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MA / PGDip / PGCert

School of Arts

The MA in Music offers advanced training in either musicology or composition. The modular structure allows students to pursue a broad generalist programme or to specialise in a particular area of their choice. Within the field of musicology, students can slant their studies towards one or several of the following: music in nineteenth-century culture, opera studies, popular music studies or film music. The composition pathway, meanwhile, provides a practice-based contemporary composition curriculum that encourages students to push the boundaries of their practice and develop a voice as an engaged and creative composer. 

This course is unusual in combining a rigorous academic education with the opportunity to acquire vocational skills through our innovative Professional Experience module. Students take up work placements with a wide range of external arts organisations or undertake a project with one of our specialist research units. The course therefore offers rich opportunities for career development and can pave the way for further study at PhD level if so required.

Available start dates

September 2019 / September 2020

Teaching location

Headington Campus, Headington Hill

Course length

  • Full time: MA:12 months, PGDip: 8months, PGCert: 4 months
  • Part time: MA: 24 months, PGDip: 3 semesters, PGCert: 2 semesters

For full application details, please see the 'How to apply / Entry requirements' section.

  • The flexible structure of the MA Music allows you to tailor the course to your particular interests.
  • The course is one of very few Music MAs in the UK to offer professional experience as part of the course; you can undertake a work placement with an external organisation such as a radio station, opera house, museum, music publisher, magazine, concert promoter or school. Alternatively, you can undertake a project with one of our specialist research units. Recent students, for example, worked at the Handel-Hendrix House Museum, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Audiograft festival.
  • The course is taught by experts who are internationally renowned in their fields. Our research informs the content and methodology of our modules, ensuring that teaching is at the cutting edge of the discipline. Following REF 2014 Music has been singled out as an area of particular research strength within the University.Our staff disseminate their research to wider audiences via appearances on BBC Radio 3, articles in the national press and talks for major performing organisations.
  • The activities of our research units in opera (OBERTO), popular music (PMRU), or sonic art (SARU) complement the programme of formal study. MA students can contribute to the research units' activities, for instance by participating in listening groups and helping to organise study days and conferences. Student composers have an opportunity to showcase their work through the annual Audiograft festival. Opera students go on a field trip to hear a live opera, usually in London.
  • Oxford is a fabulous city in which to study music, with a very lively concert scene and excellent research facilities. You will have access to the world-famous Bodleian Library and the new Brookes library also offers substantial collections centring on the specialist areas of the MA.
  • The course provides an excellent foundation for doctoral study for those who wish to continue into a career in academia.

Students studying for the MA/PG Dip in Music are required to complete the following compulsory modules (30 credits):

Research Skills and Applied Research

This module provides a grounding in the skills and methodologies required for studying music at postgraduate level and in the practical application of research skills in the workplace. The seminars fall into three categories. Some develop generic and subject-specific masters-level research skills. Other sessions develop students’ awareness of recent critical debates within musical scholarship. Finally, further sessions provide training in the practical application of research skills and the promotion of students’ research to a range of audiences via broadcasting, journalism, programme notes, websites and social media. 

While the module develops skills and knowledge applicable to entry into any professional work environment associated with music, the module also provides the requisite training to continue to a PhD in music and a vocational session is provided on entering the academic profession.

Professional Experience

The Professional Experience module prepares students for a future career in one of three ways: through work experience in a sector of the music industry relevant to the student’s academic and career interests, through a placement with one of our research units, or through focused independent research relevant to further study at doctoral level. The module aims to accommodate learners from a variety of backgrounds with a variety of goals, while offering opportunities to hone skills and develop knowledge that will be relevant to their subsequent careers or life-long learning. 

Typical work experience might consist of undertaking a placement with a broadcasting company, an arts-related museum, a concert organisation or opera house, or teaching in a school. Working with a research unit might involve organising a music festival or listening group. Students undertaking an independent research project might choose to develop and practice new research skills (e.g. editing, archival work, language skills, digital humanities) or explore a new research or composition interest separate from their dissertation. 

