• Status: Fully Approved
  • Start date: September 2017
  • Duration:

    2 years full-time

  • Attendance:

    Year 1: September to June.

    Year 2: begins at an appropriate time between July and October, depending on agreement with the secondment theatre company, and runs until late June (final submission deadline for written work is the end of September).

  • Location:

    Central London

Programme overview

This Master's degree offers a professionally recognised training for theatre directors. It is the result of a unique collaboration between Birkbeck and the National Council for Drama Training, Arts Council England, Equity and the Theatrical Management Association. The programme has been planned in close co-operation with a wide range of distinguished theatre practitioners.

Find out about the work of recently graduated directors and read our guide for applicants 2017-2018.

Students on the MFA Theatre Directing can apply for a number of bursaries towards fees awarded on the basis of financial need. It is not possible to apply for these bursaries in advance of being offered a place on the MFA Theatre Directing; successful applicants will be given further details once admitted to the programme.

How to apply

We want to secure the most talented, qualified and appropriate students for this course. There will be a maximum of 10 places on the course each year, and competition is expected to be considerable. Please read our guide for applicants 2017-2018 before you start your application.

During the admission process we are concerned above all to assess your potential both to cope with the considerable demands of the course and to achieve the necessarily high standard required on completion. It is also equally important that we assess the suitability of the course for each candidate's wants and needs, since the philosophy and content of the course may not be appropriate for every aspiring director.

The admission process is therefore designed to allow us to be satisfied that candidates:

  • Have the necessary abilities to undertake and cope with the demands of this course.
  • Show evidence of the skills and understanding needed for a course at this level of expectation and rigour.
  • Demonstrate the personal qualities and commitment essential for the completion of this course.

Application guidelines

If you decide to apply for the course you should note that in addition to completing the online application, you must answer some specific questions designed to supply additional information about your experience of, and commitment to, theatre, as well as about your aspirations. Your responses are significant and will be taken into account in assessing your suitability for the course.

You must also supply details of two referees, whom the College will contact. At least one of these referees must be able to supply information about your experience of professional or professional-level theatre.

Overseas candidates

Candidates from overseas must attend the selection process in person. If your first language is not English, you should note that certified evidence of your proficiency in spoken and written English is required prior to interview for the course. The minimum level of proficiency required to undertake this course is 7.0 on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Please note that the admission of successful candidates whose first language is not English will be made conditional on their achievement of certified attainment of this IELTS level or its equivalent.

Selection process

After the consideration of all written applications, those applicants who are considered to be suitably qualified will be invited to participate as candidates in the course's selection process. During this process, each candidate's potential to become a professional director will be scrutinised and assessed. Details of the selection process will be supplied to candidates in due course.

Notes on making an application

In addition to the completed application form you should supply us with the following four items: the answers to the questions below, your professional CV, and two references. They should be uploaded as separate documents to your completed application form. Please keep a copy of all parts of your application for future reference.

  • A completed copy of the online application. Your CV will supplement the brief summary details you give in the Professional Experience section. At least one of your references must be able to supply information about your experience of professional or professional-level theatre and give an informed view of your professional or professional-level theatre experience in general, which may or may not include directing. The Selection Panels are aware that some appropriate candidates may have quite minor (if any) experience of directing, but the course does not prescribe a minimum level of directing experience before admission. The status or job title of this referee is less important than her/his ability to describe and testify to your professional or professional-level experience of theatre. Please supply telephone numbers for both your referees.
  • A copy of your up-to-date CV, which should include details of your professional or professional-level experience of theatre (not just of theatre directing) and, in addition, should include details of any theatre directing experience you have had, whether at professional level or not.
  • A supporting statement, consisting of written answers (each of 500 words or fewer) to the questions below. Your responses to these questions are significant and will be taken into account by selection panels in assessing your potential suitability for the course.

The supporting statement

Please note that each question should be answered in not more than 500 words, although your answers can be shorter if you wish. Contrary to the statement on the application form, you are not expected to confine your supporting statement to 1 sheet.

