You will develop a creative, professional identity and signature style by combining technique, theory and ethical practice with experimentation.
You will explore contemporary photographic practice, including documentary, moving image, landscape, portrait and fine art photography, gaining a rounded knowledge of these varied and exciting disciplines.
Collaboration with other disciplines is encouraged, developing new ideas and connections with subjects such as graphic communication and film and animation. The course will show you how many creative, documetary and arts-based photographers can become commercially successful in diverse careers from galleries and publishing to advertising campaigns.
You will learn through practice, by developing confidence as a contemporary photographer. This will be informed by developing a deeper understanding of current photographic practice, from commercial briefs, to publishing, exhibiting, editorial and photojournalism.
You will learn from award-winning staff with international reputations and a wealth of industry experience, having worked for clients such as the BBC, the Brit Awards, Studio Wayne McGregor, British Telecom, Adidas, Channel 4, Condé Nast, The Guardian, Hyundai, Liverpool FC, Marie Claire, Microsoft, The Sunday Times Magazine, Tesco, The Daily Telegraph, the Royal Society of Arts, Tate Britain and the Royal Opera House.
There is also a dedicated technical support team and exceptional facilities situated within the City Centre Campus. These include industry-standard photographic studios, darkrooms, television studios, editing suites, a giant green screen studio and an extensive Hires and Loans department.
We will help you to collaborate both within the University (for example, with the Fashion, Conservatoire, Acting or Product Design courses) as well as externally, with live briefs for real clients. You will also have the opportunity to study abroad for part of the course, or to go on trips to destinations such as New York, Berlin and Paris.
This, combined with our innovative course structure, has led to us being recognised by Creative Skillset. This award recognises that we are a centre of excellence, teaching industry standards and equipping students with the skills and knowledge that employers look for today. We also have exceptional levels of external engagement, with visiting lectures by nationally and internationally-recognised photographers, as well as having numerous links with industry, workshops, seminars, masterclasses, careers advice, portfolio reviews, mentorships and placements.
In an environment of imagination and experimentation, we will nurture your talent and help you to develop into an employable and creative photographer.
"My time at the School was a great training ground to learn and develop the necessary skills to transfer into a creative career. The lecturers have the ability to help mould creative ideas into academic projects, and provide research direction along the way, which produces creative fuel and inspires self-initiated learning." Nathan Spencer, Photography BA (Hons) graduate
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.
Visit our School site for more student work and extra information about how we're transforming the futures of creative practitioners.
Our students have gone on to work with companies such as:
We accept a range of qualifications, the most popular of which are detailed below.
In addition to qualifications, applicants will also need a good portfolio. Applicants will be invited to attend an interview.
112 UCAS tariff points or equivalent, see typical offers below.
|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)||D* or 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|
|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/Non-EU (International) Qualifications||Requirements 2017/18|
|IELTS||6.0 overall with 5.5 minimum in all bands|
|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).
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.
From A/AS Level with a minimum of 2 A Levels
|BA (Hons)||Sep 2017||FT||3 years||£9,250 per year||Apply via UCAS|
|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.
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.
There are three ways to apply:
You will need to complete our International Application Form and submit it together with scan copies of your original academic transcripts and certificates.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
National and international trips are subsidised by the university, some of which are free. Our digital print room works on a non-profit basis. We participate in a final year show in London, which the University also subsidises, as it does your Graduation Show at the University itself.
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:
Why does this course appeal? What areas are of particular interest?
If you have a specific career in mind, say how your chosen course will help you pursue this goal.
Mention any work that is relevant to your subject, highlighting the skills and experience gained.
Highlight skills gained at school/college, eg summer schools or mentoring activities.
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.
Search our Frequently Asked Questions for a range of information about our courses and studying here.
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.
In the first year of the course we will provide you with the foundations of photographic and moving image practice. This will include essential technical skills using our state-of-the-art facilities, an understanding of how to harness and develop your creativity, means of communicating a message through your work, and an appreciation of the ethical and social issues that all modern photographers should be aware of.
The first year is combined with the BA (Hons) Commercial Photography degree in order to give you the broad understanding of the medium that is required. It also allows you great flexibility in your career path as at the end of the first year you may stay on the Photography course or switch to BA (Hons) Commercial Photography, should you prefer.
Introduction to Visual Communication
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.
Examples of student work - magazines
Principles of Photography
This module will introduce you to historical and contemporary concepts within a number of photographic genres. The module is designed to establish basic workshop skills that are specifically the building blocks for future modules. It is structured to you with an appropriate level of digital techniques that both support the module and are transferable. The module will result in a body of work that is the outcome of a set project and one day briefs.
Practice of Photography
This module builds on the Principles module and is designed to further develop the necessary technical, conceptual and creative skills. Research methods will be explored through workshops that directly link with practical experimentation. The module is designed to establish intermediate workshop skills and to equip you with an appropriate level of creative lighting and post-production skills, necessary to competently complete the module.
