The MA in Performance Design provides specialist vocational training preparing you for a career in designing for the stage and screen.
The course has been revised with the latest industry developments in mind and is taught over one academic year through a combination of project and production work.
You will acquire a broad range of specialist skill sets in both design and making.
Specialisation will enable you to acquire practical knowledge and technical skills from a range of School production staff and/or visiting industry professionals. You will be able to explore unique creative collaboration opportunities within the course and benefit from shared learning, knowledge and skills exchange with other postgraduate and undergraduate creatives.
You will be able to create an impressive professional portfolio of project and realised design work. You will launch your career to a range of industry professionals, one-to-one industry interviews and in a graduate exhibition.
A summary of essential course information is available (PDF, 181 KB). Please note that this summary is intended for students commencing their course in September 2020 and is subject to change for future years.
ⓘ Where Covid-19 control measures impact our ability to deliver this course as described for the 2021-21 academic year, we will update offer holders by email and confirm teaching arrangements at least four weeks before term begins.
Applications can only be accepted through UCAS Postgraduate and not via any third party.
A full time one-year vocational course designed to create confident leading industry professionals.
Learn from design practitioners and visiting industry professionals.
Apply a specialist design approach across projects and on School productions.
Meet a range of industry professionals in a series of one-to-one interviews, including at the public graduate exhibition.
Create an impressive professional portfolio with excellent pathways to employment.
Set and costume design
Set design and scenic crafts: construction and/or scenic art
Costume design and making / supervision
Prop design and construction
Puppet design and construction
Design for screen
Additional specialisations could include
Event Design or Opera Design
Design for Dance
Design for Screen
Design for Theatre in Education (TIE)
Set Design for Touring and Design for Devising.
Specialisation options require approval by the course leader and may be subject to change according to production schedules. Students are always consulted about any change which affects their course.
You will explore your specialisation pathway on up to two realised productions. These may include:
School theatre productions which usually take place at venues across Bristol
short films produced at the School’s Christchurch Studios (link)
School theatre productions which usually tour to schools, arts centres and regional theatres.
Designer Carly Brownbridge talks about her work on the double-bill production of Edward Allan Baker’s one-act plays, North of Providence and Dolores, directed by Victor Lirio. Original production pre-lockdown was scheduled for a Wardrobe Theatre run in May as part of the BOVTS Directors’ Cuts 2020 season.
Recent graduates have designed at Bristol Old Vic, The Tobacco Factory, Shakespeare’s Globe, Kneehigh, West Yorkshire Playhouse, The Orange Tree Theatre and the RSC.
Graduates are regularly successful in attaining the RSC Trainee Design positions and as finalists for the Linbury Prize.
‘The course at Bristol is excellent preparation for a career in Design. I got practical, hands on experience as a designer while working in a well-supported environment, and the classes gave me a firm basis in the skills I needed for working life. The small class size is pretty unique too – you really do get catered for as an individual, by both BOVTS tutors and visiting professionals, and I made some lifelong friends and collaborators along the way. It’s a well-respected course, and deservedly so.’
Anisha Fields, Set and Costume Designer
‘It was a wonderful environment to realise how valuable teamwork is and how much every department relies on one another to make a production a success.’ Corina Bona (Design Course), Puppeteer / Theatre-maker
‘Training at BOVTS set me up with the skillset, confidence and connections for the career I now have as a freelance theatre designer’ Max Johns, Theatre Designer
The production designs provide excellent opportunities for collaboration with a range of professional practitioners and student production teams, including collaborative working with the MA Drama Directing and MA Dramatic Writing students.
An impressive and varied professional portfolio of design work can be achieved during the course.
Students gain further promotional opportunities by exhibiting their work in final exhibitions and also create excellent pathways to employment by contact with a high level of industry practitioners.
The course prepares graduates for careers as freelance design professionals and leading creative collaborators. With a focus on providing team leadership, you will learn to apply a flexible approach to design with a high level of specialist and transferable designer skills.
The course structure allows for diversification within the subject area of Performance Design, reflecting specialisation within current industry practice.
At the graduate exhibition you will gain networking opportunities and one-to-one feedback in a series of interviews and events with industry professionals, which can provide excellent routes to employment.