  • What do you believe to be the role of the theatre director in relation to actors and other creative collaborators?
  • Describe how you might approach directing a particular play or theatre piece (of your choice).
  • What kind of theatre or theatre company do you want to direct and why, and what kind of work would you programme and why? (Please note: you can name and/or describe the work as you wish.)

There are no correct answers to these questions - they are designed to allow you to reveal, as frankly as possible, your present views of theatre and what your potential or possible work as a director might be. We will expect our applicants to reveal a wide range of experience, opinions, interests and ambitions. Please feel free to be candid; we are interested in reading your honest opinions.

Application deadlines and interviews

We hold 2 rounds of interviews each year. The deadline for applications for entry in 2017 is 20 January 2017 for interviews in late February and 5 May 2017 for interviews in mid-June.

Candidates may apply for either round of interviews and there is no advantage in applying for the earlier deadline, except to have greater notice of your acceptance onto the programme.

    Online application

    Theatre Directing (MFA) (Full-time)

    Why study this course at Birkbeck?

    • Arts and humanities courses at Birkbeck are ranked third best in London and 11th in the UK in the Times Higher Education 2015-16 World University Subject Rankings.
    • In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), English Language and Literature at Birkbeck achieved 100% for a research environment conducive to producing research of the highest quality, while 91% of eligible staff submitted research, of which 75% was recognised as world-leading or internationally excellent.
    • Direct input of professional theatre practitioners; Mike Leigh, Vicki Mortimer, Lyndsey Turner and Mike Alfreds have been recent contributors.
    • Includes a 9-month secondment with a theatre company, providing the opportunity to direct and work with professional actors, and a 3-month secondment to a leading drama school.
    • Extended mentoring relationships between students and professional directors.
    • Regular observation of the course by a highly experienced group of professional directors.

    Course structure

    Year 1 enables you to acquire an informed experience, knowledge and understanding of the work of the professional director with key collaborators such as actors, writers and designers. You will also be introduced to the current structural and financial realities of working as directors in the industry. One term is spent at a leading drama school, learning how actors are trained for today’s theatre. Intensive units with leading professionals, including members of the RSC’s voice and movement departments, and leading practitioners such as Mike Leigh, Mike Alfreds, Vicki Mortimer and Simon Stephens, will concentrate on the director’s relationship with the designer and the writer, and offer a practical understanding of how theatre companies and pieces of work are funded and managed.

    Year 2 enables you to develop your skills as a director through secondment to a theatre company (or companies). During the secondment you are given a number of opportunities to work as a director with actors and other appropriate collaborators in the creation of theatre pieces. In the final term of the degree, students reassemble as a group to acquire practical knowledge and skills that will enable them to begin their careers as independent artists.

    Collaborating theatre companies will be drawn from a group of committed organisations. This group currently includes: the Royal Exchange Manchester, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Sheffield Theatres, the Citizens Theatre Glasgow, Home Manchester, Birmingham Rep, the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith and Paines Plough.

    To find out more, read our programme handbook.


    Entry requirements

    Either a minimum second-class honours degree from a UK university (or a directly comparable qualification from a non-UK university), together with some significant experience of professional or professional-level theatre; or an undergraduate- or postgraduate-level diploma from a recognised UK drama school (or a directly comparable qualification from a non-UK drama school), together with some significant experience of professional or professional-level theatre (normally 3 years); or extensive professional experience.

    Considerable importance will be attached to your ability to demonstrate commitment to professional theatre directing. If you are considered to be initially qualified, you will then be interviewed.

    International entry requirements

    If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, the requirement for this programme is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 7.0, with not less than 6.5 in each of the sub-tests and at least 7.0 in writing.

    Visit the International section of our website to find out more about our English language entry requirements and relevant requirements by country.


    Full-time home/EU students: £ 7950 pa
    Full-time overseas students: £ 14450 pa

    Additional costs

    Deposit to secure your place on the MFA Theatre Directing

    The MFA Theatre Directing is an extremely popular programme and has a limited number of places. For this reason, you are required to commit to the programme by paying a non-refundable deposit of £500 to secure your place. This deposit is part of the overall course fee, and not an additional amount.


