Drama and Theatre Studies PhD/MA by Research (On-Campus or by Distance Learning)

The Drama and Theatre Arts department offers promising candidates the opportunity to carry out research in a dynamic environment which allows students, scholars and theatre practitioners to work together to achieve a new breadth and depth in the study of drama.

It also takes 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.

EU referendum

Answering your questions and concerns about the outcome of the EU referendum.

Roaa Ali

Roaa Ali

“I received funding from the university for a research trip to Chicago, where I could interview directors and actors, and gain so much knowledge and information to incorporate into my research”

The MA by Research programme requires you to prepare a dissertation of up to 40,000 words on a topic of your choice, for which an academic staff member will provide expert supervision.

The PhD – the most advanced research degree – leads to a dissertation of up to 80,000 words on a subject of your choice and under the expert supervision of an academic member of staff.

Distance learning

You can study an MA by Research or PhD programme on campus or by distance learning. Please note that if you are studying with us by distance learning, the programme includes a fully-funded annual visit to campus for each full year of your programme (every two years for part-time students).

For more information on distance learning including answers to frequently asked questions, student experiences and funding opportunities, please see our distance learning website

Research activity is led by staff and our traditional research strengths lie in: Contemporary theatre and new writing; playwriting, directing and performer training; Russian theatre; Shakespearean performance and adaptation; Victorian and Edwardian theatre; the history of film; popular theatre; theatre history - Renaissance to 21st Century; theatre and science

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.

Profiles of our current Drama and Theatre Arts doctoral researchers

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 you will be supervised by 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. This includes time management, critical and analytical skills, the ability to formulate and solve problems, as well as 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:

  • Home / EU £4,180 full-time; £2,090 part-time*
  • Overseas: £15,210 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 2017.

The above fee quoted is for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, 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.

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.
  • If you are applying for a PhD then you will usually also need to hold a good Masters qualification.

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
  • Contemporary theatre and performance; political and cultural theory; performance and devising techniques; new writing for theatre
    Contact: Dr Liz Tomlin
    Email: e.j.tomlin@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.