Music Performance Practice PhD/MA by Research

Uniquely, we offer degrees in performance practice at MA by Research and PhD levels, which allows performers of a proven ability to develop their work on historically-informed performances of western art music. The programmes are assessed by performance supported by written work which demonstrates a high level of ability in presenting, and reasoning from, historical evidence relating to performance practice.

Course fact file

Duration: PhD - 3 years full-time, 6 years part-time; MA by Research - 1 year full-time, 2 years part-time

Start date: Year-round. Major intakes in September and January.


The MA by Research in Performance Practice is examined by:

  • a thesis of c.20,000 words
  • a performance not exceeding 45 minutes actual performance time (30-35 minutes for wind and brass players) which illustrates, at least in part, ideas raised in the thesis
  • a written programme note for, and detailed critical commentary on, the performance.

The PhD in Performance Practice is examined in two stages. At the end of Year 2, you will give a live ‘Minor Performance’ of 30 minutes, together with a written programme note for, and critical commentary on, the performance.  This performance is examined by two internal examiners and is followed immediately by a short viva focusing on issues of performance. You may be advised by the examiners not to proceed to the PhD in Performance Practice, but rather to transfer to a Musicology PhD.

At the end of Year 3, you will be examined by:

  • a thesis of c.60,000 words
  •  a ‘Major’ performance of one hour’s actual performance time (40-50 minutes for wind and brass players),
  •  a written programme note for, and detailed critical commentary on, the performance.

Note, the performance will be given as a standard live recital, of which a recording will be made and a copy on CD submitted with the library copy of the thesis. The recital element will be examined by three examiners (one external and two internal).

These courses can be studied on campus, or by Distance Learning

At Birmingham you also have the option of studying languages, free of charge. Almost no other UK University offers you the opportunity to learn the intense graduate academic language skills which you may need to pursue your research.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2014/15 are as follows:

  • Home / EU: full-time - £3,996; part-time - £1,998
  • Overseas: full-time - £13,855; part-time - £6,927.50

Learn more about fees and funding

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To be eligible for these awards, candidates must hold either an offer of a place to study or have submitted an application to study at the University. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

Entry requirements

Learn more about entry requirements

International students

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

How to apply

Learn more about applying

Research interests of staff

  • Singers and singing; gender and sexuality; performance; early modern period.
    Contact: Dr Amy Brosius
  • Fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; violin performance; conducting.
    Contact: Dr Andrew Kirkman
  • Early music performance practice.
    Contact: Dr Mary O'Neill
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5792


The University of Birmingham has been ranked 8th in the UK and 60th in the world for post-qualification employability in the latest global survey of universities commissioned by the International Herald Tribune.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by the employability skills training offered through the College of Arts and Law Graduate School.

The Department has an exceptional record of success at placing graduates in academic positions. More than twenty COMPASS postgraduates have been awarded positions at institutions internationally and throughout the U.K., including Harvard University, the University of Manchester, the University of Sheffield, Edinburgh University, the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, the University of Malaysia, Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. In Musicology and Performance Practice, former Birmingham doctoral students hold positions at the University of North Carolina, the University of Leeds, the University of Huddersfield, the Birmingham Conservatoire and the Birmingham department itself. Over the last five years, we are proud that 100 per cent of our Music students have been in employment or further study within six months of graduating.