Professional Performance - AdvPgDip (post-Masters level 8)

Full Time, Part Time
September 2018
£9,900 for UK/EU Full Time 2018 entry (view all fees)

Support your career as a professional performer with Royal Birmingham Conservatoire's post-Masters, Advanced Postgraduate Diploma in Professional Performance. You can choose one of six specialisms: Instrumental Performance, Vocal Performance, Collaborative Piano, Chamber Music Performance, Opera Repetiteur or Choral Conducting.

Our Advanced Postgraduate Diploma (APD) is at 'post-masters level' and is therefore for you if you're a postgraduate performer who already has a Masters degree and are beginning to accept professional level engagements. The course will help you to raise your performance standards to the next level, with highly specialised one-to-one tuition in the department most relevant to your specialism.

Balance your study with professional experience

The Professional Performance AdvPgDip allows you to take on performance engagements inside and outside Royal Birmingham Conservatoire as part of your course.

If you're a home or EU student you can even study part-time, which allows you to take the course alongside your already-developing career. Assessment is based on your performances, rather than academic work, and we even provide a professional portfolio module designed to help you deal with those niggling, but vital, non-performance aspects of your professional career.

If you're an instrumentalist, vocalist, collaborative pianist, opera repetiteur or choral conductor, you'll have 40 hours of performance tuition with our internationally renowned tutors during the course, with an additional 13 hours for further study, recording or other approved project. Chamber musicians are entitled to regular coaching and, if desired, members of the group may elect to use some of the hours allocated to them for individual tuition or Professional Project support.

What's covered in the course?

  • Develop your already advanced skills with high-quality tuition and professional performance opportunities.
  • Get a practical and performance-focused post-masters level qualification (Level 8).
  • Helps support and advance your career as a professional musician or performer.
  • Taught by specialist, experienced tutors.
  • Numerous performance opportunities at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, including ensembles, coaching workshops and masterclasses.
  • Make use of our excellent links with organisations such as City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), Birmingham Royal Ballet, Birmingham Bach Choir and Ex Cathedra via our professional schemes.
  • You'll need to be at a high, professional standard to join this course, which is limited to a small number of students per year.

For further information about auditions, visit the Entry Requirements tab.

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: Luan Shaw.

Email Course Director

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

Entry Requirements

Academic and other requirements

A postgraduate degree/diploma, normally (but not necessarily) specialising in performance or

Substantial, verifiable public performance experience at an appropriate level.

You'll be formally auditioned, normally by a panel of four people, including the Course Director, relevant Head of Department and additional specialist in your discipline, and the Head of Professional Development.

You'll need to demonstrate that you're able to perform to an appropriately advanced level.

The subsequent discussion will explore your musical interests and aspirations.

You'll also need to demonstrate an awareness of what is required of the performer wishing to forge a successful professional career in the 21st century, as well as an open mind about developing your own portfolio of relevant skills and experiences.

Please bring a copy of the score for each work/movement you perform at audition.

Audition requirements

Instrumental Performance

Instrumentalists should perform a programme of 25 minutes maximum to include three or four pieces comprising a variety of periods and styles.

Vocal Performance

You should perform a programme of 25 minutes maximum which includes music from works in at least three European languages, including English. You'll also be asked to read short texts in French, German and Italian, and to undertake some sight-reading. 

Collaborative Piano Performance

Accompanists should perform a programme of 25 minutes maximum which may include a solo work of no more than 10 minutes. The remainder of the programme should include either vocal repertoire, for example, German Lied, French mélodie or English song; or instrumental repertoire, for example a movement from a major duo-sonata or larger chamber work (strings and/or wind). Alternatively, a combination of the above may be presented. You're required to bring their your collaborative partner(s) with you to the audition. You may also be asked to undertake some sight-reading.

Chamber Music Performance

Ensembles should perform a programme of 25 minutes maximum to include three or four pieces comprising a variety of periods and styles.

Opera Repetiteur

Repetiteurs should perform a programme of two contrasting arias. These may be arias from the operatic and/or oratorio repertoire. You should bring your own vocalist(s) with you for this part of the audition.

Following your performance you will be asked to read short texts in French, German and/or Italian, and to undertake some sight-reading. Approximately one week before the audition, you will also be given an operatic excerpt (which may include accompanied recitative) to prepare in advance. In the audition, this should be both played and sung, demonstrating an understanding of the characterisation and dramatic context.

