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BA Drama - in Clearing

Why we're great

  • Our students are extremely happy - we are top 10 in the UK for student satisfaction.
  • Many of our lecturers come from the theatre profession and continue to have active careers.
  • We have a thriving Theatre Arts Society and student company - you can put theory into practice.

Course options2016-17

BA Drama Full-time

UCAS code: W401
Duration: 3 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Fee (Home/EU): £9,000
Fee (International): £12,950

UCAS code: W402
Duration: 4 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Fee (Home/EU): £9,000
Fee (International): £12,950

Clearing enquiries

Telephone 01206 873666

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About the course

Drama is a rich and diverse art form, with an ancient history that spans human cultures across the globe. The theatre is a medium through which societies reflect on the most important issues of the day, laugh, dream and dare to imagine things differently; it is the mirror in which individuals and communities scrutinise themselves. Studying drama allows you to explore some of the most important and influential texts ever written; and it exposes you to new experiences, new ideas and to many worlds.

We believe that the joint engagement of practice and theory produces a deep understanding of how drama works. As a result, our teaching combines practical workshops with critical seminars and lectures, and is delivered by an experienced team of playwrights, directors, and actors, as well as leading academic theatre specialists.

You study a wide spectrum of dramatic literature from Ancient Greek tragedy and Shakespeare, to modern plays from across Europe and the world; and you also study theatre-making practice. You consider different ways in which theatre is made, and relate academic study to the practice of making and seeing theatre. We explore theatre buildings and history, as well as looking at drama in relation to political issues, and in applied contexts such as schools and communities.

  • Transforming dramatic texts into dramatic performance
  • Political ideas, human rights and social issues in recent theatre
  • The theory and practice of acting and performance
  • Comedy, tragedy and the development of genre, both in theory and practice
  • Gender and sexual politics on stage
  • Writing for theatre

At Essex you will make practical theatre, in groups and as an individual, so you develop not only as a reader and maker of dramatic works, but also as an audience member.

Our course offers a varied, flexible and distinctive curriculum, focused on the study of drama, but also enabling you to take options from the other courses within our Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies including literature, creative writing, filmmaking, and journalism.

We are ranked top 10 in the UK (Guardian University Guide 2015), and our students are some of the happiest in the country; we are top in the UK for student satisfaction (NSS 2014).

“Starting at Essex was a wonderful experience. Everyone is so welcoming and friendly, and the Theatre Arts Society allowed me to socialise with a lot of like-minded students. I am now working for a number of different organisations as a theatre facilitator, including Almeida Projects, Mercury Theatre and Stagecoach. I am so proud that I am able to use different elements of my degree everyday in my work.”

Jordana Golbourn, BA Drama, 2011

Study abroad

Your education extends beyond the university campus. We support you extending your education by providing the option of an additional year at no extra cost. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year studying abroad or employed on a placement, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.

Our Department has an exchange scheme with universities in Denmark, France, Finland, Greece, Germany, Spain and Italy through the ERASMUS programme. This provides our students with the opportunity to view the world, and theatre, from another perspective.

Studying abroad also allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised.

Placement year

When you arrive at Essex, you can decide whether you would like to combine your course with a placement year. You will be responsible for finding your placement, but with support and guidance provided by both your department and our Employability and Careers Centre.

Our expert staff

The Centre for Theatre Studies at Essex is part of the multi-disciplinary Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies, offering talented students the support and confidence to engage both critically and artistically in the study of Drama. This distinctive environment is possible because we are a community of award-winning playwrights, actors and directors, as well as leading literature specialists.

  • Professor Jonathan Lichtenstein is a playwright who has written for Radio 4 and the National Theatre. His awards include a Fringe First at the Edinburgh Festival and his plays have been performed internationally.
  • Elizabeth Kuti is also a playwright. She has won the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the Stewart Parker Radio Award; and has been commissioned by the National Theatre; the Abbey Theatre, Dublin; and BBC radio. She also writes and researches in the field of eighteenth-century theatre.
  • Liam Jarvis is Artistic Director of Analogue Theatre and a playwright and theatre practitioner. He also writes and publishes widely on contemporary theatre theory and practice.
  • Annie Eddington and Barbara Peirson have professional specialisms in Theatre-in-Education, directing, theatre and human rights. Other staff members bring expertise in acting, producing and technical theatre.

We also regularly invite visiting professionals to take master classes with our students, allowing you to enter into dialogue with leading figures in theatre. Recent visitors include Max Stafford-Clark, David Eldridge, Paul Sirett, Jessica Swale, Robert Price, Lisa Goldman, David Thacker, Mike Attenborough, Annie Castledine, Bobby Baker, Robert Holman, Tony Casement, and Gari Jones.

Specialist facilities

  • Our on-Campus, 200-seat Lakeside Theatre is a major venue for drama, staging productions by professional touring companies and new work written, produced and directed by our own staff and students
  • Participate in regular workshops at the Lakeside Theatre which help you to improve your performance skills
  • Our Research Laboratory allows you to collaborate with professionals, improvising and experimenting with new work as it develops
  • Access the University’s Media Centre, equipped with state-of-the-art studios, cameras, audio and lighting equipment, and an industry-standard editing suite
  • Write for our student magazine Albert or host a Red Radio show
  • View classic films at weekly film screenings in our dedicated 120-seat film theatre
  • Hear writers talk about their craft and learn from leading specialists at weekly research seminars

Your future

A drama degree opens many doors. Creativity, imagination and versatility are highly valued skills in our rapidly changing world.

