MRes Playwriting Studies

This is Britain's leading programme dedicated to the craft of the dramatist.

It was founded by internationally renowned playwright Professor David Edgar and is now convened by professional playwright Fraser Grace.

Alumni from the programme have embarked on successful careers in theatre, television and radio, and include Sarah Kane, Steve Waters, Helen Blakeman and Sarah Woods.

Martin Gulbis

Martin Gulbis

“The course itself culminates in a performance of a more substantial part of your thesis play, about 20, 30 minutes, where it’s performed by professional actors and directed by a professional director from the staff here. In the audience are people who have come from various parts of the theatre world, from writing or publishing. ”

This is an intensive course that encourages you to think critically about dramatic writing and helps you put these insights into practice in your own plays.

The programme is committed to the exploration of new forms of writing, and this process is supported by structured and ongoing dramaturgy.

On the programme, which is taught for and by playwrights, you study three taught modules and create an original and complete, full length work for the stage, accompanied by a 6,000-word critical analysis

Why study this course

  • You are taught by some of the key practitioners in new writing for the theatre through tutorials, workshops and seminars. Professional playwrights and other practitioners are invited to lead classes and discuss their work in colloquia; recent instructors and guests have included David Edgar, Lin Coghlan, Prof David Johnston, Steve Waters, Kate Chapman, Stephanie Dale, Richard Pinner, Peter Leslie Wild and Simon Block. Students also learn about the workings of the industry on visits to literary departments at some of the country’s leading theatres, recently including the Royal Shakespeare Company and Birmingham REP.
  • In June, the Department holds the annual Playwrights' Workshop where an extract of each student’s play will be rehearsed in a directed, staged reading, and performed for an audience that will include literary managers and agents, who will provide constructive and practical feedback for the future development of this final script.
  • Based in the Department of Theatre Arts, the course is perfectly situated to fuse academic rigour with practical learning, and is respected across the UK and beyond, including key relationships with many new writing theatres
  • The University of Birmingham recently announced a new partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and has an ongoing relationship with Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Modules

You will complete the following taught modules:

Dramatic Structure

This module addresses key dramaturgical terms, introduces you to a range of dramatic approaches and centres on three case studies, which form the basis of the first 4,000-word assignment.

Media, Form and Genre

This module widens the focus to embrace the differing dramatic media (TV, radio, film) as well as considering other questions of genre (comedy, monologue, TIE). Assessment offers a choice of 4,000 word essay, or an adaptation project with 1,000-word introduction.

Writing in Context

This module focuses on some of the practical concerns of the playwright and includes: creative workshops; developing an awareness of the professional writing context; consideration of the roles and processes of the playwright within the production process; introduction to the processes of creative partners; developing an explicit, personal aesthetic, and the preparation of a pitch document. Assessment  is via a portfolio of work,  comprising both original writing (monologue, or short play) and writing about writing, in the form of eg, a manifesto, personal aesthetic,  pitch document . 3,500 words plus 500 word contextualising statement.

Modules and courses are constantly updated and under review. As with most academic programmes, please remember that it is possible that a module may not be offered in any particular year, for instance because a member of staff is on study leave or too few students opt for it. The University of Birmingham reserves the right to vary or withdraw any course or module.

Related staff

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2016/17 are as follows:

  • Home / EU: £5,210 full-time*
  • Overseas: £14,780 full-time

* For UK/EU postgraduate research students the University fee level is set at Research Council rates and as such is subject to change. The final fee will be announced by Research Councils UK in spring 2016.

Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuition fees and funding.

All applicants for the MRes in Playwriting Studies are also automatically considered for the Barry Jackson Award. This award contributes to the cost of tuition fees and is presented annually to applicants whose previous achievement and writing sample demonstrate outstanding potential to succeed on the course. The winners of this award are notified each summer.

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

Playwriting scholarship application guidance

The MRes in Playwriting Studies is committed to critically-informed dramatic writing. The course, therefore, is based on writing practice and critical reflection on writing practice. You should be aware that scholarship applications are generally considered by panels whose purview crosses the entire field of performing arts.  As a result, you should use precise language that speaks to as wide an audience as possible.

