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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

BA Music combines 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 (acoustic and electroacoustic), analysis, ethnomusicology, music and science, and performance.

The department is located at the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Durham City – an extraordinarily beautiful place. But it is the juxtaposition of ancient and cutting-edge that makes Durham so unusual and inspiring; within the old buildings we strive to forge fresh interpretations and create exciting new music, using state-of-the-art technology.

Our teaching is research-led and enhanced by distinctive staff specialisations that include nineteenth- and twentieth-century British music, Indian and Korean music, popular music, music technology, conducting, music psychology, opera, analysis, and contemporary composition.

We also have a variety of music-making taking place at Durham such as six orchestras, choral singing, theatrical productions, contemporary music and much more.

You can apply to add a placement year or a year abroad to your degree, increasing the course from three years to four. The first year of the course is designed to introduce a broad range of disciplines and approaches. In the second year, there is a much greater choice of modules to allow you to pursue your own interests.

The final year of this course is structured around an independent project, which can take the form of a musicological dissertation, a composition portfolio, a techniques portfolio (pastiche compositions) or a 40-minute solo recital. 

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.

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Historical Composition Techniques
  • Composition 1: Twentieth Century Innovations
  • Introduction to Ethnomusicology
  • Analysis 1: Elements of Tonal Theory and Practice
  • Performance 1: Practice through History (with recital/essay).

Year 2

Core modules:

Historical Studies 2 encourages a research-based approach to key issues in Western music between the early romantic period and the mid-twentieth century. The module will also develop an understanding of the dominant trends in musical life in the period, from performance, reception and aesthetics.

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Creative Music Technology
  • Performance 2: Practice as Research 
  • Composition 2: New Directions in Art Music 
  • Orchestration 
  • Advanced Historical Composition Techniques 
  • Theory and Analysis 
  • Studies in the History of Opera 
  • World Music Traditions 
  • Studies in Popular Music.

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

Core module:

The final year of this course is structured around an independent project, which can take the form of a musicological Dissertation, a Portfolio of Compositions, a Techniques Portfolio (pastiche compositions) or a Performance Project requiring a 40-minute solo recital.

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • The Music of India 
  • Contemporary Music Performance  
  • Advanced Ethnomusicology: Themes and Issues  
  • Music Theology  
  • Studies in Symphonic Analysis 
  • Time and Rhythm  
  • Words and Music  
  • Music and Politics in France, 1789–1815 
  • Techniques Portfolio  
  • Psychology of Music .

Additional pathways

Students on the Music 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.

For each module, lectures will introduce you to the broad questions and current issues in music. Seminars and tutorials will give you the opportunity to engage with the topics in small groups. 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. 

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 requirements as above.

  • 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 (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.
  • We accept applications for deferred entry. 
  • If you are an international student who does not meet the requirements for direct entry to this degree, you may be eligible to take an International Foundation Year pathway programme at the Durham University International Study Centre.

Science A levels

Applicants taking Science A levels that include a practical component will be required to take and pass this as a condition of entry. This applies only to applicants sitting A levels with an English examination board.

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

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £9,250 per year
EU students £27,250 per year
Island students £9,250 per year
International students £27,250 per year

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 2019:

  • 81% are in paid employment or further study 15 months after graduation across all our programmes

Of those in employment:

  • 67% are in high skilled employment
  • With an average salary of £18,000.

(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


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 strike 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 2023


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 a 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. 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.


Find out more:

Use the UCAS code below when applying:



The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) handles applications for all undergraduate courses.

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