Choral Conductor

The Choral Conducting specialism audition will be in two parts each lasting 20 minutes:

In Part 1, Choral Conductors will take a 20 minute rehearsal with the Conservatoire’s Camerata chamber choir (this is the non-auditioned second chamber choir gathered each year for the choral conducting students to work with). Repertoire will be detailed in advance and will normally be two works which the choir is currently rehearsing.

In Part 2 you will be required to undertake unaccompanied sight singing in your preferred voice part (to be advised in advance) and a short passage of four part score reading in G and F clefs on the piano. You will be given a few bars of four part harmony to read which will be played four times with two or three significant mistakes for you to recognise.  You will also be asked fundamental questions about score preparation and your conducting decisions based on a score which will be sent to you to prepare in advance, approximately one week before the audition.  You may be asked to conduct it (or a section of it) to the piano and/or sing a phrase or phrases to illustrate your points.

Please bring a copy of the score for each work/movement you perform at audition.

English language requirements

  • IELTS 6.0 (5.5 in all components) or equivalent is required
  • If your first language is not English, we may ask you to take an additional English Language Test when you arrive Please see our English language requirements for full details.
International Students

Entry requirements here

UK or EU students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
AdvPgDip (post-Masters level 8) Sep 2018 FT 15 months £9,900 Apply via UCAS
PT 2 years £4,950 per year Apply via UCAS

International Students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
AdvPgDip (post-Masters level 8) Sep 2018 FT 15 months £22,000 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.

How to apply

Please apply through CUKAS using the links above. Our CUKAS Institution code is B34.

At the same time as submitting an application, you should email the Conservatoire Admissions Office with the following:

  • A full list of public performances given over the past 24 months, clearly indicating dates, venues and repertoire performed.
  • A current biography (of the kind that would appear in a concert/operatic production programme).
International applicants

You're expected to either audition 'live' in your own country at one of the Conservatoire's established audition centres, or where this is not possible, by sending a DVD recording.

Where a face-to-face meeting is not possible, some appropriate means will be found to enable a follow-up discussion with you, eg Skype.

Please note, however, that this part of the process will only be organised following receipt of your performance list and biography (see above).

Please also note that whatever the timing of your audition/submission, no offers will be made until after the January audition period in Birmingham.

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

Performance assessments

The three professional-level performance assessments will involve different repertoire and, in most cases, take a different format; details and guidance are provided in the syllabus (available for download below).

Professional Performance - AdvPgDip

Professional Performer's Portfolio

Part one

The first part enables you to gather together 'Tools for Professional Success', essentially developing a brand new or existing website to include elements such as publicity images and recordings, sample programmes and repertoire lists, details of upcoming performances and testimonials or reviews. We also require you to submit a detailed proposal for the Professional Project (see Part 2). Part 1 will be submitted in Term 3.

Part two

The second part requires you to pursue, undertake and document professional-level experience while on the course, and to reflect on that in relation to your subsequent career plans and aspirations. Having previously submitted a proposal (in Term 3) you will complete a self-defined Professional Project where the focus should be in an area specifically relevant to your individual career aspirations (e.g. making a CD recording, setting up a new ensemble, giving a lecture recital or devising and delivering a community or education project). Part 2 will be submitted towards the end of the course.

Course structure

The course revolves around your individual needs, strategic goals and enthusiasms. To get the most out of it, you'll need to be highly self-motivated and able to work on your own initiative.

There is an expectation that, with the support of your course tutors, you'll take advantage of being on the course to seek out and maximise professional development opportunities which will be strategically useful to your developing career. In other words, this is not a course leading to the start of your career, but one which you take alongside it in its early stages. The principal aim is that, when you graduate, not only will your professional life be well under way, but you'll also have developed the confidence and skills to go on shaping it.

Throughout the course you'll have expert 1:1 tuition and/or coaching in your Principal Study area. Currently, the allowance is 53 hours across the course for instrumental and vocal performers, collaborative pianists, opera repetiteurs and choral conductors: 40 hours will be assigned to your main tutor(s), but you'll be given some choice as to how you deploy the others (decisions will be made in consultation with and with the agreement of the Course Director and Head of Department).

