Composition - MMus / PgCert / PgDip

Attendance:
Full Time, Part Time
Starting:
September 2016, September 2017
Fees:
£9,500 for UK/EU Full Time 2016 entry (view all fees)

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 to develop other skills relevant to a future career in the music profession.

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, the flexibility to choose from a broad menu of Professional Development modules designed to help you work towards achieving your personal career aspirations
  • Personal support as you make plans for your future career
  • The flexibility to transfer from PgDip to MMus once you have begun your studies (but before completion of the PgDip course)
  • In PgCert, the ability to focus wholly on the Principal Study area
  • An intensive one-year MMus route is available (for exceptional candidates only)

Why Choose Us?

For most aspiring professional performers, postgraduate study at a conservatoire is accepted as a required continuation of their training. Furthermore, if you have other specialisms – notably composition, music technology and musicology – Birmingham Conservatoire offers the ideal environment to hone your craft, with a multitude of opportunities both to collaborate with each other and with performers.

While it's a characteristic of conservatoire study (at any level) that your principal study area is at the heart of your course, and that advanced skills in this specialist area are a pre-requisite for a successful career in the music profession, we recognise that you also need to be equipped with a range of additional essential attributes – especially given that most of you will be destined for freelance, portfolio careers which will rely on self-motivation and good organisational skills.

Our aim is to send you out with the knowledge, skills and confidence to succeed in your chosen branch(es) of the music profession, giving you a head-start in meeting the challenges involved in becoming a professional musician in the 21st century.

A distinctive feature of our postgraduate courses is that you can make choices within them directly relevant to your future career aspirations, both within your principal study area and – for PgDip, MMus and MA students – in your supporting studies; the latter take the form of ‘Professional Development Options’, which you choose from a broad and varied selection.

We also offer you guidance in making your choices by encouraging you to consider your plans for the future, and your priorities in terms of what you want to gain from your course. This will ensure that your module choices are made strategically in relation to your professional development and future employability.

Visit our open day

Birmingham Conservatoire Open Days

Our next Conservatoire Open Day is Thursday 26 January 2017.

More about our Open Days

This course is open to International students

Birmingham Conservatoire

Discover Birmingham Conservatoire

Visit our School site for more student work and extra information.

Visit the School website

New £10,000 postgraduate loans

You may be able to take advantage of the government’s plans to make loans of up to £10,000 available for postgraduate study.

More about postgraduate loans

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.

MMus Intensive applicants must be at Level 7 standard in their Principal Study Area and be well-suited to the intensive period of study.

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, Birmingham City University, Paradise Place, Birmingham B3 3HG, 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

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

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

MMus Intensive applicants should have IELTS 7 or must have studied and completed a Bachelor’s degree in the UK

 

* 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
MMus Sep 2016 FT 1 year (Intensive) £9,500 Apply via CUKAS
FT 2 years £7,500 per year Apply via CUKAS
PT 3 years £5,000 per year Apply via CUKAS
Sep 2017 FT 1 year (intensive) TBC Apply via CUKAS
FT 2 years TBC Apply via CUKAS
PT 3 years TBC Apply via CUKAS
PgCert Sep 2016 PT 1 year £4,835 Apply via CUKAS
Sep 2017 PT 1 year TBC Apply via CUKAS
PgDip Sep 2016 FT 1 year £7,500 Apply via CUKAS
PT 2 years £3,750 per year Apply via CUKAS
Sep 2017 FT 1 year TBC Apply via CUKAS
PT 2 years TBC Apply via CUKAS

International Students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
MMus Sep 2016 FT 1 year (Intensive) £17,500 Apply via CUKAS
FT 2 years £15,500 per year Apply via CUKAS
Sep 2017 FT 1 year (intensive) £17,500 Apply via CUKAS
FT 2 years £15,500 per year Apply via CUKAS
PgDip Sep 2016 FT 1 year £15,500 Apply via CUKAS
Sep 2017 FT 1 year £15,500 Apply via CUKAS

The University reserves the right to increase fees broadly in line with increases in inflation, or to reflect changes in government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament.

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 specific courses. 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.

Find additional costs for your course

Completing your application

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

This course is available part-time

Got any questions?

Search our Frequently Asked Questions for a range of information about our courses and studying here.

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 teaching.

Historical Performance Practice
30 credits

This module focuses on case studies in Historical Performance Practice, incorporating practical workshops which involve the application of research/theory to practice.

