Professional Performance - AdvPgDip (post-Masters level 8)

Full Time, Part Time
September 2019
£10,100 per year for UK/EU Full Time 2019 entry (view all fees)

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

Our Advanced Postgraduate Diploma (APD) is at 'post-masters level' and is ideal for you if you are an advanced postgraduate performer who already has a Masters degree and are beginning to accept professional 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.  You can study full-time over 12 months (September-September) or part-time (2 years).

Balance your study with professional experience

The Professional Performance APD allows you to take on performance engagements both within and outside Royal Birmingham Conservatoire as part of your course.   Assessment focuses on your work in professional contexts, via a Professional Performance Portfolio module and a choice of External Engagement and Professional Project modules.   We also provide a Career Management and Self-Promotion module designed to help you deal with those niggling, but vital, non-performance aspects of your professional career.

Applications for APD places for 2019-20 will open on 18th July with a closing date of 2nd October. Please note that while late applications may be accepted, the earlier the application is made, the greater the likelihood of financial support.

If you're a home or EU student you have the option to study part-time, which allows you to take the course alongside your already-developing career. Assessment focuses on your work in professional contexts,
both within the Conservatoire and externally, and we also provide a Career Management and Self-Promotion module designed to help you deal with those niggling, but vital, non-performance aspects of your professional career.

Subject to Updates

As part of BCU’s commitment to providing excellent student experience, the content and structure of this course is being refreshed to ensure that it continues to meet the highest educational standards. This page will be updated with the revised course documentation by 30 June 2019.

What's covered in the course?

  • Develops your already advanced skills with high-quality tuition and professional performance opportunities.
  • Leads to a practical and performance-focused post-masters level qualification (Level 8).
  • Helps support and advance your career as a professional musician or performer.
  • Gives you access to specialist, experienced tutors.
  • Provides numerous performance opportunities at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, including ensembles, coaching workshops and masterclasses.
  • Makes use of our excellent links with organisations such as City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG), Birmingham Royal Ballet, Birmingham Bach Choir, Ex Cathedra, Opera North, Welsh National Opera, and Orchestra of the Swan via our professional schemes.
  • Enables you to be part of a small cohort of colleagues who are also at the high, professional standard required to be admitted to this course, which is limited to a small number of students per year.

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

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: Sian Derry.

Email Sian

Alternatively, you can register for our next open day.

Entry Requirements

Academic and other requirements

A postgraduate qualification (preferably Masters level), normally (but not necessarily) specialising in performance and/or substantial, verifiable public performance experience at a professional level

You will need to demonstrate that you're able to perform at a professional level and should submit a biography and list of performances at the time of application.

You will need to demonstrate an awareness of what is required of the performer wishing to forge a successful professional career in the 21st century, and an open mind about developing your own portfolio of relevant skills and experiences, making clear your rationale for further study.

Applications are normally subject to a two-stage audition process with a preliminary round in November, and a final round in January. Please contact us before making an application.

Audition requirements

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

Instrumental Performance

Instrumentalists should prepare a programme of 40 minutes from which the panel will choose 20-25 minutes of music at audition.  Your programme should include a major work and incorporate a variety of periods and styles. 

Vocal Performance

Singers should prepare a programme of 40 minutes from which the panel will choose 15-20 minutes of music at audition.  Your programme should include music from works in at least three European languages, including English.   You will also be asked to read short texts in French/German and/or Italian, and to undertake some sight-reading. 

Collaborative Piano Performance

Collaborative pianists should prepare a programme of 40 minutes from which the panel will choose 20-25 minutes of music at audition.  Your programme may include a solo work of no more than 5 minutes, and the remainder 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 will be required to bring your collaborative partner(s) with you to the audition.  You may also be asked to undertake some sight-reading.

Organ Performance

Organists should prepare a programme of 40 minutes from which the panel will choose 20-25 minutes of music at audition.  Your programme should include a major work and incorporate a variety of periods and styles. 

Chamber Music Performance

Ensembles should prepare a programme of 40 minutes from which the panel will choose 20-25 minutes of music at audition.  Your programme should include three or four pieces/movements comprising a variety of periods and styles.

Opera Repetiteurship

Repetiteurs should prepare a short operatic extract lasting between 10-15 minutes. Candidates must play and sing in the vocal lines. The extract must contain at least two characters and be in a language other than English. Candidates should demonstrate an understanding of characterisation and dramatic context.

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 a second operatic excerpt (which may include accompanied recitative) to prepare in advance. In the audition, this should also be both played and sung.

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 bespoke choir recruited every 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.  You should aim to focus on small sections rather than whole works/movements in order to demonstrate productive use of time and effective rehearsal strategies.

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.

English language requirements

  • IELTS 6.0 (5.5 in all components) or equivalent is required, or previous UK Batchelor’s Degree.
International Students

Entry requirements here

International Students

Don't meet our entry requirements? You could apply for courses at our International College.

Apply now

UK or EU students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
AdvPgDip (post-Masters level 8) Sep 2019 FT 12 months £10,100 per year Apply via UCAS
PT 2 years £5,050 per year Apply via UCAS

International Students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
AdvPgDip (post-Masters level 8) Sep 2019 FT 12 months £22,000 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.

