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MA Performance Practices: Applied Artists

Start date
1 year full-time 2 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Taught

Annual tuition fee for 2023:
UK: £10,170 full-time
International: £21,960 full-time
More detail.

Are you committed to ideas of community, inclusivity, sustainability and wellbeing in theatre practice? Are you interested in advancing your artistic practices to develop and innovate at the intersections between applied, political and mainstage performance?

Applied Artists pairs the growing body of international applied theatre and performance research with sophisticated performance training to develop the applied practitioner as an artist. This MA sees you journey between yourself and communities in your articulation of practices towards socio-cultural, political and economic change.

This is a newly formulated MA that responds to the pressing demand for ethical and sustainable performance practices nationally and internationally. Applied Artists students have access to specialised training, critical research and placements with connected artists, companies and non-governmental organisations around the world. We will guide you as you steer new practices and research in dialogue with our rapidly changing transnational, globalised and decolonising peripheries.

What will you study? 

Applied Artists is a carefully structured one-year MA starting with Alexander Studies where you will locate your complex identities, values, and drive for change in the body first and foremost, before exploring these dramaturgically and in an immersive realm with Digital, Interactive & Immersive Dramaturgies. Simultaneously, in your first semester, through Communities & Cultures you will observe and interrogate performance practices with diverse peoples and places including Indigenous peoples, migrants and queer communities, and in hospitals, schools, care and post-conflict settings.

The second semester will guide you through applications, methods and international placement opportunities. You will lead your own practice as research projects in Praxis: Practical & Embodied Research Methods, and experiment with performance modes and imperatives in Performing the Political Body. You will test and investigate your performance practice through a placement with leading international and national companies, charities and practitioners in Performance Ethics & Economies. This experience will inform the Independent Research Project, where you will choose either performance or written outcomes to strengthen the skills most needed for the next strides in your career.

Birmingham Masters Scholarships

We are offering over 400 awards of £2,000 to support the brightest and best applicants wishing to undertake Masters study at the University during 2023-24. The deadline for applications is 23:59 (UK Time) on Sunday 2 July 2023.

Find out more and apply now.


Who and where?

Applied Artists benefits from the expertise of staff in the Department of Drama and Theatre Arts who research, publish, create and facilitate a wide range of creative practices relevant to this degree.

Applied Artists is based at the University of Birmingham Selly Oak campus with its own supported public performance venue, studio spaces and theatre library.

Applied Artists is in close dialogue with leading international theatre and performance companies to provide placements. Typically, students will be placed where there is a match between the company and their research or practice-based interests. Confirmed placements for the forthcoming year include the Royal Shakespeare Company, Birmingham Rep, Birmingham City Council, Writing West Midlands, China Plate, Stan’s Cafe, Women and Theatre, Open Theatre, Friction Arts and Curiosity Productions.

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At Birmingham, Postgraduate Taught and Postgraduate Research students also have the opportunity to learn graduate academic languages free of charge, to support your studies.

[Header photo by Claire French, community project with Old Vic New Voices, Jerwood Studios 2015]

Please register your interest to receive updates.

  • Critical artistic vocabulary - This course provides you with a chance to develop relevant languages and methods for adapting performance practices within complex contexts.
  • Unique, contemporary approach to applied performance - Develop as both a performance practitioner and scholar, with inclusion, diversity, wellbeing and resilience at the core of the work.
  • Leadership - You will continually be guided to reflect on your position and potential, alongside attention to contemporary ethics and politics concerns, to develop and sustain a career as a creative leader.
  • Reputation for excellence - As one of the leading Drama departments in the UK, you will work within and grow connections to a community of internationally renowned scholars and practitioners.
  • Connections to national and international theatre industry - Multiple structures within the course will see that you make appropriate and useful connections to the industries that you seek to work within.
  • High-quality facilities - You will have access to our full range of studio and performance spaces, production resources and teaching and learning spaces.
  • Future career opportunities - Every aspect of the course is articulated to inform the advancement of your career as performance practitioner or researcher.
Want to find out more?

Dr Claire French | MA Performance Practices Programme Lead

Claire is a performance-maker, researcher and lecturer exploring multilingual documentary theatre and performance. She has developed work with new migrants, the diaspora, Indigenous training actors, older actors and intercultural teams of physical theatre performers across Germany, the UK, South Africa and Australia.

As a researcher, she investigates multilingual methodologies and dramaturgies that legitimise minority and low-status languages and avoid reproducing harmful views about languages. Many of her recent findings have been in concert with, and guided by, South Africans, creating new challenges for research examining decolonising approaches to global collaboration.

Claire obtained her PhD from the University of Warwick, UK; MA from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, UK; and BA from Notre Dame University and the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Australia. Her starting point for debate is a queer, Anglo Celtic, multilingual, standard-English speaking, Irish-Australian dual national and migrant perspective.

