Text and Performance (MA)

Year of entry


Start date

October 2018


Central London


Fully Approved


One year full-time or two years part-time


Three afternoons and evenings a week full-time or two afternoons and evenings a week part-time

This highly distinctive MA course, run as a partnership between Birkbeck and RADA, brings together cutting-edge practice and scholarship in theatre and performance. Join us and you will work with Birkbeck's experts in theatre and performance studies and RADA's faculty and visiting theatre practitioners to experience both making and studying theatre.

This course does not offer actor training, but will deepen your critical and practical understanding of theatre and performance practices in context and leads to a prestigious postgraduate qualification from the University of London.

Taking the dramatic text as a critical starting point, our course encompasses drama from the early modern period to the contemporary. In the rehearsal room, you will create new theatre and performance work responding to set texts and themes. You will also engage with performance techniques to develop your skills as a playwright, director and dramaturg.

In academic lectures and seminars, you will encounter theoretical, historical, critical and philosophical writings. You will theorise live performance and write about the ways in which new performance work is informed by both contemporary concerns and older theatrical traditions and legacies. In the final dissertation project, you will exercise your own creative voice as a director, dramaturg, playwright or scholar.


  • Arts and humanities courses at Birkbeck are ranked third best in London and 13th in the UK in the Times Higher Education 2016-17 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.
  • Student projects are tutored by a combination of faculty and visiting artists. In 2015-16, visiting artist tutors included A.C. Smith, David Slater, Karen Christopher, Peader Kirk and Rachel Mars.
  • We offer informal, unassessed creative enhancement opportunities: RADA’s TheatreVision initiative, which brings together students from the MA Text and Performance and the MA Theatre Lab to explore writing for theatre; Birkbeck’s Centre for Contemporary Theatre runs a postgraduate reading group and offers opportunities to show work in progress as part of the School of Arts summer festival Arts Week.
  • RADA and Birkbeck are just three minutes' walk apart so you will study in a campus-style environment. Our close proximity also allows us to draw on the rich range of resources available across both institutions, including: studio space; technical support for group and individual presentations; RADA’s excellent library of playtexts and theatre and performance literature; and Birkbeck’s world-class research resources in the arts and humanities.

Course structure

Full-time students

Autumn term: Theorising the Contemporary (three hours a week); Approaches to Theatre and Performance Practice (six hours a week); Scene Study (six hours a week).

Spring term: Approaches to Theatre and Performance Practice (six hours a week); Scene Study (six hours a week).

Summer term: Research Skills seminars and dissertation preparation for practice- and theory-based work (1.5 hours a week plus three supervisions).

Part-time students

Year 1 (October to April) Autumn term: Theorising the Contemporary (three hours a week); Approaches to Theatre and Performance Practice (six hours a week).

Year 1 Spring term: Approaches to Theatre and Performance Practice (six hours a week).

Year 2 (October to July) Autumn term: Scene Study (six hours a week).

Year 2 Spring term: Scene Study (six hours a week).

Summer term: Research Skills seminars and dissertation preparation for practice- and theory-based work (1.5 hours a week plus three supervisions).

To find out more, read our programme handbook.

    Module groups

    • Entry Requirements

      Entry requirements

      You will need to have, or be expecting, a good honours degree, usually in an arts subject.

      In exceptional circumstances, appropriate career experience - for example in theatre - may be considered as an alternative qualification.

      The course should appeal equally to candidates with an academic knowledge of drama, who wish to increase their practical and creative awareness, and to candidates already involved in their own practice who wish to explore it through academic study. Students must be prepared to engage in practical theatre-making, as well as class discussions.

      International entry requirements

      Students for whom English is not their native language must demonstrate IELTS levels of 8 or above for spoken English and 7.5 or above for written English.

      If you don't meet the minimum IELTS requirement, we offer pre-sessional English courses, foundation programmes and language support services to help you improve your English language skills and get your place at Birkbeck.

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

      Credits and Accredited Prior Learning (APL)

      If you have studied at university previously, you may have accumulated credits through the modules you studied. It may be possible to transfer these credits from your previous study to Birkbeck or another institution. You should discuss this with the Programme Director when you are making your application.

      Find out more about credits and Accredited Prior Learning (APL).

    • Fees


      Part-time home/EU students: £5875 pa
      Full-time home/EU students: £11250 pa
      Part-time international students: £8700 pa
      Full-time international students: £16900 pa

      Students are charged a tuition fee in each year of their programme. Tuition fees for students continuing on their programme in following years may be subject to annual inflationary increases. For more information, please see the College Fees Policy.

      These fees include a non-refundable £500 deposit, payable once an offer has been made, to secure your place on the course.

      Additional costs

      On this programme, you should expect to pay up to £150 for theatre tickets for set performance visits and core texts.