How to apply

Please apply through UCAS Conservatoires using the links above. Our UCAS Conservatoires 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

Your Stage 1 (preliminary round) audition should take place 'live' in your own country at one of the Conservatoire's established audition centres.  Where this is not possible, you should send an online link to a video recording.

Please note, however, that Stage 1 of the process will only be organised following receipt of your performance list and biography (see above).

If you proceed to Stage 2 (final round), we will contact you to request a further audition 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 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.

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. 

The additional costs listed here are to be used for indicative purposes only and are based on the additional costs for the 2018/19 academic year. The additional costs for 2019/20 will be published as soon as possible.

View additional costs for this course

Additional costs

The additional costs listed at the bottom of the page are to be used for indicative purposes only and are based on the additional costs for the 2018/19 academic year. The additional costs for 2019/20 will be published as soon as possible.

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 can apply for a postgraduate loan of up to £10,906 for some courses and options?

Postgraduate loans


Professional Performance Portfolio
60 credits

The two 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 Syllabuses

While your performance work will be supported by individual tuition and departmental activity, work on other aspects of your professional development is underpinned by a series of classes and tutorials designed to serve the organisational, managerial and promotional aspects of your course and will therefore serve the following modules:

Career Management and Self-Promotion
20 credits

This module aims to expand your knowledge of the profession and helps you to manage your career as a self-employed musician.   It helps you to maximize your chances of securing work through developing your online presence and supports you in building up a portfolio of evidence of professional activity which will inspire confidence in promoters and employers.

You will choose one optional module: either External Engagement or Professional Project.

External Engagement
40 credits

The External Engagement option allows you undertake a further assessed performance, but which is distinctive in being in an external venue, and in being organized by you.  Typical engagements might include:

  • a solo/chamber music recital within an established professional concert series (instrumentalists/singers/organists)
  • a solo/chamber music recital in a venue independently arranged by the student (instrumentalists/singers/organists)
  • a concerto with an amateur, semi-professional or professional orchestra (instrumentalists)
  • a major operatic role in an external production (singers)
  • a solo oratorio role in a choral society concert (singers)
  • a rehearsal with an external choir (choral conductors/organists)
  • a rehearsal with an external opera company (repetiteurs)

You will also be required to provide a reflective piece of writing which articulates the process of undertaking the external engagement from the initial planning stages through to completion, accompanied by supporting evidence.

Professional Project
40 credits

The Project option gives you the chance to undertake an activity which may or may not have performance at its centre, but is instigated and driven by you. Possible project types might include, but are not restricted to:

  • a recording project (CD/DVD/Digital download – complete package to include marketing, design and sleeve notes or equivalent)
  • the setting up and promotion of a new chamber ensemble
  • a 'performance as research' project (delivered as an essay or as a lecture-recital)
  • a community music or education project.

If you're an instrumentalist, vocalist, collaborative pianist, organist, opera repetiteur or choral conductor, you will benefit from one-to-one expert tuition with our internationally renowned tutors during the course. Chamber musicians are entitled to both individual tuition and regular coaching for their ensemble.

The three modules which make up the course (two core, one optional) are interrelated and complementary. The flexibility of content is such that you are able to tailor the programme to suit your own needs and aspirations.

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.

Students on this course have the opportunity to organise weekly performance classes for their cohort. You will 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.

During the course, you will undertake two performance assessments in a professional context within the Conservatoire. For full-time students these will usually take place in terms two and three; for part-time students, one assessment will usually take place in Year 1, and the other in Year 2. You will then have the option to undertake a third professional engagement externally (via the External Engagement module) or to undertake a Professional Project in an area closely aligned to your career aspirations.

Throughout the course, your work in performance will be supported by the Career Management and Self-Promotion module. This module is focused on providing you with practical preparation for the professional world and will be supported by individual tutorials and regular workshops for the whole cohort. 

CORE: Professional Performance PortfolioCORE: Career Management and Self-PromotionOPTIONAL: Either External Engagement or Professional Project
60 credits 20 credits 40 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.

Luan Shaw

Head of Pedagogy and Director of Postgraduate Studies

Luan is Director of Postgraduate Studies and Head of Pedagogy 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. She is passionate about helping students to build their portfolio careers and having recently completed research in this area via the MEd in Academic Practice at Birmingham City University, her doctoral research also focuses on facilitating the transition from student to professional through instrumental teacher education in conservatoires. 

An alumna of RBC, Luan became a member of the European Union Youth Orchestra and recipient of the Worshipful Company of Musicians Silver Medal soon after graduating in 1994. She freelanced with the CBSO and other UK orchestras for over 20 years and played principal clarinet for numerous Longborough Festival Opera productions including Wagner’s Ring Cycle. As a chamber musician, Luan has performed throughout the UK, on BBC Radio and at the Banff International Festival, and her research on Members’ Roles in Wind Quintets was published shortly after completing an MA in 'Psychology for Musicians' at the University of Sheffield.