Musicology - MA

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Whatever your interests, our Musicology course gives you the unique opportunity to pursue your own research project within a lively and exciting Conservatoire environment.

Our flexible course enables you to mould a programme of study to your own needs and aspirations, and may be approached as preparation for a research degree in music.

It is important that a musicologist also develops complementary skills and/or knowledge outside their specialism which will help equip them for a future career: professional musicologists typically find themselves, amongst other things, teaching, managing and administering; some even maintain parallel careers as professional performers or composers.

Therefore, we provide you with a choice of Professional Development Options (shared across our postgraduate programmes) alongside your musicological work to give you the opportunity to develop and/or expand your interests across a range of complementary areas.

The Conservatoire team—which comprises a large number of research-active staff—has a vast array of expertise, allowing us to supervise a wide range of projects, and we are particularly keen to attract those interested in pursuing Masters-level research in our specialist areas.

These include: Late Medieval Music; French Music of the 17th, 18th and 20th centuries; Italian Baroque Music; 18th and 19th Century British, Russian or Austro-Germanic Music; Contemporary Film and Television Music; Theory and Analysis; 20th-Century Music Theory and Analysis; and Music Critics and Criticism.

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire also hosts a significant collection of historical instruments and we welcome studies with a focus on performance practice and/or critical editing.

Recent research projects include:

  • An exploration of Music Performance Anxiety in a Conservatoire Woodwind Department.
  • The Music of Hans Zimmer, US Military Intervention and "The Other" in Film; the Sound of the Ungrievable.
  • Easy Listening: Jerry Lanning and the BBC Radio Orchestra 1979-81.
  • The Emergence and Evolution of the Piano Study in the Years 1797-1837.
  • Voices from a Non-Place: An Investigation into Language, Space and the Sung Voice.
  • The Lute and Non-Nobility in Elizabethan England.
  • Alexei Stanchinsky (1888-1914): Context and Influences.
  • Clara Schumann as Pedagogue.
  • Italian Film Music During the 1930s: Political Appropriation and Socioeconomic Agendas.
  • Constructive or Destructive? Assessing the Impact of Feedback in Instrumental Piano Lessons.
  • Irish Rebel Music 1969-1995: Appropriation and Hidden(?) Agendas.

Our MA Musicology course can be studied as a standalone course, but it is also intended to help prepare you for a research degree.

Please note we consider applications throughout the year for this course, it does not close for applications in October.

What's covered in the course?

Most postgraduate conservatoire degrees are focused on performance or composition, and don’t cater for musicologists.  This is not the case at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, where this course provides you with the opportunity not only to develop your skills as a musicologist, but to supplement them with complementary studies unique to a Conservatoire environment.  

Your own research project will be at the heart of your course, and alongside this you will choose from the Conservatoire’s menu of postgraduate Professional Development options, which will allow you either to hone your skills in complementary areas, or to develop and expand your interests, providing the opportunity to interact and network with fellow musicians and a range of staff, as well as enjoying the excellent facilities the Conservatoire boasts.

You will benefit from the Conservatoire’s excellent library resources, as well as the opportunity to get involved with our performance departments, and our wider research community of students and staff through seminars, study days, social activities and other events.

Why Choose Us?

  • The course is structured around your own research interests, and ensures you have the skills and knowledge needed to successfully negotiate and complete your research project (as well as preparing you for PhD study, should you decide to progress).
  • You’ll be taught by a team of distinguished musicologists, many of whom are also experienced performers.
  • You’ll have the flexibility to choose from a broad menu of Professional Development options, designed to help you work towards achieving your personal career aspirations.
  • Royal Birmingham Conservatoire has some of the best music technology facilities in the country, and a brand new building.
  • We are within easy travelling distance to the UK’s major research libraries and instrument collections.

Conservatoire Open Day Feature

Open Days

Our next Open Day for this course will take place on Thursday 23 January 2020. Visit us to get a real insight into student life at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

Book your place

This course is open to International students

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Discover Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

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

Visit the School website

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 Course Director

Alternatively, you can register for our next open day.

Entry Requirements


UK students should normally hold a 2:1 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.

Interview requirements

All applicants will submit a proposal detailing ideas for their Dissertation project and this will be followed by an interview.

Home student auditions will be scheduled live in Birmingham.

EU/international students outside the UK at the time of application may participate in a Skype interview.

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 7 overall; or alternatively must have studied and completed a Bachelor’s degree in the UK;*.

International Students

Entry requirements here


* 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.

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
MA Sep 2019 FT 1 year £7,100 per year Apply via UCAS
PT 2 years £3,550 per year Apply via UCAS

International Students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
MA Sep 2019 FT 1 year £12,300 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.

Applying via UCAS Conservatoires

Follow the link 'apply via UCAS' above, proceed to your application and select Musicology from the drop down menu available.

If you experience any problems, please contact either:

  • Postgraduate Director, Shirley Thompson: +44 (0)121 331 7214
  • Programme Administrator, Angela McCabe: +44 (0)121 331 6900.