    • Teaching and assessment


      At Birkbeck, almost all of our courses are taught in the evening and our teaching is designed to support students who are juggling evening study with work and other daytime commitments. We actively encourage innovative and engaging ways of teaching, to ensure our students have the best learning experience. In the 2017 Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the government’s system for rating university teaching, Birkbeck was allocated a Silver award.

      Teaching may include formal lectures, seminars, and practical classes and tutorials. Formal lectures are used in most degree programmes to give an overview of a particular field of study. They aim to provide the stimulus and the starting point for deeper exploration of the subject during your own personal reading.

      Seminars give you the chance to explore a specific aspect of your subject in depth and to discuss and exchange ideas with fellow students. They typically require preparatory study.

      In addition, you will have timetabled meetings with your Personal Tutor.

      Methods of teaching on this course

      The curriculum uses a variety of teaching methods including:

      • study of texts in their cultural context
      • practical classes in performance skills and text analysis
      • scene study workshops
      • writing and directing classes
      • specialist lectures and seminars
      • talks from visiting artists and academics.


      Timetables are usually available from September onwards and you can access your personalised timetable via your My Birkbeck Profile online (if you have been invited to enrol).

      Indicative class size

      Class sizes vary, depending on your course, the module you are undertaking, and the method of teaching. For example, lectures are presented to large groups, with 30 to 100+ students in attendance, whereas seminars usually consist of small, interactive groups of 10 to 30 students, led by an academic.

      Academic support

      Birkbeck offers study and learning support to undergraduate and postgraduate students to help them succeed. Our Learning Development Service can help you in the following areas:

      • academic skills (including planning your workload, research, writing, exam preparation and writing a dissertation)
      • written English (including structure, punctuation and grammar)
      • numerical skills (basic mathematics and statistics).

      Our Disability and Dyslexia Service can support you if you have additional learning needs resulting from a disability or from dyslexia.

      Our Counselling Service can support you if you are struggling with emotional or psychological difficulties during your studies.

      Our Mental Health Advisory Service can support you if you are experiencing short– or long-term mental health difficulties during your studies.


      Assessment is an integral part of your university studies and usually consists of a combination of coursework and examinations. You will be given time to complete coursework and prepare for exams.

      Unseen written examinations are usually taken in the Summer term, during May to June, and, in most cases, are held during the day on a weekday – if you have daytime commitments, you will need to make arrangements for daytime attendance. Exam timetables are published online in March each year.

      Find out more about assessment at Birkbeck, including guidance on assessment, feedback and our assessment offences policy.

      Methods of assessment on this course

      Essays, reflective and critical portfolios, practice-based presentations and a dissertation (either practice-led or theory-led).


      As well as a mark for your coursework and exams, you will also receive feedback from your marker(s) to help you learn, improve and succeed. We encourage you to discuss feedback with your module tutor.

      Feedback can come in different forms: notes via Moodle (our online learning environment); a paper copy of a completed feedback form; or in-class or face-to-face feedback. The College Policy on Feedback on Assessment sets out what you can expect from your feedback.

      Your department will usually provide you with your marked coursework within four weeks of submission. Your initial mark is provisional until the relevant Board of Examiners has confirmed it.

      Your official coursework and exam results will be made available to you via your My Birkbeck Profile online.

    • Careers and employability

      Careers and employability

      This programme uniquely combines the practical and academic exploration of theatre and performance, which means you will graduate equipped with a broad range of highly employable skills, ideal for entering the creative industries or undertaking further academic study.

      Our graduates can be found in a wide range of exciting careers including teaching and education, theatre practice, advertising, marketing and public relations, theatre, media, film and the creative arts, journalism, arts administration and outreach, policy and strategy for political organisations, charities or NGOs, and publishing. Find out more about these professions.

      MA Text and Performance does not take the place of training in a specific conservatoire discipline and is therefore described as non-vocational.

      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.

      What do our graduates have to say?

      'The course provided me with unique experiences, refined and broadened my skill set, provided me with invaluable opportunities and has helped me discover and define my path as a theatre-maker. I found the teachers at RADA and Birkbeck to be truly inspiring, supportive and encouraging in my development as a practitioner.' (Chris Lawson, Schools and Education Manager, Almeida Theatre)

      'A life-changing experience for me and a building block for my PhD Studies at Stanford. The course gives you all the resources and guidance so that you can find what you really want, make the decision, and go for it. And you will be supported.' (So-Rim Lee, PhD candidate, Theater and Performance Studies, Stanford University

    • How to apply

      How to apply

      With your application, you should submit a 1000-word critical analysis of a live production you have seen recently (this can be pasted into the supporting statement section of the form). This can include a discussion of text-based performance or dance-based work and also art installations. This piece should offer a critical analysis of the production: describing it carefully and engaging with it critically in relation to the meanings it might have produced in performance and the means through which these meanings were produced. Please also include a passport-sized photo.

      Application deadlines and interviews

      The deadline for applications for 2018 entry is 31 March 2018.

      Entry to the programme is by interview (there is no audition process), held periodically January to June. International applicants can be interviewed via telephone or Skype.