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  1. Research degrees
Study at City

PhD / MPhil Music

The Department of Music is an internationally renowned, research-driven environment for musical study and practice. Our research outlook is both cosmopolitan and international.

Key information

Start date

City offers two registration points for research degree students, in September and February each year.


Full-time students are permitted a maximum of four years' registration. Part-time students are permitted a maximum of seven years' registration. Students must submit a thesis and be examined within this period.

As a full-time student, you will spend the majority of your working time in research at City. You are expected to dedicate yourself full-time to your research. As a part-time student, you are expected to spend the equivalent of two days per week on your research. This period shall not exceed 15 hours of organised daytime study per week.



Full-time: £4,590per year

Part-time: £2,295 per year


Full-time: £12,240 per year

Part-time: £6,120 per year


The Department of Music is an internationally renowned, research-driven environment for musical study and practice. Our research outlook is both cosmopolitan and international.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 rated 87% of our research as either 'world leading' (4*) or 'internationally excellent' (3*). This included 100% of our research impact being considered 'outstanding' (4*) or 'very considerable' (3*) and a research environment that was similarly assessed at 100% in being 'world leading' (4*) or 'internationally excellent' (3*) for its vitality and sustainability. The department was placed 11th out of 84 submissions for the proportion of 4*+3* activity and is in the top 25% of all submissions nationally for Grade Point Average (GPA).

The Department of Music has a vibrant research culture and welcomes strong applicants with original research topics for its PhD Programme (see 'Research Areas' in the 'Structure and Awards' tab). In recent years the Department has been successful in securing several Research Fellowships and Studentships.


Entry requirements

Applicants should normally hold a Masters-level degree in music or an area cognate to their area of research.

English requirements

For students whose first language is not English, the following qualifications will meet the English language requirement for entry to a postgraduate course of study:

  • A first degree from a UK university or from the CNAA.
  • A first degree from an overseas institution recognised by City as providing adequate evidence of proficiency in the English language, for example, from institutions in Australia, Canada or the United States of America.
  • GCE O-level/GCSE English language or English literature, grade C minimum.
  • An overall IELTS score of 7.0, including 7.0 in writing, with no component score below 6.0. (Please note, IELTS test scores are valid for a maximum period of 2 years from the time at which the test was taken).
  • Other evidence of proficiency in the English language which satisfies the board of studies concerned.

Visa requirements

International Students (EEA and Non EEA) coming to study in the UK, may need to apply for a visa or entry clearance to come to the UK to study. The way that you apply may vary depending on the length of your course. There are different rules for:

  • EEA nationals joining the programme in 2020 and EEA nationals joining from January 2021
  • Students on courses of more than six months
  • Students on courses of less than six months
  • Students on a pre-sessional English language course.

For more information see our main Visa page.


Research students follow individually supervised programmes leading either to the submission of a thesis (musicology; ethnomusicology), or a portfolio of compositions (instrumental and vocal composition and/or studio-based digital or electroacoustic work). Please note: the thesis for the composition is not a commentary on the student's works composed but a dissertation on an area of research related to the student's compositional interests.

Initially students are registered for the MPhil degree. Transfer to PhD status occurs once good progress has been made on the initial stages of the research; this can take place at the end of the first year of full-time study, the second year of part-time study, or later. The work completed at the time of transfer contributes to the PhD.

The PhD will normally be completed after three years of full-time research (five years part-time), followed by a one-year period of 'writing-up' during which the final preparation of the thesis or portfolio takes place. Students intending to complete the MPhil only will normally carry out two years of full-time research (or three years part-time), plus the period of 'writing-up'.

As a general guideline MPhil theses do not normally exceed 60,000 words, and PhD theses do not normally exceed 90,000 words. Audio and visual media may form part of the submission.

In Composition, the MPhil portfolio will normally contain at least three, and the PhD at least five, substantial works, or negotiated equivalent, with a contextualising commentary. The portfolio is accompanied by a thesis, which will usually consider aesthetic and contextual issues related to the works but is not about them. Substantially fewer words are expected for composition-based theses.


