MA Design for Performance

MA Design for Performance

Course Overview

  • Specialist tuition from established team of professional design practitioners
  • Input from visiting professionals from around the world
  • Design positions in up to two College productions ranging from drama to musical theatre and opera
  • Professional work placement opportunities
  • Public exhibition of your work for one week in Cardiff and four days in London, including industry nights for an invited audience of potential employers
  • Final component a formal Dissertation at the end of Year 2 or the completion of a reflective portfolio based on your professional engagement after three years with support and mentoring from College tutors

Pathways within the MA Design for Performance

Set and Costume Design:

This is the traditional UK theatre design pathway, working towards designing for theatre, opera and dance. This is the original course and is based around conceptual design projects where you will build skills in model making and digital design as well as working within production departments with the College to expand skillsets.

This pathway is often the route towards application for the Linbury Prize competition, design assistant work or first destination employment as a designer.

Set Design:

This pathway offers a more focused development of skills and training  needed for film and television. Having enhanced skills and experienced the rigour of working as a member of a production team, this pathway often leads towards designs for studio or short films, placements within film and television and focused skills projects to enhance employability within the film industry.

This pathway often leads to roles within art departments as the breadth of skills acquired and the working ethos and managerial capacities are immediately transferable.

Costume Design and Construction:

Students following this pathway will follow a series of skills projects to develop a higher level of understanding in costume construction alongside an introduction the designing for costume. Production work places the student at the centre of a small team in the very real world of Richard Burton Theatre Productions. Students are encouraged to realise at least one of their designs and choose then to focus on Making, Design or Supervision. This is supported by a range of professional placement opportunities across theatre and film.

Graduates find employment across the entertainment sector.

Scenic Arts and Construction:

Students are given access to our production workshops from the beginning of the course. Your skills and interests are tested during induction as well as a series of skills-based projects. You then will be given the opportunity to  engage with the construction departments.  Students can follow a route into construction or scenic arts whilst also developing the ability to become project managers.

Graduates from this pathway find employment across the event and entertainment sectors.

Prop Design and Making:

In the pathway, you will be making high end props for film, event and theatre. This pathway combines traditional production opportunities with skills development in advanced digital skills and manufacturing using 3D printing, CNC, laser cutting, mould making and casting and sculpture.

Graduates from this pathway gain employment across the film and event sectors.

Puppetry Design and Making:

The Design department at RWCMD commission a significant design production every year which forms a core part of the puppetry pathway alongside school workshops. You will acquire making skills working with our core staff and identify areas of particular interest across the range of skills.

Graduates from this pathway work across all areas of industry in addition to working with community and outreach projects.

Lighting Design:

Gain the skills you need to become an innovative lighting designer. The students share classes with the MA design cohort and are assessed with them a part of their final Website/Exhibition module. However, they spend significant parts of their course working with technical students from both the BA and MA Stage management technical cohorts in order to gain the practical skills needed. 

Graduates from this pathway grow to develop a rich source of contacts from across design and stage management. You are given several significant opportunities to design for college productions across theatre, opera and musical theatre.

Graduates from this pathway move successfully into the theatre industry as designers.

Sound Design:

Develop excellent knowledge and techniques in recording, mixing, and special effects in order to become a Sound Designer. Students share classes with the MA design cohort and are assessed with them a part of their final Website/Exhibition module. However, you will spend significant parts of your course working with technical students from both the BA and MA Stage management technical cohorts.

Graduates from this pathway grow to develop a rich source of contacts from across design and stage management. They are given several significant opportunities to design for college productions across theatre, opera and musical theatre.

Graduates from this pathway move successfully into the theatre industry as designers and sound engineers.

Digital Media Design 

Video Design and VR design pathways are part of a bespoke pathways that we have created for a number of applicants who have demonstrated the skills needed.  Students are part of the larger MA design community sharing master classes and they also engage with the Stage management programme to access any technical skills classes delivered across that programme. Video designers contribute to live productions at the college and work alongside professional video supervisors.

Graduates from this pathway will be introduced to industry via placements during both years of their training and forge links for future employment.

Collaborative Performance Practice (Design) 

RWCMD has a reputation for producing innovative graduates with the ability to work across all performance genres. There is a flexibility in their skills allowing them to move beyond their disciplines. For some time, the College has encouraged collaboration between all students in the Repco programme. This new course will be founded on the spirit of the Repco performance festivals.

The Collaborative Performance Practice pathway will offer the opportunity for designers, writers, directors, composers and performers from drama and music to create original new work as performance makers. To develop future collaborators to challenge current practice and create new modes of performance practice.

It will be based around the acquisition of new skills the exploration of performance theory and the development of significant collaborative practice. It will explore traditional performance making and test the boundaries of new technologies.

