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MA Music (with Performance): Performance pathway

Start date
1 year full-time; 2 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Taught

Annual tuition fee for 2024 entry:
UK: £11,642 full-time
International: £25,290 full-time
More detail.

The Performance Pathway will equip you with practical, theoretical, and professional skills and knowledge in music performance at an advanced level, nurturing your holistic development as a performer, and preparing you for a career within today's music industry.

Full time staff include Director of Performance Ceri Owen,  an award-winning collaborative pianist and scholar - who leads the pathway - as well as scholar-performer and early music conductor Andrew Kirkman. Tailored instrumental or vocal tuition is delivered through one-to-one lessons with leading professional performers employed either directly by the University of Birmingham or through the faculty at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. You also receive the opportunity to take advantage of the early performance opportunities afforded by the Centre for Early Music Performance and Research (CEMPR). Other performance staff in the Music Department include Simon Halsey, renowned chorus master of the CBSO and Berlin Radio Choir, and orchestral conductor Daniele Rosina.

You will develop and refine your skills as a performing musician through a combination of expert individual tuition on your instrument or voice, together with performance classes, seminars, and tutorials. You will be introduced to research in music performance studies and guided in how to draw on historical and contextual perspectives to inform and nourish your musical understanding and your individual creative and professional practice. You will also have opportunities to develop professional skills and knowledge needed to foster a music career and identify transferable skills for adjacent career trajectories. 

Performance constitutes perhaps our fastest growing and most exciting venture, with ambitious plans developing from the £16 million Bramall Music Building, a facility equipped with the acoustically peerless Elgar Concert Hall - one of the most flexible concert halls of its type in any UK university - and Dome Room, designed by Birmingham Symphony Hall acoustician Nick Edwards. The recently opened University Music Hub offers a superbly equipped recording studio and flexible rehearsal spaces which are ideal for recording.

Scholarships for 2024 entry

The University of Birmingham is proud to offer a range of scholarships for our postgraduate programmes. With a scholarship pot worth over £2 million, we are committed to alleviating financial barriers to support you in taking your next steps.

Each scholarship has its own specific deadlines and eligibility criteria. Please familiarise yourself with the information on individual scholarship webpages prior to submitting an application.

Explore our scholarships

At Birmingham, Postgraduate Taught and Postgraduate Research students also have the opportunity to learn graduate academic languages free of charge, to support your studies.

The MA in Music at Birmingham offers first class, world-recognised staff who are absolute experts in their fields, so you're learning from people who really are the best at what they do. We also have excellent facilities such as the Elgar Concert Hall, which is arguably the most flexible concert hall of its type in any UK university.

Professor Scott Wilson

Why study this course?

  • Excellent reputation – the Department of Music is one of the most distinguished in the UK. We have a long  history stretching back to 1905 when Edward Elgar was appointed the University’s first Professor of Music. The Department also looks forward, utilising cutting-edge developments in the practice and study of music. 
  • Fantastic resources available – the state-of-the-art Bramall Music Building offers outstanding facilities, including climate controlled rooms for the Centre for Early Music Performance and Research, multichannel electroacoustic music studios and BEAST (the department’s huge loudspeaker system for electroacoustic music). It is also home to the acoustically flexible and technologically advanced 450-seat Elgar Concert Hall. The University Music Hub also offers state of the art practice and rehearsal spaces, and facilities for recording student performers.
  • Taught by experts in the field – you will have the opportunity to draw upon the wide range of interests and knowledge held by the Department’s expert academic staff. 
  • The city – the main University campus is within easy reach of the world-renowned Symphony Hall – home of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) and the Hippodrome – home of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. The Department itself mounts concerts in Symphony Hall, the CBSO Centre and the historic Town Hall, which was the venue for the premieres of many major works, including Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius.

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.


Core modules

You will study five core modules:

Advanced Performance 1

This module is for advanced performers who are approaching a professional standard. Your performance skills will be honed through individual tuition with an expert on your instrument or voice. The module culminates in a recital which helps to establish technical skills needed for Advanced Performance 2 and other MA performance modules.
Assessment: 10 minute recital

Advanced Performance 2

Following on from Advanced Performance 1, your performance skills will be honed through further individual tuition with an expert on your instrument or voice, together with academic supervision that will support you in researching and delivering a Lecture Recital, in which you explore a chosen programme of music from historical, analytical, and interpretative perspectives.
Assessment: 20 minute lecture recital (10 minute performance + 10 minute lecture).

Performance Skills 1

This module runs in the autumn term. It is intended to develop skills that will complement and enhance performances given in other MA performance modules. You will attend a series of seminars exploring topics in Musicians' Health and Wellbeing, which focus on the physical and psychological elements of performance. You will deliver a presentation summarising the key skills and techniques explored in the seminars, relating them to your own performance practice. You will also attend Barber Concerts and critically reflect on professional performances through writing reviews of select concerts. 

Assessment: 10 minute oral presentation and concert reviews (500 words per concert).

Performance Skills 2

This module runs in the spring semester. Following on from Performance Skills 1, Performance Skills 2 is again intended to develop skills that will complement and enhance performances given in other MA performance modules. You will attend a series of 'Performance Platform' classes, where students perform for one another, analyse and critically reflect on peer performances, and receive feedback and coaching from professional performers. Emphasis is placed on discussion and workshopping of stagecraft, presentation, and communication in performance. Your assessment - a performance and short presentation - will require you to apply to your own performance work the skills and techniques learned in the Musicians' Health and Wellbeing Seminars (autumn semester), as well as the feedback received during Performance Platform sessions (spring semester). You will also attend further Barber Concerts and produce reviews of select concerts. 

