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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 taught MA in Music is structured to allow you to intensively pursue a specific sub-discipline in Music, accommodating your particular research interests.

Up to five specialisms will be offered each year:

  • Musicology (P1)
  • Ethnomusicology (P2)
  • Composition (P3)
  • Performance (P4)
  • Music and Science (P5)

The MA will provide intellectually rigorous preparation for the study of music at an advanced level as an independent researcher in accordance with standard professional expectations attendant on the practice of research as articulated by the AHRC and other research councils. It not only affords opportunities for students to explore a chosen area of specialisation in-depth but provides a research culture that fosters inter-disciplinarity and exchange between sub-disciplines.

The research training module is taken jointly by all MA students, and all sub-discipline modules are available for auditing by any MA student. The degree also facilitates the study of musical repertories from highly diverse international cultural contexts, thereby fostering intercultural dialogue. The design of each specialism will be similar: students must choose modules from lists A, B, C, and D below:

  1. A compulsory core 30-credit module
  2. A 60-credit pathway-specific module
  3. A 60-credit major project relating to the chosen pathway of specialisation
  4. A 30 or 40-credit option, either an optional Music department 30-credit masters module, a 30-credit masters module in another department, two Music department undergraduate modules (totalling 40 credits), or one Music Department undergraduate 20-credit module and one 20-credit language module through the Centre for Foreign Language Study.

A: Core module: Research Methods and Resources (M1)

The core module provides research training and engages with major intellectual issues pertaining to the study of music across all pathways, providing a unified central focus for the degree, in addition to fostering intra-disciplinary connections between the various sub-domains of music studies, as well as interdisciplinary links with other areas of intellectual enquiry in the arts, humanities, and sciences.

This module will set out the intellectual framework for the MA and will impart a foundational understanding of the nature of research in pertinent fields of music studies (both musicological and practice-based), as defined by the AHRC and other UK research councils. It will equip you with the range of knowledge, understanding, and skills necessary to engage in research-informed learning and to conduct independent research at Masters level and beyond, and to function effectively in a professional context.

It will also deal with practical matters such as presentational skills, close reading, and critical thinking, carrying out a literature search and review, research ethics, writing research proposals, and career development. It will provide a solid foundation on which students can proceed with confidence to design, plan, and execute independent research projects. The module will be delivered as weekly seminars. In the first term, the focus will be on a range of theoretical and practical issues pertaining to the conduct of research. The second and third terms will support the development of an independent research project: students will give oral presentations on aspects of their research-in-progress, and receive feedback in the form of student-led group discussions and comment from members of the teaching term. The summative assignments will consist of an extended research proposal, and a conference-style oral presentation.

B. Pathway-specific modules

You will be required to take a pathway-specific module according to your proposed area of specialisation, which deepens your understanding and knowledge of that area, and supports your research on a major project undertaken in the same field.

The following pathway-specific modules will be offered every year (the pathway to which they are linked is shown in brackets): M3 Contemporary Musicology (P1) M4 Ethnomusicology in Practice and Theory (P2) M5 Compositional Techniques (P3) M6 Music Performance (P4) M7 Advanced Topics in Music and Science (P5)

C. Major projects

In accordance with university regulations, all students will be required to undertake a major project constituting independent research on a topic relating to their chosen pathway of specialisation.

(i) Project category 1: Dissertations (M17)

This module must be taken by students specialising in the following areas: Musicology (P1), Ethnomusicology (P2), Music and Science (P5)

(ii) Project category 2: Portfolio of compositions (M18)

This module must be taken by students specialising in Composition (P3)

(iii) Project category 3: Performance project (M19)

This module must be taken by students specialising in Music Performance (P4)

D. Optional modules:

A 30 or 40 credit option chosen from:

(i) one Music Department masters-level 30-credit module (These change from year to year, but typically include ‘Audiovisual Analysis’, ‘Advanced Musical Analysis’, and ‘Special Topic’, which allows you to do a mini research project of your own choice).

