Being part of a research community

Studying at Birmingham City University felt a natural experience for Emma Nenadic. After being part of numerous music education groups within the city, BCU’s strong relationship with music and academia meant there was only one destination for her to study her PhD.

For PhD blog on Emma Nenadic

Capturing research

Prior to starting her research degree, Emma managed projects in various Birmingham music organisations. “It would foster great relationships between schools and music organisations, but there was rarely space for critique,” she says. “There were lots of activities and aspirational opportunities, and of course a lot of learning, but there was limited time to capture that.”

With this knowledge gap found, Emma soon felt her PhD idea begin to form. “My research is trying to critique what’s going on, looking at the musical learning that takes place in these kinds of projects – when visiting musicians work with teachers, pupils and all together. I want to see what value they offer.”

New challenges

While attending a Birmingham Music Education Hub meeting, Emma learned that Professor Martin Fautley was conducting research with a hub organisation. “I kept wondering, ‘how can I be a part of that? How can my team be supported by an institution to ask more challenging questions?’” That’s when Emma had two amazing opportunities arise. “BCU were working with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, a place I had dreamt of working at because of its research-engaged culture. When a position became available, I jumped at it. Around the same time, the opportunity to study my PhD arose. I was very lucky.”

A natural choice

Studying at BCU was a no-brainer for Emma. “It felt natural,” she says. “The University had a good knowledge of what I did and in turn I had good knowledge of what the University did. It’s also very rooted in the music community here, as am I.”

Upon reflection, Emma is glad she chose to study here. “BCU is so supportive,” she says. “Not only are my supervisors always available, despite being so busy, the Doctoral Research College are really helpful. We have lots of methodology seminars and I really enjoy the weird and wonderful things I learn from them. I’m doing the PoWER programme with Professor Fiona Cowdell, all about women achieving excellence in academia. We’ve had scholarship days, looking at the viva and academic writing.

“It’s a lovely, friendly space. It’s great.”