Composition - MMus / PgCert / PgDip

Attendance:
MMus - Full Time, Part Time
PgCert - Part Time
PgDip - Full Time, Part Time
Starting:
September 2019

Study as a postgraduate composer at one of the UK's most innovative composition departments. In recent years, Birmingham Conservatoire's Composition department has produced outstanding contemporary artists such as Laura Mvula, Raffertie and Charlotte Bray.

Unlike many composition courses at this level, the course actively celebrates the diversity of today's musical genres, and fosters artists who challenge, innovate and transform notions of artistic practice today. You'll spend most of your time writing music for professional and student ensembles, whether you choose to respond to our set briefs or work on your own projects.

You'll be encouraged to express yourself in multiple musical and artistic genres

"If you want to work creatively, you study composition at Birmingham Conservatoire."

Louis Andriessen, Composer

By studying composition within a thriving conservatoire setting, you'll have excellent opportunities to collaborate with performers and to have your works performed.

Alongside your focus on composition, our course provides opportunities for you to develop other skills relevant to a future career in the music profession.

Subject to Updates

As part of BCU’s commitment to providing excellent student experience, the content and structure of this course is being refreshed to ensure that it continues to meet the highest educational standards. This page will be updated with the revised course documentation by 31 January 2019.

What's covered in the course?

  • Regular individual tuition in composition from internationally recognised composers.
  • A chance to develop a distinctive compositional voice within the context of a broadly based course, enhancing your employability.
  • The opportunity to participate in a wide variety of creative projects, including interdisciplinary collaborations.
  • Regular forums, seminars and masterclasses with distinguished visiting composers and performers.
  • Opportunities to have works performed/workshopped by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and other leading professional ensembles and musicians.
  •  Frequent chances to have works performed by student performers, including by the Conservatoire’s own Contemporary Music Group (Thallein Ensemble) and other ensembles.
  •  In PgDip and MMus, a core career development module designed to get you thinking about your future professional plans. 
  • In PgDip and MMus, the flexibility to choose from a broad menu of Professional Development modules designed to help you work towards achieving your personal career aspirations.
  • In MMus, a core module designed to develop your skills as a researcher or informed practitioner.
  •  In PgCert, the ability to focus wholly on the Principal Study area.
  • The possibility of transferring between PgCert, PgDip  and/or MMus (as appropriate) once you have begun your studies (but before completion of your original course).

Why Choose Us?

At Royal Birmingham Conservatoire we provide a friendly and supportive environment in which you can pursue your postgraduate studies. This is a time when you need to think particularly carefully and strategically about the direction of your developing career as a musician. We therefore encourage you to be ambitious in pursuing your aspirations, and endeavour to provide you with the flexibility to mould your course to your individual needs, both within your Principal Study area and – for PgDip and MMus students – in complementary modules.

Open Days

Our next Open Day for this course will take place on Thursday 24 January 2019. Book your place to see our facilities and speak to our staff and students.

Book your place

This course is open to International students

Speak to an expert

If you’ve got any questions about the course, we’d love to hear from you. Please email the Course Director: Shirley Thompson.

Email Course Director

Alternatively, you can register for our next postgraduate open day.

Entry Requirements

MMus/PgDip
Essential

UK students should normally hold an honours degree, ideally but not necessarily in Music.

Non-UK students should hold a Bachelor's degree or a similar degree-equivalent diploma, ideally but not necessarily in Music.

Audition requirements

You should be prepared to discuss a portfolio of compositions, which must be submitted at least two weeks before the audition date, if possible with high-quality recordings.*

 

Portfolios should be sent by Recorded Delivery to: Senior Administrator, Admissions, Birmingham Conservatoire, 200 Jennens Road, Birmingham B4 7XR, UK

The panel will be interested to hear you talk about your artistic influences, your inspiration to be a musician and your career objectives.

This is an opportunity for you to ask the panel questions about the Composition Department and what life will be like as a musician in Birmingham.

The audition and interview together will last for about half an hour.

English language requirements

PgDip, MMus: You must have IELTS 6; or alternatively must have studied and completed a Bachelor’s degree in the UK;*.

You must have a minimum of IELTS 5.5 or equivalent in all four skills areas to secure a visa

PgCert: You must have IELTS 5.5; or alternatively must have studied and completed a Bachelor’s degree in the UK.

International Students

Entry requirements here

UK or EU students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
MMus Sep 2019 FT 2 years
TBC
Apply via UCAS
PT 3 years £5,400 per year Apply via UCAS
PgCert Sep 2019 PT 1 year
TBC
Apply via UCAS
PgDip Sep 2019 FT 1 year £8,100 per year Apply via UCAS
PT 2 years £4,050 per year Apply via UCAS

International Students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
MMus Sep 2019 FT 2 years
TBC
Apply via UCAS
PgDip Sep 2019 FT 1 year £19,500 per year Apply via UCAS

Fees for 2019/20 will be published as soon as possible. The University reserves the right to increase fees in line with inflation based on the Retail Prices Index or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament up to a maximum of five per cent.

