Text and Performance (MA)

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.

Highlights

  • Arts and humanities courses at Birkbeck are ranked fourth best in London and 18th in the UK in the Times Higher Education 2017-2018 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 RADA's MA Theatre Lab to explore writing for theatre; a postgraduate reading group run by Birkbeck's Centre for Contemporary Theatre, which 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.
  • The School of Arts offers a number of bursaries for postgraduate students.

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)

Module groups

To find out more, read our programme handbook.

  • 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.

    Visa requirements

    If you are not from the European Economic Area (EEA) and/or Switzerland and you are coming to study in the UK, you may need to apply for a visa.

    The visa you apply for varies according to the length of your course:

    • Courses of more than six months’ duration.
    • Courses of less than six months’ duration.
    • Pre-sessional English language courses.

    International students who require a Tier 4 visa should apply for our three-year evening study BA/BSc/LLB degrees, as these are classified as full-time study and qualify for student visa status. If you are living in the UK on a Tier 4 visa, you will not be eligible to enrol as a student on Birkbeck’s part-time evening study degrees.

    For full information, read our visa information for international students page.

    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

    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

    Teaching

    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.

    Our distance-learning and blended-learning courses and modules are self-directed and we will provide you with interactive learning opportunities and encourage you to collaborate and engage via various learning technologies. These courses involve limited or no face-to-face contact between students and module tutors.

    In addition, you will have access to pastoral support via a named 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.

    Contact hours

    On our taught courses, you will have scheduled teaching and study sessions each year. Alongside this, you will also undertake assessment activities and independent learning outside of class. Depending on the modules you take, you may also have additional scheduled academic activities, such as tutorials, dissertation supervision, practical classes, visits and fieldtrips.

    On our taught courses, the actual amount of time you spend in the classroom and in contact with your lecturers will depend on your course, the option modules you select and when you undertake your final-year project.

    On our distance-learning and blended-learning courses, discussion, collaboration and interaction with your lecturers and fellow students are encouraged and enabled through various learning technologies, but you may have limited or no face-to-face contact with your module tutors.

    Timetables

    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 larger groups, whereas seminars usually consist of small, interactive groups led by a tutor.

    Independent learning

    On our taught courses, much of your time outside of class will be spent on self-directed, independent learning, including preparing for classes and following up afterwards. This will usually include, but is not limited to, reading books and journal articles, undertaking research, working on coursework and assignments, and preparing for presentations and assessments.

    Independent learning is absolutely vital to your success as a student. Everyone is different, and the study time required varies topic by topic, but, as a guide, expect to schedule up to five hours of self-study for each hour of teaching.

    On our distance-learning and blended-learning courses, the emphasis is very much on independent, self-directed learning and you will be expected to manage your own learning, with the support of your module tutors and various learning technologies.

    Study skills and additional 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

    Assessment is an integral part of your university studies and usually consists of a combination of coursework and examinations, although this will vary from course to course - on some of our courses, assessment is entirely by coursework. The methods of assessment on this course are specified below under 'Methods of assessment on this course'. You will need to allow time to complete coursework and prepare for exams.

    Where a course has unseen written examinations, these may be held termly, but, on the majority of our courses, exams are usually taken in the Summer term, during May to June. Exams may be held at other times of the year as well. In most cases, exams are held during the day on a weekday - if you have daytime commitments, you will need to make arrangements for daytime attendance - but some exams are held in the evening. Exam timetables are published online.

    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).

  • 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.

    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 (which 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.