Musicology - MA

Full Time, Part Time
September 2018
£6,900 per year for UK/EU Full Time 2018 entry (view all fees)

Whatever your interests, our Musicology course gives you the unique opportunity to pursue your own research project within a lively and exciting Conservatoire environment.

Our flexible course enables you to mould a programme of study to your own needs and aspirations, and may be approached as preparation for a research degree in music.

It is important that a musicologist also develops complementary skills and/or knowledge outside their specialism which will help equip them for a future career: professional musicologists typically find themselves, amongst other things, teaching, managing and administering; some even maintain parallel careers as professional performers or composers.

Therefore, we provide you with a choice of Professional Development Options (shared across our postgraduate programmes) alongside your musicological work to give you the opportunity to develop and/or expand your interests across a range of complementary areas.

The Conservatoire team—which comprises a large number of research-active staff—has a vast array of expertise, allowing us to supervise a wide range of projects, and we are particularly keen to attract those interested in pursuing Masters-level research in our specialist areas.

These include: Late Medieval Music; French Music of the 17th, 18th and 20th centuries; Italian Baroque Music; 18th and 19th Century British, Russian or Austro-Germanic Music; Contemporary Film and Television Music; Theory and Analysis; 20th-Century Music Theory and Analysis; and Music Critics and Criticism.

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire also hosts a significant collection of historical instruments and we welcome studies with a focus on performance practice and/or critical editing.

Recent research projects include:

  • An exploration of Music Performance Anxiety in a Conservatoire Woodwind Department.
  • The Music of Hans Zimmer, US Military Intervention and "The Other" in Film; the Sound of the Ungrievable.
  • Easy Listening: Jerry Lanning and the BBC Radio Orchestra 1979-81.
  • The Emergence and Evolution of the Piano Study in the Years 1797-1837.
  • Voices from a Non-Place: An Investigation into Language, Space and the Sung Voice.
  • The Lute and Non-Nobility in Elizabethan England.
  • Alexei Stanchinsky (1888-1914): Context and Influences.
  • Clara Schumann as Pedagogue.
  • Italian Film Music During the 1930s: Political Appropriation and Socioeconomic Agendas.
  • Constructive or Destructive? Assessing the Impact of Feedback in Instrumental Piano Lessons.
  • Irish Rebel Music 1969-1995: Appropriation and Hidden(?) Agendas.

Our MA Musicology programme can be studied as a standalone course, but it is also intended to help prepare you for a research degree.

What's covered in the course?

Most postgraduate conservatoire degrees are focused on performance or composition, and don’t cater for musicologists.  This is not the case at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, where this course provides you with the opportunity not only to develop your skills as a musicologist, but to supplement them with complementary studies unique to a Conservatoire environment.  

Your own research project will be at the heart of your programme, and alongside this you will choose from the Conservatoire’s menu of postgraduate Professional Development options, which will allow you either to hone your skills in complementary areas, or to develop and expand your interests, providing the opportunity to interact and network with fellow musicians and a range of staff, as well as enjoying the excellent facilities the Conservatoire boasts.

You will benefit from the Conservatoire’s excellent library resources, as well as the opportunity to get involved with our performance departments, and our wider research community of students and staff through seminars, study days, social activities and other events.

Why Choose Us?

  • The course is structured around your own research interests, and ensures you have the skills and knowledge needed to successfully negotiate and complete your research project (as well as preparing you for PhD study, should you decide to progress).
  • You’ll be taught by a team of distinguished musicologists, many of whom are also experienced performers.
  • You’ll have the flexibility to choose from a broad menu of Professional Development options, designed to help you work towards achieving your personal career aspirations.
  • Royal Birmingham Conservatoire has some of the best music technology facilities in the country, and a brand new building.
  • We are within easy travelling distance to the UK’s major research libraries and instrument collections.

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

 Akvile SmotaviciuteStudent stories

Akvile Smotaviciute is a postgraduate student at Birmingham Conservatoire studying for a Master’s degree in Musicology. She also studied her undergraduate degree at Birmingham Conservatoire, and enjoyed it so much she decided to stay.

I love the flexibility that this course offers. There are only a couple of compulsory modules that everyone on the Musicology course has to take, but after that you can choose from an extensive list of optional modules and really tailor your course to your own interests and needs. Postgraduate research can sometimes be quite lonely, but the Conservatoire are putting a real effort into bringing all the research students together to share ideas and talk about our work. It’s fascinating – there are so many different people working on completely different fields – and it’s always exciting to learn something new from them! It’s also a very supportive environment, the staff at the Conservatoire are incredibly helpful and kind.

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: Sian Derry.

Email Course Director

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

Entry Requirements


UK students should normally hold a 2:1 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.

Interview requirements

All applicants will submit a proposal detailing ideas for their Dissertation project and this will be followed by an interview.

Home student auditions will be scheduled live in Birmingham.

EU/international students outside the UK at the time of application may participate in a Skype interview.

English language requirements

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

You must have IELTS 7 overall; or alternatively must have studied and completed a Bachelor’s degree in the UK;*.