Read more about Claire at her staff profile
Discuss Applied Artists with Claire by emailing


Alexander Studies, Wellbeing & Performance

The Alexander Technique is an educational method that has been used for more than 100 years in conservatoires in the UK and globally. In recognising and letting go of habitual stress reactions you develop skills in orienting the psycho-emotional-physical system towards health and well-being and generally in gaining more control over how to live life.

This module introduces you to the practice and key concepts of Alexander Studies and their application to everyday performance as a basis for specialist performance practice. This practice can be stage performance, teachers' classroom performance or other specialisms involving facilitation of groups. It begins to develop your critical and practical skills for building wellbeing into your specialism on the basis of the technique and its particular approach to promoting wellbeing. There is a focus on why it is important to apply the principles of the technique in everyday life and on how to develop a daily reflective practice which will support the demands of your career. There will be support for you to develop and refine the commitment and enjoyment, which are essential for building wellbeing into performance practice in accordance with the principles of the technique. Each week, the delivery will be split between 1.5 hours of time in the studio and 1.5 hours online, in a hybrid format.

Assessment: Presentation (50%) and reflective essay (50%)

Communities and Cultures

The module will enable you to explore performance practices in their complex contexts, as well as situate and problematise your own praxes. You will critique current and critical perspectives and approaches to, for example, working with asylum seekers, Indigenous peoples and queer communities; in the criminal justice system, hospitals, care for the elderly and primary or special needs schools. A consideration of future ethical and sustainable practices such as those exploring multilingualism, global-south led collaboration and queering methodologies will interrogate and advance critical applied theatre and performance discourses. 

Through workshops, films, case studies and guest speakers, you will develop the necessary conceptual, critical and practical skills to facilitate performance with diverse communities, whether these are bound by place, shared interest, background, or heritage. You will observe, evaluate and analyse historical and contemporary performance examples to develop your own ethical frameworks and plans for artistic community engagement. As you interrogate notions of community, culture, and social change, you will also address issues of identity and representation, explore the ethics of participation and evaluate efficacy. 

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Digital, interactive & Immersive Dramaturgies 

This module will introduce you to cutting edge and emergent dramaturgies in digital, immersive and interactive performance practice, along with the associated scholarship. You will have the opportunity to build an interdisciplinary digital performance toolkit and develop strategies for utilising those dramaturgies as routes to community building, ethnographic heritage capture, protest, digital activism, and interventions of resistance. Over the course of the module, you will explore modes of digital performance practice that utilise forms such as new media, social media, WhatsApp, binaural technologies, zoom, mobile device applications and digital gaming platforms, live audience activation, engagement and inclusion.  

You will also develop an understanding of the ways that interdisciplinary scholarship conceptualises and informs the practice and understanding of digital, immersive and interactive performance practice. The social, cultural and political backdrop of the experience economy will also inform the scholarly focus of the syllabus. 

Assessment: Digital performance artefact (50%) and performance documentation (50%)

Praxis: Practical & Embodied Research Methods 

This module will introduce you to practice research in performance methodologies. You will work in a laboratory style environment to engage with and apply modes of praxis. This module will present you with the opportunity to develop a praxical understanding of the ways in which performance can be employed as a research strategy, documented, and disseminated as a robust approach to knowledge acquisition. You will explore different approaches to designing practice-based research projects utilising the most current scholarship in the field of practice research. You will have the opportunity to develop your own methodological approaches in response to existing scholarship including innovative ways to document, reflect upon and disseminate your emerging praxis.

Assessment: Process documentation (60%) and methodological rationale (40%)

Performance Ethics & Economies

This module will enable you to plan and facilitate a project and/or role within a project that is in dialogue with and reflective of its complex contexts. Time is provided within the module to facilitate this project in partnership with a nominated company or charity. Study of applied performance praxis combined with national or international cultural industries and aligned resources, policies and funding bodies will provide vital understanding of the contexts that your project is situated within. Planning and facilitation of the project will carefully navigate these contexts and any ethical tensions created through the needs of communities and stakeholders. Your ethical management of this project in relation to the various economies experienced by communities, artists, funders and charities will be your central source of reflection, situated within applied theatre and performance praxis and the wider national or international cultural industry. This module will allow you to try-out ideas in collaboration with leading companies engaging with social development and change for sustainable practices beyond your course.

Assessment: Reflexive project analysis (60%) and portfolio (40%)

Performing the Political Body

This module interrogates the body as a site of political potential and as a creative force, individually and in relation to others. Through integrated workshops and seminars, you will explore your own embodiment and physicality within the context of live art and experimental performance practices. You will consider how the body in performance is framed and/or revealed as being subject to ideological and social structures. The course will invite you to consider the place of the body in contemporary culture through critiques of structures of power and knowledge, whilst simultaneously posing questions about the political efficacy of performance, its potential to promote social justice and the ethical implications of the work. Practical explorations will focus on solo and autobiographical work, where the body of the artist/performer is deployed as the site of political intervention.

