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Musicology - MA

Currently viewing course to start in 2024/25 Entry.

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....

  • School Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
  • Faculty Faculty of Arts, Design and Media

This course is:

Open to International Students


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:

  • Florence B. Price: An exploration of European Tradition with African-American Heritage
  • An Exploration of Music Performance Anxiety in a Conservatoire Woodwind Department
  • Chopin’s Neglected Contemporaries: Charles-Laurent Rhein and Adolph von Henselt as Contributors to the Nineteenth-Century Piano Etude
  • Critical Edition of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint George, Violin Concertos, Op. 7
  • Easy Listening: Jerry Lanning and the BBC Radio Orchestra 1979-81
  • 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
  • The Pianist-Composer Alexis Weissenberg
  • Ravel and his Aesthetic of the Macabre
  • A Handsworth Revolution: The Development of a Birmingham Reggae Sound
  • “A Master of his Profession”: Carlo Bassini and the training of the female voice, 1840-1870
  • Critical Edition of Joseph Bologne’s Violin Concertos Op. 7 Nos. 1 and 2

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.

This course is open to International students.

What's covered in this 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.

Open Day

Join us on campus where you'll be able to explore our facilities and accommodation in person, and chat to staff and students from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

Next Open Day: Thursday 7 December 2023

Book now

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 6.5 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;*.

English language requirements

  • IELTS overall score 7.0 (with no lower than 6.5 in all components) or equivalent is required.

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.

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: MA

Starting: Sep 2024

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • £992 per 20 credits
  • Year 1 - 80 credits
  • Year 2 - 100 credits

Fees for Part-time students

This course can be studied on a Part-time study basis. The cost per year of study is based on credit requirements for that year.

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: MA

Starting: Sep 2024

  • 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.


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.

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.

Specialist equipment (mandatory)

This course requires the purchase of specialist equipment, such as study materials (books, scores, recordings) where these are not available in the library.

Excess printing (optional)

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

Books (optional)

All module key texts will be in the University library, but in limited numbers. You may choose to purchase a copy.

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.

Instrument maintenance (optional)

Musicians are expected to cover day to day costs relating to their Principal Study discipline, e.g. keeping your instrument in good working order, replacing consumables, e.g. strings/reeds. It may also be necessary to purchase software or scores, for example.

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


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

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

OR two of the following Professional Development Modules:

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

Download course specification

Download now

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 modules 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.

The following gives an indication of 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).

Conservatoire based

  • 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, Community and Wellbeing
  • 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 Experience Project
  • Writing Music for Media

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 Arts

School of Media based

  • Live Events and Festival Management
  • Social Media as Culture and Practice

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 MA Musicology student over two years.


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.


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

RBC concert hall

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 state-of-the-art music facility includes five public performance venues – a 440-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 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 able to 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

Siân Derry

Assistant Director of Postgraduate Studies (MA Musicology Course Director, Professional Performance - AdvPgDip Course Director)

Siân Derry is a Senior Lecturer in Music, and Assistant Director of Postgraduate Studies (MA Musicology Course Director, Professional Performance - AdvPgDip Course Director) at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. She joined the Conservatoire in 2015, having previously taught at the University of Manchester. Siân completed her BMus Hons degree...

More about Siân

Dr Luan Shaw

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...

More about Luan