Performing Arts BA (Hons)

Full-time undergraduate (3 years)


January 2017, September 2017


Create and take part in musical theatre projects, learn from experienced staff who are musical theatre experts and professionals, and access our wide range of facilities. Become a confident, exciting performer, whilst also learning production skills and other important aspects of the Performing Arts.

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Full description


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Our Performing Arts course will prepare you for a range of careers, and its combination of practical skills and academic understanding will help you stand out to employers. Studying Performing Arts will give you the ideal training for any position that requires creativity, self-reliance, imagination, teamwork and the ability to organise both yourself and others.

You might decide to use your talent to help others by taking our MA Music Therapy or MA Dramatherapy.

We have close links with many industry partners, including venues such as Cambridge Junction, and our own Mumford Theatre on campus. At these, you can attend performances and get work experience front of house or back stage in a professional theatre environment.

Work placements

Our Enterprise in the Creative Arts module will give you the opportunity to take up a work placement in Year 3. This could be in an area such as performing arts education, community arts work, arts management, marketing, technical theatre and production work for media companies.

Modules & assessment

Year one, core modules

  • Performance Contexts 1A
    This module will introduce you to an understanding of the historical and cultural development of performance through exploration of a range of practical and critical material, particularly focusing on the early to mid-twentieth century. You will consider key movements and important practitioners across the field of performing arts, examining performance works within their particular historical, social, cultural and political contexts. Through engaging with selected works in weekly group seminars, you will discover a variety of theoretical approaches to the study of the performing arts, examining changes in form and conventions in performance. You will also receive study skills guidance to help you to make the transition to HE level study. You will work towards writing a 1,500-word essay and producing a 1,500-word portfolio, which will include detailed contextual research of a selected performance work.
  • Performance Contexts 1B
    This module will introduce you to an understanding of the historical and cultural development of performance through exploration of a range of practical and critical material, particularly focusing on the early to mid-twentieth century. You will consider key movements and important practitioners across the field of performing arts, examining performance works within their particular historical, social, cultural and political contexts. Through engaging with selected works in weekly group seminars, you will discover a variety of theoretical approaches to the study of the performing arts, examining changes in form and conventions in performance. The materials you will study in semester two will bring you to the contemporary moment of performance work. You will work towards writing a creative piece based on the conventions and practices of the works studied alongside a critical contextualisation of your own proposed performance piece. You will submit these pieces of writing, alongside other creative materials (images, sounds, film) as an end-of-semester portfolio.
  • Staging and Reception
    On this module you will focus on the staging and reception of live performance, by analysing contemporary performance events and practical explorations of a range of performance styles, staging conventions and thematic concerns. Through theory and practice you will engage with questions about how we create meaning on stage, and how these meanings are read and multiplied by an audience in the moment of reception. You will be introduced to the discipline of performance analysis, and learn to apply a semiotic reading to your interpretation of live performance. You will be assessed through a written analysis of one of a selection of theatre shows, visits to which will be scheduled early in the semester. You will then engage in a series of practical workshops exploring a range of performance elements, such as space, the body and interactivity, through experimental in-class staging of a range of source texts, which will complement those being studied in the module Performance Contexts 1A. These staging experiments will at times require you to deconstruct and reinvent these source texts with the guidance of your tutor, but you will also be expected to work independently on this material and to find your own creative solutions. The module culminates in a performance assessment, for which your group will devise an original piece inspired by our exploration of performance elements and staging conventions.
  • Staging and Production
    This module will involve you in staging a directed performance. You will form a company and take on a performance and/or significant backstage role to work alongside your director in the realisation of a contemporary performance text. You will engage in a full rehearsal process, in which you will analyse and explore your chosen text within the context of your wider studies of C20th to contemporary performance and associated theories. Your rehearsal process will involve active participation in the interpreting and staging of your text, requiring you to engage with post dramatic practices such as the adaptation and deconstruction of course materials. This module requires professional discipline, including a willingness to take direction from others and to contribute ideas and work positively towards creative solutions. You will be assessed on your final performance piece in the moment of live delivery, which also reflects your contribution and participation in the creative process.
  • Digital Performance
    On this module you'll be introduced to the creative use of technology in performance. You'll engage with multidisciplinary performance and explore the distinctions between making live and recorded performance. You'll also develop skills in the traditional technical aspects of theatre (lighting, sound and stage management) as well as newer technologies (video making, use of live feeds, internet performance, using software packages). Working collaboratively on small creative projects, you'll develop a short performance using a mixture of live and recorded effects, drawing on your own experience as a spectator to inform the creative decisions that you make.
  • Performance Skills 1A
    This practical module will develop your knowledge and understanding of interdisciplinary performance skills. You'll receive training in appropriate technical skills, based on an explicit understanding of their physical and conceptual origins. You'll also explore notions of physical awareness through the acquisition of artistic, technical and performance skills. Through a developmental series of group practical workshops, you'll investigate a range of approaches to: the preparation and training of the performer; presence, physicality and voice; the work of the ensemble. In practical sessions, you'll also take part in discussions that will contextualise the material and/or exercises being explored.
  • Performance Skills 1B
    On this module, you will focus on the combination of singing/voice and drama, which may include looking at techniques of acting through song, or the combination of vocal techniques and drama. Your work will include vocal and/or musical experimentation, helping you enhance your skills as a performing arts practitioner. You will be assessed through a small-scale performance exploring the synthesis of vocal work with drama, and through the continuing development of your reflective portfolio from Performance Skills 1A. You will continue to record and reflect on your ongoing research and practice process in your creative process portfolio. This portfolio will allow you to demonstrate engagement with relevant theories, methodologies and influences, as well as tracking your development.