  • Biography
  • Byzantine and Modern Greek art music
  • Choral music of the Slavic Orthodox churches
  • Church music
  • Critical Musicology
  • Feminist, gay and lesbian musicology
  • Gender and sexuality in Popular music
  • Gender representation in music
  • Historiography and canonicity
  • Historical performance practice
  • Music and literature
  • Music and society
  • Music for film, television and video games
  • Music in the Third Reich
  • Music in cultural history
  • Music in 19th-century Russia and the Soviet Union
  • Music in 20th-century Germany
  • Music videos
  • Nineteenth-century music
  • Plainchant
  • Pop-Rock music
  • Popular music studies
  • Reception history
  • Studies of musical performance, both live and recorded
  • The Frankfurt School, Theodor Adorno and Marxist aesthetics
  • Twentieth-century and contemporary music
  • Women composers


  • African-American music
  • Balkan traditions
  • Creative processes in music, with particular reference to the Middle East
  • Diaspora studies
  • Ethnicity, identity and music
  • Ethnomusicology of Western art music
  • European folk music traditions
  • Greek song
  • Japanese traditional music
  • Middle Eastern musics
  • Music and issues of globalisation
  • Music and the politics of cultural representation
  • Music in Middle Eastern cinema
  • Music, power and ideology
  • The study of musical instruments
  • Urban Ethnomusicology


  • Instrumental and vocal composition
  • Composition for film, television and videogames
  • Studio composition
  • Analysis and aesthetics of composition

Performance-based research

Applicants should normally hold a Masters-level degree in music or an area cognate to their research topic.

Research students follow individually supervised programmes leading either to the submission of a thesis (musicology, ethnomusicology); a portfolio of compositions (instrumental and vocal composition and/or studio-based digital or electroacoustic work); or a performance plus thesis (for performance-based research).

Please note: the thesis for the composition is not a commentary on works that the student has composed but a dissertation on an area of research related to the student's compositional interests.

Funding options

Fees for doctoral candidates are charged annually and cover registration, supervision and examination. Fees are subject to review each year and may vary during your period of registration.

You pay the above fees (which usually increase each year in line with inflation) annually until you are ready to go into 'writing up' status, whereby you are no longer researching your research topic and are solely writing up your thesis for examination. You will not be required to pay further tuition fees but you will be charged the writing-up fee of £300 which will cover you for the duration of the writing-up period (a maximum of 12 months for full-time and 18 months for part-time students).

If a student fails to submit their thesis within the maximum writing-up period, they will be reverted to full registration (full-time or part-time depending on their status before moving to writing up) and will be required to pay the full fees. Students will only be expected to pay for the time taken to complete the thesis and once the thesis has been submitted the remaining proportional fees will be refunded to the student.

Fees are payable upon registration. Details of methods of the payment of tuition fees can be found on our fees and funding pages.

School Funding

The Department has been successful in securing or supporting research funding, and applicants for research degrees are encouraged to apply for Research Studentships where appropriate.

In the past few years the Department has been awarded five two-year Research Fellowships, of which only two are awarded each year, in Film Studies, Composition, Music Therapy and Historical Musicology. Two three-year Studentships, in Musicology and Ethnomusicology have also been awarded.

The Department has also been successful in gaining external funding for research, including various Research Council funds and a Leverhulme Trust grant for the City, University of London Sinfonietta composition project.

Postgraduate Doctoral Loans

The Government has introduced a new Postgraduate Doctoral Loans scheme which can provide a loan of up to £25,000 over three years to support study for a doctoral degree. A Postgraduate Doctoral Loan can help with course fees and living costs while you study and can be used alongside any other forms of support you may be able to receive, for example from industry or business or through your PhD supervisor.

Find out more about Postgraduate Doctoral Loans

Department of Music Doctoral Programme fee waivers

The Department of Music at City is offering two fee waivers for PhD studies commencing in September 2019 or January 2020. Enrolment can be on full-time or part-time basis.

While these fee waivers are open to all, we wish particularly to encourage applicants from under-represented groups at this level, or those considering doctoral studies who have taken non-traditional educational routes.

What is Offered

These awards will provide a full tuition-fee waiver for UK and EU students for the duration of the programme. Applications from overseas applicants are welcome, but the applicant must make appropriate arrangements to cover the difference between the overseas and UK tuition fee.