Assessment: Ten-minute performance and five-minute presentation, and concert reviews (500 words per concert).

Music Employability

Music Employability offers opportunities to develop applicable skills to foster a music career and identify transferable skills for adjacent career trajectories. You will improve grant writing skills, cultivate public presentation skills, acquire skills in content creation, and explore new means of self-promotion. Using a combination of seminar discussions, masterclasses, and project-based work, you will draw on the resources of the University of Birmingham Careers Network and connections to the wider city community to pursue topics that may include leadership cultivation, digital literacy, professional development, copyright awareness, public presentation tools, podcast and video creation, and website development.

Assessment: Professional Development Statement and Portfolio and Creative Project 

Optional modules

You will also choose two optional modules from a range which typically includes:

  • Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art
  • Historically Informed Performance
  • Topics in Early Music
  • Electronic Music Studies
  • British Music in Performance
  • Introduction to Global Popular Musics
  • Sound Studies
  • Sonic Alchemy: Live Electronic and Mixed Music Ensemble
  • Fieldwork Methods
  • Classical and Romantic Keyboard Music
  • Gustav Mahler: The Philosophy of Music
  • Postsocialist Music and Ethnography

For more information, see our Music module descriptions.


In addition to your taught modules, you will present a substantial solo recital, 45 minutes in length, which is delivered near the end of the MA programme. The recital offers you the opportunity to unite practical and theoretical musicianship, and to demonstrate the ability to plan and independently prepare a performance at an advanced level, with supervision through further individual tuition with an expert on your instrument or voice. Students are also required attend and to write short summaries of research seminars presented during the academic year.

Please note that the optional module information listed on the website for this programme is intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.


We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2024 entry:

  • UK: £11,642 full-time; £5,821 part-time
  • International: £25,290 full-time

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.

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.

Are you an international applicant?

All international applicants to this course will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit of £2,000 on receipt of an offer, to secure their place.

Find out more about the deposit >>.

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. 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.

How To Apply

Advice on your application

Please review our Entry Requirements carefully before making your application.

Please note that we take your degree grades, personal statement, English language results (if applicable), writing sample, audition and relevant experience into consideration when we make admission decisions. We also conduct telephone/Skype interviews and ask for your cooperation in setting a mutually convenient date for this to enable us to make a decision on your application.

Please ensure that your application has been completed fully within two weeks of submission as we cannot consider your application without all of the necessary documentation (writing sample, audition, references, personal statement and results, if available). If you have outstanding documentation relating to pending language test results and degree results, please make this clear on your application, and your application will be considered. We are able to make offers which are conditional on you achieving a particular qualification if you have not yet finished your current programme of study.

How to Apply for a Postgraduate Degree - Taught programmes

Application deadlines

The deadline for International students (requiring a VISA) to apply is 1 June 2024. The deadline for UK students is 30 August 2024.

Making your application

How to apply

To apply for a postgraduate taught programme, you will need to submit your application and supporting documents online. We have put together some helpful information on the taught programme application process and supporting documents on our how to apply page. Please read this information carefully before completing your application.

Apply now

Our Standard Requirements

We usually ask for a good Honours degree (2:1), or equivalent, in Music or a related subject with a substantial musical component. Degrees in other subjects will be considered where candidates have significant professional musical experience and relevant qualifications.

Your application should include a personal statement of approximately 5,000 characters. You should use your personal statement to explain why you are interested in studying this programme. In order to expedite processing, please clearly state the pathway to which you are applying within the first paragraph of your personal statement.

All prospective students for pathways in performance must also submit a sample of written work of at least 1,500 words - in English - in addition to the usual supporting documents. This should focus on a musical topic, with academic bibliography and references.

For this pathway, you must also present a 20-minute programme during which you play a varied programme focusing on Western classical repertoire. The audition should include a brief spoken introduction - in English - to the programme, discussing the repertoire performed. All students are expected to submit a video-recorded audition. This is preferably submitted as an internet video link, (e.g., YouTube/Vimeo/Youku or Dropbox/WeTransfer/YouSendIt), with the URL pasted into a text document and uploaded to the application portal. 

The writing sample and audition video should be submitted at the time of making your application, or uploaded within two weeks of submitting your application. If this is not provided within the stated timeframe your application may be declined.

International/EU students

Academic requirements: We accept a range of qualifications from different countries - use our handy guide below to see what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements: standard language requirements apply for this course - IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band. If you are made an offer of a place to study and you do not meet the language requirement, you have the option to enrol on our English for Academic Purposes Presessional Course - if you successfully complete the course, you will be able to fulfil the language requirement without retaking a language qualification.

IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band is equivalent to:

  • TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 21 in Reading, 20 Listening, 22 Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): Academic 67 with no less than 64 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced - minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 169 in any component

Learn more about international entry requirements

International Requirements

Your learning will be enhanced by our extensive facilities, including the Bramall Music Building.

Course delivery

We have three teaching terms per year, the autumn, spring and summer terms. Term dates can be found on our website.

As a full-time student, your modules will be taken across the first two terms, followed by your recital. If you are a part-time student, your modules will be taken across the two years, followed by your recital (in your second year).

Each full module represents a total of 200 hours of study time, including preparatory reading, assignment preparation and independent study. (On this programme, Performance Skills 1 and Performance Skills 2 are half-modules).

Support with academic writing

As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA/MSc programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.

International students can access support for English Language development and skills through the Birmingham International Academy (BIA).


The University of Birmingham is the top choice for the UK's major employers searching for graduate recruits, according to The Graduate Market 2024 report.

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.