Throughout the course and at the graduate exhibition you will gain networking opportunities and one-to-one feedback in a series of interviews and events with industry professionals, which can provide excellent routes to employment.
Recent BOVTS graduates have designed at Bristol Old Vic, The Tobacco Factory, Shakespeare’s Globe, Kneehigh, West Yorkshire Playhouse, The Orange Tree Theatre and the RSC.
Thanks to the rigour of BOVTS training, graduates are regularly successful in attaining the RSC trainee design positions and competing as finalists for the Linbury Prize.
Full-time course: September 2020 – July 2021
Applicants would normally be expected to have an honours degree in a related visual arts subject area such as Fine Art, Sculpture, Architecture, Costume, Illustration, Theatre Studies, or Production Arts. However, applicants with extensive relevant professional experience will also be considered. Applicants would be expected to have entry-level skills and experience relevant to the subject specialisation they are intending to follow.
Applicants should be able to provide evidence of their suitability for the course by the production of a portfolio of art and performance design work. It is an expectation that the applicants understand the required basic skills involved and have knowledge of the role of Performance Designer within a production. Good communication and interpersonal skills are important and applicants will be expected to demonstrate these at interview.
If English is not your first language, you will need to demonstrate English language proficiency through a relevant qualification, such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), which can also be used to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) requirements. For MA Performance Design, an overall score of 7.0 is normally required, with a minimum of 7.0 in each component of reading, writing, listening and speaking.
All applicants will be interviewed by professional practitioners, including the Course Leader. Applicants will be given an opportunity to ask questions of staff and current students and be shown the facilities at the School where possible. There are no interview fees.
University of the West of England (UWE)
Students who complete the course successfully will receive a degree from the University of the West of England (UWE).
This module map provides a list of the modules that will make up your course.
All modules are compulsory, with each module worth a specified number of credits. They enable you to cover key subject knowledge while developing your own interests.
Performance Design Project – 40 credits
Specialisation Project – 40 credits
Design for Production – 60 credits
Professional presentation – 40 credits
Award: MA Performance Design
Operating on three specialist teaching sites (Downside Road, Sheene Road and Christchurch Studios – all located in Bristol) and usually performing in the major producing theatre venues in Bristol: Bristol Old Vic, Circomedia, Tobacco Factory, Wardrobe Theatre and Redgrave Theatre. (Venues are subject to change each year.)
Student learning at BOVTS revolves around practical project-based work and productions that take place throughout the academic year. Your learning to differing levels will centre on these productions.
You will learn through group seminars, practical and technical workshops, peer learning, working with other creatives, sessions led by industry experts, independent study, field and production visits, attending industry events and extensive feedback from School tutors and visiting industry professionals.
Students will develop an individual design portfolio to present to industry as a specialist Performance Designer with critical understanding of current performance design opportunities.
Professional performance designers need to be self-motivated and able to work independently. Reflecting this feature of the industry, you will be based in a well-equipped communal studio environment, much of your time will be spent studying independently. The Head of Course, based in a nearby office / studio, will be available on most working days to provide one to one support and critical evaluation. A wide range of lectures, masterclasses and one-to-one tutorials delivered by School teachers and visiting industry professionals and peer review learning sessions will provide important underpinning for your learning.
During projects and production periods there may also be evening and weekend work.
There will be between six and eight students on the course. Some classes are shared with students from other BOVTS courses such as the MA Drama Directing. When working on productions, Performance Design students will work with other groups of students from across the school.
The course is programmatic by design with each of the four modules building your skills and experience in a structured and cumulative way. Training is delivered through tested methods of project exploration and the application of knowledge gained from experience on productions. Work is realised to a professional industry standard.
The course moves from a theoretical broad project, involving taught skills workshops, seminars and peer learning to more self-directed specialist projects and realised production design practice. In the latter you will take a lead creative team role with responsibility on public productions.
Throughout the course, you will work with and learn from industry design professionals and will collaborate with key creatives. Importantly, the School has a strong body of alumni and professional networks to draw knowledge from. You will be ‘connected’ to a web of colleagues with diverse skills from both your cohort and other School creative MA courses. These connections provide networking and peer support opportunities to sustain early career pathways.