For any candidates who demonstrate an exceptional level of achievement in their audition/interview, a panel may identify them as a potential contender for our 12-month MMus, with credit for advanced standing. If the candidate expresses interest in pursuing this option, this will trigger a follow-up interview to explore their suitability further. However, it is not possible to apply for direct entry to this 12-month programme.

Completing your application

Further information on writing your personal statement can be found on the UCAS Conservatoires website.

Additional costs

Our courses include activities such as performance, exhibitions, field trips and production of works or artefacts which may require you to purchase specific equipment, instruments, books, materials, hire of venues and accommodation, or other items. Many of these activities are essential and compulsory parts of your learning experience.

The link below gives you an estimate of the possible costs associated with key activities on your course. Please bear in mind that these are only estimates of costs based on past student experience and feedback. The actual costs could vary considerably (either greater or lower than these estimates) depending on your choices as you progress through the course.

All our students are provided with 100 free pages of printing each year to a maximum total value of £15. 

The additional costs listed here are to be used for indicative purposes only and are based on the additional costs for the 2018/19 academic year. The additional costs for 2019/20 will be published as soon as possible.

View additional costs for this course

Additional costs

The additional costs listed at the bottom of the page are to be used for indicative purposes only and are based on the additional costs for the 2018/19 academic year. The additional costs for 2019/20 will be published as soon as possible.

Financial Support

We offer further information on possible postgraduate financial support. This includes the type of loans, grants and scholarships available both from the government and from Birmingham City University.

Did you know that you will soon be able to apply for a postgraduate loan of up to £10,000 for some courses and options?

Postgraduate loans

PgCert

Principal Study 1
60 credits

PG Dip

Principal Study 1
60 credits
Career Development
20 credits
Professional Development Option 1
20 credits
Professional Development Option 2
20 credits

MMus

Principal Study 1
60 credits
Career Development
20 credits
Professional Development Option 1
20 credits
Professional Development Option 2
20 credits
Principal Study 2
60 credits
Professional Development Option 3
20 credits
MMus Option
40 credits

Course structure

Whichever course you choose, work in the Principal Study area lies at its heart. For Composers, the Principal Study modules each culminate in a portfolio of compositions. Preparation of this work is supported by individual specialist tuition, as well as by departmental activities throughout the course.

If you are a MMus or PgDip student you will take a Career Development module, which will require you, near the beginning of your course, to reflect ambitiously yet realistically on your professional aspirations, and to formulate a plan that helps you stand the best chance of achieving your goals. You will also choose, in addition, some Professional Development Options from a varied list. The following gives an indication the kind of optional modules which may be offered in a given year, including some offered by Birmingham City University’s Schools of Art and Media (note, not all will run every year).

Conservatoire based
  • Concepts in Musicology
  • Contemporary Music Concepts and Practice
  • Creative Interactive Music Technology Performance
  • Critical Editing Techniques
  • Documentation
  • Experimental Performance in Context(s)
  • Historical Instrument Performance
  • Historical Performance Practice
  • Independent Scholarship in Music
  • Music, Community and Wellbeing
  • Music and Ideas
  • Music Technology Contexts
  • Orchestration
  • Performing and Producing in the Studio
  • Professional Music Criticism
  • Self-Promotion Project
  • Teaching Matters: Principles and Practice
  • Work Experience Project
  • Writing Music for Media
School of Art based
  • Art and Ecologies
  • Contemporary Philosophy and Aesthetics
  • Discourses in Art and Design
  • Models and Methods of Curatorial Practice
  • Queer Strategies in Practice
  • Small Arts Business Set Up
  • Social Practice in the Visual Arts
School of Media based
  • Live Events and Festival Management
  • Social Media as Culture and Practice

MMus students will additionally choose a 40-credit option from one of two categories: ‘The Emerging Researcher’ or ‘The Reflective Practitioner’.

Part-time options

There is some room for negotiation in how the course unfolds for a part-time MMus student over three years, or in the case of part-time PgDip students, over two years.

Student stories Jae-Moon Lee

I chose Birmingham Conservatoire due to the amount of performance opportunities it offered; I worked with diverse ensembles including Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. Various learning opportunities were also one of the reasons I went to Birmingham. Apart from lessons with principal professors, I also had a number of private lessons with several composers.