Please note we consider applications throughout the year for this course, it does not close for applications in October.

Your proposal

At the time you submit your application, you should send direct to a proposal containing the following:

  • A rationale for your proposed dissertation project
  • A discussion of the context in which your proposed project sits, with references: i.e. you need to show an awareness of existing research on the topic (about 250 words)
  • The aims of your project
  • An outline description of what will be covered in your project (about 300 words)
  • An indicative bibliography

Download our template to help you write your dissertation project proposal to support your application.

Download template


Once we have received your application and proposal we will invite you to an interview. For home students this will be scheduled live in Birmingham, while EU/international students outside the UK at the time of application may participate in a Skype interview.

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


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

Career Development
20 credits

Members of the music profession require not only high-level specialist skills but also the ability to target those skills strategically to different circumstances. This module focuses on a range of different aspects of a musician’s professional development that directly relate to the music industry and their preparation for it: from self-promotion and self-management, to funding and wellbeing. It is thus central to a programme which aims to prepare you for a career as a musician in the 21st century.

It requires you, near the beginning of your postgraduate studies, 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. Weekly workshops, delivered by internal staff and external professionals, will focus on the practicalities of a career in music, providing you with a better insight into the industry you will be entering, as well as encouraging you to be self-reflective about your own personal and professional development needs.

Concepts in Musicology
20 credits

This module is designed to develop your understanding of the world of musicology by introducing you to its key concepts and theoretical foundations, providing you with a broad knowledge of the field, including key areas of discourse and development, and enabling you to contextualise your own research or practice. This module will provide you with the knowledge and skills to engage critically with relevant scholarship, construct effective and well-supported arguments, and develop transferrable skills, including self-direction, critical reading and thinking, organization and time management – all of which will be useful beyond the end of your programme.

For MA Musicologists, this is a core module and will provide important training for your Dissertation. You will develop advanced research skills, and a broad knowledge of the field of musicology, facilitating the contextualisation and critical engagement of your Dissertation, and enabling you to engage with the key arguments and theories relevant to your own research projects, drawing upon complementary studies as and when appropriate.

Conference Paper
20 credits

MA Musicology culminates in the submission of a Dissertation, in which you will demonstrate command of your field of study, critical engagement with existing scholarship as a context for your independent research, an ability to work autonomously to formulate and develop an extended research project, and effective communication of your research findings. Effective verbal communication of your research – particularly through a conference-style paper – is an essential tool for a musicologist. Likewise, a knowledge and understanding of the style, function and purpose of conferences is also valuable. As a musicologist, attending and delivering papers at conferences will likely become a feature of your professional life, particularly if you wish to continue your studies to doctoral level and beyond. As such, experience of, and practice in, this discipline will be helpful to your continued development.

This module will equip you with the skills and knowledge to successfully write and deliver your own conference paper on your chosen area of research. This will be given at the Conservatoire’s biannual Postgraduate Research Study Day in the summer exam period, enabling you to present your research within a supportive conference environment, albeit one which mimics the professional context.

Dissertation Proposal
20 credits

MA Musicology culminates in the submission of a Dissertation, in which you will demonstrate command of your field of study, critical engagement with existing scholarship as a context for your own independent research, an ability to work autonomously to formulate and develop an extended research project, and effective presentation of your research findings. This module works in conjunction with Concepts in Musicology to assist the formation, contextualisation and preliminary stages of work on your Dissertation. As your initial research progresses, and your subject area and research questions become more defined, this module supports you in formulating and structuring your ideas into a proposal fit for formal scrutiny. The submission, including a literature review – in which you will critically evaluate and contextualise existing scholarship within your research area – will provide you with the opportunity to exercise your written presentation skills, receive formal feedback on your proposed Dissertation, and will result in the formulation of a strong research project that will be a feasible undertaking within the given time, demonstrating appropriate methodology.

Understanding the ingredients of an effective research proposal will be helpful to your continued development as a musicologist, and the art of writing strong proposals is an essential skill should you wish to go on to doctoral study or to apply for any type of funding. If you choose not to pursue your academic studies further, these skills will also be useful in a range of other contexts within the professional world, where you may need to articulate, justify and plan a project. Other transferable skills developed in this module that will be useful to your subsequent career development include self-direction, self-motivation and critical reflection.

60 credits

The Dissertation is the culmination of the MA Musicology course. The purpose of this module is to enable you to undertake a sustained, in-depth and theoretically-informed research project by exploring an area that is of personal interest to you. Thus, the content of this module is determined by your individual research interests. The outcome may take the form of a written Dissertation, a Scholarly Edition or a Musicological Equivalent, and will be discussed in consultation with your supervisor(s). Through this module, you will demonstrate command of your chosen field of study by critically engaging with existing scholarship as a context for your own independent research, work autonomously to formulate and develop an extended research project, and develop the skills necessary to present your research findings effectively. Among the transferable skills developed here are self-direction, self-motivation, initiative-taking, problem-solving and decision-making, all of which are essential if you intend to pursue musicological research further, whether independently, in the context of employment, or in a future PhD project, the latter being a logical progression for a student who is particularly successful in this module.