Course Structure

Please note that, while the information below reflects the programme offered to date, it may be subject to amendment and change in future years. Students are always consulted on such change and details are made available to applicants holding offers.

In order to progress through the course, students normally have to pass all modules and achieve 180 credits.

  • Module Information
    Module Credits
    Design for Performance practice 1 20
    Design for Performance practice 2 40
    Realised Performance Practice Module 40
    Industry Practice, Digital Profile and Exhibition 40
    Performance Practice Portfolio (Dissertation or Performance Practice Portfolio) 40



Entry Requirements

Entry requirements usually include a degree or equivalent qualification in an art and design related subject. Selection is made on the basis of an interview and portfolio presentation. The College may consider applications from people without formal qualifications, if they have an exceptional level of practical ability and suitable portfolio content.


International Applicants

International applicants whose first language is not English will need to demonstrate that their English language ability meets the College’s minimum requirements. Please refer to our English Language Requirements page for details of accepted English language tests and required scores.


Tuition Fees for 2023-2024

Course Duration Students from the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands, and Isle of Man Overseas Students
2 years full time  £15,000 *  £30,000 * 

* This is the full amount.

Further information on the funding available towards the cost of tuition fees.

  • Other costs

    Travel costs are low as most parts of the city are easily accessible on foot. The halls of residence, most residential areas and the city centre are a 10-15-minute walk from the campus. 

    Some teaching will take place at our Llanishen Studios, which is a short bus ride from the campus. A weekly ticket from Cardiff Bus is £14.50 and students aged 16-21 can apply for a pass which reduces this to £9.40 (prices correct as of November 2022). 

    There is an essential tool kit at the start of the course containing the following items in order to start the course, which is available to purchase from the College at a specially negotiated price of £75, which is 50% of the normal price.

    Essential Tool Kit 

    • Swann-Morton Graphic Knife Set (No. 3 Handle and 10a Blades) 
    • Set of 12 artists’ sketching pencils – grades 2H to 8B 
    • Winsor & Newton Gesso 500ml 
    • Hardback spiral sketchbook A3 
    • Set of Daler-Rowney System 3 Acrylics 75ml Tubes (8 colours) 
    • Winsor & Newton Watercolour Set 
    • Artists’ drawing inks – set of 4 
    • General-purpose brushes 1”, 2”, and 3” 
    • Set of 10 assorted small round and flat artists’ brushes 
    • Metric scale rule (triangular) with specified scales 
    • Adjustable set square 
    • Set square 45 degree 
    • Lockable toolbox 20 inch or more 
    • Compass set 
    • Set of 4 fine liners (black): 0.1, 0.3, 0.5, 0.7 
    • Protractor 
    • 45cm plastic T-square 
    • Flat metal ruler 30cm 
    • 6” scissors 
    • 9” fabric scissors 
    • Thimble 
    • Clear plastic ruler 18” 
    • Tape measure – cloth 
    • A2 cutting mat 
    • 5m steel retractable tape measure 
    • Snap-off craft knife
    • Small, pointed pliers 
    • Small wire snips 

    You will also need to purchase your own steel toe safety shoes. Students are not allowed into the workshops without safety shoes. 

    Using laptops or tablets to support your design and academic studies is a crucial part of your learning. While the College provides computers for teaching and access throughout the day, you will find it necessary at times to use a computer while working at home. The computer should have the following specification: 

    • Intel Core i5 processor 
    • 8GB RAM 
    • 500GB hard drive 
    • NVIDIA or AMD Radeon graphics card with 2GB of dedicated RAM

    The College provides students access to a large range of software both on college computers and with licenses for the students’ personal computers on a project-by-project basis. Students should however subscribe to Adobe Premiere Suite as all students will use the software provided via the Adobe Creative Cloud. 

    Students are encouraged to attend as many College performances as possible and are eligible for free tickets to Richard Burton Company shows. For other performances, students are eligible for discounted tickets. 

    Students who arrange external professional placements in conjunction with course leaders are responsible for any expenses incurred. 

    The College covers the cost of transportation to London and back for the final exhibition as well as 50% of the accommodation costs. Students are required to cover the remaining 50% – currently £100. Breakfast is provided but other food and drinks are at students’ own cost. 

    For the exhibition stand, you will need to cover the costs of any extra technical equipment required, in consultation with the technical manager. Packing materials for your exhibit are also at your own expense, as are website hosting fees, printing, business cards and crew t-shirts. 

    Dissertations need to be submitted in hardcopy and the cost of printing and binding is the responsibility of the student. 

    Students who are required to re-sit assessments may be expected to pay a resit fee. 

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