Taught course

Theatre Directing

Birkbeck, University of London · School of Creative Arts, Culture and Communication

Entry requirements

Either a second-class honours degree (2:2) or above from a UK university (or a directly comparable qualification from a non-UK university), together with some significant experience of professional or professional-level theatre; or an undergraduate- or postgraduate-level diploma from a recognised UK drama school (or a directly comparable qualification from a non-UK drama school), together with some significant experience of professional or professional-level theatre (normally three years); or extensive professional experience.

Considerable importance will be attached to your ability to demonstrate commitment to professional theatre directing. If you are considered to be initially qualified, you will then be interviewed.

There are two application deadlines: Friday 26 January for interviews in February and Wednesday 1 May for interviews in late May and early June. There is no advantage in either deadline but overseas students may wish to apply earlier in order to have more time to secure visas. You do not need to have completed your current qualification to start your application.

Applications are reviewed on their individual merits and your professional qualifications and/or relevant work experience will be taken into consideration positively. We actively support and encourage applications from mature learners.

Months of entry


Course content

This MFA Theatre Directing offers professionally recognised training for theatre directors. The result of a collaboration between Birkbeck and the Arts Council England, Equity and UK Theatre, the course provides a unique opportunity to work with theatre actors, writers and designers, while being introduced to the structural and financial realities of working as a director in the industry.

You will spend time at a leading drama school, learning how actors are trained for today’s theatre. Intensive units with expert professionals, including noted practitioners such as Mike Leigh, Mike Alfreds, Vicki Mortimer, Natalie Abrahami and Lyndsey Turner, will concentrate on the director’s relationship with the designer and the writer, and offer a practical understanding of how theatre companies and pieces of work are funded and managed.

You will then further develop your skills as a director through secondment to a theatre company where you will have the opportunity to assist on at least three productions; collaborators include the Royal Exchange Manchester, Leicester Curve, Octagon Theatre Bolton, Mercury Colchester, The Orange Tree and the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith.


  • We are delighted to announce that the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation Scholarship will support a director from an under-represented or disadvantaged socio-economic background. The scholarship is for £23,100 over two years of training. The deadline for applications is Tuesday 2 May 2024.
  • This course includes a six- to nine-month secondment with a theatre company, providing the opportunity to direct and work with professional actors; a three-month secondment to a leading drama school; extended mentoring relationships between students and professional directors; and regular observation of the course by a highly experienced group of professional directors.
  • Our Centre for Contemporary Theatre runs a postgraduate reading group and offers opportunities to show work in progress as part of our summer festival, Arts Week.
  • Birkbeck was ranked 2nd in the UK for its English Language and Literature research in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework.
  • We offer a number of bursaries for postgraduate students.

Careers and employability

Possible professions include:

  • theatre director
  • artistic director
  • associate director
  • opera director
  • theatre producer
  • literary manager
  • dramaturg.

Recent graduates have directed productions at prestigious West End and regional theatres including:

  • The National Theatre
  • The RSC
  • The Globe
  • The Royal Court
  • English National Opera
  • The Almeida
  • The Young Vic
  • The Old Vic
  • The Lyric Hammersmith
  • The Gate
  • Sheffield Theatres
  • The Royal Exchange Manchester
  • Leeds Playhouse
  • Nottingham Playhouse.

Others have established their own companies, such as Coney, Curious Directive, Upstart and YESYESNONO.

Many of our graduates have won awards such as: the 2014 Olivier Award for Best Director; the James Menzies-Kitchin Award (the JMK) in 2021, 2015 and 2012; the Regional Theatre Young Directors Scheme (RTYDS) Award; the Stage Debut Award in 2019; and the Stage Award for Best Fringe Theatre.

Our graduates include: Lyndsey Turner, Associate Director, National Theatre; Sam Pritchard, Associate Director, Royal Court; Justin Audibert, Artistic Director, Unicorn Theatre; Suba Das, Artistic Director, HighTide; Liz Stevenson, Artistic Director, Theatre by the Lake, Keswick; Sam Brown, award-winning opera director; and Diane Page, 2021 JMK winner.

We offer a comprehensive careers service - Careers and Enterprise - your career partner during your time at Birkbeck and beyond. At every stage of your career journey, we empower you to take ownership of your future, helping you to make the connection between your experience, education and future ambitions.

Information for international students

If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, our usual requirement is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 6.5, with not less than 6.0 in each of the sub-tests.

If you don't meet the minimum IELTS requirement, we offer pre-sessional English courses and foundation programmes to help you improve your English language skills and get your place at Birkbeck.

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • MFA
    full time
    24 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details

Student Advice Service
+44 (0)20 3907 0700