Chamber musicians are entitled to regular coaching and, if desired, members of the group may elect to use some of the hours allocated to them for individual tuition or Professional Project support.

All students on this course have a weekly performance class together. You'll also have access to the Conservatoire's full range of ensembles, departmental workshops, performance classes and masterclasses. As an emerging professional musician, it is hoped and expected that you'll carve a distinctive niche for yourself within your department, becoming a role model for students at earlier stages in their studies.

On the performance side, your studies will culminate in three performance assessments in a professional context. For full-time students these will usually take place in terms two, three and four; for part-time students, one assessment will usually take place in Year One, and the remaining two in Year Two.

Throughout the course, your work in performance will be supported by the Professional Performer's Portfolio module. This module is focused on providing you with practical preparation for the professional world. It will be supported by 15 workshops for the whole cohort. Your work across the course - from programme planning to professional development - will be supported by 15 hours of 1:1 tutorial support; this is in addition to your 1:1 first-study hours.

How the course is structured

Performance 1
Repetiteurship 1
Performance 2
Repetiteurship 2
Performance 3
Repetiteurship 3
Professional Performer's Portfolio
45 credits 45 credits 45 credits 45 credits

Student stories

Di Xiao

Di Xiao

This intensive and inspiring course gave me the confidence and experience that prepared me for international competitions and, ultimately, the stage. Thanks to the mentoring and encouragement of the Conservatoire's staff I went on to win first prize in the Brant International Piano Competition in the year I graduated.

In turn, that led to a European tour as the UK's 08/09 representative to the European Concert Halls Organisation "ECHO Rising Stars" series during which I gave recitals at 11 of the World's most prestigious venues. The foundation provided by the APD enabled me to build a busy international touring and recording career which has included the release of 2 CDs (a third is under production), radio appearances for the BBC and Classic FM and collaborations with some of the world’s finest artists.

Chris Orton

Since graduating with the APD course prize in 2004, Chris Orton continued to pursue joint careers as a soloist and teacher.

Jack McNeill

I found the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s APD course an invaluable addition to my education as a performer. I received fantastic tuition and was constantly encouraged to look for and take hold of opportunities beyond my studies.


Student stories
Maraca2 – Percussion Duo
(Tim Palmer and Jason Huxtable)

Our duo, maraca2, formed while we were undergraduate students at the Conservatoire and our decision to focus intensely as an ensemble at postgraduate level on the APD course has proved critical to the ongoing success of the ensemble.

We used our time on the course to build our duo’s breadth of repertoire and build a network of contacts within the arts community.

This allowed us to develop a range of interesting professional strands from playing traditional recitals to delivering educational projects to unique experiences such as composing and performing the opening ceremony of the European Indoor Athletics Championships at the NIA. Since graduation, after building a secure national presence, we now spend most of our time as a duo working internationally, performing at Percussion Festivals and University Percussion departments across the World with appearances on TV and radio from Argentina to Taiwan!

We both now teach at the Conservatoire where we strive to support the next generation to realise their own professional aspirations.

Visit Maraca2 website

This postgraduate degree will help support and advance your career as a professional musician or performer.

You'll develop your already advanced skills with high-quality, 1:1 tuition and professional performance opportunities.


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 City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.

The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.

Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:

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

Luan Shaw

Head of Pedagogy and Community Engagement; Assistant Director of Postgraduate Studies; AdvPgDip Professional Performance Course Director

An alumna of Birmingham Conservatoire (1990-1994) Luan was awarded honorary membership (HonBC) in 2001, soon after completing an MA in Psychology for Musicians at the University of Sheffield. 

Her portfolio career has included regular engagements with CBSO and Longborough Festival Opera, chamber music broadcasts on BBC radio, concerto appearances, teaching at Birmingham Conservatoire Junior School, music services and independent schools (including a Head of Music position), delivering hundreds of interactive workshops for Live Music Now, Music in Hospitals, Lost Chord (dementia), early years settings, primary and special schools, moderating for AQA, adjudicating for the British and International Federation of Festivals, examining ABRSM Diploma candidates and playing co-principal clarinet with Orchestra of the Swan. 

Luan maintains many of these performer and practitioner roles alongside her Conservatoire commitments and is passionate about helping students to build their own portfolio careers. She was awarded Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy in 2015.