunity to replace 20 credits of study with the following module:

Work Placement
20 credits

The purpose of this module is to enable you to develop professional attributes and subject skills through experience in the workplace, and to critically reflect upon your learning in that context. You will normally be expected to arrange your own placement, with support from academic staff and BCU Careers.

Year three

During your final year of study you will be supported in establishing the confidence to acknowledge and assert your own distinctive work identity. You will take a critical view of the world of Design for Performance, identifying your own aspirations and place within the field. The work will be challenging, yet you will experiment and establish a solid foundation in the basic skills and conventions of the field.

You will be required to demonstrate, within your work, a particular view of what constitutes a design proposition. You will enhance your communication skills, allowing you to develop confidence and understanding, allowing you to capably articulate your views and knowledge to others.

The final year of the programme is designed to help you demonstrate a systematic, extensive and advanced knowledge of contemporary Design for Performance. You shall work autonomously or collaboratively to a professional standard on self-generated projects, with creativity and imagination. 

Examples of final year student work
Design for Theatre Performance and Events examples of student work third year 1
Design for Theatre Performance and Events examples of student work third year 3
Design for Theatre Performance and Events examples of student work third year 2
Design for Theatre Performance and Events examples of student work third year 4
Critical Practice
60 credits

Critical Practice provides the opportunity to adopt an increasingly autonomous commitment to your individually chosen direction. These directions are established with guidance and academic rigour through individual tutorials, guest professionals, workshops, group discussion and peer participation. It creates an environment where passion and dedication to creative activity can flourish.  

Major Project
60 credits

The purpose of the module is to enable you to undertake a sustained, in-depth and theoretically informed research project.  It is a culmination of your three years of study and should be a personal inquiry of a professional standard and a celebration of you as a work-ready practitioner.

Examples of recent students' projects

Ben Ryan

Chris Morris
'Erryday' Festival Hub

Lucy Norton
Advert for Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Hours in the classroom

The number of contact hours with Lecturers varies, depending on the type of activity, the module and the year group.  The figures below show a weekly average but will fluctuate throughout the year:

Scheduled Contact Hours:

  • First year  – 15 hours
  • Second year – 12 hours
  • Third year – 10 hours

These 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. Using the facilities within the faculty and beyond to further develop your individual project.

The school offers a suite of optional technical workshops including printmaking, studio lighting and a wide range of software packages.

Teaching breakdown

31 Time in lectures, seminars and similar MidnightBlue
69 Time in independent study RoyalBlue

Assessment breakdown

Classroom activities and projects 

Once you enter the studio you will feel part of a shared community, you’ll find yourself engaging in messy workshops, creative group work and working on live briefs.  Design for Performance requires a multitude of approaches and this is best served through hybridised studios.  One minute the room will be laid out for discussions, or painting/modelmaking or perhaps even a projection thrown onto the wall for the group to watch an internet clip or view an enlarged design.  Importantly these facilities should be flexible enough to support your needs.

We believe that the best way to learn is by doing, throwing your self in at the deep end and accepting that mistakes are part of the process. The activities and projects undertaken on the course are active, hardwork, memorable, realistic and fun.

An example would be in the first year the group is expected to work together using nothing more than £500 worth of brown paper and card to transform ‘The Shell’ performance space into a life size installation. Past versions have included WW1 trenches, Frost Fairs and a Shakespearean pub complete with characters from the play and the bard himself. All of these were produced over an intensive four-week period.

Likewise in the second year a collaborative project with the Film and Animation students sees over a 12 week period the groups conceiving, designing, constructing, filming, performing and editing short films to a professional standard.  The intention behind this is ‘as close to real world as possible’ requiring groups to understand the roles associated with producing studio films in this manner.  This is a longstanding project that has been developed over the past fifteen years.

Professional Associations

The School has great associations with many industry bodies and professional associations. We are members of the Association of Courses in Theatre DesignAssociation of PhotographersAssociation of IllustratorsD&AD (the professional association of designers and advertising), The Society of British Theatre Designers, The Association of Photographers in Higher Education, and the Royal Society of Arts.

