Our four-year BA Drama (including foundation year), will be suitable for you if your academic qualifications do not yet meet our entrance requirements for the three-year version of this course and you want a programme that increases your subject knowledge as well as improves your academic skills in order to support your academic performance.
This four-year course includes a foundation year (Year Zero), followed by a further three years of study. During your Year Zero, you study three academic subjects relevant to your chosen course as well as a compulsory academic skills module, with additional English language for non-English speakers.
You are an Essex student from day one, a member of our global community based at the most internationally diverse campus university in the UK.
After successful completion of Year Zero in our Essex Pathways Department, you progress to complete your course with our Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies.
With Drama at Essex, we offer a rich combination of practical workshops, critical seminars and lectures, and employability opportunities delivered by an experienced team of playwrights, directors, and actors, as well as leading academic theatre specialists.
Areas of exploration in our modules include, but are not limited to:
- Dramatic literature from Ancient Greek tragedy and Shakespeare, to modern plays from around the world
- Contemporary playwriting and devising techniques
- Staging political ideas, human rights and social justice issues
- Gender, identity, orientation and sexual politics on stage
- Creating Applied Theatre in educational and community contexts
- Emergent trends in interactive performance-making and audience participation
Through classroom teaching, practical experiment and professional experience, we help you craft the skillset that will be essential in your creative development. This approach reflects our core belief that engaging with both practice and theory produces a deeper understanding of how theatre works.
Our commitment to the student experience is why we are ranked third for drama in the Guardian University Guide 2021 and top 20 for dance, drama and cinematics (Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021).. Our students love us too – 94% of our Drama students expressed overall satisfaction with their course in the 2020 National Student Survey. Other courses within the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies, including Literature, Creative Writing, Filmmaking and Journalism, are available as options to all our students.
Our expert staff
We have some of the best teachers across the University in our Essex Pathways Department, all of whom have strong subject backgrounds and are highly skilled in their areas.
Become part of the theatre industry by studying with people in the theatre industry. All staff in the Centre for Theatre Studies are professional theatre-makers as well as leading academics in our individual fields. We share a passion for creative and engaging teaching; bringing you ideas and practices informed by our global research interests.
Our high ranking in the Guardian University Guide is made possible because we are a community of award-winning playwrights, directors, performers and practitioners, as well as pre-eminent critics and theoreticians. Alongside specialist guest tutors in acting, directing and stage-management, our core teaching staff includes:
- 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. He is a recognised expert in teaching playwriting and dramatic form.
- Dr Elizabeth Kuti is also a playwright, and is currently Writer-in-Residence for Hampton Court. 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 writes regularly for BBC radio. She also researches in the field of eighteenth-century theatre.
- Dr Liam Jarvis is Co-Director of Analogue and a playwright and theatre practitioner. He also writes and publishes widely on contemporary theatre theory and practice, with a specialism in immersive, interactive and digital theatre.
- Annecy Lax is a specialist in Applied Theatre and human rights in performance, with over a decade of experience in testimonial and verbatim theatre. She has worked in numerous community and educational settings as a facilitator and playwright, and has had work produced by the National Theatre, Soho Theatre and the Bush Theatre.
- Dr Mary Mazzilli is a renowned specialist in World Theatre and is also a practicing playwright and Creative Director of Lumenis Theatre company. As well as touring her work internationally, Mary has published on Chinese Theatre, dramaturgy, translation and digital theatre.
We also regularly invite visiting professionals to take master classes with our students, allowing you to enter into dialogue with the leading figures in theatre. Past visitors include: Gecko Theatre, Frantic Assembly, Uninvited Guests, Clod Ensemble, Freedom Theatre, Tim Crouch, Anna Birch, David Eldridge, Jessica Swale, Melanie Wilson, Robert Holman, Clare Bayley, Lisa Goldman, David Thacker, Annie Castledine, Bobby Baker, Mike Attenborough.
By studying within our Essex Pathways Department for your foundation year, you will have access to all of the facilities that the University of Essex has to offer, as well as those provided by our department to support you:
- We provide computer labs for internet research; classrooms with access to PowerPoint facilities for student presentations; AV facilities for teaching and access to web-based learning materials.
