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Degree type


Course length

1 year full-time, 2 years part-time


Durham City

Program code


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Course details

The MA in Music embraces your passion for music whether you perform, compose or aim to understand and research music in its many forms and study its impact on societies and cultures across the globe.

The course prepares you to study music through the selection of a specialism from a range that includes musicology, ethnomusicology, composition, performance, and music psychology.

You will take a core module which focuses on the methods used to research and understand music and its performance within a Higher Education context. This module also provides you with the skills and knowledge needed to carry out independent research at Master's level and introduces the contemporary intellectual issues in music research.

Depending on your proposed specialism, you will also select a pathway module chosen from up to five options. This could be from musicology, ethnomusicology, composition, performance or music psychology.

You will also produce a major project in the form of a dissertation, portfolio of compositions or a performance that is related to your chosen specialism.

We pride ourselves on being one of the leading music departments in the UK, offering innovative courses and producing cutting-edge music research in musicology, analysis, music technology, music psychology, ethnomusicology, composition, and performance.

As a postgraduate, you will have access to state-of-the-art facilities that include 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

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.


Up to five specialisms may be offered each year:

  • Musicology
  • Ethnomusicology
  • Composition
  • Performance
  • Music Psychology

You will study a module from the selection below which corresponds to your chosen specialism:

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

You will study a further module, which is, again, linked to your chosen specialism.

Dissertation. 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.

You will also select from the following modules, which have previously included:

  • Advanced Musical Analysis
  • Audiovisual Documentation and Analysis
  • Special Topic in Music
  • Contemporary Musicology (30 credits)
  • Advanced Projects in Stylistic Composition and Arranging
  • Ethnomusicology in Practice and Theory (30 credits)
  • Research Experience in Music
  • Computer Music (15 credits)
  • Additional Music undergraduate modules, and/or undergraduate language module in the Centre for Foreign Language Study or from another Department.


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:

One sample of written work (2,000 words) on a musicological topic, broadly defined. This can be an extract from longer pieces of coursework, but should be edited appropriately. Where possible, the topic and approach of your submitted work should match your chosen pathway (for example, an ethnomusicological essay for the Ethnomusicology pathway, a performance essay for the Performance pathway). If you do not have a sample of work related to your pathway, please use the personal statement to explain and give evidence of your interest in the field).

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
Find out more
Self-Guided Tours
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 16:00
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