Student stories

Hannah Turton

Hannah Turton won the Merlin Award at the Viscom awards after designing a new Madame Tussauds for Birmingham, featuring famous names hailing from the city in the areas of music, television and film, history and sport. The award recognises young, talented designers with a flair for attraction and exhibition design and includes a four-week placement at Merlin, one of the world's largest entertainments companies.

View more examples of student work...

Study and work abroad

If you are interested in undertaking part of your studies abroad, the Erasmus scheme may be of interest to you. It allows higher education students to study for part of their degree in another European country.

It is open to undergraduates in their second year (or above) and offers a unique opportunity to enhance your CV and experience new cultures. If you study with us you will have access to an Erasmus co-ordinator, who can provide information about which institutions we have links with.

Find out more

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 we offer for postgraduate study at Birmingham City University.

The School of Visual Communication runs a one-year MA as a natural progression from its undergraduate courses. You will be encouraged to continue your journey with us and develop your practice further.

Trips and visits

When you come onto 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. These include the Design for Performance trip to the Prague Quadrennial and Photography trip to Paris Photo Fair, as well as School-level trips to Venice, New York and Berlin.

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, you’ll be encouraged to take advantage of these trips as we see them as adding extra value to your course and they do offer additional research opportunities.

Enhancing employability skills

The programme is designed so that you will complete your studies skilled, confident and ready to take on a creative career. Throughout the degree you will develop transferable skills, equipping you for creative practice. You will learn methods and techniques, with the ability to review, consolidate, extend and apply your knowledge and understanding in order to initiate and carry out projects.

You’ll develop the skill to identify and tackle problems, with confidence in communicating information and ideas. You will leave with sophisticated and professional communication and presentation skills.

Not only will you be able to work well within a team through collaborative practice you will also have confidence in your own abilities, with the talent and knowledge to independently produce creative work. Knowledge of the field will be developed throughout your studies, allowing you to critically evaluate historical, contemporary and personal practice.

The course will facilitate in the development of a wide range of both practical and knowledge-based skill. We will help you in your professional development, encouraging you to develop portfolios and gain extensive industry experience. You’ll be taught how to devise and manage design proposals, from conception to completion, readying you for a career in creative design. We’ll help you nurture your own creative flair and talent, with a focus on the creation of your own personal creative identity; something that will make you stand-out in industry.


You are required to develop strong networks, identifying opportunities and work placements appropriate to your practice.  Visits to companies, interviews and live projects are an excellent way to introduce you and to develop these links.  More formal placements have included opportunities with Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham Costume Hire, mac Birmingham and 2000trees Festival.

The Live Nation project has been in place for over ten years, with students working on sculptures for the backstage area of Download rock festival.   

Summer placements with high-profile internationally-recognised companies Merlin Entertainments and, most recently, Casson Mann have been offered as rewards for live project initiatives. These prestigious opportunities allow students to gain a real insight into the creative approaches used by these organisations.


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

Elizabeth Howell, graduated in 2012
Job Title:  Producer, Tate St Ives

“I am the festival producer for SWITCH festival for Tate St Ives. I have been a tutor creating programming with a group of young people to create a festival of newly created artwork, DJs and VJs, contemporary dance on the beach, I have curated an exhibition and produced an open call for moving image artwork from young people across the UK. My role consists of tutor, mentor, programmer, exhibition designer, copywriter, producer, production manager, lighting designer and community liaison.”

Chris Morris, graduated in 2014
Job Title: Creative Director, STAX Creations

“I started Stax Creations with two friends a few months before graduating. We began by making decor and pallet furniture for local events, and we now design and make large-scale immersive installations and stages for festivals, venues, bars and experiential marketing. Our clients include Cornetto, Coors, Heineken, Carlsberg, Bestival, The Zoo Project and Sound City Festival, taking us to Ibiza, London and all over the UK. We’re on a mission to gather as many creative designer/makers as possible in all disciplines to help us on our way as we grow.”