Year one, optional modules

  • Directing Skills
    This module will encourage you to develop key skills involved in leading and directing theatrical projects and performance. You will engage with different directorial and creative leadership approaches through workshops, seminar discussion and practical experiments, developing skills in directing and leading with reference to different forms of text. These will be used as the basis to explore a range of directorial approaches and to demonstrate the ways in which appropriate strategies may be tailored to the demands of different rehearsal methodologies. In addition, you will explore practically the planning and leading of workshops, rehearsals and consider the management of production processes. For the practical part of the assessment, you will be asked to direct a short text extract from a provided list. The performance may include acting, music, voice and movement as appropriate to your directorial approach. This will be accompanied by a critical reflection, in which you will give an account of the directorial methodologies you have employed and evaluate your personal development on the module.

Year two, core modules

  • Making Performance
    You’ll design, direct and perform in a large-scale public performance, created from a selected source text. As a group, you must agree effective methods of decision-making, show full commitment to rehearsals and production meetings, and demonstrate a willingness to participate in all aspects of work on the production. If you're a Performing Arts student at Cambridge, you can also be assessed as a musician or singer within the rehearsal process and performance. If you take Performing Arts at University Centre Peterborough, you may be assessed on your physical theatre work. Collaborative production modules require professional conduct from all students. Your conduct will be measured on reliable attendance, punctual arrival at rehearsals, maintaining high levels of concentration within sessions and your willingness to take direction from others. You will be assessed on both the live performance and your research, as well as your attendance and contribution to the production process. This module includes content and assessment relating to the Employability component of Personal Development Planning.
  • Performance Skills 2A
    In this modules you will focus on the combination of movement and music for performance. You will encounter a range of styles and forms across the two disciplines and explore ways of integrating them. Your movement work could encompass formal technique as well as pedestrian vocabularies, alongside live and recorded music, sound and/or vocal work. You will need to demonstrate enhanced performance skills through experimentation and increasingly challenging work, delivered with confidence. You will be assessed through the development of an interdisciplinary performance project and by continuing your creative process portfolio from level 4. You will continue to record and reflect on your continuous research and practice in this portfolio, including your analysis of and critical engagement with contextualising materials and research.
  • Performance Skills 2B
    In this final module of the Performing Skills series, you will focus on integrating movement and drama/acting in performance. You will be expected to draw on and apply the wide range of principles and methodologies that you will accumulate over the preceding modules to create imaginative and original work. You will further develop your collaborative skills through the presentation of new situations and scenarios to which you will need to adapt and approach flexibly and creatively. You will be assessed by developing an interdisciplinary performance that highlights the integration of movement and acting, but that might also incorporate other disciplines and exploration in original ways. Your creative process portfolio, as a means of reflecting on and evaluating your continuing research and practice, will underpin this.
  • The Body in Performance
    On this module, you'll explore the use of the body in contemporary performance and theatre practice, and the ways in which it can challenge dominant political, cultural and artistic ideologies. You'll consider how the body is subject to ideological and social forces that restrain it, and interrogate performance's potential to resist these forces. By critiquing structures of power and knowledge, you'll examine the place of the body in contemporary culture, while posing questions about the political efficacy of performance and the ethical implications of the work. This work could include live art practice, dance theatre, digital performance, activism and bio-art. Each week, you'll concentrate on a particular set of themes, developing theoretical and critical approaches to examining performance in relation to the body. In seminars, you'll look at performance texts, web material, videos, reviews, interviews and critical essays from major theorists in the field. Where possible, you'll be encouraged to attend appropriate performances, exhibitions and installations as part of the course. Your assessment will focus on your ability to articulate research findings through oral presentations, along with a final research essay at the end of the module.

Year two, optional modules

  • New Media Performance
    This module will introduce you to recent innovations in contemporary theatre and performance through a practical and theoretical consideration of new technologies available to theatre-makers at the start of the 21st century. You'll examine the technological interventions that gave rise to mediatised performance as well as the new methods of its dissemination, and explore this in practice by using technologies of sound, music and video to produce a piece of mediatised performance. You'll be expected to engage with the interfaces between live performance, digital technologies, social networking sites, mass participatory sites of video performance, online arts marketing and experimental film-making. You'll be assessed through the production of a short performance piece designed for dissemination through digital technologies. You'll also learn about the production of mediatised performances that can be used as a multi-media element within live theatre practice, studying selected multi-media practitioners as you produce, react to and question the value of such technologies in performance.
