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1 year full-time, 2 years part-time


Durham City

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Course details

The MA in Music embraces your passion for music, providing the guidance, opportunities, and tools you’ll need to flourish in your chosen field. Our course encourages you to draw critically from others’ work and develop your own specialisms, be they in performance, composition, musicology, or a combination of these. As a Masters student, you’ll enjoy studying within a close-knit community, encountering a wide range of interests relating to diverse musical forms from across the globe. 

Every Masters student takes a specialist core module, selected from a list of five options: musicology, ethnomusicology, composition, performance, and music psychology. This core module explores the various issues currently at the heart of the discipline while providing the skills and knowledge needed to carry out independent research at Masters level. 

Relating to your chosen specialism, you’ll also work closely with one of the Department’s experts to produce a major project in the form of a dissertation, portfolio of compositions, or performance. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to delve deeply into specific musical practices that you find particularly fascinating. Additionally, our Masters programme includes a Research Methods and Resources module (compulsory for all but the Performance specialists) while offering a wide range of elective modules to choose from.

We pride ourselves on being one of the leading music departments in the UK, offering innovative courses and producing cutting-edge music research. As a postgraduate, you will have access to state-of-the-art facilities, including recording studios, practice and rehearsal rooms, our concert room, and an instrument collection. In addition, the University library contains a wide collection of books, scores, and CDs, and offers a rich range of online resources.

Course structure

All the MA programmes offered by the Faculty of Arts & Humanities consist of three components:

  • a Major Research Project to the value of at least 60 credits 

  • Core Modules to the value of 0-90 credits, depending on the programme
  • Elective Modules, making up the total number of credits to 180; some of these modules will be defined as Recommended Electives for particular programmes.

The MA in Music offers five specialisms each year as follows:

  • Performance
  • Musicology
  • Ethnomusicology
  • Composition
  • Music Psychology

For MA Music Students, the 60-credit Major Research Project is linked to your chosen specialism and will be one of the following:

  • Dissertation in Music. To be taken if you are specialising in musicology, ethnomusicology or music psychology. 
  • Portfolio of Compositions. To be produced if you are specialising in composition.
  • Performance Project. To be selected if you are specialising in music performance.

Additionally, you will be required to study a 60-credit core module which, again, corresponds to your chosen specialism:

  • Music Performance
  • Contemporary Musicology
  • Ethnomusicology in Practice and Theory
  • Topics in Contemporary Compositional Techniques
  • Advanced Topics in Music Psychology

With the exception of those specialising in Performance, all MA Music students are additionally required to take the following 30-credit core module:

Research Methods and Resources provides an introduction to music research and to training in research methods and resources. This module will encourage critical thinking around music research within a framework of the existing professional standards and conventions.

Remaining credits for all MA Music students will be taken from the following 30-credit modules:

  • Recorded Performance Project (only available to Performance specialism students)
  • Audiovisual Media Creation for Research
  • Special Topic in Music (not available to Performance specialism students)
  • Contemporary Musicology (not available to Performance specialism students)
  • Special Topic in Performance (only available to Performance specialism students)
  • Advanced Projects in Stylistic Composition and Arranging
  • Ethnomusicology in Practice and Theory (not available to Performance specialism students)
  • Research Experience in Music (not available to Performance specialism students)


The course is delivered through a combination of seminars, practical sessions and one-to-one supervision.

Seminars provide opportunities for you to discuss and debate particular issues, and to present your own original work. You will be expected to carry out independent study outside timetabled contact hours in order to be able to contribute to the sessions.

The practical sessions in areas such as studio or field recording techniques will help to prepare you for your own independent work. Your contact hours may vary considerably as a result of the high degree of flexibility in the course.

Individual supervision of dissertations, performance projects and composition portfolios are delivered over the second and third terms. Students are also supported by an Academic Advisor.


Assessment is thorough and is designed to demonstrate your progress through, and understanding of, the course material. Assessment methods, which vary depending on the pathway chosen, include essays, presentations, composition exercises, transcriptions, audiovisual productions, and performance recitals.