Building on the key principles articulated in the three modules in your first semester, this complementary, contextual studies module will explore seminal design movements and practitioners of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It will provide you with a broad contextual framework that will underpin your design practice, both at university and in the future.
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 Photography
This module is about moving from the safety of the classroom and into the exterior world. As part of the module you will be expected to take your work into a public domain. You will be honing your practice through engagement and collaboration with external bodies, and beginning to identify your direction of study. The module is designed to establish advanced workshop skills and an appropriate level of enterprise skills.
In the second year, you will further develop your signature style, moving rapidly towards your chosen career goal. This will be achieved by developing your portfolio, your photographic intelligence and your conceptual knowledge. Furthermore, you will start to define the type of photographer that you want to become, becoming increasingly specialised in that area.
Creative briefs will help you to understand personal photographic direction and may include a collaborative module may allow you to work with Graphic Designers, Illustrators, Sound artists, Film makers, animators and galleries.
You will also be encouraged to collaborate with those outside of the school, building industry links that enhance your work and skills.
You will also gain essential business skills to prepare you for undertaking commissions and projects. Live briefs are a key part of the second year, so you that you experience what it is really like to work as a professional creative photographer.
Examples of second year student projects
Context of Photography
You will begin to focus on a more discreet area of specialism, preparing you for your final year of study. You will work within smaller groups, alongside a tutor with expert knowledge in your chosen specialist area. You will also identify and research an area of your profession, developing numerous life and creative skills that will enhance your abilities and aspirations beyond graduation. This aspect of the programme will be supported by seminars and lectures from industry experts and practitioners.
Live projects, industry links and competitions form a key part of the curriculum at this stage in your course. We will encourage you to reflect upon your strengths and weaknesses, and build upon achievements in order to improve your performance. Active participation through workshops and master classes are embedded throughout your second year.
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.
This flexible module allows you to identify direction within your own practice and future aspirations. You will undertake approaches that will help define your area of practice, which is personalised to 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:
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.
In the final year you will, under expert tutor guidance, define your own projects, ensuring that your university work is tailored perfectly to you. You will work towards a final outcome, again chosen by you, such as a book, magazine, film, installation, exhibition and/or portfolio. As before, we will help you to develop your business profile and to become a practising photographer before you have graduated, which only goes to strengthen your portfolio and your employability.
We will be there to support you both professionally and pastorally. As well as our own expert tuition, we have a wide range of world-class photographers and portfolio reviewers who will inspire you to take your work to the next level. You will have access to the huge network of contacts that the University has, both nationally and internationally, as well as our close links with other courses within the University.
You will also undertake a piece of critical writing that examines the business practices of your chosen career.This will equip you with the necessary knowledge to approach the commercial photographic market, preparing you for your future aspirations and increasing your level of employability, allowing you to flourish not just while studying, but for many years after.
Examples of student work
Exploring your own creative direction you will conduct a project over several weeks in negotiation with your tutors which will allow you to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the issues and concepts chosen and further refine your visual identity as a contemporary photographic based practitioner.
You will develop your skills to source, synthesis and apply research, allowing you to work independently and articulate ideas that are central to your professional practice.
The purpose of the module is to enable you to undertake a sustained, in-depth and theoretically informed project. It is a culmination of your three years of study and should be a personal inquiry, of a professional and innovative standard and a celebration of you as a work ready practitioner.
You will develop a final major body of work, demonstrating your skills and knowledge which will be showcased at our Graduate Shows. You will have an exhibition, showcasing your individual creative signature, communication, information and problem-solving skills. You will develop your negotiation and planning skills, and will produce meaningful creative work.
During the Photography course you will develop yourself as a creative practitioner, developing hands-on experience, producing high quality, dynamic work. Creative thinking is encouraged throughout and you will experience a high level of industry engagement through creative practice-based learning.
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:
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.
|27||Time in lectures, seminars and similar||MidnightBlue|
|73||Time in independent study||RoyalBlue|
The School has great associations with many industry bodies and professional associations. We are members of the Association of Courses in Theatre Design, Association of Photographers, Association of Illustrators, D&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.
Mark graduated in 2002. Since then he has gone on to start his own business and photograph the likes of Damien Rice and Johnny Vegas.
After graduating, Mark worked for the police as a Photographic Printer and Photographer, enabling him to experience a professional environment and further develop his skills. After a year, he went part-time in order to set up his own freelance photography business.
Erasmus is a scheme that exists to allow you to undertake part of your study abroad. The scheme enables higher education students in 31 European countries to strengthen your foreign language skills, enhance your CV, experience new cultures and make new contacts.
As an undergraduate student you will need to be in the second year or above of your studies to be eligible. If you are interested you will be able to contact your school co-ordinator once you have started your course.
Our Visual Communication undergraduate degree is popular with students wishing to take part in Erasmus. Students and staff benefit from active participation with the Erasmus scheme. In recent years we have welcomed students from countries such as Rome, Paris and Rotterdam.