  • Performance Laboratory
    On this module you'll explore and study the working methodologies and strategies of a chosen practitioner, company or performance style in detail. This may include contemporary theatre companies or performance practitioners (for example, Forced Entertainment, Reckless Sleepers, DV8, Complicité, Laurie Anderson), or 20th and 21st century performance styles and/or genres (for example: epic theatre, physical theatre, surrealism, or choric theatre). You'll undertake a rigorous practical and intellectual exploration of the chosen company, practitioner or performance style through workshops, seminars, group discussions and independent research, looking at theory and practice as inseparable (i.e. an understanding of practice-as-research). You'll develop your own working strategies based on your exploration of the methodologies encountered in the module. Your assessment will take the form of a practical essay and a critical contextualisation.
  • Applied Theatre
    In this module you will be introduced to the theories and practices of applied theatre, focusing in detail on one specialist area, such as prison theatre, T.I.E. or children’s theatre. The module will introduce you to a range of pedagogical approaches to facilitating and creating drama and will increase your understanding of the needs and abilities of specific sectors of the community that might be deemed ‘vulnerable’, taking into account appropriate ethical considerations. The module will allow you to explore applied theatre through independent research, practical workshops and the critique of case studies and live performance work within the field. Engagement with the local arts community, such as children’s theatre companies and local primary schools, will develop your awareness of the ethical, practical and creative issues that must be considered when making performance for specific target audiences; it will also allow you to form meaningful links with local arts venues, service providers and community groups, and begin to explore the diverse career opportunities within this field. You will be taught through workshops that combine seminar discussion with practical drama activities and through offsite visits and engagement with professionals and members of the community. You will be assessed through an essay and a group devised performance, giving you the opportunity to critically analyse applied practices and gain experience of performing in a community setting.
  • Music and Performing Arts in Education
    This module will introduce you to a number of key principles, concepts and methodologies of music and performing arts education. Topic areas may include: introductory philosophies of education; the application of music and performing arts education in a variety of contexts; the sociological and psychological elements of music and performing arts pedagogy. You’ll also evaluate the role, function and practice of music and performing arts education within a number of familiar scenarios, such as its provision in schools. You will examine current educational methodologies and policy frameworks, including the implications of national curricula, and issues of equality. The practical side of this module will involve you teaching a group of students some basic performing arts skills, with clear guidelines and assessment criteria provided by the tutor. You will also write an essay on a given topic.
  • Performing Shakespeare
    This module will introduce you to the field of contemporary performance theory and practice in relation to Shakespeare. You'll study a range of 20th and 21st century critical and directorial interpretations of plays by Shakespeare, exploring issues like power, sexuality, gender, justice, morality, religion and war. You’ll look at how critics, directors and actors generate meanings from Shakespeare's plays, drawing on details from primary texts, secondary criticism and examples of contemporary creative responses to the plays. For your assessment, you'll select a sequence from one of Shakespeare's plays to stage as an ensemble performance, supported by practical workshops. This performance may include interdisciplinary work involving music, song and a variety of performing styles. You'll also attend seminars that will guide the development of your project proposal, and group tutorials to help you set up your group project. In preparation for the ensemble performance, you'll submit a 1,500-word analysis of how your chosen play has been interpreted in contemporary criticism, and examine a range of creative responses to it in the theatre and on film.
  • Live Event Management
    This module will allow you to take part in the planning, negotiation, organisation, promotion, marketing, budgeting and management of a live music performance event at a public venue. In this respect, you'll be encouraged to explore your professional and vocational practice as a source of learning. Teamwork is a vital element of this module and you'll need to carefully manage and negotiate a variety of responsibilities in small groups, demonstrating a high level of autonomy in the management of your learning, as well as a detailed knowledge of relevant theoretical underpinning. You'll prepare an action plan, which will provide a framework for the event you intend to present. In this, you'll consider content, promotion, ethical issues and financial planning, as appropriate. You'll also evaluate the effectiveness of your event through a final project report, and consider your experience within an appropriate contextual and critical framework through a short essay on an aspect of event management.

