Drama and Theatre Studies Practice-Based PhD (through Dramaturgy, Playwriting or Performance)

This innovative new programme allows academic research to be conducted through practical experimentation, such as the investigation of processes of theatre making or the practical application of particular aesthetic theories.

It provides a unique opportunity for you to specialise in a particular area of practice (Dramaturgy, playwriting, or Performance – which includes Directing) and prepares you for your chosen profession.

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“The facilities in the Department of Drama and Theatre Arts specifically are really good and expanding year by year. They’ve just added a new studio for practical work, and as my PhD is both practical and theoretical based, it’s always great to have the use of those studios”

The practice-based route to this PhD lets you conduct academic-based research through practical experimentation in performance, playwriting or dramaturgy, accompanied with a 40,000 word thesis.

The thesis must fully contextualise the practice and substantiate the claim that your work is innovative and demonstrates extension of the boundaries of the chosen field of research and practice.

Research activity is led by staff and our research strengths lie in: contemporary practice, playwriting, directing and performer training; Russian theatre; theatre and politics; theatre and critical theory; Shakespeare; theatre and science; theatre history – Renaissance to 21st century) and Eastern European theatre.

Profiles of our current Drama and Theatre Arts doctoral researchers

At Birmingham you also have the option of studying languages, free of charge. Almost no other UK University offers you the opportunity to learn the intense graduate academic language skills which you may need to pursue your research.

Why study this course

  • The department celebrated excellent Research Assessment Exercise 2014 results. 30% of research at the University of Birmingham for Drama was top 4* rated as ‘world-leading’. A further 39% was rated 3* ‘internationally excellent’.
  • You will have access to a range of academics working in related fields across the College of Arts and Law and will be supervised from a leading expert in your field of research
  • You can take advantage of Birmingham's exceptional resources for theatre research as well as the University and Department links with world-class theatre in Birmingham, Stratford-upon-Avon, London and beyond.
  • 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.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2017/18 are as follows:

Performance PhD route

  • Home / EU: £4,695 full-time
  • Overseas: £15,710 full-time

Dramaturgy and Playwriting PhD routes

  • Home / EU: £4,195 full-time, £2,098 part-time
  • Overseas: £15,210 full-time

For part-time students, the above fee quoted is for year one only and tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

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.

Funding opportunities

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.

Entry requirements

Our requirements for postgraduate research are dependent on the type of programme you are applying for:

  • For MRes and MA by Research programmes, entry to our programmes usually requires a good (normally a 2:1 or above) Honours degree, or an equivalent qualification if you were educated outside the UK.
  • Applicants for a PhD will also need to hold a Masters qualification at Merit level or above (or its international equivalent).

Any academic and professional qualifications or relevant professional experience you may have are normally taken into account, and in some cases, form an integral part of the entrance requirements.

If you are applying for distance learning research programmes, you will also be required to demonstrate that you have the time, commitment, facilities and experience to study by distance learning.

If your qualifications are non-standard or different from the entry requirements stated here, please contact the admissions tutor.

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

Research in the Department of Theatre Arts encompasses both the historiographical and contemporary, with an emphasis on political and critical theory, and the relationship between theory and practice.

The department also specializes in research-led practice, particularly in actor-training, writing for performance and directing. In essence, expertise lies in the following areas:

  • Theatre history and historiography: areas of specialism include the history of popular theatre; the Arts Council of Great Britain 1945-1994; c20th century British drama and playwriting; British ‘Fringe’ / alternative theatre 1968-1994; Victorian Theatre; Russian Theatre; Greek tragedy.
  • Contemporary performance: critical analysis of c20th and c21st British and European theatre practice that engages with both text-driven and non-text-driven performance in conjunction with political, philosophical and critical theory.
  • Research-led professional practice: engaging in collaborations with theatres, actors, directors and other artists to develop and contribute to performance work including playwriting, dramaturgy and the theories and practice of acting and directing.

Please find examples of specific academic research expertise below, and view our staff profile pages for full details.

  • Theatre history and Shakespearean interpretation
    Contact: Professor Russell Jackson
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5790
    Email: r.b.jackson@bham.ac.uk
  • Performance practice, especially directing and acting (and how these are brought together through rehearsal), devising and performer training
    Contact: Dr Adam Ledger
    Tel: +44(0)121 414 5998
    Email: a.j.ledger@bham.ac.uk
  • Victorian theatre; popular theatre studies; contemporary and historical popular entertainment; music theatre; contemporary theatre making and music performance; multi-media performance
    Contact: Dr Caroline Radcliffe
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5998
    Email: c.radcliffe@bham.ac.uk
  • Actor-training; Anton Chekhov and Russian and East European Theatre of the first part of the twentieth century; theatre and science
    Contact: Dr Rose Whyman
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 6005
    Email: r.whyman@bham.ac.uk 

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.

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 93% 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, directing or teaching drama; others use their transferable skills in a wide variety of occupations ranging from production management, to marketing, to arts administration; some choose to pursue careers in academia. Employers that our graduates have gone on to work for include: Birmingham Opera Company; Welsh National Opera; the New Alexandra Theatre; and the University of Gloucester.

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.


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.