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Composition - MMus / PgCert / PgDip

Currently viewing course to start in 2023/24 Entry. Switch to 2022/23 Entry

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....

  • Award MMus / PgCert / PgDip
  • Start date September 2023
  • School Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
  • Faculty Faculty of Arts, Design and Media

Overview

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.

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.

This course is open to International students.

What's covered in this 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).

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

Louis Andriessen, Composer

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.

Studying with us during the Covid-19 pandemic

The University has put in place measures in response to Covid-19 to allow us to safely deliver our courses. Should the impact of the pandemic continue in future years, any additional or alternative arrangements put in place by the University will be in accordance with the latest government public health advice, health and safety legislation, and the terms and conditions of the student contract.

Open Days

Join us on campus at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire for an insight into life as a Conservatoire student.

Next Open Day: Thursday 1 December 2022

Register your interest

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.

For full details, audition requirements and audition advice, please visit the Music Auditions section of the Conservatoire website.

English language requirements

IELTS 6.0 overall with 5.5 minimum in all bands.

Fees & How to Apply

Please select your student status to view fees and apply
  • UK Student
  • International Student

UK students

Annual and modular tuition fees shown are applicable to the first year of study. The University reserves the right to increase fees for subsequent years of study in line with increases in inflation (capped at 5%) or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament. View fees for continuing students.

Award: MMus

Starting: Sep 2023

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Award: PgCert

Starting: Sep 2023

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Award: PgDip

Starting: Sep 2023

  • Mode
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International students

Annual and modular tuition fees shown are applicable to the first year of study. The University reserves the right to increase fees for subsequent years of study in line with increases in inflation (capped at 5%) or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament. View fees for continuing students.

Award: MMus

Starting: Sep 2023

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

Award: PgDip

Starting: Sep 2023

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

Access to computer equipment

You will require use of a laptop, and most students do prefer to have their own. However, you can borrow a laptop from the university or use one of our shared computer rooms.

Printing

You will receive £5 print credit in each year of your course, available after enrolment.

Field trips

All essential field trips and associated travel costs will be included in your course fees.

Access to Microsoft Office 365

Every student at the University can download a free copy of Microsoft Office 365 to use whilst at university and for 18 months after graduation.

Key software

You will be able to download SPSS and Nvivo to your home computer to support with your studies and research.

Key subscriptions

Subscriptions to key journals and websites are available through our library.

Free access to Rosetta Stone

All students can sign up to the online learning language platform for free through the Graduate+ scheme.

Project materials (mandatory)

This course includes project work that requires you to develop and produce a portfolio or collection. You'll be expected to provide the materials for use in your individual major projects; costs will vary depending on the options selected and the nature of individual practice.

Excess printing (optional)

Once you have spent your £5 credit, additional printing on campus costs from 5p per sheet.

Placement expenses (optional)

If you choose to undertake a placement, you'll need to budget for accommodation and any travel costs you may incur whilst living or working away from home.

Field trips (optional)

This course includes the option of additional trips that may enhance your experience, at extra cost.

Subscriptions (optional)

You may wish to purchase subscriptions to additional journals and websites.

Memberships (optional)

You may wish to join a union or professional body related to this course.

DBS Certificate (optional)

You will need to cover the cost of a DBS Certificate should you need one for the optional pedagogy modules.

Accommodation and living costs

The cost of accommodation and other living costs are not included within your course fees. More information on the cost of accommodation can be found in our accommodation pages.

*Professional Placement option

The Professional Placement version of the course is optional and is offered as an alternative to the standard version of the course. However, it is not possible to apply for direct entry to the Professional Placement version of the course since the decision to transfer may only be taken after consultation with your course tutors and after successfully completing at least 120 credits.

Completing a 20-week Professional Placement towards the end of your Masters degree enables you to further improve your employability skills which will, through the placement experience, allow you to evidence your professional skills, attitudes and behaviours at the point of entry to the postgraduate job market. Furthermore, by completing the Professional Placement, you will be able to develop and enhance your understanding of the professional work environment, relevant to your chosen field of study, and reflect critically on your own professional skills development within the workplace.

You will be responsible for finding and securing your own placement. The University, however, will draw on its extensive network of local, regional and national employers to support you in finding a suitable placement to complement your chosen area of study. You will also benefit from support sessions delivered by Careers+ as well as advice and guidance from your School.

Placements will only be confirmed following a competitive, employer-led selection process, therefore the University will not be able to guarantee placements for students who have registered for the ‘with Professional Placement’ course. All students who do not find a suitable placement or do not pass the competitive selection process will be automatically transferred back to the standard, non-placement version of the course.

Please note that tuition fees are payable during your placement period.

Completing your application

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

Course in Depth

PG Cert

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete one of the following CORE modules (totalling 60 credits):

PG Dip

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete the following CORE module (totalling 60 credits):

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 20 credits):

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete at least 40 credits from the following indicative list of OPTIONAL modules.

Core modules are guaranteed to run. Optional modules will vary from year to year and the published list is indicative only.

MMus

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete THREE CORE modules (totalling 140 credits):

In order to complete this course, a student must successfully complete at least 100 credits from the following indicative list of OPTIONAL modules:

  • THREE Professional Development modules (20 credits each), and

  • ONE MMus optional module (40 credits)

Core modules are guaranteed to run. Optional modules will vary from year to year and the published list is indicative only.

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).

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.

Employability

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.

International

Royal 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 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 Support Programme Director (who speaks Mandarin)
  • A mentoring system in which you, as a new postgraduate international student, are mentored by continuing postgraduate international students who will be supporting you both pastorally and academically though weekly workshops
  • Additional supporting classes for international students that are particularly designed to help you further develop your English reading, speaking and comprehension skills
  • Additional academic skills support provided by expert tutors from the BCU's Centre for Academic Success

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

Facilities & Staff

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.

Our staff

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.

More about Joe

Dr Michael Wolters

Deputy Head of Composition

Michael Wolters (born 1971 in Mönchengladbach, Germany) has maintained the position of an “other” in the world of contemporary music with works that queer traditional concert and performance situations. He has written music for traditional ensembles like Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and prefers to challenge conventional set-ups and...

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Seán Clancy

Dublin born composer Seán Clancy’s (b. 1984) music has been described as ‘equal part sacred, seductive and superficial’ (Tempo), and as ‘exploring the tensions between found and original material, narrative and rupture, elite and vernacular values, and between innovation and intervention’ (Journal of Music). His work deals with examining...

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Dr Andrew Hamilton

Composition Tutor

Andrew Hamilton was born in Dublin in 1977 and studied in Ireland, England and The Netherlands. His composition teachers included Kevin Volans, Anthony Gilbert and Louis Andriessen. Awards include first prize in the 2001 Opera Prima Europa competition in Rome and the 2002 prize at the 8th International Young Composers Forum in Apeldoorn, The...

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Howard Skempton

Lecturer in Composition

Howard Skempton was born in Chester in 1947, and has worked as a composer, accordionist, and music publisher. He studied in London with Cornelius Cardew from 1967, who helped him to discover a musical language of great simplicity. Since then he has continued to write undeflected by compositional trends, producing a corpus of more than 300 works. In...

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Dr Luan Shaw

Associate Professor: Director of Postgraduate Studies (Music)

Dr Luan Shaw is Associate Professor: Director of Postgraduate Studies (Music) at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire where she has taught since 2011. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and was made an Honorary Member of RBC in 2001. In her former role as RBC’s first Head of Pedagogy (2011-2018), she led the significant expansion of...

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