    If you are made an offer of a place on the course, your offer letter will advise that you need to pay a non-refundable deposit of £500 to secure your place. For those offered places on the MFA Theatre Directing in February, the deposit must be paid by Friday 5 May; for those offered places in early June, the deposit must be paid by Friday 24 June. Deposits are collected by the Fees Office and recorded against your fee liability in the usual way.

    If you do not pay your deposit by the set deadline, then you forfeit your place on the course and this will be offered elsewhere. A later deposit deadline will be set for students on the waiting list who are offered places later in the cycle.


    These deposits are non-refundable. If you do not take up your place on the course, you forfeit your £500. In certain circumstances, for example severe illness, where you are prevented from taking up your place through no fault of your own, it may be possible for your deposit to be rolled forward to the next year of entry, if the School is willing to defer your place. The decision on whether your place can be deferred will lie with the School, and the decision on whether your deposit can be rolled forward will lie with Finance.

    If you do not attend the course, and so withdraw or ask to withdraw, the deposit is excluded from any other fee refund you might be awarded.

    International students

    International students are required to provide a deposit of £2000 as a matter of general College policy. £500 of the general £2000 deposit will be deemed to be the non-refundable element.

    Payment and Fees Discounts

    Flexible finance: pay your fees in monthly instalments at no extra cost. Enrol early to spread your costs and reduce your monthly payments.

    Fees discounts: If you are a Birkbeck alumni or a member of a union that is recognised by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), you may apply for a 10% discount off your tuition fees.

    Funding and Financial Support

    The government's new postgraduate loan scheme allows you to borrow up to £10,000 to cover the cost of your tuition fees, living costs or other study expenses – and you don't have to start repaying until 2019.

    Students on the MFA Theatre Directing can apply for a number of bursaries towards fees awarded on the basis of financial need. It is not possible to apply for these bursaries in advance of being offered a place on the MFA Theatre Directing; successful applicants will be given further details once admitted to the programme.

    The School of Arts also offers a number of bursaries for postgraduate students.

    Part-time students who are experiencing financial need may apply for assistance from the Birkbeck Alumni Fund Postgraduate Opportunity Bursary.

    Find out more about funding and financial support at postgraduate level.

    Careers and employability

    Recent graduates have directed productions at prestigious theatres including: the National Theatre, the RSC, the Royal Court, English National Opera, the Almeida, the Young Vic, the Lyric Hammersmith, the Gate and in the West End.

    Others have established their own companies, such as Coney, Curious Directive, Rough Fiction, commonpractice and Red Herring.

    Many have directed at regional theatres, including Sheffield Theatres, the Royal Exchange, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Nottingham Playhouse.

    Many have assisted on productions at the RSC, the National Theatre, the Globe, the Old Vic, the Young Vic and in the West End.

    Others have won awards, such as the 2014 Olivier Award for Best Director, the James Menzies-Kitchin Award (the JMK) in 2012 and 2015, the Regional Theatre Young Directors Scheme (RTYDS) Award, and the Stage Award for Best Fringe Theatre.

    Possible professions include theatre director, artistic director, associate director, opera director, theatre producer, literary manager and dramaturg.

    Find out more about these professions.

    Find out more about the destinations of graduates in this subject.

    We offer a comprehensive Careers and Employability Service to help you advance your career, while our in-house, professional recruitment consultancy, Birkbeck Talent, works with London’s top employers to help you gain work experience that fits in with your evening studies.

    Teaching and assessment


    Much of the teaching takes place in drama schools and design studios, including a full-time 6-month placement in a professional theatre. In addition, there are practitioner-led workshops.


    A combination of oral presentations with supporting material; practical exercises; the assessment of your practice as a director by peer and leading practitioners; and a final dissertation.

    Further study opportunities

    This is the highest qualification for practice-based learning as a theatre director. It equips students to develop careers as theatre directors in the UK, although some graduates successfully work abroad and in a range of media.