Performance Design MA

Year of entry

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Start date
September 2023
Delivery type
On campus
12 months full time
24 months part time
Entry requirements
A bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons) in a relevant subject.
Full entry requirements
English language requirements
IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in any component
UK fees
£10,750 (total)
International fees
£22,250 (total)

Course overview

performance with lighting

Explore the creative application of design elements, including light, space, and costume, discovering how to shape live performance and generate meaning for contemporary audiences.

This course allows you to gain an understanding of the theories and concepts of designing for performance while also expanding your own creative practice.

You’ll use our specialist facilities to explore the performance experiences that can be created with light, space, objects, costume, sound, and digital technologies like pervasive media.

You’ll also examine contemporary performance practices, from the immersive and participatory to those staged outside of the theatre, within their wider social, cultural and economic contexts.

Throughout, you’ll have the freedom to experiment in order to create innovative performance through the medium of design. You will also have opportunities to work collaboratively and with external partners.

Leeds has a thriving cultural scene, and is home to contemporary performance events like Light Night, Compass Festival, and Transform Festival. Our industry connections allow you to work closely with local organisations such as Leeds Playhouse, Red Ladder Theatre Company, and innovative artists in the field of performance design.

Explore some of the projects our students work on during their degrees on our gallery of student work.

Specialist facilities

Our School is based in stage@leeds, a purpose-built landmark building that sits at the heart of campus. As our student, you’ll have access to its two professional standard, publicly licensed theatres: the main space seats 180 and is equipped with the latest technologies, and the theatre studio provides a technically advanced performance research facility.

stage@leeds hosts a range of work by students and visiting theatre companies all year round. Within the building you’ll also find rehearsal rooms, two black-box studios, costume construction and wardrobe stores, a design studio, a scenic workshop, computer aided design facilities and video-editing and sound recording.

Explore our facilities

Extensive resources

Leeds University Library is one of the UK’s major academic research libraries, and has extensive holdings to support your studies including Special Collections offering a huge range of rare books, manuscripts and art. You’ll have access to materials relating to Leeds Playhouse, Phoenix Dance Theatre, and more.

Many of the Library’s materials are available online, allowing you to access them from a distance. You’ll also have access to study services like one-to-one support and skills development workshops, which will help you to get the most out of your time with us.

Course details

You’ll study compulsory modules designed to advance your practical and creative skills, as well as giving you a solid base of theoretical knowledge and high level research skills.

You’ll also choose from a range of optional modules, giving you the ability to tailor your studies to suit your interests and career ambitions.

Depending on your optional module choices, you’ll also have the chance to develop your creative practice, collaborate with your fellow students or work with local cultural organisations to investigate working in the cultural industries.

As you progress through your studies, you’ll apply what you’ve learned in an independent research project on a topic of your choice. This can be a written dissertation or a piece of practice-led research with a written commentary.

If you choose to study part-time, you’ll study over a longer period and take fewer modules in each year.

Course structure

The list shown below represents typical modules/components studied and may change from time to time. Read more in our terms and conditions.

For more information and a full list of typical modules available on this course, please read Performance Design MA Full Time in the course catalogue

For more information and a full list of typical modules available on this course, please read Performance Design MA Part Time in the course catalogue

Year 1 compulsory modules

Module Name Credits
Independent Research Project (MA) 60
Performance Design Praxis 30
Critical Concepts in Performance Design 30

Learning and teaching

We use different teaching and learning methods to help you develop your skills and make the most of our tutors’ expertise, including, practicals, seminars, tutorials, lectures and group learning. Independent study is also integral to the course, since it helps you to form your own ideas and build skills in research and analysis.

On this course you’ll be taught by our expert academics, from lecturers through to professors. You may also be taught by industry professionals with years of experience, as well as trained postgraduate researchers, connecting you to some of the brightest minds on campus.


The assessment methods you experience will vary depending on the module. However, to allow you to develop skills in a range of areas they will include essays, performances, visual documentation, verbal presentations, critical evaluations and reports.


Entry requirements

A bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons).

Applications from a wide range of subject areas are considered, including:

  • Theatre
  • Dance
  • Architecture
  • Live art
  • Design and Technology
  • Arts and Humanities

Applicants may have industry experience of theatre or film set design and production, directing, costume-making, technical theatre, lighting, sound design, projection and digital design, art direction or working in associated areas of the creative and cultural industries.

Applicants without a degree may also be considered, if they can demonstrate significant relevant industry experience.


Our admissions team are experienced in considering a wide range of international qualifications. If you wish to discuss whether your qualifications will meet the necessary entry criteria, contact the School’s admissions team.

