Musical Composition PhD/MA by Research (On-Campus or by Distance Learning)

Music as a creative art form in the 21st century can combine both tradition and innovation, bringing together instruments (some new, some with centuries of history) and the latest in high technology. As a composer today all of these resources are available to you, and our research degrees in composition aim to foster your skills as you navigate this exciting new world. On this programme you can create works which use electroacoustics and computer technology, traditional (and not so traditional) instrumental and vocal composition, or which combine these aspects. Works for interactive systems, multimedia, and sound installations are also welcome, and you are encouraged to find your own individual path.

Course fact file

Type of Course: Distance learning, doctoral research

Study Options: Full time, part time

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.

Contact

Admissions Tutor: Dr Scott Wilson

Alternatively, you can contact us on +44 (0)121 414 5767.

Details

Both the PhD and MA by Research require you to attend a training programme as prescribed by the Department and both are assessed on the submission of a portfolio of compositions but these differ between the two programmes:

MA by Research – the portfolio should have a total duration of between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the nature and size of the forces used, to be agreed with the supervisor.

For those following the MA by Research programme, it is possible to upgrade to a PhD.

PhD – this substantial portfolio (approximately 90 minutes in duration) should display a suitable range of genres and resources to be agreed by the supervisor, which is not derivative, and which satisfies the examiners that it contains original work which is worthy of performance at a professional level and also worthy of publication. You can study for a PhD on campus or by Distance Learning.

You will have access to outstanding facilities in the new £16 million Bramall Music building, including five electroacoustic studios (all of them multichannel; the largest 24 channel), an isolation room for recording, a dedicated control room which can record sound from around the building, and an 18 seat computer cluster. The Dome room is home to the 32 channel Mini-BEAST system, regularly used for listening sessions, rehearsals, and concerts. The Elgar Concert Hall – which has extremely flexible acoustics and technologically advanced AV systems designed by renowned acoustician and architect Nicolas Edwards (Symphony Hall Birmingham, Symphony Centre Dallas, Royal Shakespeare Theatre) – is arguably the best and most adaptable space of its kind in any University in the UK. Like the entire building it is wired for audio over Ethernet, and multi-projector video presentation.

You have the opportunity to write works for the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (our ‘Ensemble in Association’) the Department’s New Music Ensemble, and for other workshops with visiting performers (e.g. Darragh Morgan, Carla Rees, and Joby Burgess in recent years). The internationally recognised BEAST system (Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre; arguably the best system of its type in the world) regularly presents student works in concerts with up to 100 loudspeakers in Birmingham and abroad (e.g. Berlin, Copenhagen, Basel). Our postgraduate laptop ensemble, the Birmingham Ensemble for Electroacoustic Research (BEER) provides opportunities to explore advanced aspects of live electroacoustic performance such as controller integration, network music, and live coding.

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

For applicants to the PhD Distance Learning study mode only:

As part of the application process for the distance learning study mode, we will ask you to provide evidence to demonstrate that you have the time, commitment, facilities and experience to study for a PhD by Distance Learning. Please be prepared to provide evidence, and details, of the following:

  • Examples of your postgraduate research experience and ability to work independently e.g. papers/presentations at professional and academic conferences or publications in professional journals or previous completion of an independent research project, etc.
  • Full reasons (academic and personal) for registering for the distance learning mode of study rather than by standard full or part-time on-campus options. In particular, how you will be able to carry out your project in your chosen location.
  • Access to local library facilities (where needed)
  • Access to IT facilities
  • Access to communications, including e-mail and visual communication media e.g. Skype and Facetime
  • Access to facilities to support any study-related disability (where appropriate)

You can upload this information at the time of application - when asked to provide supporting documentation - or via your applicant portal once you have submitted your application.

For all applicants:

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

Research interests of staff

  • Composition and acousmatic electroacoustic music
    Contact: Professor Jonty Harrison
    Director of the Electroacoustic Music Studios
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5787
    Email: d.j.t.harrison@bham.ac.uk
  • Composition and live electroacoustic music
    Contact: Dr Scott Wilson
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5767
    Email: s.d.wilson.1@bham.ac.uk
  • Instrumental/Vocal Composition
    Contact: Professor Michael Zev Gordon
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 6743
    Email: m.z.gordon.1@bham.ac.uk

Contact

Admissions Tutor: Dr Scott Wilson

Alternatively, you can contact us on +44 (0)121 414 5767.

Employability

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% of our Music students have been in employment or further study within six months of graduating.

Contact

Admissions Tutor: Dr Scott Wilson

Alternatively, you can contact us on +44 (0)121 414 5767.