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Degree type


Course length

3 years full-time


Durham City

UCAS code


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Typical offers

Typical offers
A Level AAB
International Baccalaureate 36

Course details

The BA Music and Philosophy enables you to pursue your interest in both disciplines and explore the fascinating intersection between them. You will be part of two particularly vibrant departments. Located at the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Durham offers the perfect juxtaposition of the ancient and the cutting-edge.

We pride ourselves on combining the traditional and the modern in the study of music, exploring diverse genres from the past and present and developing exciting new approaches in musicology, composition, music and science, analysis, ethnomusicology and performance.

As part of the philosophy element of the course, you will examine the broad divisions of philosophy, delving into metaphysics and theory of knowledge on the one hand, and moral philosophy on the other. You can also apply to add a placement year or a year abroad to your degree, increasing the course from three years to four.

In the first year you will take a variety of core and optional modules designed to give you a broad overview of the disciplines and approaches of each subject.

In the second year, there is an increased emphasis on the development of critical and analytical skills and the modules will specialise more strongly in particular areas.

The third year of this course is structured around an independent project, which can take the form of a composition portfolio, public performance recital or dissertation (in either music or philosophy). 

Course structure

Year 1

Core modules:

Historical Studies 1 introduces the historical study of the Western art music tradition, covering music from the baroque to late classical periods. A number of representative musical works from the period are explored and you will deepen your knowledge of those works and the contexts of their composition and reception, while also acquiring skills foundational to the practice of historical musicology.

Ethics and Values provides a structured introduction to moral philosophy, including applied ethics, by exploring key moral concepts and showing how they influence moral practices and theories.

Knowledge and Reality introduces philosophical problems in epistemology (the study of knowledge), and metaphysics (the study of reality and ourselves).

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Introduction to Ethnomusicology
  • Analysis 1: Elements of Tonal Theory and Practice
  • Historical Composition Techniques
  • Composition 1: 20th Century Innovations
  • Performance 1 – with recital/with essay
  • Reading Philosophy
  • Science, Medicine and Society
  • Being Human: An Introduction to Post-Kantian Philosophy.

Year 2

Core modules:

Philosophy, Music and Improvisation introduces the relationship between music and philosophy and explores the philosophical issues to which music gives rise, how music may illuminate some of those issues, and how philosophy may illuminate the understanding of music.

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Historical Studies 2
  • World Music Traditions 
  • Studies in Popular Music  
  • Creative Music Technology  
  • Early Modern Philosophy  
  • Moral Theory 
  • Fundamentals of Logic
  • History, Science and Medicine.

Year 3 (Year 4 if undertaking a placement year or year abroad)

Core modules:

Portfolio of Compositions, Public Performance Project or Dissertation (in either music or philosophy).

Aesthetics provides a grounding in the philosophy of art and literature by introducing some historically important texts as well as more recent work.

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Portfolio of Compositions
  • Contemporary Music Performance  
  • Performance 3: Recorded Performance Project  
  • Psychology of Music 
  • Biomedical Ethics: Past and Present  
  • History and Philosophy of Psychiatry  
  • Philosophical Issues in Contemporary Science.

Additional pathways

Students on the Music and Philosophy BA can apply to be transferred onto either the ‘with Year Abroad’ or ‘with Placement’ pathway during the second year.  Places on these pathways are in high demand and if you are chosen your studies will extend from three years to four.


You may be able to take a work placement. Find out more.


You will learn through a combination of lectures, seminars and tutorials (including one-to-one supervision), as well as instrumental or vocal tuition and performance and composition workshops. The number and balance of these activities will change over the degree as you develop your knowledge and abilities as an independent learner.

For each module, weekly lectures will introduce you to the broad questions and current issues in music and philosophy. Seminars or tutorials will give you the opportunity to engage with the topics introduced in lectures, discuss key issues in small groups, and look in detail at musical and philosophical works.

Instrumental or vocal lessons will help you develop your abilities as a performer, while composition seminars and workshops will allow you to explore approaches to composing. Practical training in both generic study skills and music-specific skills such as using notation software, recording equipment and transcribing music are embedded within the core modules.