You will also be assessed on your final independent project, which may be a dissertation, a composition portfolio or a performance, developed with the help of one-to-one expert supervision.

Entry requirements

Our standard admissions requirements are a 2:1 or higher (or equivalent) in an undergraduate Music degree. We are open to considering candidates from other backgrounds, however, and would encourage you to get in touch with us to discuss how you can provide evidence of your suitability for this course in your application. 

For applications to all pathways, you will need to submit:

A personal statement explaining your interest in the MA programme, your choice of pathway, what skills, knowledge and experience you can bring to the programme, what skills, knowledge and experience you hope to acquire, and an indication of your planned area of research (no more than 500 words).

Applicants wishing to take the composition pathway with the modules Compositional Techniques (MUSI40430) and Composition Portfolio (MUSI42560) should be aware of the requirement to satisfy the following prerequisite:

  • We require evidence of standard at least equivalent to a strong 2:1 degree final-year composition portfolio. A portfolio of two or three contrasting works of ten to 15 minutes total duration must be submitted to demonstrate that the applicant is of the required level. 

Applicants wishing to take the performance pathway, with the module Performance Project (MUSI42660) should be aware of the requirement to satisfy the following prerequisite:

  • We require evidence of standard at least equivalent to a strong 2:1 degree final-year performance recital. A video recording of between 10 and 12 minutes must be submitted to demonstrate that the applicant is of the required level.

English language requirements

Fees and funding

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £12,000 per year
EU students £26,000 per year
Island students £12,000 per year
International students £26,000 per year

Part Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £6,600 per year
EU students £14,300 per year
Island students £6,600 per year
International students £14,300 per year

The tuition fees shown are for one complete academic year of 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


Postgraduates are able to seek a range of careers in music or to use the transferable skills they develop in a different setting.

You will have an excellent grounding that will serve you well if you wish to continue research at a higher level. The same skills and knowledge will also help meet ambitions to gain rewarding careers in a range of fields including for example: performance, teaching, arts administration/management, broadcasting, journalism, and music production.

We help with professional development by preparing postgraduates for the world of employment, providing opportunities to work as teaching and research assistants, to disseminate research, and to participate in dedicated training courses.

Further advice and support is also provided by our Careers and Employability Service.

Department information


Our Department holds internationally recognised research expertise in a wide range of musical areas which enables us to offer a high level of tailored attention and support across both our taught and research postgraduate qualifications.

Areas of expertise comprise musicology, music analysis, ethnomusicology, music psychology, performance, and acoustic and electroacoustic composition. We offer a flexible MA with guidance on choosing the subject that is in tune with personal interest and aspiration, and which can be studied on a part-time or full-time basis.

Postgraduates benefit from, and contribute to, a wide range of activities in the Department, including a Research Forum featuring contributions from both Durham and visiting academics and a weekly Postgraduate Seminar run by the student community itself.

Facilities are cutting-edge and regularly updated as technology in music develops at a fast pace. Postgraduates have a dedicated room for study and share departmental facilities such as our studios, multimedia room, concert room and instrument collection.

One of the highlights of our taught MA programme is the joy in becoming part of a vibrant international music-loving postgraduate community and studying with scholars, composers, and performers who have achieved international recognition in their fields.

For more information see our department pages.


  • 6th in The Complete University Guide 2024
  • 6th in The Times and Sunday Times Good 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 2021)


Our cutting-edge facilities include a beautiful concert room, four fully equipped practice rooms, three studios with production equipment offering analogue and 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.

Postgraduate students have access to a range of study spaces both within the Department and Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

The Department is located at the heart of the city of Durham, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.


Find out more:

Apply for a postgraduate course (including PGCE International) via our online portal.  

Visit Us

The best way to find out what Durham is really like is to come and see for yourself!

Join a Postgraduate Open Day
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 17:00
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Self-Guided Tours
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 16:00
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