International Students

Entry requirements here


* If your first language is not English, and you choose Professional Development Options which involve placements/activity in the local community in your first year (ie Teaching Matters; Music, Community and Wellbeing; Music Management) you will normally need to show evidence of IELTs 6.5 or equivalent at the start of the course.

UK or EU students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
MA Sep 2018 FT 1 year £6,900 per year Apply via UCAS
PT 2 years £3,450 per year Apply via UCAS

International Students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
MA Sep 2018 FT 1 year £12,000 per year Apply via UCAS

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.

Applying via CUKAS

Follow the link 'apply via CUKAS' above, proceed to your application and select Musicology from the drop down menu available.

If you experience any problems, please contact either:

  • Postgraduate Director, Shirley Thompson: +44 (0)121 331 7214
  • Programme Administrator, Angela McCabe: +44 (0)121 331 6900.

Your proposal

At the time you submit your application, you should send direct to a proposal containing the following:

  • A rationale for your proposed dissertation project
  • A discussion of the context in which your proposed project sits, with references: i.e. you need to show an awareness of existing research on the topic (about 250 words)
  • The aims of your project
  • An outline description of what will be covered in your project (about 300 words)
  • An indicative bibliography

Download our template to help you write your dissertation project proposal to support your application.

Download template


Once we have received your application and proposal we will invite you to an interview. For home students this will be scheduled live in Birmingham, while EU/international students outside the UK at the time of application may participate in a Skype interview.

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.

View additional costs for this course

Fees for Equivalent or Lower Level Qualifications - UK/EU

Applicants who are applying to a course at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire which is at the same or lower level to the qualifications they are already holding will be classed as an ELQ student. Students categorised as studying for an ELQ at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire will be charged a tuition fee rate that is higher than the standard published rates. This is because in 2008 the government announced that it would no longer provide funding to support universities teaching students who were classed as an ELQ status.

If you believe you may be categorised as an ELQ applicant, please email for further details.

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

Professional Development Options - List A

Teaching Matters: Principles and Practice
30 credits

This module provides a context for instrumental/vocal teaching by engaging with current ideas, theories and research, and incorporates teaching observations with Services for Education (Birmingham Music Service) and elsewhere, as well as a small amount of unassessed teaching.

Historical Performance Practice
30 credits

An awareness of historical performance practices is essential for a truly informed performer. We will assess a series of musical works as case studies, examining relevant issues of performance practice, and consider the range of sources which provide evidence for past performance, including treatises, early recordings and instruments. This module should equip you to explore what is known about the historical performance of any repertoire written before the mid twentieth century.

Issues in Contemporary Music Composition and Performance
30 credits

The module centres around studies of a range of works composed in the latter part of the twentieth century. You will examine music and words, conceptual art, new music theatre and much more. You will undertake your own research and develop your written and oral communication skills.

Music Technology Contexts
30 credits

This module engages you in researching the aesthetic and contextual issues that underpin and justify artistic choices within music technology.

Concepts in Jazz Improvisation
30 credits

This module focuses on the concepts and language of contemporary jazz improvisation. You will examine contemporary harmony, concepts of improvisation, rhythmic concepts, 12-tone improvisation and transcription work, in the process developing your skills in research, analysis, oral presentation and improvisation.

Professional Development Options - List B

Instrumental/Vocal Teaching Placement
30 credits

Effective teaching develops through experience. This module gives you the chance to gain that experience through a teaching placement. Mentored by a professional teacher, you will not only develop your organisational, social and communication skills, but you will also gain a range of transferrable skills that will help enhance your employability.

Music, Community and Wellbeing
30 credits

This module is designed to enable you to build the knowledge and skills needed to be an effective practitioner in the field of community music making. There will be class-based practical activity and an observation of and reflection of professional practice in community settings, developing your teamwork, observation and organisational skills.

Music Management
30 credits

Conservatoire postgraduates will typically move into freelance-based careers, so it is important you learn the principles of artistic self-management. This module will introduce you to the theories behind this, including formulating a business plan, critical path analysis, finance and funding, and working with venues, festivals and found spaces.

Self-defined Professional Project
30 credits

This enables you to define your own project in an area relevant to your professional development. Assessment will centre on documentation of and critical reflection on the project.

30 credits

This module supports and guides you in developing your own lecture-recital. It will examine how to devise an appropriate project, how to find appropriate resources and how to deliver an effective lecture-recital. Through this, you will gain an ability to work as a confident, knowledgeable presenter.

Historical Keyboard Performance
30 credits

If you’re a Principal Study keyboard player, this module will give you the opportunity to gain skills in playing a historical instrument and to enhance your knowledge of relevant performance practices and practical musicianship skills. Numbers will be limited, so entry to the module will be competitive.

Performing and Producing in the Studio
30 credits

This module combines practical, technical, theoretical and sociological training to enable you to produce a recorded performance.

