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Durham University


W300 Music BA Undergraduate 2021


Please note: 2021-22 courses may be affected by Covid-19 and are therefore subject to change due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19. Applicants will be informed of any changes which we are required to make to course entries as a result of Covid-19.

UCAS code W300
Degree BA
Mode of study Full Time
Duration 3 years
Location Durham City
Typical Offers A Level
International Baccalaureate
Please also check Requirements and Admissions.
Alternative qualifications
Contextual Offers You may be eligible for an offer which is one or two grades lower than our standard entry requirements. Find out more.
More information Still have questions?
Department(s) Website

Course Summary


The course at Durham prides itself in combining the traditional and the modern in the study of music. The learning of techniques such as harmony, counterpoint and aural skills are juxtaposed with an investigation of the most up-to-date thinking in musicology, critical theory, composition (acoustic and electroacoustic), analysis, ethnomusicology and performance. Moreover, our teaching, essentially research-led, is enhanced by distinctive staff specialisations that include nineteenth- and twentieth-century British music, music of the Soviet Union, musical life in France and Germany, historically-informed performance, Korean and Indian music, popular music, music technology, conducting, music psychology, and contemporary composition.

Year 1

In the first year you are expected to follow the same course, designed to introduce a broad range of disciplines and approaches.

The course consists of six modules:

  • Historical Studies 1
  • EITHERPerformance 1: Practice Through History (with Recital) OR Performance 1: Practice Through History (with Essay)
  • Musical Techniques (Harmony and Counterpoint)
  • Composition 1: Twentieth Century Innovations
  • Introduction to Ethnomusicology 
  • Analysis 1: Elements of Tonal Theory and Practice

Essential topics in music technology are spread over these compulsory modules, as are foundational research skills that will be needed in the later years, such as essay writing skills.

All Combined Honours students taking only one module in Music must take either 'Historical Studies 1' or 'Introduction to Ethnomusicology'. If you take two or three modules in Music, you must take one of these musicological modules, and can add the other and/or one or two of the three ‘practice-based’ modules which are the prerequisites for the Year 2 modules in performance, composition, and other practical disciplines.

Year 2

In the second year, you will undertake one compulsory module – 'Historical Studies 2: The Twentieth Century' – and choose five modules from a broad menu. As an alternative, you may choose to take a module in another department.

Examples of Optional modules:

  • Composition 2: New Directions in Art Music
  • Creative Music Technology
  • Performance 2: Practice as Research 
  • Advanced Musical Techniques 
  • Theory and Analysis 
  • Orchestration 
  • Conducting
  • World Music Traditions
  • Studies in Popular Music
  • Studies in the History of Opera
  • Music and Science
  • Philosophy, Music and Improvisation
  • The Music of India.

Year 3

The third-year of this course is structured around a compulsory double-weighted 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. All students are required to do one of these. In addition, you will choose four other modules, selecting from the list of third year modules (which in previous years has included the modules below) and the second year menu (above). Other possible options are to undertake a single-weighted project (again, a dissertation, composition, techniques portfolio, or performance) and/or pursue a module in another department.

  • Contemporary Music Performance
  • Music and Politics in France 1789–1815
  • The Music of India
  • Performance 3: Recorded Performance Project
  • Time and Rhythm
  • Studies in Electronic Music
  • Psychology of Music
  • Advanced Ethnomusicology
  • Studies in Symphonic Analysis
  • Words and Music
  • Britten's Chamber Opera's
  • Music Theology.

We review course structures and core content (in light of e.g. external and student feedback) every year.

Study Abroad


As part of an extensive curriculum review we have created lots of exciting new opportunities for a year's study abroad for those on the BA (Hons) Music degree. Exchanges take place after the second year of the course with our partner institutions, which include the University of Oslo, the Sorbonne in Paris, La Sapienza in Rome, alongside many others.

Placement Year

You may be able to take a work placement. Find out more.

Course Learning and Teaching

As a student on the BA (Hons) Music, you will receive around 7½ hours of timetabled contact per week on average over the degree. This will include a combination of lectures, seminars, and tutorials (including one-to-one supervision), as well as instrumental or vocal tuition and performance and composition workshops. The number and balance of these activities will change over the degree as you develop your knowledge and abilities as an independent learner.