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

The Emerging Researcher: Optional modules
40 credits

Optional modules (40 credits each)

  • Research Project
  • Critical Edition
  • Lecture-Recital
  • The Reflective Practioner
    • There are two pathways through this module: 1. Professional Placement, and 2. Creative Interdisciplinary Artist.

OR two of the following Professional Development Modules:

Professional Development: Optional modules
40 credits

Professional Development modules (20 credits each)

Conservatoire based

  • Concepts in Musicology
  • Contemporary Music Concepts and Practice
  • Creative Interactive Music Technology Performance
  • Critical Editing Techniques
  • Documentation
  • Experimental Performance in Context(s)
  • Historical Instrument Performance
  • Historical Performance Practice
  • Independent Scholarship in Music
  • Music and Ideas
  • Music Technology Contexts
  • Orchestration
  • Performing and Producing in the Studio
  • Professional Music Criticism
  • Self-Promotion Project
  • Teaching Matters: Principles and Practice
  • Work Placement
  • Writing Music for Media
  • Music, Community and Wellbeing (BMus module)

School of Art based

  • Art and Ecologies
  • Contemporary Philosophy and Aesthetics
  • Discourses in Art and Design
  • Models and Methods of Curatorial Practice
  • Queer Strategies in Practice
  • Small Arts Business Set Up
  • Social Practice in the Visual

School of Media based

  • Live Events and Festival Management
  • Social Media as Culture and Practice
Core modules are guaranteed to run. Optional modules will vary from year to year and the published list is indicative only.

Course structure

You will learn through a variety of methods, ranging from one-to-one and small-group tutorials to workshops, seminars, lectures and independent study. Support for your research project will be provided by a supervisor/s who will help guide you as you develop your skills as an independent researcher.

As you would expect of a Musicology programme, it culminates in the submission of a dissertation or musicological equivalent, where you present your research project. Preparation for this includes the earlier submission of a proposal and literature review, and presentation of an aspect of your research in the form of a conference paper given at the Conservatoire’s biannual Postgraduate Research Study Day. Alongside this, you will develop your understanding of the world of musicology, exploring key concepts and theoretical foundations. The Career Development module requires 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 from a varied list. The Professional Development options are assessed by a variety of mechanisms appropriate to the nature of the individual modules, including essays, presentations, portfolios, live performance and sound recording.

You'll be supported in making your module choices: starting in Welcome Week and continuing for one week beyond that will be an extended period of induction and counselling for all new postgraduate students, at which point you will be assigned a Personal Tutor from within the postgraduate course team. 

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. 

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.

 Further study

One potential progression route for high achievers on this course is PhD study. Indeed, this course provides an opportunity for students with this ambition to undertake some preliminary research, and to develop a working relationship with a potential doctoral supervisor. However, this course also provides skills relevant to a range of careers both within and beyond music.

The Conservatoire has a range of other taught postgraduate programmes (PgCert, PgDip and MMus) for performers, composers and music technologists.

 Akvile SmotaviciuteStudent stories

Akvile Smotaviciute is a postgraduate student at Birmingham Conservatoire studying for a Master’s degree in Musicology. She also studied her undergraduate degree at Birmingham Conservatoire, and enjoyed it so much she decided to stay.

I love the flexibility that this course offers. There are only a couple of compulsory modules that everyone on the Musicology course has to take, but after that you can choose from an extensive list of optional modules and really tailor your course to your own interests and needs. Postgraduate research can sometimes be quite lonely, but the Conservatoire are putting a real effort into bringing all the research students together to share ideas and talk about our work. It’s fascinating – there are so many different people working on completely different fields – and it’s always exciting to learn something new from them! It’s also a very supportive environment, the staff at the Conservatoire are incredibly helpful and kind.

Enhancing employability prospects

Our aim is to prepare you for employment, giving you the knowledge, skills and confidence to succeed in your chosen branch of the music profession. This will give you a head-start in meeting the challenges involved in becoming a professional musician in the 21st century.

We also offer you guidance in making choices on your programme by encouraging you to consider your future plans, as well as your priorities. This will ensure that your decisions are strategic in relation to your professional development and future employability.


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.

Graduate jobs

Musicologists progress into a multitude of roles, and you could find yourself teaching, managing and/or administering, as well as maintaining career as a performer or composer. Our graduates have progressed into PhD study and University careers beyond that.

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 students, 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 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.

Our staff

Around 50 full-time members of staff (including support staff) and nearly 200 visiting specialist tutors work at the Conservatoire. This means that for roughly every two students there is one member of staff.

The vast majority of our tutors are active professional musicians, dividing their time between performing or composing and teaching. All are dedicated and experienced musicians with a passion for inspiring and training the next generation of professionals.

For a full list of staff in each department or area, as well as selected biographies, please go to Departments and Tutors

To find more details about our Research-active staff and research activities within the Conservatoire, please go to Research