All modules are assessed by coursework (meaning there are no exams). There is continuous assessment of project and production work-based challenges.
You will have many opportunities to share your work-in-progress and be observed in your collaborative interaction providing you with formative feedback and suggestions for improvement before final assessment of your skills is made. You will receive formative feedback from your tutor both in the studio and in formal meetings.
You will be assessed on the demonstration of specialist designer skills used in the production of your design. You will be assessed on completed final design at presentation stage in projects and a completed production design. You will be required to present this to peers, course tutors, industry professionals and to a performance company and production teams on realised productions.
Along with developing an analytical and critical continuous appraisal of your progress of design development and process, you will also be asked to evaluate your own learning for each project in a written self-assessment. Progress is discussed in tutorials and your learning pathway, along with your future direction, identified to ensure that your course commitments i.e. roles on realised productions, can support your career plans and specialist area of interest.
You are assessed on a pass or fail basis (meaning that degrees are undifferentiated).
As part of the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama (CDD), the School is committed to selecting, training and supporting students, regardless of ethnicity, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation or religion.
Applicants to CDD schools are chosen solely on the basis of their talent and potential to develop the skills required for their chosen profession. The School does, however, judge applicants on their suitability for a course and their potential to successfully complete the training, as the work is rigorous and requires high levels of energy and commitment.
Student Support on the programmes at the School covers a variety of areas such as support for disabled students, academic support, student finance and health and welfare.
Julia Heeley, Student Support Manager, is able to answer queries about support available for disabled applicants/students. Her email address is [email protected] and she can also be reached by telephone on 0117 980 9247.
Our Academic and Student Support services team provides help in the following areas:
Support for students with disabilities including specific learning difficulties In our admissions process, we are committed to supporting students with disabilities.
Disabled students are encouraged to disclose their support requirements so that we can endeavour to meet them during the audition process and subsequent training.
The School welcomes all students regardless of disability. It is our aim to provide appropriate support so that all students are able to achieve their full potential.
Students with a disability will be provided with advice and support from the Student Support Manager. If you have a disability or specific learning difficulty we recommend you contact her either prior to starting your course or during your first few weeks at the School to discuss any support requirements you may have.
This may include support resulting from disabilities such as sensory impairment, learning difficulties such as dyslexia or dyspraxia or mental health difficulties.
We recognise that everyone is an individual and we will work with students to identify potential barriers to training and do what we can to remove those barriers. We will also make any necessary reasonable adjustments, to ensure that disabled students can train at the School.
At the School we put a great deal of emphasis on supporting students during their time with us.
We are aware that nationally there is a very high proportion of students with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs) e.g. dyslexia or dyspraxia, in institutions which specialise in art, design or the performing arts.
During your first week, the School encourages all students to take a short questionnaire known as QuickScan which has proved to be a useful piece of screening software for students and staff across the CDD Schools. It takes the form of an on-line, easy to navigate, questionnaire which will help to identify your learning style and specific areas of learning strengths and weaknesses. It is used in conjunction with other indicators, including student disclosure (as part of the interview and registration process), tutor feedback on practical and written work, and students expressing their concerns and any support requirements which may become apparent during their studies.
Disabled Student Allowance (DSA)
UK students with disabilities (including Specific Learning Difficulties and long-term Mental Health conditions) can apply for the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA).
DSA usually provides support for students with the specialist equipment and tools necessary to support you with your studies, including software, hardware and study skills support. Unlike a student loan, DSA does not have to be repaid. However, it is rarely awarded in the form of financial support.
Applications are made through, Student Finance England (SFE), Student Finance Wales (SFW), or Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS).
In order to apply for DSA, Student Finance will require evidence of any impairment or disability. This may take the form of a doctor’s or specialist’s letter or, more often, a report from an Educational Psychologist (Diagnostic Assessment Report).
If you require a Diagnostic Assessment from an Educational Psychologist, the Student Support Manager can arrange this for you and can guide you through the process.
Personal Academic Support
Various staff members at the School can help in different ways if you need academic support. If you need help with the content of classes or assessment work, you can ask the relevant head of course, tutor or your pastoral care tutor for an appointment or you can ask the Student Support Manager to arrange a tutorial with the relevant member of staff on your behalf. If you make an appointment, you can prepare for the meeting and discuss your concerns away from class. Heads of courses, modules leaders and individual tutors can all help you with understanding aspects of your training and can offer overall guidance or advice about your programme of study.