Our students have gone on to become producers, playwrights, and actors, as well as teachers, academics, dramaturgs, youth workers, stage managers, administrators, live artists, and theatre-makers. They have also found success in a range of other industries including journalism, press relations, marketing, theatre and television production, broadcasting, magazine editing, copywriting, industry, commerce and law.

Our recent graduates have gone on to work in a wide range of desirable roles including:

  • Freelance theatre facilitating
  • Youth theatre practice at The Princes Theatre
  • Front of house theatre manager
  • Stage managers
  • Teaching

We also work with our Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

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Example structure

Studying at Essex is about discovering yourself, so your course combines compulsory and optional modules to make sure you gain key knowledge in the discipline, while having as much freedom as possible to explore your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are just a selection of those available. The opportunity to take optional modules will depend on the number of core modules within any year of the course. In many instances, the flexibility to take optional modules increases as you progress through the course.

Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current first-year students, including details of all optional modules.

Year 1

How are theatrical ideas developed? And what technical expertise is required? Explore lighting, sound and stage management in technical theatre workshops. Develop work related to Commedia Dell’Arte, studying history, characters and staging. Devise your own solo performance using the style of Commedia.

How are dramatic texts staged? How do different texts require different approaches? Investigate dramatic methods - both recent and historic - in relation to a number of plays. Explore methods to approach a script during rehearsals, including the vocabulary used by practitioners. Undertake close textual analysis of a play-script during practical workshops.

What do you know about the major theatre theorists – Aristotle, Brecht, Artaud and Stanislavski? How do their theories relate to plays from the European tradition? Attend practical and theoretical classes to build your knowledge. Examine plays from Ancient Greece to today, discussing issues like genre representation, gender, modernism and postmodernism.

How did major European writers create a sense of European literature? And how can their texts be located within historical and political contexts? Study significant works of literature that sparked particular movements or represent crucial literary innovation. Build your understanding of the development of genres, forms, styles, content and ideas.

Year 2

What are the links and connections between texts? Do these exist even if the plays seem diverse? Explore a range of texts from the medieval period to the 1980s, analysing genre, dramatic form, language, narrative and dramatic debate. Through practical sessions, consider approaches like staging, verse-speaking, montage and character development.

Want to study four key Shakespeare texts in depth? Build your knowledge of plays that may have previously seemed too complex through practical work and seminars. Understand these important works and build your confidence regarding the language, dramatic conventions and generic characterisations of a range of plays.

How does theatre explore gender roles? Does theatre mirror or resist changes in sexual ideology? How have playwrights exploited the theatre to debate sexual politics? Use gender theory and feminist theatre criticism to examine a range of plays, theatre practitioners and performance artists.

Final year

What tools do you need to write successfully for the theatre? What different approaches are available to the playwright? Study plays in depth and develop your own skills through practical exercises and assignments. Have a chance to explore your own interests and develop your own creative process.

What practical decisions are needed to make a performance? Examine theoretical writing about acting and performance through four plays that demand very different approaches in their realisation. Undertake practical work, maintaining detailed records of the creative and practical process that texts undergo before a performance.

How have theatre practitioners approached political ideas in the last century? How can theatre and human rights interact? Study a range of plays alongside the ideas of many practitioners, plus political films and works of art. Create your original theatre pieces in response to social issues and world events.

Pursue your own interests and passions by designing and carrying out your own theatre research project. Whether it’s a new approach to directing a classic play, writing a script, running workshops, or exploring an area like puppetry or theatre in education, the Independent Practical Project (I.P.P.) gives you the chance to replace one third-year module with your own programme of creative research, under specialist supervision from an academic staff member.

Year abroad

On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.


  • Teaching will mainly take the form of lectures and classes of about 20 students
  • Practical drama workshops
  • Emphasis on practical exercises and creative approaches
  • A typical timetable involves a one-hour lecture and a one-hour class for each of your modules every week


  • Your final mark for each module is determined half by coursework and half by examination
  • A mark for class participation is included in your coursework mark

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If you already have your results and want to apply for 2016 entry through Clearing, complete our Clearing application form and we’ll get back in touch with you or give us a ring to discuss your grades.

IELTS entry requirements

English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. (Different requirements apply for second year entry.)

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.

Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels required. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications.

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Visit us

Clearing Open Day

Tours of our campus and accommodation will be running throughout the day and will be led by our current students, allowing you a real insight into life at Essex. Academics from subjects that had Clearing vacancies at our Colchester Campus will be available in the Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall from 12-2pm to discuss your course with you and answer any burning questions you might have.

You don't need to book before attending the Open Day - just drop-in.

Campus tours

If you're unable to attend the Open Day, you can always come to one of our organised informal tours on Sunday 21 August.

Can't get to Campus?

Don’t worry – our interactive virtual tours and videos allow you to explore our campuses, accommodation and facilities in Colchester and Southend. You can even take a look at our Colchester Campus using Google Streetview.


How to apply during Clearing

Once you’ve checked that we have the right course for you, applying couldn’t be simpler. Fill in our quick and easy Clearing application form with as much detail as you can. We’ll then take a look and get back to you with a decision. There’s no need to call us to apply; just do it all online.


We don’t interview all applicants during Clearing, however, we will only make offers for the following course after a successful interview:

  • BA Multimedia Journalism

The interview allows our academics to find out more about you, and in turn you’ll be able to ask us any questions you might have.

Further details will be emailed to you if you are shortlisted for interview.

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Although great care is taken in compiling our course details, they are intended for the general guidance of prospective students only. The University reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University.

The full procedures, rules and regulations of the University are set out in the Charter, Statues and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.