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PhD/MA by Research Musical Composition

The research degree in Musical Composition from University of Birmingham aims to foster your skills as you navigate an exciting new musical world, which combines tradition and innovation, bringing together instruments and the latest in high technology.

Quick Facts

Duration: 1 year (MA by Research)
3 years (PhD)
Starting in: January, September
Tuition Fee: £20,820 full-time
£10,410 per year part-time (distance learning only)
Location: Birmingham, United Kingdom / Online

On this Musical Composition programme from University of Birmingham, you can create musical and sonic artworks using electroacoustics and computer technology, traditional (and not so traditional) instrumental and vocal composition, or a combination of these aspects. Projects involving interactive systems, multimedia, and sound installations are also welcome, and you are encouraged to find your own individual path.

MA by Research – the portfolio should have a total duration of between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the nature and size of the forces used, to be agreed with the supervisor. For those following this programme, it is possible to upgrade to a PhD.


  • Musical Composition
  • Musical Performance Practice
  • Musicology

“The transition from undergrad to postgrad can be a big step up in terms of workload and what is expected of you, but there is so much support available to you as a postgrad student, from academic writing support (if you’ve been out of education for a few years or just want a bit of extra help) to mental health and wellbeing services. The careers support is fantastic – the uni puts on employer fairs throughout the year and you have access to one on one support from the Careers Network team, who can help you develop your skills ready for your next step!”

Emma Sutton // PhD Psychology

Why study this course?

  • Workshops and visiting performers: The Department of Music is host to a range of ensembles and activities which provide workshop and performance opportunities for postgraduate students. For example, the Department hosts workshops with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (our ‘Ensemble in Association’), while the Department’s New Music Ensemble has a history of presenting student works. We also offer other workshops with visiting performers and ensembles (e.g. Fidelio Trio, Bozzini Quartet, Ligeti Quartet in recent years). Students have the opportunity to work with the internationally recognised BEAST system (Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre; arguably the best system of its type in the world) which also presents student works in concerts with up to 100 loudspeakers in Birmingham and when possible abroad (e.g. Berlin, Copenhagen, Basel). Opportunities for workshops and performances vary from year to year, and spaces available are limited, so the Department cannot guarantee that all applicants will be accommodated for any given opportunity. The Department runs an open call which aims to allocate places fairly, although some workshops or activities are associated with particular modules, and students enrolled on those may be prioritised. Students interested in instrumental composition workshops should expect to be offered a place at least once in their studies.
  • Excellent opportunities: Our postgraduate laptop ensemble, the Birmingham Ensemble for Electroacoustic Research (BEER), provides opportunities to explore advanced aspects of live electroacoustic performance such as controller integration, network music, and live coding.
  • World-leading research: The Department celebrated excellent results in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF), where 50% of research outputs (which measure the quality of published research produced by academics) for Music were top 4* rated as ‘world-leading’. This output score was one of the leading scores in the country.


Applicants must submit sample compositional work in the form of scores and/or recordings (as appropriate to specialty). These can be submitted by mail, or (preferably) electronically, using wetransfer or similar or a weblink.

Our requirements for postgraduate research are dependent on the type of programme you are applying for:

  • For MA by Research programmes, entry to our programmes usually requires a good (normally a 2:1 or above) Honours degree in Music or a related subject, or an equivalent qualification if you were educated outside the UK.
  • If you are applying for a PhD then you will usually also need to hold a good Masters qualification in Music or a related subject.

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