In addition to this we have supported our home-based students who wish to study overseas through the Erasmus programme, such as Charlotte Harrison. Charlotte studied at Frederick University in Cyprus, working on a photographic documentary, chronicling the lives of local people in the capital city of Nicosia.
Ultimately, this enhances the vibrancy and cultures of the student community here with the School of Visual Communication, and exposes you to new experiences.
As graduating students you will naturally follow your own career path and that may mean going straight into industry.
However many students look at the opportunities that we offer for postgraduate study at Birmingham City University. It is important to keep your options open and researching further into your area of study brings many rewards. The School of Visual Communication runs a one-year MA as a natural progression from its undergraduate courses. Should you wish to, you will be encouraged to continue your journey with us and develop your practice further.
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, such as the Design for Performance trip to the Prague Quadrennial and Photography trip to Paris Photo Fair, as well as School-level trips to destinations such as Venice, New York and Berlin. We also run an exchange with a Thai university, with additional ‘study abroad’ opportunities, including Erasmus exchanges.
Locations do alter each year to allow for students to experience a range of cities. We always put on UK study trips to places such as London, Manchester, Oxford and Liverpool. Where possible, UK trips are free or heavily subsidised. As a Visual Communication student, we do encourage you to take advantage of these trips as we see them as adding extra value to your course and they do offer additional research opportunities.
We are in partnership with Grain, The Hub for Photography in the West Midlands. And as part of this partnership, we hold symposiums, portfolio review days and lectures. Research projects are embedded in the future plans for this initiative, bringing wider benefits to the university.
BA (Hons) Commercial Photography is designed to enhance your skills and aptitude, preparing you for a career in a landscape that is continuously changing. Within Visual Communication, specifically photography, there are a variety of career opportunities you may wish to explore. As a creative practitioner you will be able to generate a range of potential ideas and visual developments. You will have the skills that demonstrate sound judgements in accordance to the theories and concepts of visual communication subjects, responding to the demands of industry.
You will develop an in-depth understanding of the relationship between theory and practice through research, this will not only allow you to undertake further study, it will allow you to produce meaningful, well-informed work.
You will gain an understanding of the underlying concepts and established principles that govern creative practice. Alongside this you will develop a range of working strategies, methods and materials, learning how to apply these to production.
You will also discover, and respond to, the influence of audiences, clients, markets and other participants in relation to Visual Communication practice.
You will benefit from hearing the expertise and having the chance to network with our high-profile guest speakers. Our students have recently had the opportunity to meet international fashion photographer Lara Jade and international advertising and commercial photographer Perou. We also host guest workshops from industry practitioners including regular portfolio reviews.
This BA (Hons) course supports fully directed study and the development of individual practice. There are opportunities for field trips and study abroad that will add value to the degree course.
Throughout your course you will be encouraged to take on placements, and network with industry. Our students have taken on numerous exciting and challenging placements with organisations such as Tatler magazine, Free Radio, and Birmingham City Council. Birmingham has illustrious and vibrant creative industries and as a school we have many industry connections. We will encourage you to actively seek work, helping you to develop your professional skills. In the past our students have worked with companies such as Birmingham Open Media, The Imaging Warehouse and The Impossible Project.
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.
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.
The School of Visual Communication offers a broad education as well as the very specific subject skills. As such, we see many graduates working in the creative industries, but also in a variety of employment,such as managerial roles, 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 that you will be aware of global expectations and the possibilities of work outside the UK. All modules have transferrable skills built into the teaching, so that you are able to apply your knowledge to a variety of tasks and challenges.
Photography graduates work in a range of careers including:
Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.
The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.
Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:
Students come to study in the School of Visual Communication from all over the world but we have nurtured some long-standing relationships with Malaysia, Thailand, China and India.
If you are a student from these, or any other countries, you should consider studying with us as we offer a wide curriculum that has internationalization built into the modules. We actively encourage learning across creative disciplines, group projects and live briefs. We have also established relationships with numerous colleges and industry overseas.
A fine example of this is Lichao Meng who joined us from China. We helped to develop Lichao’s understanding of photography and develop his strengths, so that by the end of the course he had created a stunning portfolio and graduated with a Frist Class Honours Degree.
We take a pride in developing strong creative communities and these thrive on the injection of different cultural experiences. To develop a sense of sharing all experiences and ideas is fundamental to the philosophy of Visual Communication.
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.
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.
You will learn from award winning staff with international reputations and a wealth of industry experience, who work for clients such as the BBC, the Brit Awards, Studio Wayne McGregor, Channel 4, The Guardian, The Sunday Times Magazine, The Daily Telegraph, the Royal Society of Arts , Tate Britain and the Royal Opera House.
German-born photographer Timm has lived and worked in Birmingham since 2000. Graduating from Birmingham City University with a First Class degree in Photography, Timm then went on to become a freelance photo journalist. Timm has worked for the University since 2010 teaching photography and continues to work freelance in the industry.