Interactive Music Technology Performance
30 credits

This module gives you the opportunity to engage in the development and delivery of your own live music technology project. This module will most likely provide you with knowledge outside your specialist area of study, enhancing your professional development. It will centre on your preparation of a live electronic-led project, covering such relevant topics as software programming techniques and working with hardware interfaces.

Writing Music for Media
30 credits

Organised as a series of projects which mimic the professional context, this module will involve you in composing music for several different media contexts. The range of project types include animation, factual, drama, game, news, title music and credits.

30 credits

The aim of this module is to develop your skills as an orchestrator, and to develop your creativity and imagination. You will look at the practicalities of writing for orchestra, the history of orchestration and the professional presentation of score and parts.

Advanced Music Criticism
30 credits

This module enables you to develop your experience as a music critic, and also engages you with the history of the discipline of music criticism.

Critical Editing
30 credits

Here you will be given insight into the techniques involved in creating an edition from original source materials. You’ll gain first-hand experience of transcribing and editing music from a range of seventeenth and eighteenth-century sources and the particular challenges these present, as well as learning how to employ modern editorial conventions.

Music and Ideas
30 credits

This module explores a range of approaches across the centuries to describe, investigate, rationalise and classify music.

Issues in Jazz Studies
30 credits

You will be provided with a historical and theoretical background to studies in jazz. This module is taught within Birmingham City University’s School of Media.

Course structure

The structure of our MA in Musicology is as follows:

  • Research Methods and Presentation (30 credits)
  • Dissertation Proposal (30 credits)
  • Professional Development Option (30 credits)
  • Professional Development Option (30 credits)
  • Dissertation (60 credits)

You will learn through a variety of methods, ranging from one-to-one and small-group tutorials to workshops, seminars, lectures and independent study. Support for your research project will be provided by a supervisor/s who will help guide you as you develop your skills as an independent researcher.

As you would expect of a Musicology programme, it culminates in the submission of a dissertation or musicological equivalent, where you present your research project. Preparation for this includes the earlier submission of a proposal and literature review, as well as the Research Methods and Presentation module, which is assessed by a portfolio of critiques and by a conference-style presentation. The Professional Development options are assessed by a variety of mechanisms appropriate to the nature of the individual modules, including essays, presentations, portfolios, live performance and sound recording.

Professional development options

These are listed above, together with brief descriptions (Note: not all may run every year). They are designed to cover a range of areas of activity, enabling you to focus on areas directly relevant to your interests and your predicted future professional needs.

There are two lists of options, ‘List A’ and ‘List B’. PgDip and MA students can choose any two options, irrespective of the lists; MMus students must choose four, of which one (or more) should be from List A.

Note that there are some prerequisites, and also that some modules will have a limited number of places in any one year (and in the case that demand exceeds the number of places, there will be a formal application process).

You'll be supported in making your module choices: starting in Welcome Week and continuing for one week beyond that will be an extended period of induction and counselling for all new postgraduate students.

During this period, you'll be encouraged to discuss your career aspirations, and to reflect on what choices you can make within your course to equip you with skills/knowledge relevant to those aspirations.

This process will take place through course meetings and information sessions, as well as small group and individual tutorials, and will be aimed at ensuring that you can make informed decisions in relation to your course choices.

At this stage, you'll be assigned a Personal Tutor from within the postgraduate course team; at later points during the year, they'll invite you to discuss your progress on the course, as well as your developing career plans, although you can contact your Personal Tutor – or any other member of the postgraduate course team – at any time.

If you need to choose Professional Development Options for subsequent years, you'll be invited to a review meeting towards the end of your first (and second) year of study to discuss and confirm your choices for the following year.

 Further study

One potential progression route for high achievers on this course is PhD study. Indeed, this course provides an opportunity for students with this ambition to undertake some preliminary research, and to develop a working relationship with a potential doctoral supervisor. However, this course also provides skills relevant to a range of careers both within and beyond music.

The Conservatoire has a range of other taught postgraduate programmes (PgCert, PgDip and MMus) for performers, composers and music technologists.

Enhancing employability prospects

Our aim is to prepare you for employment, giving you the knowledge, skills and confidence to succeed in your chosen branch of the music profession. This will give you a head-start in meeting the challenges involved in becoming a professional musician in the 21st century.

We also offer you guidance in making choices on your programme by encouraging you to consider your future plans, as well as your priorities. This will ensure that your decisions are strategic in relation to your professional development and future employability.


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.

Graduate jobs

Musicologists progress into a multitude of roles, and you could find yourself teaching, managing and/or administering, as well as maintaining career as a performer or composer. Our graduates have progressed into PhD study and University careers beyond that.

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 students, 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 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

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

Our staff

Around 50 full-time members of staff (including support staff) and nearly 200 visiting specialist tutors work at the Conservatoire. This means that for roughly every two students there is one member of staff.

The vast majority of our tutors are active professional musicians, dividing their time between performing or composing and teaching. All are dedicated and experienced musicians with a passion for inspiring and training the next generation of professionals.

For a full list of staff in each department or area, as well as selected biographies, please go to Departments and Tutors.