Year three, core modules

  • Devising Performance
    On this module, you'll explore the processes and practice of devising work for the theatre. In the first part, you'll undertake a practical exploration of the various approaches to, and the methodologies of, devising performance through workshops and exercises. You'll also be introduced to the work of various performance and theatre practitioners/companies who utilise devising in their creative process, in order to examine strategies and potentials for performance. As a group, you'll then engage in a production process, led by a member of staff, to develop, rehearse, design, market and realise a piece of devised performance to be presented to an external audience. Prior to the final performance, you'll submit an essay that critically investigates the processes of devising, with specific reference to your artistic, historical and theoretical contexts.
  • Major Project
    The individual Major Project will allow you to undertake a substantial piece of individual research, focused on a topic relevant to your specific course. Your topic will be assessed for suitability to ensure sufficient academic challenge and satisfactory supervision by an academic member of staff. The project will require you to identify/formulate problems and issues, conduct research, evaluate information, process data, and critically appraise and present your findings/creative work. You should arrange and attend regular meetings with your project supervisor, to ensure that your project is closely monitored and steered in the right direction.

Year three, optional modules

  • Special Subject (Drama)
    This module will allow you to interrogate a specialist area of contemporary research in the subject area, particularly those with ongoing research being produced by staff members in the Department. Some topics may allow you to explore in greater depth matters covered in other modules; others will introduce material not otherwise covered in the existing provision. The choice will vary from year to year. An indicative list of topics might include a selection of the following: stage adaptation; performance & science; operatic and musical theatre production, multimedia performance, Samuel Beckett's plays, applied theatre practices and reviewing new drama. The method of your assessment will vary according to the option, but may be an essay, a practical essay and/or a performance, both supported by appropriate documentation. You will only undertake one method of assessment.
  • Principles of Music Therapy and Dramatherapy
    This module will provide you with an intensive introduction to the theory and practice of music therapy or dramatherapy, as practised by registered professionals in the UK. It will not train you to be a therapists, but equip you with knowledge of the clinical field and some introductory skills that are useful in considering music therapy or dramatherapy as a vocation. You'll attend experiential workshops that are linked to theoretical lectures, and possibly a field trip, as well as giving audio-visual presentations. Through these activities you'll be able to evaluate, develop and analyse your musical/dramatic potential and explore the application of different media to therapeutic situations. Your assessment will consist of a written essay, and musical/dramatic improvisations (as appropriate) in small groups, in which you'll actively demonstrate an understanding of the use of music/drama as a therapeutic tool.
  • Contemporary Texts
    On this module, you'll focus on contemporary drama, theatre and performance produced since the 1990s. You'll explore, in practice, the potential stagings of the pieces selected, debate their original reception and assess their impact on subsequent works. You'll compare the production of authored texts and some of the techniques used by contemporary devising, dance theatre, music theatre and 'physical' theatre companies. For your assessment, you'll produce a live performance using a sequence from any work studied on the module. You'll also complete an oral presentation and an open question session based on your creative work in your performance, explaining your decisions as director and how this relates to the original staging and/or critical context of the piece chosen.
