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

The Music Department offers promising candidates the opportunity to carry out research in one of the most dynamic institutions in Britain, with access to outstanding facilities.

Our staff include composers, performers and writers on music. Our wide research expertise covers the Medieval, Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods, 19th and 20th century British music, music analysis, critical theory, ethnomusicology and sound studies. 

Major funding opportunity for Home/EU applicants to this PhD programme

We are part of the Midlands3Cities consortium, offering up to 89 Arts and Humanities Research Council funded studentships. This includes full research fees, a substantial maintenance grant and additional research training support. Applications are now open. Find out more detailed information on this scheme.

 James Lovelock

James Lovelock

“I was at Birmingham as an undergraduate and I had a particularly good relationship with my supervisor, and the department of Music. During the course I I have been involved with several of the Guild drama societies – I directed Cabaret in my first year and then wrote and directed my own musical Sunshine Guy in my second year. I also love Birmingham as a city – there is so much going on and it has all the benefits of a city but with a proper campus community.”
Ask James a question

Our research expertise covers:

  • Western music history
  • British music since 1850
  • Italian opera and vocal music
  • Music analysis
  • Critical theory
  • Music and nationalism
  • Ethnomusicology
  • Popular music

The MA by Research programme leads to the submission of a thesis of not more than 40,000 words, whilst the PhD requires an 80,000 word thesis to be submitted. Both routes may require you to undertake training from courses in the Department’s taught MA programme.

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

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, there is a compulsory annual visit to campus (every two years for part-time PhD students) - please see our frequently asked questions about distance learning to find out more.

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’.
  • Employers that graduates have gone on to work for include: Arts Council England; BBC; Birmingham Conservatoire; Birmingham Contemporary Music Group; Coventry City Council Performing Arts Service; Lancaster University; National Opera Studio; National Orchestra; Raffles Institution; and Royal Northern College of Music.
  • Our wide research expertise covers the whole of western music history.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2016/17:

  • Home/EU: £4,110 full-time; £2,055 part-time*
  • Overseas: £15,030 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 2016.

For part-time students, the above fee quoted is for year one only and 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

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

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

  • Ethnomusicology; popular music; sound studies.
    Contact: Dr Eliot Bates
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 9198
  • Singers and Singing; gender; early modern period.
    Contact: Dr Amy Brosius
  • Twentieth century Britain and Italy; critical theory; music under Fascism.
    Contact: Dr Ben Earle
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 7962
  • Fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; popular music; performance; Shostakovich.
    Contact: Dr Andrew Kirkman
  • Medieval music.
    Contact: Dr Mary O'Neill
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5792
  • Music analysis; music and nationalism; Classical and Romantic instrumental music; Elgar.
    Contact: Dr Matthew Riley
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 3240
  • Nineteenth and twentieth century British music.
    Contact: Dr Paul Rodmell
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5793

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.

In addition, the global edition of The New York Times has ranked the University 60th in the world and 9th in UK for post-qualification employability. The rankings illustrate the top 150 universities most frequently selected by global employers and are the result of a survey by French consulting firm Emerging and German consulting firm Trendence.

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, 96% of Music postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Whilst some graduates pursue music-related careers, others choose to use their transferable skills to follow career paths in fields including finance, the media and the public sector. Employers that graduates have gone on to work for include: Arts Council England; BBC; Birmingham Conservatoire; Birmingham Contemporary Music Group; Coventry City Council Performing Arts Service; Lancaster University; National Opera Studio; National Orchestra; Raffles Institution; and Royal Northern College of Music.

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.


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.

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.