(ii) two Music Department undergraduate 20-credit modules (totalling 40 credits), or one Music Department undergraduate 20-credit module and one 20-credit language module through the Centre for Foreign Language Study.

(iii) one 30-credit masters-level module in another department or one 30-credit language module through the Centre for Foreign Language Study.


The course is delivered through a mixture 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, informed by the knowledge that you have gained through independent study outside the course’s formal contact hours. Practical sessions in areas such as studio or field recording techniques help to prepare you for your own independent work. All students must undertake an independent project (dissertation, composition portfolio, or performance), which is developed with the help of one-to-one expert supervision. Finally, optional modules can be drawn from the undergraduate and postgraduate courses of Music or of other departments – these free-choice modules may involve other forms of staff-student contact, depending on the subject area. The Department actively promotes interdisciplinary approaches to the study of music and you are encouraged to engage with other disciplines in the humanities and sciences.

The contact hours experienced by each individual student will vary considerably, given a high degree of flexibility in the course. You will typically attend between 3 and 5 hours of seminars per week in term time, as well as additional practical sessions as appropriate. Individual supervision of dissertations, performance projects and composition portfolios amounts to an average of 6 hours spread over the second and third terms.

Outside timetabled contact hours, you are also expected to attend research seminars, both student-led and those involving staff or guest academic speakers (typically 1-2 hrs each week during term times). You must also undertake your own independent study to prepare for your classes and assessments, to broaden your subject knowledge and to prepare your dissertations or portfolios. You are encouraged, as an integral part of your studies, to take advantage of other opportunities such as participating in performance opportunities (including staff-led ensembles) and attending research and composition seminars, some of which are organised in conjunction with University research institutes.

There is a busy programme of musical performance, both within and outside the Music department, which complements your academic programme by providing opportunities both to listen to and to perform a wide variety of music. The many musical ensembles to which you can contribute includes both independent societies (including orchestras, choirs, opera and musical theatre as well as a Javanese gamelan) and department-run ensembles such as the New Music Ensemble and Korean percussion group.

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 £11,300 per year
EU students £24,250 per year
Island students £11,300 per year
International students £24,250 per year

Part Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £6,300 per year
EU students £13,400 per year
Island students £6,300 per year
International students £13,400 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


Our postgraduates go on to a variety of careers, from higher research degrees and academic positions in universities throughout the world, to teaching, publishing and private sector work unrelated to music.

To cater for these aspirations, we run support sessions during the year within the MA programme and as part of the postgraduate seminar series in the department, which also supplies a strong community of postgraduates at various stages of taught and research qualifications.

Some of these sessions assist specifically with the process of applying for a PhD or postdoctoral position, or of getting published in academic journals, but they are more broadly designed to embed transferrable skills of rich facility in other sectors, including high-level writing and presentations skills, and research techniques.

Durham has a full careers service also able to assist whatever your intended destination see:

Department information


The Department of Music’s vibrant postgraduate research environment attracts high-calibre applicants from all over the world. The Department’s research staff offer a broad spectrum of supervisory expertise in musicology, music analysis, ethnomusicology, music psychology, performance, and acoustic and electroacoustic composition. We offer you a high level of individual attention and personal support and provide you with an experience of exceptionally high quality.

For more information see our department pages.


  • 2nd in the Complete University Guide 2023
  • 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 2021)


The Music Department has excellent facilities. Besides the usual array of lecture rooms situated in the main building on Palace Green (virtually next to Durham Cathedral), there are three well-equipped electronic studios, a multimedia resource centre, and practice rooms (both in the Department and individual colleges). The University Library houses an extensive collection of books, scores, and CDs, and offers a rich range of online resources.

Visit Us

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

Postgraduate Open Day
  • Date: 08/02/2023
  • Time: 09:00 - 17:00
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Postgraduate Open Days - Online
  • Date: 13/02/2023
  • Time: 09:00 - 17:00
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