Edd Musgrove, graduated in 2012
Job Title: Freelance Themed Entertainment Designer

“The course allowed me to follow my passion for themed entertainment and pursue it in my final year, along with giving me a huge foot in the door via the Madame Tussauds project, which set me up to be able to work in the field from day one after graduating. I'm a freelance themed entertainment designer with various large client,s such as Merlin Entertainments and Compagnie Des Alpes. I've been able to work on projects for Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Legoland parks, Madame Tussauds and Sea Life locations across the world.” 


BCU Graduate+

Through our courses we give you the skills and experience needed to get a head start when applying for jobs. But we offer something extra too – Graduate+.

Our unique programme gives you the chance to develop valuable skills outside of the more formal classroom learning. We award points for Graduate+ activities (including firewalking!) and these can be put towards a final Graduate+ award.

More about Graduate+

Graduate jobs

The School of Visual Communication offers a broad education, as well as the very specific subject skills so we see many graduates working in the creative industries but also in a variety of employment from management, education, tourism, marketing and freelance business.

Industry demands are constantly changing, so it’s important that we prepare you for all eventualities. The internationalisation components mean you are aware of global expectations and the possibilities of work outside the UK. All modules have transferable skills built into the teaching, meaning you are able to apply your knowledge to a variety of tasks and challenges.

Design for Performance graduates work in a range of careers including:

  • Theatre designer
  • Production designer
  • Performance practitioner
  • Events designer
  • Prop maker
  • Costume designer
  • Exhibition designer

International Students

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

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

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

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 countries or any other, you should consider studying with us, as we offer a wide curriculum that has internationalisation built into the modules. We actively encourage trans-disciplinary teaching, group projects and have established relationships with colleges and industry overseas.

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.

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 theatre, performance and event design 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

Specific to the course are a production workshop and design studios in support of The Shell, a completely flexible, state-of-the-art, experimental production space. This space has been designed to accommodate the breadth of work produced by the students and functions as a performance venue, cinema, exhibition space, projection mapping facility, music venue and lecture space. Configured in multiple ways The Shell is a monochromatic environment with portable seating and a retractable wall into the main Atrium.

The Shell
The Shell
The Workshop
The Workshop
The Sink
The Sink

Design studios and a production workshop are also integral to the delivery of the course.  In the same spirit of the Shell, these spaces are hybridised studios that flex in relation to the students’ demands.  This means that these facilities much like The Shell are intended to cope with a wide variety of activities from messy craft and model making, through to casting, carving, groups meetings, digital work, projections and discussions.  This approach is in line with some of the leading studios based in the UK that thrive on the overlap of processes and flexibility of space.

Paul Barret - Staff

Paul Barrett

Course Director / Faculty Senior Learning and Teaching Fellow

Paul has been the course director for BA Hons Design for Theatre, Performance and Event (TPE) since 2001. A practising scenographer, his professional credits include designs for large-scale theatre, small-scale outdoor touring productions, corporate events and festivals. He has many years experience as a freelance designer, company director, educator and performer and is currently the Chair of the Association of Courses in Theatre Design.

Lara Farniss - Staff

Lara Furniss

Lecturer in Theatre, Performance and Event Design

With a BA (Hons) degree in Interior Design from Manchester Metropolitan University, and a Master of Fine Arts from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Lara has 20 years' professional experience working across many art and design disciplines throughout the UK, Europe and the USA, including sculpture, installation, interior, architecture, exhibition, event and scenography.

Lara has worked within a wide range of design studios as well as running her own studio and working as freelance designer, and projects range from experimental devised theatre to multi-million pound events.

Studios include Imagination, Event Communications and DEGW Architects. Clients include The Imperial War Museum, V&A Museum, The Field Museum (Chicago), Eureka! Children’s Museum, Ten Chimneys Foundation (Wisconsin), Ericsson, Barclays, BBC, Coca Cola, Schweppes and Grosvenor Estate Holdings.