My orchestra work, Seven Days / Stained Glass / Mirror, will be performed by Barcelona Symphony Orchestra in Barcelona next year. Two of my ensemble works are scheduled to be performed by TIMF (Tongyeong International Music Festival) Ensemble in Seoul, Korea in December 2013.

OpportUNIty

OpportUNIty Student Ambassador

OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.

It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.

Birmingham Conservatoire has a growing community of international students from across the world.

We appreciate the challenges of moving to a new country to live and study, and aim to be as supportive as possible.

Aside from being friendly and welcoming, we have put various support mechanisms in place to help you settle in as an international student, including:

  • An international students' 'orientation week', including a special Conservatoire welcome event.

  • A dedicated international student admissions administrator.

  • A full-time staff member employed as international student mentor (who speaks Mandarin).

  • A pastoral mentoring system in which you, as a new postgraduate international student, are mentored by continuing postgraduate international students.

  • Additional academic skills support provided by expert tutors from the University's Centre for Academic Success, and by postgraduate academic mentors from among continuing postgraduate students.

Further information for prospective international students is available on the University's international pages.

Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC)

International students who have a serious interest in studying with us but who perhaps cannot meet the direct entry requirements, academic or English, or who have been out of education for some time, can enter Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC) and begin their degree studies.

BCUIC

BCUIC is part of the global Navitas Group, an internationally recognised education provider, and the partnership allows students to access the University’s facilities and services and move seamlessly through to achieving a Bachelor’s degree from Birmingham City University.

Learn more about BCUIC

Popular home countries

Our students come from around the world but our composition course is most popular with international students from:

Concert Hall - Copyright Hufton +Crow

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s £57 million music building opened in September 2017, and is located on Birmingham City University’s City Centre Campus in the Eastside ‘learning quarter’ of the city.

This brand new music facility include five public performance venues – a 500 seat Concert Hall, 150 seat Recital Hall, Organ Studio, Eastside Jazz Club and the experimental black box performance venue known as The Lab. As well as these stunning performance venues, we have nearly 100 practice spaces; including 70 small practice rooms and larger ensemble rooms and workshops.

Our new home is the first conservatoire built in the digital age, and as such it has been vital to ensure that the technical infrastructure installed is on par with any advanced commercial facility. We have seven recording studios, a mastering suite, a distance learning hub, and all of our performance venues feature high specification audio-visual equipment that enables interconnectivity and advanced functionality throughout the building.

These impressive modern facilities guarantee that we are excel in our unique dual purpose of providing the highest standard of music education deserved by our students, as well as meeting our role as a concert and performance venue for the people of Birmingham; taking our place in the vibrant cultural landscape of the UK’s second city.

South entrance of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
Royal Birmingham Conservatoire from the North East
North entrance to Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
Eastside Jazz Club Copyright Hufton + Crow
Eastside Jazz Club Gallery 2
Workshop spaces
Organ Studio Gallery
500 seat Concert Hall
150 seat Recital Hall
Recording control room
The Lab
Gallery Bar - Copyright Hufton + Crow

Prof Joe Cutler

Head of Composition

Joe works as the Conservatoire’s Head of Composition. His music has been performed in over 30 countries in cities such as New York, Amsterdam and Tokyo. In recent years, he’s written orchestral pieces and worked alongside the London Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Dr Michael Wolters

Deputy Head of Composition

Michael Wolters was born in 1971 in Mönchengladbach, Germany and grew up in Niederkrüchten, a small German village on the Dutch border. After working as a care worker in a children's home and a runner at several theatres in Germany and Scarborough he studied Applied Theatre Studies at Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen, Germany and Composition at the University of Huddersfield (BA, MA) and the University of Birmingham (PhD). His teachers include Christopher Fox, Heiner Goebbels, Patric Standford and Vic Hoyland.

His works have been performed at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the ISCM World Music Days in Manchester, Spitalfields Festival, the Barbican Centre, Birmingham Symphony Hall, the Purcell Room, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Tate Liverpool and various other concert halls, festivals, supermarkets, art galleries, shoe shops, theatres, banks, opera houses, in cafes, on beaches, on ice rinks, in cinemas, on the radio, on TV; in Europe, Russia, New Zealand, the USA and Canada.

He works in close relationship with the German theatre artist Marcus Droß and he’s a founding member of the artists’ collective New Guide to Opera.

He joined the composition department in 2004 as a visiting tutor and was awarded the title of Associate Professor in Composition in 2015.

His recent commissions include Ava’s Wedding – An English Tragedy: a full-length opera written for and performed by Birmingham Conservatoire; Requiem: his fifth commission from Birmingham Contemporary Music Group; Danserye and chorus/groove space: two collaborations with choreographer Sebastian Matthias.

Read Michael's full profile