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Durham University


WV53 Music and Philosophy BA Undergraduate  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

UCAS code WV53
Degree BA
Mode of study Full Time
Duration 3
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 Music and Philosophy joint degree course at Durham enables you to pursue your interest in both disciplines, explore the fascinating intersection between them, and enjoy belonging to two particularly vibrant departments. In Philosophy, a wide selection of modules is on offer, addressing the most fundamental questions that arise in diverse areas of human concern, from religion and politics, to morality and the sciences. In 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, cognitive musicology, and performance.

Year 1

In the first year, you will take the Philosophy core modules of Ethics and Values and Knowledge and Reality. These concern the two broad divisions of Philosophy, delving into Metaphysics and Theory of Knowledge on the one hand, and Moral Philosophy on the other. First-year students also get to choose one of the following Philosophy modules:

  • Introduction to Logic
  • Introduction to the History and Philosophy of Science
  • History and Theory of Medicine
  • Reading Philosophy.

Reading Philosophy is a text-based course which examines in depth classic works by writers such as Plato, Hume and Sartre.

In Music, you will take Historical Studies 1 and two other modules from the following list:

  • Introduction to Ethnomusicology
  • Analysis 1: Elements of Tonal Theory and Practice
  • Musical Techniques
  • Composition
  • Performance 1 – either with recital or essay.

Years 2 and 3

In the third year, you will take the Aesthetics Philosophy module. In the second and third years, you will also have a choice of a wide range of topics within Philosophy. 

In previous years these have included:

  • Moral Theory
  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Modern Philosophy I and II
  • Gender, Film and Society
  • Issues in Contemporary Ethics
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Political Philosophy
  • Metaphysics
  • Language, Logic and Reality
  • Twentieth Century European Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Science
  • The Philosophy of Economics: Theory, Methods and Values
  • Science and Religion
  • Applied Ethics
  • Philosophical Issues in Contemporary Science
  • History and Philosophy of Psychiatry
  • Biomedical Ethics.

There is an equally broad choice of modules within Music. You will also have the opportunity to study a subject in depth, by writing a substantial dissertation of your choice.

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. Exchanges take place after the second year of the degree with our partner institutions, which include the University of Oslo, the Sorbonne in Paris, La Sapienza in Rome, alongside many others.


We participate in exchange schemes through which you may spend a year of your studies abroad, either with universities in Europe – through the SOCRATES/ERASMUS programme – or with the University of California.

Placement Year

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

Course Learning and Teaching

As a student on the course, you will receive around 7½ hours of timetabled contact per week on average over the course of 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 course of 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 will also be 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 Philosophy. 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 musical and philosophical works. 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. 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. As modules specialise more strongly in particular areas, 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 composition portfolio, public performance recital, or dissertation (in either Philosophy or Music): 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. 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, take account of their practical nature and the need to investigate and further embed student-specific advanced skills in areas including performance practice, notation and instrumental scoring, and the creative use of music technology. Other modules on offer include single-weighted projects in ethics, aesthetics, metaphysics, musicology, composition and performance. 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.

Both departments also have exciting programmes 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 8 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. Please see above for requirements.

  • 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 programme (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.

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 and EU 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 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


Durham graduates are renowned for having a deep knowledge of music from different cultures and historical periods, having explored many different aspects of music, including musicology, performance and composition. The discipline required in fostering critical thinking develops our students' ability to define and solve problems, both by working independently and with their colleagues. All of the modules available on the BA course are designed to help students develop a range of transferable skills that will aid their future employment. The new curriculum (as of October 2012) places greater emphasis on research-led teaching, the development of independent learning and the acquisition of transferable skills.

The department aims to help all students to keep track of their progress from induction week to graduation, including arranging careers events with recent graduates who offer a valuable insight on how to make the most of the opportunities available at Durham University, and how best to promote these to potential employers. The department is aiming to make strong links with their Alumni so that they can provide extra help and support for undergraduate students looking to find employment in their field(s) of work.

Many Durham graduates proceed to further study, whether in a university department, conservatoire or elsewhere: our graduates have moved on via postgraduate study to careers as academics and performers as well as in other fields (including journalism, acting or the clergy). Other recent destinations of Durham music graduates include arts administration, broadcasting, teaching, business (e.g. Account Manager, Recruitment Consultant, Underwriter, Trainee Manager) and sports.

As one of the country's top universities, students from Durham are held in high esteem by IBM. Regardless of degree discipline, graduating from Durham University with a 2:1 or above represents a significant achievement, and one IBM sees as a valuable stepping stone towards a successful career. We have a dedicated campus recruitment team for Durham, one of a select number of UK Universities, testament to our belief that through their time at the university, Durham students in particular significantly develop the transferable skills which we value. GTS Smart Deal Engine.