Award-winning and high-profile projects include: ‘The Half - Photographs of Actors by Simon Annand’ for The Theatre Museum (V&A Museum) awarded ‘Best Exhibition on a Limited Budget’ at the Museums & Heritage Awards in 2006, and ‘Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne: A Life on Stage’ at the Ten Chimneys Foundation awarded National Historic Landmark status.

Alongside her commercial design work, Lara has designed over 20 theatre productions. Starting as resident designer for Cook County Theatre Department in Chicago, she has gone on to design for a wide range of theatres including The Performing Garage, New York and The Gate, London. In 2000 she was nominated for an Arts Foundation Fellowship in Theatre Design by Simon McBurney.

Lara’s research interests have emerged directly from her art and design practice, as well as her current experience as an academic within Higher Education. Her PhD study examines the processes of 21st Century design studios which do not define themselves by discipline.

Joanna Jarvis - Staff

Joanna Jarvis

Lecturer in Theatre, Performance and Event Design

Joanna graduated from the City of Birmingham Polytechnic (now Birmingham City University) with a degree in Theatre Design.

Her first design job was with a Theatre in Education group run by the National Trust. They toured the country creating experiential shows for primary school children in NT properties. For the show to work effectively the characters had to look correct for the period of house in which each show was set, and this need for accuracy fired her interest in the history of dress.

Joanna became a freelance designer and maker of period costume, often collaborating with the choreographer Mary Collins – who she met through the YNTT.

In 2012 they wrote a joint paper for the Oxford Dance Symposium about the development of choreography through the 18th century, and how dance costume was affected by styles of dress. Through this work Joanna discovered that although the development of ballet in the 18th century has been widely examined, very little has been written about the costumes, which have such a key role to play in the overall look of the performance. She has always been interested in the relationship between the performers in live performance and their audience, that strong emotional, and yet intangible, connection that develops when watching an effective performance.

In the late 18th century there was a relationship between costume for performance and fashion, and this is evident from the various garments named after actresses or the parts that they played. There is scope for greater analysis of how the fashionable body shape dictated form for some costume, how female dancers pushed the boundaries of acceptable forms of dress, and how fashion was itself influenced by styles seen on the dance stage. Joanna’s research is examining that relationship.

Dr Jonathan Day

Reader in Transmedia Arts

Black Country bred, Dr Day is the spawn of 300 years of English Midlands' Industrialism. He was conceived in a derelict church, on land left wild after its ruination by Roman iron mines. His mother was 18 and had no intention of making him. My grandmother, in turn, bore her at 17, fathered by a half-Irish sailor who died near Trinidad before his mother was three. His great grandmother was the daughter of a displaced Welsh coal-miner, his great grandfather had been a horse trainer in a circus. She married him after he fed sandwiches to her starving children. She became an alcoholic, ate grass from the garden, converted to Adventism after seeing the devil and gave away all her money. These experiences set the context for his work.

Jonathan has been for the longest time a musician – he left University (without a qualification) after seeing Woody Guthrie, his seemed to be a better way to live. Catherine van Ruhland (Greenbelt Festival) described Jonathan's work at the time as 'Long nights with sages, poets and painters and long journeys wandering around Europe playing its streets and cafes held in song. His work takes its heart from time, silence and the mad, mundane and quietly beautiful vision of those who share the road.'

Some of his questions needed more extended answers, so Jonathan returned to the academic world, studying an MA in art history and a PhD in musical composition. He now teaches at the School of Visual Communication and at several Universities in south and east Asia.

As a very necessary foil to the hectic, brilliantly coloured roads he travels, Dr Day lives in Shropshire. He likes the quiet, the animals and the trees. There's something important in the curve of a bird's wing as it cuts the wind and the jumbled stones which break the earth on a round hill's top. There are intuitions which shimmer and call in the buzzard's mewl or the fox's flash. He tries to hold this sparkling stuff long enough to sing it and remember, before it trickles through his fingers back into the earth.

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