Studying as a Postgraduate

Why should I think about applying for a postgraduate qualification in a performance or non-performance area - what are the reasons for thinking of doing so?

A postgraduate qualification from Birmingham Conservatoire specialising in any kind of performance (Classical or Jazz), composition, technology or musicology will naturally allow you to take your skills in that area to a higher level.

At the same time, it will offer you an opportunity to broaden your experience and thus prepare you for a career in the music profession.

In most cases our graduates pursue portfolio careers in which work in their first-study area forms a significant part, but where complementary activities such as teaching, community work or music administration are also likely to feature.

Being able to manage such a career – not least to be able to promote yourself – is vital, and by putting emphasis on your professional development, a postgraduate course at Birmingham Conservatoire will equip you well for life in the professional world.

When is the best time for me to apply? Can a decision be made after final results from an undergraduate level course, to enable postgrad to start the next academic year?

We have two main postgraduate auditions periods, in November and February respectively. To have an audition in the first of these, you will need to have applied by 1 October; to be scheduled for an audition in February, you should have submitted your application by early January.

However, we continue taking applications after these dates, with auditions arranged on an individual basis. In order to take up a place in September, it is advisable to submit an application by the end of July.

How do I approach the funding issue?

At Birmingham Conservatoire, we are well aware that undertaking postgraduate study involves a significant financial commitment. We offer internal scholarships on the basis of performance at audition. We also suggest that applicants investigate external sources of funding; the Musicians Benevolent Fund's Funding Wizard is a good place to start.

Students may also apply for career development loans from banks which offer this service, though we would advise anyone entering into such an agreement to do so with complete awareness of the terms and conditions. Part-time study (available on all our PG courses) is also a good practical way of spreading the cost while simultaneously giving you more time to take on paid part-time work alongside your studies.

How can I expect my course to differ from undergraduate study? For example, will I be expected to work on my own more and to be more self-motivated?

By the end of an undergraduate degree, a student should be accustomed to managing their own time and their own work, and to undertaking self-devised projects.

Postgraduate-level work therefore assumes and encourages a high level of self-motivation and the ability to work independently; at Birmingham Conservatoire this happens within a very supportive environment.

How will my work be assessed? Will this differ from undergraduate work?

As you would expect, postgraduate work is a level above final-year undergraduate work: while some of the means of assessment are likely to be similar, the expectations will obviously be higher in terms of achievement.

We use a wide range of assessment methods on our postgraduate courses at Birmingham Conservatoire, appropriate to the different types of work involved on our various courses. Assignments of all kinds are devised in such a way that students can gear them to suit their own particular interests and enthusiasms.

Will postgraduate work mean I have access to a more elite group of teachers?

All our students at Birmingham Conservatoire have access to high quality tuition from well-qualified and enthusiastic tutors. The vast majority of our tutors are active professional musicians, all of them dedicated and experienced, with a passion for inspiring and training the next generation of professionals.

How realistic are part-time options? What are the implications in terms of the length of my course of study?

The length of our part-time options is listed above. Part-time study works best if students have some flexibility in their own availability, though we pride ourselves at Birmingham Conservatoire on being as flexible as possible.

Certainly, part-time study can have a number of benefits: as mentioned, it is a good way of spreading the cost and allows the student to combine study and work more easily. But just as important, it allows more time for development, particularly in the first-study area, and a number of students will choose part-time study for this reason alone.

How much more employable will a postgraduate qualification potentially make me?

As mentioned, a postgraduate qualification from Birmingham Conservatoire will equip you not just with advanced skills in your specialist area, but with numerous other attributes essential to establishing a successful career in the music profession.