Employability development opportunities

The Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre works closely with the School of Music. The link Careers Adviser delivers presentations to each year group on topics relevant to that stage of their academic career. These cover career decision making, successful applications and interviews, and advice for those considering further study.

A high proportion of our graduates progress onto higher level study following their degree. Recently many have progressed to our own Masters courses at Durham and also to York, Bristol, Cambridge, King's College, School of Oriental and African Studies, the Royal Academy of Music, Edinburgh and Oxford. Some remain within their academic field of interest but others take a different route and pursue professional postgraduate programmes in law, social sciences, property management, administration, the clergy and teaching.

Career Options

Recent graduate destinations include:

  • Account Manager
  • Arts Administration
  • Broadcasting
  • Ecclesiastical training
  • Fixed Income Analyst
  • Further Study in Music: A high proportion of our graduates progress onto higher level study following their degree. Recently many have progressed to our own Masters courses at Durham and also to York, Bristol, Cambridge, King's College, School of Oriental and African Studies, the Royal Academy of Music, Royal College of Music, Guildhall School of Music and drama, Edinburgh University and Oxford University .
  • Further Study in other academic fields: Recent graduates have pursued professional postgraduate programmes in law, social sciences, property management, administration, the clergy and teaching.
  • Marketing Assistant
  • Recruitment Consultant
  • Trainee Manager
  • Underwriter


Durham Philosophy graduates possess skills in critical thinking, logical analysis and the clear communication of complex information that make them much sought after in many professional walks of life. Our research-led teaching ensures that they are not only well informed about the latest developments in Philosophy, but also competent researchers in their own right, able to think for themselves and tackle problems imaginatively. Philosophy at Durham is not an 'ivory tower' subject and students are taught to relate theory to practice and see the relevance of their studies to everyday life. Our broad programme covers all major areas of Philosophy and includes modules in moral philosophy (e.g. Applied Ethics and Biomedical Ethics), Political Philosophy, Science & Religion, History & Philosophy of Psychiatry and Theory, Literature and Society which explicitly apply philosophical techniques to real-world problems.

All students in their final year write a long dissertation that provides an excellent opportunity for them to put the final edge on their analytical, research and presentational skills. Some Durham Philosophy graduates proceed to higher-degree study and an academic career; others enter a wide range of professions including the law and civil service, management, public relations, teaching, marketing, retail and financial services. In the 2012 Complete University Guide, Durham Philosophy graduates rank joint-second in the UK for 'graduate prospects'.

Of those students that left in 2017:

- 92% are in employment or further study six months after graduating

Of those in employment:

- 87% are in graduate level employment
- Median salary £25,500

(Source: Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey of 2016/17 graduates. The DLHE survey asks leavers from higher education what they are doing six months after graduation. Full definitions for the DLHE Record can be found

A significant number of students progress onto higher level study following their degree in Philosophy. Many remain within their academic field of interest and pursue a Masters, notably at Durham but also at other prestigious institutions including the London School of Economics and Cambridge. Others take a different route and pursue professional postgraduate programmes in law, finance and teaching to name but a few.

Employability development opportunities

The Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre works closely with the Philosophy Department. The link Careers Adviser delivers presentations to each year group on topics relevant to that stage of their academic career. These cover career decision making, successful applications and interviews, and advice for those considering further study. Q & A sessions are also available in which students can ask the adviser anything about their future career plans or ideas.

Durham University Philosophy graduates enter a wide range of career areas including publishing, retail, marketing, business and finance. Our graduates find employment with leading employers in both the public and private sectors such as British Telecom, The Royal Society of Medicine, Goldman Sachs, Government Olympic Committee, KPMG, The Royal Navy and PwC. Specific roles our graduates have progressed into include marketing graduate, trainee accountant, international financial analyst, account manager and press publishing administrator.

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 2019.
  • 1st in the Complete University Guide 2019.
  • 1st in The Guardian University Guide 2019.


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.




Philosophy studies profound and important questions that arise in all areas of human life. At Durham University, we offer a distinctive, research-led Philosophy curriculum, incorporating considerable levels of variety and choice. Whatever you choose, you will be taught by internationally renowned experts in the field.

We are one of the UK’s top philosophy departments. The exceptionally high-quality education you receive here will equip you with critical
abilities that can be put to use in all sorts of ways and which are prized by employers.


  • World Top 100 in the QS World University Subject Rankings 2020.
  • 5th in The Guardian University Guide 2020.


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


Durham is one of the larger Philosophy departments in the UK, with 20 permanent members of staff. We are known as a very friendly department where you will have a lot of contact with full-time academic staff. We have an excellent department library that complements the University and college libraries. There is an active Philosophical Society and a weekly research seminar which students are welcome to attend.


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