  • Music Theatre Studies
    Through a structured series of lectures, seminars and presentations, you'll engage in critical analysis of selected works of music(al) theatre with the aim of developing an understanding of the complex interplay of disciplines - music, text, vocalisation, scenography, dance - particular to the genre. In this respect, you'll be introduced to a range of methodologies by examining selected exemplars in detail, and applying these methodologies to them. You'll also explore the concept of intertextuality, in order to place the analyses within a wider contextual framework. Such activities will develop your critical abilities and encourage you to question the reception of (sometimes) familiar material. The works you'll study will be drawn from various examples of historical operatic practice through to contemporary musical theatre and experimental music theatre, the latter incorporating the use of extended vocal techniques. Wherever possible, your work will be supported by guest lectures from experts in related fields and visits to relevant concerts, theatre productions, exhibitions and talks. Your assessment will comprise a single extended essay, in which you'll investigate your chosen area of music theatre practice in detail.
  • Art, Music and Performance
    This module will give you an interdisciplinary perspective on performance, music and the visual arts. This might include interrogating diverse practices (performance art, opera, music(al) theatre, dance, site-specific performance and a wide range of hybrid forms) through both critical study and practical exercises. You'll explore various theories, devices and links between differing artistic genres, as well as experimenting with your own artistic pieces. You'll question the purpose and function of a creative work and enquire into the significance and meaning which arises out of making artistic projects for and within specific contexts. You'll receive both scholarly and practice-based research training, and undertake a creative research project in which you'll collaborate with other students to create a live piece that explores the relationship between at least two different art forms.
  • Enterprise in the Creative Arts
    This module will provide you with an element of work experience in preparation for your future employment. You'll identify an individual area of work placement before the semester begins and make sure your proposal is doable. You'll need to be critical in your approach, to establish clear parameters for evaluation. You’ll also develop entrepreneurial skills. Early on, you'll give an oral presentation focusing on your proposed content, and the opportunities and constraints of your chosen placement. As well as receiving tutor input at this stage, you'll benefit from the views of both your peers and employers, as well as gaining an insight into how others plan to work within comparable contexts. You'll undertake the work placement element itself either in a 'sandwich' mode during the semester or in a 'block' during the Christmas vacation or January inter-semester period.
  • Professional Practice
    This module will encourage you to examine and explore the processes involved in teaching and leading participatory workshops in the performing arts. You will gain practical experience and skills in leading and facilitating workshops as practising professionals, which can be delivered in educational, professional and/or community contexts. The module will equip you with theoretical and methodological knowledge relevant to a workshop leader, enabling you to practice and develop confidence in delivering effective and well-prepared sessions. You will be expected to reflect on the responsibilities and practices of leadership in creative contexts and develop enhanced skills for future employability. You will develop skills in independent learning, research and communication of process and product throughout the module. Your assessment will involve facilitating a live workshop with an appropriate group and a critical evaluation that appraises your practice.