Study skills (including reading, note-taking and presentation skills)
Study skills support is usually arranged for students who have been awarded support through Disabled Student Allowance (DSA). However, the Student Support Manager will be happy to arrange one to one study skills support for you if deemed appropriate and necessary.
Mental Health and Wellbeing
Schools within the CDD recognise the challenges faced by students entering higher education and that training in a conservatoire institution can place great demands on a student both physically and emotionally. The CDD has published a leaflet aimed to help students identify signs of mental distress and where to go for support: click here to view.
The School has a student therapy and counselling service, which is organised and staffed by accredited, registered psychotherapists and counsellors and is there to help with any more deep-seated personal problems on which pastoral tutors are not qualified to advise. If students wish to have an initial assessment with a therapist or counsellor, they should contact the School’s Student Support Manager. A strict professional code of confidentiality is always maintained.
Student welfare and pastoral care
We actively encourage students to develop a pro-active and positive approach to their own ‘wellness’. We are preparing professionals to enter physically and mentally challenging professions and we work to enable students to sustain a physically and mentally healthy lifestyle.
Every student is assigned a pastoral tutor who monitors they progress throughout the year in addition to having access to the Student Support Manager. All students have tutorials with their head of course, head of year or allocated pastoral care tutor in which non-teaching issues can be discussed. A confidential tutorial can be requested of any member of the full-time teaching staff on your course.
In addition, BOVTS students have access to UWE’s Student Wellbeing Service, details of which can be found here.
UWE Wellbeing Service, 3F Reception, UWE, Frenchay Campus, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol, BS16 1QY Tel: +44 (0)117 32 86268 E-mail: [email protected]
For further information on support which the School offers, please see the Guide to Student Support which can be found here.
You can also find additional information for disabled applicants and students at all Conservatoire for Dance and Drama affiliated Schools here.
You will be taught by an experienced teaching team whose expertise and knowledge are matched to the content of the modules on the course.
The team includes Head of Design (Angela Davies) and other School teaching staff and a range of visiting industry professionals.
Further information about our teaching staff is also available by visiting our staff profiles.
Please note: the named teaching team is correct at the time of writing but may be subject to change.
MA Performance Design
Duration: One Year (full-time)
UK Tuition fees for the three term MA Performance Design Course starting in September 2020 will be £10,800 for the whole course.
International students (non UK) tuition fees for the three term MA Performance Design course starting in September 2020 will be £24,000 for the whole of the course.
The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School has been approved for the US Federal Student Loan programme.
Further details on options for funding and loans for US students studying in the UK can be found here.
(Full-time route only)
It is not possible to confirm fees for future academic years, as these are dependent on Teaching Excellence Framework outcomes, but the maximum increase in each year will not exceed the rate of inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
The following course-related costs are included in the fees:
We supply some materials such as card and poly-board, there is also a small budget for student expenses for each design project / production design. Students are required to provide specific basic design equipment and additional art materials as needed.
Accommodation and living costs are not included in the fees.
Info and advice regarding potential accommodation and living costs can be found in the General Student Information Handbook
Sources of financial support
If you receive funding from Student Finance you may be eligible to apply for additional benefits.
Details can be obtained from our Student Fees home page.
Bursaries, scholarships and prizes
Please see the BOVTS Fees and Financial Support page for details of Bursaries and Scholarships.
The University also provides a number of scholarships and prizes for undergraduate students, which you may be eligible to apply for. Some of these are available to students on any course (such as Conservatoire for Dance and Drama (CDD) scholarships, Hardship Fund and bursaries offered by charitable trusts).
PLEASE NOTE:The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School has been approved for the US Federal Student Loan programme.Further details on options for funding and loans for US students studying in the UK can be found on the BOVTS US Students funding page
Placements and Types of Employment
Withdrawing and Return of Title IV Policy – please see above
Refund policy – please see above
Drug policy – please see General Information handbook above. Also please see UWE policies page for specific Intellectual Property Policy (which includes copyright infringement) and a Student Alcohol and Drug Policy. You can access all UWE policies here.
