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

Start date
Year-round. Major intakes in September and January.
Duration
Full time: PhD – 3 years, MA by Research – 1 year
Course Type
Postgraduate, Distance learning, Doctoral research
Fees

Annual tuition fee 2021/22:
UK: £4,500 full-time, £2,250 part-time
International: £18,810 full-time; £9,405 part-time (distance learning only)
More detail.

Our research degree in composition aims to foster your skills as you navigate an exciting new musical world, which combines tradition and innovation, bringing together instruments and the latest in high technology.

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.

AHRC funding for PhD students

The University of Birmingham is part of the Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Partnership (M4C), offering Arts and Humanities Research Council PhD studentships for campus-based programmes. These include a number of Collaborative Doctoral Award opportunities. Each studentship includes research fees, a substantial maintenance grant and additional research training support. Applications are open until 12:00 (noon), 13 January 2021.

Find out more

The Department of Music offers two options for postgraduate research, whether you are looking to complete your academic studies with a PhD or to pursue Masters-level research following an undergraduate degree a related field.

Both the PhD and MA by Research require you to attend a Departmental training programme as 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 this 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 that is worthy of performance at a professional level and also worthy of publication.

To find out more about this programme and make an enquiry you can contact Ryan Latimer, your Admissions Tutor.

COVID-19

Please rest assured that we will make all reasonable efforts to provide you with the courses, services and facilities described. However, it may be necessary to make changes due to significant disruption, for example in response to COVID-19.

Information for future students and applicants

The facilities at the Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre (BEAST) are some of the best in the UK. My supervisors give me the freedom to have fun with my research portfolio and there are regular opportunities to get more involved with department events and teaching.

Nikki

Why Study this Course?

  • Workshops and visiting performers: The Department of Music is host to a range of ensembles and activities which provide workshop and performance opportunities for postgraduate students. For example, the Department hosts workshops with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (our ‘Ensemble in Association’), while the Department’s New Music Ensemble has a history of presenting student works. We also offer other workshops with visiting performers and ensembles (e.g. Fidelio Trio, Bozzini Quartet, Ligeti Quartet in recent years). Students have the opportunity to work with the internationally recognised BEAST system (Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre; arguably the best system of its type in the world) which also presents student works in concerts with up to 100 loudspeakers in Birmingham and when possible abroad (e.g. Berlin, Copenhagen, Basel).  Opportunities for workshops and performances vary from year to year, and spaces available are limited, so the Department cannot guarantee that all applicants will be accommodated for any given opportunity. The Department runs an open call which aims to allocate places fairly, although some workshops or activities are associated with particular modules, and students enrolled on those may be prioritised. Students interested in instrumental composition workshops should expect to be offered a place at least once in their studies.
  • Excellent opportunities: 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.
  • World-leading research: The Department celebrated excellent results in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF), where 50% of research outputs (which measure the quality of published research produced by academics) for Music were top 4* rated as ‘world-leading'. This output score was one of the leading scores in the country.
  • Scholarship opportunities: The Department has generous scholarship funding to cover fees and/or maintenance costs in cases of appropriate attainment. You can find out more on our College funding and scholarships page.

The postgraduate experience

The College of Arts and Law offers excellent support to its postgraduates, from libraries and research spaces, to careers support and funding opportunities. Learn more about your postgraduate experience.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) latest updates and FAQs for future students and offer-holders

Visit our FAQs

Fees

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2021/22 are as follows:

  • UK: £4,500 full-time; £2,250 part-time
  • International: £18,810 full-time; £9,405 part-time (distance learning only)

The same fees apply to both campus-based and distance learning study. The distance learning programme fee also includes a fully-funded visit to campus for each full year of the programme.

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.

* For UK 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 2021.

For EU students applying for the 2020/21 academic year

The UK Government has confirmed that EU students will continue to be eligible for 'home fee status' for entry in the 2020/21 academic year. For more information, please read the government’s guidance for EU students.

Fee status

Eligibility for UK or international fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students.

Paying your fees

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

How To Apply

Application deadlines

Postgraduate research can start at any time during the year, but it is important to allow time for us to review your application and communicate a decision. If you wish to start in September, we would recommend that you aim to submit your application and supporting documents by 1 July 2021.

Distance learning students will attend a residential visit in September or January, and those students wishing to attend the September residential are also encouraged to apply by 1 July 2021. The visit will take place at the end of September/beginning of October and you will receive further details once you have accepted your offer.

Six steps to apply for our Postgraduate Research courses

Do you have an idea for an interesting research project? You can follow our six easy steps to apply to study for our postgraduate research courses. These include guidance on identifying funding opportunities and writing your research proposal.

Please also see our additional guidance for applicants to the PhD Distance Learning study mode.

Please note: While our PhD programmes are normally studied in three years full-time or six years part-time, and Masters-level research programmes one year full-time or two years part-time, many programmes have a longer length listed in course or funding applications. This is because the course length is defined as the maximum period of registration, which includes a period of supervised study plus a thesis awaited period. The maximum period of registration for a full-time PhD is four years (three years supervision plus one year thesis awaited). For a full-time Masters-level research programme, it is two years (one year supervision plus one year thesis awaited). For part-time programmes, the periods are double the full-time equivalent.

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

Our Standard Requirements

Applicants must submit sample compositional work in the form of scores and/or recordings (as appropriate to specialty). These can be submitted by mail, or (preferably) electronically, using wetransfer or similar or a weblink.

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

  • For MA by Research programmes, entry to our programmes 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.

International Requirements


Please contact a staff member working in your area of interest in the first instance. A summary of our key research areas, and staff working within those, can be found below.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for your future career, but this can also be enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University and the College of Arts and Law.

The University's Careers Network provides expert guidance and activities especially for postgraduates, which will help you achieve your career goals. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated  careers and employability team who offer tailored advice and a programme of College-specific careers events.

You will be encouraged to make the most of your postgraduate experience and will have the opportunity to:

  • Receive one-to-one careers advice, including guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique, whether you are looking for a career inside or outside of academia
  • Meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs and employer presentations
  • Attend an annual programme of careers fairs, skills workshops and conferences, including bespoke events for postgraduates in the College of Arts and Law
  • Take part in a range of activities to demonstrate your knowledge and skills to potential employers and enhance your CV

What’s more, you will be able to access our full range of careers support for up to 2 years after graduation.

Postgraduate employability: Music

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 5 years, 75% of Music postgraduates were in work and/or further study 6 months after graduation (DLHE 2012 - 2017). While 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 teaching, social care and publishing.

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