Optional modules available all years

  • Anglia Language Programme
    The Anglia Language Programme allows you to study a foreign language as part of your course. You'll take one language module in the second semester of your first year in order to experience the learning of a new language. You must select a language you've never learnt before from the following: Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.


You’ll show your progress through essays, reports, critical reflections, studio and public performances and presentations, as well as your final-year Major Project, which may include practical work. This combination of practice and theory reflects the ways that you’ll develop your creative skills throughout the course.

Where you'll study

Your department and faculty

The Department of Music and Performing Arts is a community of over 400 students and staff, working together in a supportive environment to create new and challenging compositions and performances. Our lecturers are research-active practitioners and recognised experts in their field, so our students always have access to the latest theories and practice, as well as invaluable career guidance.

We organise many activities to help our students prepare for the future, like concerts, theatre performances, work placements, study abroad opportunities, talks by acclaimed guest speakers, and research conferences.

We’re part of the Faculty of Arts, Law and Social Sciences, a hub of creative and cultural innovation whose groundbreaking research has real social impact.

Where can I study?

Lord Ashcroft Building on our Cambridge campus

Our campus is close to the centre of Cambridge, often described as the perfect student city.

Explore our Cambridge campus

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Specialist facilities

For your practical work, you’ll have access to our dedicated rehearsal studios, complete with a flexible black-box performance space, as well as our additional rehearsal spaces and the Mumford Theatre. You will also use our purpose-built music centre, which includes an extensive suite of computer music studios with workstation laboratories, digital editing studios and recording facilities, as well as a recital hall, practice rooms and lecture rooms.

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK & EU students, 2016/17 (per year)


International students, 2016/17 (per year)


UK & EU students, 2017/18 (per year)


International students, 2017/18 (per year)


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For more information about tuition fees, including the UK Government's commitment to EU students, please see our UK/EU funding pages

How do I pay my fees?

Tuition fee loan

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Most English undergraduates take out a tuition fee loan with Student Finance England. The fees are then paid directly to us. The amount you repay each month is linked to your salary and repayments start in April after you graduate.

How to apply for a tuition fee loan

Paying upfront

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If you choose not to take out a loan you can pay your fees directly to us. There are two ways to do this: either pay in full, or through a three- or six-month instalment plan starting at registration.

How to pay your fees directly

International students

You must pay your fees up-front, in full or in instalments. You will also be asked for a deposit or sponsorship letter for undergraduate courses. Details will be in your offer letter.

Paying your fees
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Funding for UK & EU students

We offer most new undergraduate students funding to support their studies and university life. There’s also finance available for specific groups of students.

Grants and scholarships are available for:

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Funding for international students

We've a number of scholarships, as well as some fee discounts for early payment.

Entry requirements

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Important additional notes

Our published entry requirements are a guide only and our decision will be based on your overall suitability for the course as well as whether you meet the minimum entry requirements. Other equivalent qualifications may be accepted for entry to this course, please email for further information.

Entry will normally also be subject to an interview/audition.

We don't accept AS level qualifications on their own for entry to our undergraduate degree courses. However for some degree courses a small number of tariff points from AS levels are accepted as long as they're combined with tariff points from A levels or other equivalent level 3 qualifications in other subjects.

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International students

We welcome applications from international and EU students, and accept a range of international qualifications.

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English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you'll need to make sure you meet our English language requirements for undergraduate courses.

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Improving your English language skills

If you don't meet our English language requirements, we offer a range of courses which could help you achieve the level required for entry onto a degree course.

We also provide our own English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT) in the UK and overseas. To find out if we are planning to hold an ELPT in your country, contact our country managers.

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