Music Performance Practice PhD/MA by Research (On Campus or by Distance Learning)

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.

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James Lovelock

James Lovelock

Doctoral researcher, Department of Music

“For me, it’s been great to be able to study for my PhD alongside taking advantage of the other opportunities that the university and the Guild of Students offer. In the last three years, I have written and directed musicals in Birmingham and London and recorded the soundtrack in a studio, organised over twenty events for LGBTQ History Month, helped to run a research conference, improvised at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and worked five different casual and part-time jobs for various university and guild departments. This depth of experiences is just not possible with a full-time job, and I have absolutely no regrets about coming back to university for my PhD.”

The MA by Research in Performance Practice is examined by:

  • 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.

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).

Distance learning

You can study an MA by Research or PhD programme on campus or by distance learning. Please note that if you are studying with us by distance learning, the programme includes a fully-funded annual visit to campus for each full year of your programme (every two years for part-time students).

For more information on distance learning including answers to frequently asked questions, student experiences and funding opportunities, please see our distance learning website

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.

Profiles of our current Music doctoral researchers

Why study this course

  • The department celebrated excellent Research Assessment Exercise 2014 results: 38% of research at the University of Birmingham for Music was top 4* rated ‘world-leading'. A further 50% was rated 3* ‘internationally excellent’.
  • We are located in the Bramall Music Building in Chancellor’s Court at the heart of the University campus. The premises are centred on the 450-seat Elgar Concert Hall and contain a suite dedicated to the study and performance of early music, five electroacoustic studios and a large rehearsal room.
  • Our Music Library is one of the best in the country, with special collections focused on 20th-century English music, including Elgar’s diaries, manuscript scores and early editions, and Baroque music, including many manuscript and early printed sources, and an extensive microfilm collection.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2017/18:

  • Home/EU: £4,180 full-time; £2,090 part-time*
  • Overseas: £15,570 full-time

* For UK/EU postgraduate research students the University fee level is set at Research Council rates and as such is subject to change. The final fee will be announced by Research Councils UK in spring 2017.

The above fees quoted are for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuition fees and funding

Entry requirements

Applications for the PhD programme need to be supported by a piece of academic writing of c3,000 words, as well as a recital comprising a diverse programme, relevant to your intended course, of c.30 mins. in duration. This can be provided via YouTube, Youku or DropBox. 

In contrast, for the Masters by Research, applicants need to supply a writing sample of at least 1,500 words, in addition to a bibliography and notes, as well as a 20-min. recital.

Our requirements for postgraduate research are dependent on the type of programme you are applying for:

  • For the MA by Research programme, entry usually requires a good (normally a 2:1 or above) Honours degree in Music or a related subject, or an equivalent qualification if you were educated outside the UK.
  • If you are applying for a PhD then you will usually also need to hold a good Masters qualification in Music or a related subject.

Any academic and professional qualifications or relevant professional experience you may have are normally taken into account, and in some cases, form an integral part of the entrance requirements.

If you are applying for distance learning research programmes, you will also be required to demonstrate that you have the time, commitment, facilities and experience to study by distance learning.

If your qualifications are non-standard or different from the entry requirements stated here, please contact the admissions tutor.

How to apply

 Applications for the PhD programme need to be supported by a piece of academic writing of c3,000 words, as well as a recital comprising a diverse programme, relevant to your intended course, of c.30 mins. in duration. This can be provided via YouTube, Youku or DropBox. 

In contrast, for the Masters by Research, applicants need to supply a writing sample of at least 1,500 words, in addition to a bibliography and notes, as well as a 20-min. recital.

Before you make your application

Please refer to our six step process on applying for PhD, MA by Research and MRes opportunities for Arts subject areas.

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Additional Guidance for applicants to the PhD Distance Learning study mode.

Making your application

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

The University has been recognised for its impressive graduate employment, being named ‘University of the Year for Graduate Employment’ in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016.

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 University also offers a wide range of activities and services to give our students the edge in the job market, including: career planning designed to meet the needs of postgraduates; opportunities to meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs, employer presentations and skills workshops; individual guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique; and access to comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.

University of the Year for employability

Birmingham's Music postgraduates work in a wide range of careers within and beyond the music world. A postgraduate degree in Music develops a broad base of skills including general skills such as communication, problem solving and research, and also specific skills developed by practice and performance such as self-management, team work and presentation.

Over the past five years, 91% of Music postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Whilst some graduates pursue music-related careers, or go on to teaching and lecturing roles, others choose to use their transferable skills to follow career paths in fields including finance and the public sector.

Music postgraduate alumni profiles

Birmingham has been transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Get involved

In addition to the student groups hosted by the Guild of Students, each school runs its own social activities, research fora, seminars and groups for postgraduates.

Accommodation

Coming to Birmingham to study might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

Support in your studies

We offer an Academic Writing Advisory Service, which aims to help your transition to postgraduate research. The service offers guidance on organising your ideas and structuring an argument, referencing and avoiding plagiarism, being clear and coherent and editing your work for academic style and linguistic accuracy. Individual support is provided by a professional academic writing advisor via tutorials or email, as well as through the provision of online materials.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and cultures, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work. Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.