You can also check the accepted qualifications for your country or region.

English language requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in any component. For other English qualifications, read English language equivalent qualifications.

Improve your English

International students who do not meet the English language requirements for this programme may be able to study our postgraduate pre-sessional English course, to help improve your English language level.

This pre-sessional course is designed with a progression route to your degree programme and you’ll learn academic English in the context of your subject area. To find out more, read Language for Arts and Humanities (6 weeks) and Language for Social Science and Arts: Arts and Humanities (10 weeks).

We also offer online pre-sessionals alongside our on-campus pre-sessionals. Find out more about our six week online pre-sessional.

You can also study pre-sessionals for longer periods – read about our postgraduate pre-sessional English courses.

How to apply

The ‘Apply’ link at the top of this page takes you to information on applying for taught programmes and to the University's online application system.

If you're unsure about the application process, contact the admissions team for help.

Documents and information you'll need

To support your application, you’ll need to provide digital documentation of your previous creative practice. This could include designs and realisations for live performance, or it could be designs that indicate your potential to develop ideas for live performance or it could be evidence of live performance that shows a clear interest in the innovative use of design.

You can send us still images or short video clips, but we recommend using formats such as .pdf or .ppt so they can be easily viewed and shared. Files below 10MB can be emailed directly to the admissions team, or larger files can be shared via Dropbox or WeTransfer. Whatever you choose to send, please provide a short explanation of your work. We’ll want to discuss your work when we interview you.

  • A copy of your degree certificate and transcripts, or partial transcripts if you're still studying (please submit an official English translation if necessary)

  • Evidence of your English language qualifications, if English is not your first language

  • A full up-to-date CV.

A personal statement in response to the questions asked in the supporting statement section of the application form. Please respond to the questions in the application form. These are:

  • What is it about the Masters in Performance Design at the University of Leeds that attracts you? (Be specific about the aims and the content of the Performance Design programme and the compulsory modules and how that matches your interests and aspirations)

  • What are the skills and experiences that you bring with you that will prepare you for the Performance Design compulsory modules?

  • What work have you seen that make innovative use of performance design? Give specific examples, say what interests you particularly about the examples and how that relates to your own aspirations.

  • How do you intend to apply understanding about performance design after you have completed the programme?

Next steps

We pay particular attention to your personal statement and your portfolio when we are deciding on the offer of a place. In some cases we will interview as well - in person or online.

The Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures receives very large numbers of high-quality applications and regrets that it cannot make offers to all of its applicants. Some particularly popular schools may have to reject many that hold the necessary academic qualifications.

Read about visas, immigration and other information in International students. We recommend that international students apply as early as possible to ensure that they have time to apply for their visa.

Admissions policy

University of Leeds Admissions Policy 2025

This course is taught by

School of Performance and Cultural Industries

Contact us

Postgraduate Admissions



UK: £10,750 (total)

International: £22,250 (total)

For fees information for international taught postgraduate students, read Masters fees.

Read more about paying fees and charges.

Part-time fees
Fees for part-time courses are normally calculated based on the number of credits you study in a year compared to the equivalent full-time course. For example, if you study half the course credits in a year, you will pay half the full-time course fees for that year.

Additional cost information

There may be additional costs related to your course or programme of study, or related to being a student at the University of Leeds. Read more on our living costs and budgeting page.

Scholarships and financial support

If you have the talent and drive, we want you to be able to study with us, whatever your financial circumstances. There may be help for students in the form of loans and non-repayable grants from the University and from the government.  Find out more at Masters funding overview.

You may also be eligible to apply for a scholarship to help support your studies.

Career opportunities

This course will give you the knowledge and skills to become an articulate and creative performance design practitioner. This could include; working as a designer or director in theatre, live performance, festivals or the events industry (either within a company or freelance), creating your own performance events or performance company, or working in community arts.

You’ll also gain a range of transferable skills in research, analysis, interpretation and communication, as well as imagination, independence and cultural awareness. This will equip you to work for a variety of roles across the cultural and creative industries, for example, in administration, marketing and management.

There is also a wide variety of careers and employability support available across the University to help you with your career.

Because of the emphasis on research, this course is also good preparation for PhD-level study and teaching.

Careers support

We encourage you to prepare for your career from day one. That’s one of the reasons Leeds graduates are so sought after by employers.

The Careers Centre and staff in your faculty provide a range of help and advice to help you plan your career and make well-informed decisions along the way, even after you graduate. Find out more about Careers support.

Student profile: Karen Stansfield

The University of Leeds has a vibrant, positive community, filled with a diverse range of people in one of the best cities in Britain.
Find out more about Karen Stansfield's time at Leeds