Read the Performing the Political Body module focus to find out more about this module.

Assessment: Performance (50%) and essay (50%)

Independent Research Project

The Independent Research Project allows you to choose either a written or performed outcome for your research and accrued knowledge across the course. You will demonstrate your ability to raise and investigate significant questions surrounding the relationship between performance and politico-social concerns or wellbeing through an extended piece of writing or a performance with a personal reflection.

If you choose to complete an extended piece of writing, you will develop an initial project proposal, which outlines the title, research question, and the form of your chosen project. You will work with a supervisor to develop this into a 15,000-word dissertation that demonstrates independent research and highly advanced critical thinking in the subject area.

If you choose to complete a performance, you will develop a research question, conduct contextual and theoretical academic research and employ creative processes as research methods in their own right, to practically interrogate your topic. Examples could include traditional performance work, live art, immersive events, site specific work, community engaged projects, teaching a class or sports performance. 

Assessment: 15,000-word dissertation OR Performance project, including documentation and a 500-word piece of copy framing the work (75%) and viva (25%)

Please note that the optional module information listed on the website for this programme is intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.


We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2023 entry are as follows:

  • UK: £10,170 full-time; £5,085 part-time
  • International: £21,960 full-time

The above fees quoted are for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

Fee status

Eligibility for UK or international fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students.

Paying your fees

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

Are you an international applicant?

All international applicants to this course will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit of £2,000 on receipt of an offer, to secure their place.

Find out more about the deposit >>.

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.

How To Apply

How to Apply for a Postgraduate Degree - Taught programmes

Application deadlines

The deadline for International students (requiring a VISA) to apply is 3 July 2023. The deadline for UK students is 31 August 2023.

Making your application

How to apply

To apply for a postgraduate taught programme, you will need to submit your application and supporting documents online. We have put together some helpful information on the taught programme application process and supporting documents on our how to apply page. Please read this information carefully before completing your application.

Apply now

Our Standard Requirements

A Bachelor’s degree (2:1) in a relevant field (such as Drama, Theatre, Performance, English or Philosophy). If your bachelor’s degree is not in a performing or creative arts subject, you will need to provide evidence of your practical performance experience in your personal statement. This should include evidence of any training and/or production work you have been involved in. We may also request audio-visual evidence of your potential to undertake the course.
Relevant professional experience. This should be demonstrated in a portfolio which catalogues and contextualises your work in a relevant field (e.g., catalogue of a recent performance, performer’s or equivalent CV, transcript giving indication of professional training, web-based archive of recent work, etc.)

International/EU students

Academic requirements: We accept a range of qualifications from different countries - use our handy guide below to see what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements: standard language requirements apply for this course - IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band.. If you are made an offer of a place to study and you do not meet the language requirement, you have the option to enrol on our English for Academic Purposes Presessional Course - if you successfully complete the course, you will be able to fulfil the language requirement without retaking a language qualification.

IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band is equivalent to:

  • TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 21 in Reading, 20 Listening, 22 Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): Academic 67 with no less than 64 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced - minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 169 in any component

Learn more about international entry requirements

International Requirements

Applied Artists is delivered through a praxis-centred approach whereby students explore theory and practice before learning how to facilitate such practice themselves within the industry. Teachers of the course share their experience as practitioners across Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania with case studies, training and placement opportunities. Students are guided as they choose the performance modes and contexts that they would like to strengthen for their future careers. Based at the Department of Drama and Theatre Arts, Selly Oak campus, students will benefit from flexible and high-quality studio and performance spaces for teaching, showings and performances. The unique combination of critical performance training, analysis and production offered by the staff teaching on this degree provides the formula for advancing well-rounded practitioners and researchers, prepared for the unique challenges of the industry today.

Course delivery

We have two teaching semesters per year, the autumn term and spring term. Semester dates can be found on our website.

As a full-time student, you will typically take three modules in each semester, followed by your dissertation or independent performance project. Each module represents a total of 200 hours of study time, including preparatory reading, homework and assignment preparation, as well as time on-site at the Selly Oak campus.

Support with academic writing

As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.

International students can access support for English Language development and skills through the Birmingham International Academy (BIA).

Postgraduate employability: Drama and Theatre Arts

The Birmingham Department of Drama and Theatre Arts has gained a reputation for challenging, advancing and preparing postgraduate students for the industry. Applied Artists is articulated with a connectedness to the industry and employability in mind. Graduates will develop their own entrepreneurial companies or create programmes for outreach within existing mainstage companies. They will lead on policy change through research and non-governmental roles about arts impact, steer and deliver international arts programmes, become performance trainers, playwrights, directors and dramaturgs or embark on cutting-edge doctoral research.

Employers that University of Birmingham graduates have gone on to work for include the BBC, Channel 4, Salisbury Playhouse, Birmingham Hippodrome, Welsh National Opera, the National Film and Television School and the University of Birmingham.


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