Timetabled contact is only the beginning of your learning. It provides a starting-point for your development as an independent, self-motivated learner. Typically, classroom teaching and learning will form around 25% of the time that you will spend on your studies during the 22 teaching weeks; you will be expected to spend the remaining 75% of your time on independent research. You are also encouraged, as an integral part of your studies, to take advantage of other opportunities including participating in performance groups (including staff-led ensembles) and attending research and composition seminars.

In the first year, you will receive about 9 hours of timetabled contact each week. For each module, weekly lectures will introduce you to the broad questions and current issues in Music and its sub-disciplines. Seminars will give you the opportunity to engage with the topics introduced in lectures, discuss key issues in small groups, and look in detail at music and at writing about music. 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.

For each hour of timetabled contact, you will be expected to complete 3 hours of independent research to prepare for your classes, broaden your subject knowledge, and complete assignments (that is, 27 hours of independent research per week). The teaching methods and coursework will be 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 the second year, there is an increased emphasis on the development of critical and analytical skills: a core module concentrates on the development of research skills in musicology. As modules specialise more strongly in particular areas such as performance, composition or different branches of musicology, the type of teaching varies more markedly between modules, so the kind of contact you experience will depend to a great extent on the modules you take. The total contact time you will receive will on average be similar to the first year, around 9 hours per week. As in the first year, you will be expected to complement this with about three times as much independent study as there are contact hours.

In the third year, you will develop further your independent research skills, culminating in a double weighted project, which can be a dissertation, composition portfolio or public performance recital: this counts for one third of your marks for the year. This project will give you the opportunity to engage, at an advanced level, with creative cutting-edge research at the forefront of the discipline. On account of the time that you will need to undertake this research, during the third year you will receive timetabled contact of 4½ hours each week on average. This includes one to one supervision on your project (6 hours for dissertation, 6 for recital or 11 for composition) as well as group classes. The performance strand has 19 group seminars, as well as time for instrumental or vocal lessons. The contact time for dissertation supervisions reflects the text-based nature of the mode of study. Additional hours in the case of the recital and composition projects takes account of their practical nature and the need to investigate and embed further advanced skills specific to the student such as performance practice, notation and instrumental scoring, and the creative use of music technology. Other modules on offer include single-weighted projects in musicology, composition and performance, as well as taught courses in areas of staff research expertise. Overall, during the third year, you will be expected to spend at least 35 hours on independent research each week.

Throughout the degree, you will also have access to an academic adviser who will provide you with academic support and guidance. A student will meet with their adviser three times a year, in addition to which all members of teaching staff have weekly office hours when they are available to meet with students on a ‘drop-in’ basis.

The Department also has an exciting programme of research events (seminars, guest lectures and workshops) which undergraduate students are strongly encouraged to attend. There is a busy programme of musical performance, both within and beyond the walls of the Music Department, which complements students’ academic degree by providing opportunities both to listen to and to perform a wide variety of music. The many musical ensembles to which students 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

A level offer – AAB including Music. ABRSM Grade 7 Theory is acceptable in lieu of A level Music.

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.


English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply

Information relevant to your country

Fees and Funding

Full Time Fees

EU Student £22,500.00 per year
Home Student £9,250.00 per year
Island Student £9,250.00 per year
International non-EU Student £22,500.00 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 funding 

Career Opportunities


Of those students who graduated in 2018:

  • 87% are in paid employment or further study 15 months after graduation across all our programmes

Of those in employment:

  • 45% are in a professional or managerial job
  • Average salary of £23,000.

(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

Open days and visits

Pre-application open day

Pre-application open days are the best way to discover all you need to know about Durham University. With representatives from all relevant academic and support service departments, and opportunities to explore college options, the open days provide our prospective undergraduates with the full experience of Durham University.

Please see the following page for further details and information on how to book a place:

Discover Durham Tours

Discover Durham tours offer a brief introduction to the University. The tour begins at one of our undergraduate colleges, where you will receive an introductory talk from a member of college staff, followed by a tour of the college by current students.

Overseas Visit Schedule

Department Information



Join the best music department in the UK and develop your creative, practical and critical skills in a unique and beautiful location.

Our courses are well balanced, covering everything from the music of the great composers to contemporary music and Indian ragas, studied from the perspectives of history, theory, aesthetics and ethnography as well as through composition 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.


  • 1st in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018-2021.
  • 1st in the Complete University Guide 2018 -2021.
  • 1st in The Guardian University Guide 2021.


For a current list of staff, please see the Music Department web pages.


The Music Department has excellent facilities. Besides the usual array of lecture rooms situated in the main building on Palace Green (virtually next to the 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.


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