We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University


W3K707 Music MA Postgraduate Taught 2021


Please note: 2020-21 courses may be affected by Covid-19 and are therefore subject to change due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19. Summaries of course-specific changes resulting from the impact of Covid-19 will be provided to applicants during August 2020.

For the latest information on our plans for teaching in academic year 2020/21 in light of Covid-19, please see

Degree MA
Mode of study Part Time + Full Time
Duration 1 year (full-time) or 2 years (part-time)
Start Date 04-10-2021
Location Durham City
More information Still have questions?
Department(s) Website

Course Summary


The 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 structure proposed here is broadly similar to courses offered by other Russell Group university music departments, including Bristol, York, and Birmingham, but has distinctive features informed by the department’s research strength in the emergent sub-discipline of Music and Science.

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 will remain 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 research 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

(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.


Course Learning and Teaching

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 2 and 4 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.

Admissions Process

Subject requirements, level and grade

  • 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. 
  • One sample of written work (2,000 words) on a musicological topic, broadly defined, should be sent as a PDF. 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).
  • 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 at least two contrasting works of at least ten 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), must 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 no less than 10 minutes must be submitted to demonstrate that the applicant is of the required level.



English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply

Fees and Funding

Full Time Fees

EU Student £21,350.00 per year
Home Student £10,100.00 per year
Island Student £10,100.00 per year
International non-EU Student £21,350.00 per year

Part Time Fees

EU Student £11,800.00 per year
Home Student £5,600.00 per year
Island Student £5,600.00 per year
International non-EU Student £11,800.00 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 funding

Open days and visits

Pre-application open day

Overseas Visit Schedule

Postgraduate Visits


Department Information

Department of Music


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. In addition to fostering your intellectual growth as scholars and researchers, we assist your professional development by preparing you for the world of employment, providing opportunities for you to work as teaching and research assistants, to disseminate your research, and to participate in dedicated training courses. We offer both taught and research postgraduate programmes, and will be happy to offer advice on choosing the course that is best suited to your needs. Many of our postgraduate students choose to study fulltime, but we also welcome part-time students. Whatever stage of your career you may be at, we endeavour to provide the necessary support to help you realise your professional aspirations.


Ranked joint 1st in the UK for Internationally Excellent and world leading research impact and 4th for research intensity in REF 2014.