Modules are assessed by a variety of means, including continuous assessment, examinations and recitals.

Our curriculum places a strong emphasis on the development of independent research skills. Teaching methods and coursework are designed to help you achieve this; for example, you will receive reading lists, assignments, presentation briefs and online materials to direct your research in preparation for seminars.

In your third year you will undertake a major project which can be a dissertation, composition portfolio or a solo recital.

Entry requirements

A level offer – AAB including Music. ABRSM Grade VI Theory is acceptable in lieu of A level Music

Contextual offer – BBB/ABC including Music. ABRSM Grade VI Theory is acceptable in lieu of A level Music

When applicants have not been given the opportunity to take A level Music, or a qualification requiring an equivalent level of music theory understanding, we ask for evidence of such understanding (in addition to 3 other A levels). We will accept ABRSM Grade 6 Theory as evidence. Applicants who have not followed the ABRSM route are invited to contact the Music Department to ask about alternative arrangements for assessing theoretical understanding

BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma/OCR Cambridge Technical Extended Diploma – DDD plus Music as above.

IB Diploma score – 36 with 665 in higher level subjects, including Music. Please see above for requirements.

  • We also consider other level 3 qualifications, including T-levels.
  • We consider each application holistically. Whilst academic achievement is important, it is not the only factor that we consider when assessing applications and applicants who have achieved, or are predicted to achieve, close to our typical offer, but who have not met it exactly, will be welcome to apply if they have a strong application in other key elements, for example if they have practical music accomplishments or can demonstrate merit and potential through their personal statement or their reference. 
  • We welcome applications from mature students with non-standard qualifications or who may have had a break in their study and may consider other experience in place of formal qualifications where applicable. Mature applicants may also be interested in our Music with Foundation programme (W301).
  • Grade 7 or 8 in first instrument is advisable but by no means essential.
  • Keyboard skills are advisable (but not absolutely essential), since they aid score reading and analysis. 

Alternative qualifications

International students who do not meet direct entry requirements for this degree might have the option to complete an International Foundation Year.

English language requirements

Country specific information

Fees and funding

The tuition fees for 2025/26 academic year have not yet been finalised, they will be displayed here once approved.

The tuition fees shown for home students are for one complete academic year of full time study and are set according to the academic year of entry. Fees for subsequent years of your course may rise in line with an inflationary uplift as determined by the government.

The tuition fees shown for overseas and EU students are for one complete academic year of full time study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and Bursaries

We are committed to supporting the best students irrespective of financial circumstances and are delighted to offer a range of funding opportunities. 

Find out more about Scholarships and Bursaries

Career opportunities


We are one of the very best music departments in the UK, with an outstanding reputation for excellence in teaching, research and employability of our students. Our students benefit from passionate guidance from our staff and alumni, as well as support from our Careers and Enterprise Centre. 

Our students graduate with a range of skills which open up many opportunities for employment or further study. Graduates from the Department have gone on to work in diverse careers in the music industry and beyond, including education, music teaching, arts administration, broadcasting, music production, artist management and journalism.

Of those students who graduated in 2020-21:

  • 90% are in paid employment or further study 15 months after graduation across all our programmes

Of those in employment:

  • 94% are in high skilled employment
  • With an average salary of £27,500.

(Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey. The survey asks leavers from higher education what they are doing 15 months after graduation. Further information about the Graduate Outcomes survey can be found here


Philosophical training  will equip you with a range of theoretical and transferable skills, including critical thinking, problem solving, communication, project management, presenting and researching, that will be of value to employers across a range of industries. 

Our graduates work in a vast range of employment sectors worldwide, including law, the Civil Service and politics, management, public relations, teaching, journalism, media and publishing, marketing, retail and business, IT and financial services. Examples of recent employers include Penguin, Random House Publishing, Save the Children, Amnesty International and The Guardian.

Of those students who graduated in 2020-21:

  • 84% are in paid employment or further study 15 months after graduation across all our programmes

Of those in employment:

  • 80% are in high skilled employment
  • With an average salary of £27,000.

(Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey. The survey asks leavers from higher education what they are doing 15 months after graduation. Further information about the Graduate Outcomes survey can be found here

Department information


The Department of Music is a vibrant and welcoming community focused on hosting and supporting enriching musical experiences. Join us and develop your creative, practical and critical skills in one of the best music departments in the UK.

Durham is one of the leading university music departments in the UK, offering innovative courses that are informed by our internationally recognised research. When you study with us you will be encouraged to engage actively with music, both familiar and unfamiliar, as we challenge you to think about the subject in new ways.

Our curriculum strikes a distinctive balance between breadth and depth, covering perspectives from history, theory, ethnography, science as well as composition and performance.

The curriculum will challenge you intellectually, stimulate your curiosity and equip you with the skills to produce an independent project that engages with the latest research in your chosen area of study. In the first year, teaching will revolve around six foundational areas. As you progress through the course there will be increasing choice and flexibility, including study options from other departments. To further develop your skills, we offer the opportunity to spend a year studying at an overseas music department or on a work placement.

By the end of your studies, you will be equipped with the theoretical, practical and independent research skills necessary for further study or future employment.

For more information see our department pages.


  • 6th in The Complete University Guide 2024
  • 6th in The Guardian University Guide 2024


For a current list of staff, please see the Music Department pages.

Research Excellence Framework

  • 6th in the UK for Research Output Quality in Music (REF 21).


We are located at the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Durham City. Our students have access to a beautiful concert room. Four fully equipped practice rooms are available for individual practice and group rehearsals, with additional practice spaces available across the University. We also have three studios with music production equipment that ranges from early analogue to current digital technology. Our recording studio comprises a control room and up to three recording rooms, with state-of-the-art equipment.

We also have an audio-visual documentation and analysis laboratory, a music and science lab and a fully equipped music technology workshop.


Gain a deeper understanding of this complex world and change your outlook on life with this ancient and fascinating intellectual discipline. Philosophy at Durham covers many of the profound and important questions that arise in all areas of human life.

Philosophy is an ancient and diverse discipline that is fundamental to our understanding of what it is to be human. Amongst the most prestigious departments in the UK, at Durham we pride ourselves on our excellence in teaching and research and we are committed to the pursuit of philosophical knowledge and understanding. Our distinctive, research-led approach to learning means that our undergraduate courses are constantly shaped in line with research and to reflect contemporary study in the area.

We offer a range of single and joint honours degrees with flexible pathways to suit your interests and career aspirations. As well as covering more traditional areas of philosophy, such as ethics and values, philosophical traditions and moral theory, our curriculum also highlights the relevance of philosophy to current issues in the world. This includes modules relating to the ethics of science and medicine. You can further develop your skills and experience with the opportunity to spend a year studying overseas or on a work placement.

During your time with us you will learn as much about how to think about difficult questions, as you will learn about the answers that can be given to them. You will develop the ability to detect a bad argument, whether in politics, in the media, or with the people in your day-to-day life, and an ability to produce better arguments of your own. Whatever you end up doing with your career, philosophy will forever change your outlook on the world.

For more information see our department pages.


  • World Top 50 in the QS World University Subject Rankings 2023
  • Top 10 in The Guardian University Guide 2024
  • Top 10 in The Complete University Guide 2024.


For a current list of staff, please see the Philosophy Department pages.

Research Excellence Framework

  • Top 20 in the UK for the quality of our research (REF 21).


The Department of Philosophy is located at Old Elvet in the picturesque city of Durham. We occupy a listed building in this ancient part of the city, near the medieval Elvet Bridge, and within easy walking distance of the Students’ Union, the colleges and Durham’s historic centre with its Castle and Cathedral.

Undergraduate students are invited to attend the Department’s extensive programme of research-related activities, including weekly lectures and seminars, many of which are given by renowned UK and overseas philosophers. Recent visitors have included Amie Thomasson, Noam Chomsky and Peter Singer.


Find out more:

Use the UCAS code below when applying:



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