- Our Student Services Hub will support you and provide information for all your needs as a student
- Our social space is stocked with hot magazines and newspapers, and provides an informal setting to meet with your lecturers, tutors and friends.
Take advantage of our other extensive learning resources to assist you in your studies:
- The Lakeside Theatre is a purpose-built 200-seat venue in the heart of the University campus. We stage productions by leading touring companies and new work written, produced and directed by our own staff and students.
- Additionally, the Lakeside Studio is an intimate fully equipped black box theatre. Each year, we invite proposals from current and former Essex students to make work for this space as part of our Homegrown Shows programme.
- The Lakeside Theatre also makes a connection to the cultural hubs of our country as a host of the prestigious National Theatre Live and Royal Shakespeare Company Live screenings.
- We programme practical workshops by world-leading invited artists to help you develop new performance skills.
- Our weekly research seminars provide further opportunities for students to hear writers and practitioners discuss their craft.
- The Research Laboratory creates unique opportunities for our students to contribute to the testing of new ideas over the course of a full rehearsal process. Students collaborate with professional writers, actors, directors, musicians, and choreographers. As part of a creative team, new research questions are explored in practice, with opportunities to share work-in-progress with audiences.
- As well as our high-spec theatre spaces, our campus is home to a wealth of non-theatre venues, including The Hex and ArtExchange, that we use to innovate new site-based work.
- Our students have access to the University’s Media Centre, equipped with state-of-the-art studios, cameras, audio and lighting equipment, and an industry-standard editing suite.
- There are also opportunities to write for our student magazine Rebel or host a Red Radio show.
- Students can view classic films at weekly film screenings in our dedicated 120-seat film theatre.
Be an actor, a writer, a director, a stage-manager, a producer – or something even more exciting! A drama degree opens many doors. Creativity, communication and versatility are highly valued skills in our rapidly changing world.
Our students have gone on to become actors, directors and playwrights, as well as producers, live artists, dramaturgs, stage-managers, and arts managers. Essex students have built rewarding careers as youth workers, community practitioners, drama therapists, and as teachers and academics.
The skillsets developed at Essex have also seen our students find success in a range of related creative industries including journalism, television production, broadcasting, radio presenting, gaming, magazine editing, copywriting, press relations and marketing, as well as in business, commerce and law.
Our graduates have gone on to work in a wide range of creative roles including:
- Writer in Residence for the National Theatre
- Artistic Director of Jermyn Street Theatre, London
- Artistic Director of a successful touring company
- Director for the Almedia Theatre, London
- Manager at a renowned regional theatre
- Live-Artist for Art Angel
- BBC Journalist
- Youth Theatre Leader & Workshop Facilitator
- Outreach and Education Officer
- Front of House Theatre Manager
- Secondary School Teacher
We also work with the university’s Student Development Team to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.
Why we’re great
- We equip you with the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed at Essex and beyond.
- Guarantee your place on your chosen course if you successfully complete your foundation year at Essex.
- Small class sizes allow you to work closely with your teachers and classmates.
We offer a flexible course structure with a mixture of core/compulsory modules, and optional modules chosen from lists.
Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field. The course content is therefore reviewed on an annual basis to ensure our courses remain up-to-date so modules listed are subject to change.
Teaching and learning disclaimer
Following the impact of the pandemic, we made changes to our teaching and assessment to ensure our current students could continue with their studies uninterrupted and safely. These changes included courses being taught through blended delivery, normally including some face-to-face teaching, online provision, or a combination of both across the year.
The teaching and assessment methods listed show what is currently approved for 2022 entry; changes may be necessary if, by the beginning of this course, we need to adapt the way we’re delivering them due to the external environment, and to allow you to continue to receive the best education possible safely and seamlessly.
- Your teaching mainly takes the form of lectures and classes, the latter involving about 20 students
- A typical timetable includes a one-hour lecture and a one-hour class for each of your four modules every week
- Any language classes involve language laboratory sessions
- Our classes are run in small groups, so you receive a lot of individual attention
- Your assessed coursework will generally consist of essays, reports, in-class tests, book reviews, individual or group oral presentations, and small scale research projects