Issues in Contemporary Music Composition and Performance
30 credits

This module focuses on compositional and performance issues in contemporary music.

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.

Professional Development Options - List B

Instrumental/Vocal Teaching Placement
30 credits

This module involves a teaching placement with Services for Education (Birmingham Music Service); Teaching Matters module is a prerequisite, so this module can only be taken in a 2- or 3-year course. Numbers in a given year will be limited, so entry to the module will be competitive.

Music, Community and Wellbeing
30 credits

This module is concerned with music in health and therapeutic contexts, involving real-life placements. Numbers in a given year will be limited, so entry to the module will be competitive.

Music Management
30 credits

This module introduces you to the principles of artistic self-management, and involves you in defining and managing an actual project.

Self-defined Professional Project
30 credits

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

Lecture-Recital
30 credits

This module supports and guides you in developing your own Lecture-Recital.

Historical Keyboard Performance
30 credits

This module provides Principal Study keyboard players with the opportunity to gain skills in playing a historical instrument and to enhance their 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 deliver and evaluate recorded performance.

Interactive Music Technology Performance
30 credits

This module will engage you in the development and delivery of your own live music technology projects.

Writing Music for Media
30 credits

This module involves composition for different media contexts.

Orchestration
30 credits

This module is aimed specifically at composers and orchestral conductors.

Research Project
30 credits

This module engages you in defining and executing your own mini-research project.

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

This module enables you to honyour experience as a critical editor.

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

This module provides a historical and theoretical background to studies in Jazz: this is a core module in the School of Media’s MA Jazz Studies programme, and is taught within the School of Media.

Course structure

MMus students will take two Principal Study Project modules (60 credits each), plus four Professional Development Option modules (30 credits each).

MMus Intensive students will take one Principal Study Project module (60 credits), plus four Professional Development Option modules (30 credits each), and AP(E)L (60 credits).

PgDip students will take one Principal Study Project module (60 credits), plus two Professional Development Option modules (30 credits each).

Principal Study Project modules

For composers, the Principal Study Project modules each culminate in a portfolio of compositions. The Principal Study Project 2 portfolio (MMus only) is additionally required to include a commentary providing context on its content.

Preparation for the Principal Study Project modules is supported by individual specialist tuition, as well as by departmental activities throughout the course.

The number of 1:1 hours available (per year unless otherwise indicated) is as follows:

  • MMus Full Time (2 years) – 35
  • MMus Part Time (3 years) – 70 across the course
  • MMus Full Time (1 year intensive) – 40
  • PgDip Full Time (1 year) – 35
  • PgDip Part Time (2 years) – 17.5
  • PgCert Part-Time (1 year) – 35
Professional development options

These are listed above, together with brief descriptions. They're 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.

PgDip students must choose any two options, from either or both lists; MMus students must choose four, of which one (or more) should be from List A. Note that there are some prerequisites, and 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 two weeks 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 will invite you to discuss your progress on the course, as well as your developing career plans, although you can make contact with 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.

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:

Our music technology facilities are some of the best of their kind in the country. All of our studios are capable of recording from any of our concert halls or live rooms.

Practice rooms

Our purpose-built site includes over 50 dedicated practice rooms; some of the most heavily used rooms in the entire University!

Additional practice facilities are available after 6pm, including some spacious studios used for teaching during the day. Most practice rooms are equipped with one or two upright or grand pianos and all are fitted with sound-dampening panels.

Conservatoire Café

The Conservatoire Café is open weekdays during term time from 8.30am to around 4.30pm (closing times vary a little, depending on what’s going on in the building). Hot food, freshly prepared, is available at breakfast and lunch times, with sandwiches, snacks, cold and hot drinks available throughout the day.

Coffee Bar

Serving hot and cold drinks and a selection of snacks, the Conservatoire’s Coffee Bar generally opens before and during the interval of concerts in the Adrian Boult Hall, Arena Foyer and Recital Hall.

Conservatoire Bar

Our licensed bar is open before and during the interval of major concerts at the Conservatoire. However, most students prefer the comfort and laid-back atmosphere of the local pubs, many of which have been co-opted as student bars!

Dr 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

UK prospective students:

UK enquiry form

+44 (0)121 331 5595

EU / International prospective students:

International enquiry form

+44 (0)121 331 5389

Already applied?

Email the applications team

+44 (0)121 331 6295