As part of our commitment to doctoral student training, you will also be eligible for appointment as a Graduate Teaching Assistant and are likely to be offered teaching-related duties (to a maximum of 150 hours each year for full-time students). This work will be paid in full.


The studentships will be awarded on the basis of outstanding academic potential, and a record of achievement that evidences the capacity to complete successfully a programme of doctoral research.

  • Applicants whose first language is not English must have achieved at least 7.0 in IELTS or a recognised equivalent
  • Applicants must not be currently registered as a doctoral student at City, University of London, or any other academic institution

How to Apply

Applications must be made online using the ‘How to Apply’ link below, and with the materials requested on that page. Applicants are strongly advised to make contact with a potential supervisor prior to making an application.

Closing date: 23.59 on Monday 15th July 2019

For any enquiries, please email



Each student is assigned a supervisor whose role is to:

  • Ensure that the student develops a detailed research plan and has clear targets
  • Assess research training needs
  • Enable access to necessary resources
  • Encourage and support initiative and motivation
  • Provide regular feedback on work.

City runs an induction programme, covering training in research methods, computer and library facilities, and discussion of research students' needs.

All research students present their work in progress in the Department's annual Research Seminar Series which acts as a regular meeting point for research students. There are also occasional postgraduate seminars in specialist areas, including a postgraduate composers' listening group.


Find out more information on the central provision for doctoral students in our City graduate school section.

Research Environment

With strong links between research and postgraduate teaching, research students benefit from the Department of Music's integration of Western and non-Western music, and an interdisciplinary approach that encourages studies related to popular culture and contemporary creative practice, performance, technology, aural culture and world music.

Research students are studying areas as diverse as London-based Klezmer music, 18th-century publishing practices and the nature of collaboration in live electroacoustic performance. All students benefit from participation in a weekly research seminar series, attended by both staff and student researchers across the Department. Other events held throughout each term include public concert series, specialist seminars and student performances.

How to apply

Preliminary Enquiries

To be considered for the MPhil/PhD programme, one of our staff must be willing to supervise your research. You are therefore encouraged to contact a staff member whose research interests accord with your own prior to making an application. Their profiles can be found on our website: Further information about research within the Department of Music can be found here:

We accept applications on an ongoing basis for entry in late September and early February. There is no formal application deadline, but it is advisable to apply as early as possible due to the limited availability of supervisors.

To apply online, you will need to submit the following supporting documents:

  • A full curriculum vitae specifying academic qualifications, and experience or achievements relevant to the application and the research proposal.
  • A research proposal, giving as much details as possible about the research area, and the reasons for carrying out the research.
  • An account of the ideal resources - hardware, software and supervisory support - needed to enable the work to be carried out.
  • An example of written work which demonstrates writing skills and intellectual ability.
  • Compositions: composers should submit a folio of recent compositions with recordings if possible. Electroacoustic composers should submit digital recordings.
  • Copies of your degree certificates and transcripts.
  • Official work e-mail addresses (not private ones) for two academic referees (or one academic and one professional referee where appropriate)
  • Proof of your English language proficiency (if applicable).

When this information is received the application will be assessed by the relevant academic staff. Further information or an interview may be required. The applicant will be contacted if this is the case. The outcome will be reported to the applicant as soon as is practicable.

Apply Online

Writing Your Research Proposal

Please limit your proposal to no more than 4 sides of A4 (excluding bibliography).

Your research proposal should include an abstract setting out the central questions of the proposed research and situating it within a broader context of existing work in the area. You should include discussion of relevant literature and the ways in which your research will contribute to knowledge in the field. The proposal should include a section on methodology and an initial plan and timeline to indicate how you will complete the research within the period of study.

Find out more about how to prepare your research proposal.


For instrumental and vocal composers, the Department has three ensembles in residence, EXAUDI vocal ensemble, Plus Minus and the City Pierrot Players, allowing composers to have works performed by these ensembles as well as visiting ensembles. Composers and creative practitioners working in electroacoustic and electronic music can work in the Department's well-equipped studios. They can also hear their work performed in our purpose built performance space, which is fully equipped with multimedia and network facilities.