Entry requirements

We would normally expect applicants to have a 2:1 Honours degree or equivalent, although suitable professional experience or clear evidence of achievement in the field of original playwriting may be taken into account when assessing qualifications. Applicants should be aware that the coursework for the degree includes the submission of formal academic essays and that no special preparation is offered for these essays beyond that offered to all students undertaking the course.

All applicants must submit a sample of their original creative writing for the stage.  This work should be approximately 30-40 minutes in playing time, and may comprise a part of a larger play (in which case we recommend submitting a portion that commences with the play’s opening).  Only one writing sample will be considered by assessors and screenplays, radio plays, or teledramas will not be taken into consideration.

All applicants must also submit a research statement which articulates what you wish to accomplish in your dissertation play and why you believe that the MRes in Playwriting Studies at the University of Birmingham is the most appropriate place to do this.  There is no definitive list of issues to address in your statement, but you may wish to identify topics or themes that the script will explore, problems of writing craft the script will engage, and social or political imperatives the script will possess.

Learn more about entry requirements

International students

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

How to apply

Before you make your application

Please refer to our six step process on applying for PhD, MA by Research and MRes opportunities for Arts subject areas.

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Additional Guidance for applicants to the PhD Distance Learning study mode.

Making your application

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

You are taught by some of the key practitioners in new writing for the theatre through tutorials, workshops and seminars.

Professional playwrights and other practitioners are invited to lead classes and discuss their work in colloquia; recent instructors and guests have included David Edgar, Lin Coghlan, Prof David Johnston, Steve Waters, Kate Chapman, Stephanie Dale, Richard Pinner, Peter Leslie Wild and Simon Block. Students also learn about the workings of the industry on visits to literary departments at some of the country’s leading theatres, recently including the Royal Shakespeare Company and Birmingham REP.

In June, the Department holds the annual Playwrights' Workshop where an extract of each student’s play will be rehearsed in a directed, staged reading, and performed for an audience that will include literary managers and agents, who will provide constructive and practical feedback for the future development of this final script.

Alumni from the programme have embarked on successful careers in theatre, television and radio, and include Sarah Kane, Steve Waters, Helen Blakeman, Sarah Woods and Fraser Grace, who currently convenes the course.

You will also become part of, and contribute to, the vibrant international community of the College of Arts and Law Graduate School, which offers dedicated research resources and a supportive working environment. Our team of academic and operational staff are on hand to offer support and advice to all postgraduate students within the College.

The University has been recognised for its impressive graduate employment, being named ‘University of the Year for Graduate Employment’ in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016.

In addition, the global edition of The New York Times has ranked the University 60th in the world and 9th in UK for post-qualification employability. The rankings illustrate the top 150 universities most frequently selected by global employers and are the result of a survey by French consulting firm Emerging and German consulting firm Trendence.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by the employability skills training offered through the College of Arts and Law Graduate School. The University also offers a wide range of activities and services to give our students the edge in the job market, including: career planning designed to meet the needs of postgraduates; opportunities to meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs, employer presentations and skills workshops; individual guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique; and access to comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.

University of the Year for employability

Birmingham's Drama and Theatre Arts postgraduates develop a very wide range of skills and qualities during their degree. Performance develops communication, team working and confidence, whilst all of our postgraduates also develop time management, critical and analytical skills, the ability to formulate and solve problems, develop opinions and new ideas, and an aptitude for thinking and working creatively with others.

Over the past five years, over 94% of Drama and Theatre Arts postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Some of our graduates enter roles for which their programme has especially prepared them, such as playwriting, screenwriting or teaching drama; others use their transferable skills in a wide variety of occupations ranging from media sales and management to events and arts administration; and some choose to pursue careers in academia. Employers that our graduates have gone on to work for include: Arts Council England; Imperial College London; Musicleader West Midlands; National Theatre; North Warwickshire Council; University of Gloucestershire.

Birmingham has been transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Get involved

In addition to the student groups hosted by the Guild of Students, each school runs its own social activities, research fora, seminars and groups for postgraduates.

Accommodation

Coming to Birmingham to study might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

Support in your studies

We offer an Academic Writing Advisory Service, which aims to help your transition to postgraduate research. The service offers guidance on organising your ideas and structuring an argument, referencing and avoiding plagiarism, being clear and coherent and editing your work for academic style and linguistic accuracy. Individual support is provided by a professional academic writing advisor via tutorials or email, as well as through the provision of online materials.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and cultures, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work. Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.