Freedom of Information Act –
“The Freedom of Information Act 2000 provides public access to information held by public authorities. It does this in two ways:
public authorities are obliged to publish certain information about their activities; and members of the public are entitled to request information from public authorities.”
Loan Terms and Repayment Schedules Subsidised and Unsubsidised Loans and Grad Plus Loans – please see above
Academic Programmes Available at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School are currently only Graduate programmes
Code of conduct – please see above
Text Book Information: Indicative basic reading lists can be found under the full module specifications
Net Price Calculator: The net price of your tuition fees is the price stated on the postgraduate table of fees. The cost of living including your tuition fees and conversion to US dollars is by use of the University’s which you can download and complete.
National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS)
Entrance and Exit Counselling for Student Loan Borrowers
Federal Copyright law does not apply in the UK. However the UK is covered by its own Copyright law.
Privacy of Student Records – Data Protection – please see above
Gainful employment disclosures
All non-degree educational programmes are referred to as Gainful Employment (GE) programmes. New US Department of Education regulations require institutions to inform current and prospective students of their prospects for ‘gainful employment’ when receiving federal financial aid for non-degree programs such as certificates and diplomas.
It is important to note that at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Title IV Federal Loans are awarded to degree-seeking students only. However, University regulations stipulate that if a degree-seeking student terminates their programme early, they may receive an ‘exit award’ in the form of a certificate or diploma if they have fulfilled the appropriate credit requirements.
Queries relating to your Direct Federal Loans application with Bristol Old Vic Theatre School can be sent to:
Applying for a course at BOVTS
How to apply for our courses through UCAS, including specific advice for international applicants and mature students.
Before you apply
Check the entry requirements
All our courses have course-specific entry requirements. Before you apply, check that you meet the entry requirements for the course you are interested in.
You can apply if you already hold a degree-level qualification. This may have implications for funding, and your visa if you are an international student.
Research your course
Before you apply, you should research the course you want to study. Read the UCAS guide on choosing a course.
UCAS is the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. It is a charitable organisation that handles applications for UK universities.
Submitting your application
To apply through UCAS, you will need to fill out a form on the UCAS website to apply. UCAS provides guidance on filling out the application, which will help you:
Applying as an international student
The application process for international students is the same as it is for everyone else. You still need to apply through UCAS.
As well as meeting our course entry requirements, you may have to provide proof of your level of English. This is because you need to meet the Home Office required standards to get a Tier 4 Visa to enter the country for study.
You can find out about Tier 4 Visas from the UK Government.
Applying after a break in studying
If you are age 21 or over, you are defined as a mature student. Although your route to higher education may be different, the application process is the same as it is for everyone else. You still need to apply through UCAS.
We accept a variety of qualifications, including the Access to HE Diploma and Open University credits. View our course pages to find out about entry requirements for each course. If you are a mature student and you have any questions about our entry requirements or your qualifications email [email protected]
Completing the UCAS form
You should complete all sections of the UCAS form. You must include:
In your personal statement you should also explain why you have chosen to return to study now and how you feel you will benefit.
The UCAS guide for mature students explains the different ways you can get into higher education.
Applicant Auditions & Interviews
For some of our courses, we will invite you to attend an interview or audition if your application looks suitable and you are studying a qualification that is harder for us to assess on paper. We may also invite you to attend an interview or audition if you have had a less typical educational history, which means we are unable to consider your application using our normal criteria.
You can find further advice and guidance about our audition and interview process can be found on the individual course page.
Tracking your application through UCAS
You can follow the progress of your application through UCAS Track.
The University is committed to the promotion of equal opportunities for all. We consider each application on the basis of the applicant’s suitability for the proposed programme of study, at the same time acknowledging the statutory and professional requirements of some programmes. We are keen to encourage applicants from a wide range of academic and social backgrounds to take up the opportunity of studying at the University. We aim to create an environment that respects the diversity of students and enables them to derive maximum benefit and enjoyment from their involvement in the life of the University. To do this we will be proactive about ensuring people are treated fairly regardless of age, disability, race, nationality, ethnicity, gender, religion or sexual orientation.
The Admissions Office deals with enquiries and applications for all undergraduate programmes.