Students undertake an associated work-based project, with outcomes agreed beforehand between student, module leader and a partner institution if applicable.

MA students are also required to complete the following (60 credits):

Dissertation / Major Project

This module offers the opportunity to develop an extended independent research project at the end of the course. This enables students to deploy skills, knowledge and understanding gained during the course in producing a substantial piece of written work, or practice-based outputs. 

This can be a critical examination, through independent study and extended written work of an appropriate musicological topic, theme or issue. Recent topics have been as varied as music and gender in Disney films, the institutional failure of nineteenth-century English opera, and Japanese musical responses to the Tohoku earthquake. Alternatively, a portfolio of practice-based work is also acceptable, presented and documented as appropriate to feature an agreed combination of compositions, installations, site based work, live electronic applications.

You will then take two of the following modules depending on your chosen specialism (30 credits each):

Composition Pathway

Approaches to Experimental Composition and Sound Arts

This module provides students with an opportunity to enhance their understanding of contemporary practices in experimental composition and sound arts whilst introducing them to listening strategies that will enable them to engage critically with the sounding world. Students will build upon their previous experience of creative practice, and will be introduced to new methodologies. They will have the opportunity to focus on acoustic composition, electronic composition, field recording, soundscape studies and sound arts, and will explore the importance of site and context. 

The module encourages students to develop a body of practical research – to include scores, recordings, performances, installations, audio documentation - and reflect upon this through seminar feedback sessions.

Electroacoustic and Live Electronic Composition

This module gives students the opportunity to focus on electroacoustic composition and live electronic composition, including interactive computer music. 

Students enhance their technical and analytical skills, building upon previous experience of composition. They develop a body of research that might include recordings, software patches and installations - and reflect upon this through seminar feedback sessions. 

Students also pursue a research topic that explores electroacoustic or live electronic composition: for instance through the analytical study of the work of a composer or group of composers, or a detailed consideration of a particular conceptual or technical issue. Students also learn how to promote their work, having an opportunity to showcase it at the Audiograft festival.

Musicology pathway

Students taking the Musicology pathway take Advanced Musicology 1 in Semester 1, which aims to enable students to develop an in-depth understanding of current developments in musicology, either in the field of nineteenth-century music studies or film music studies. They then take Musicology 2 in Semester 2, which focuses on either the field of popular music studies or opera studies. On this module students review a performance: either a gig or an opera. Students taking Musicology 1 and 2 need to decide from the start which fields they would like to include. For example, possible combinations are: nineteenth-century music and opera, film music and opera, nineteenth century music and popular music or film music and popular music.

Advanced Musicology 1: 19th-Century Music Studies

The study of 19th-century music is currently one of the most vibrant areas of historical musicology, inspiring many of the perspectives developed by 'new' and post-modern musicology. 

This route through the module explores the music of the 'long' nineteenth century, from late Haydn to early Schoenberg, in its historical and disciplinary contexts and from a range of current perspectives, bringing together cultural studies, history, literature and the arts in an interdisciplinary and transnational approach. 

Topics explored include the ideology of genius and the rise of the work concept; music in the salon and the market place; popular music of the 19th century; women as performers, patrons and composers; music and the beginnings of mass media; virtuosity and the cult of celebrity; music and the ‘Gothic’; music and national identity; the rediscovery of early music and historicism.

Advanced Musicology 1: Film Music Studies

This route through the module takes as a starting point the role of music in film, seeking to explore in detail a number of scholarly and creative perspectives on that role. 

Film Music Studies focuses on the way in which the interactions of film and music have changed through time, and on how, at any one time, scoring conventions and potential interpretations of these are shaped by a wide range of factors, such as a film’s mode of production, cinematic tradition, genre, and target audiences.

Sessions will involve group discussion of weekly readings, as well as student presentations on specific films and themes.

Advanced Musicology 2: Popular Music Studies

This route through the module examines the methodological issues and traditions in the study of popular music.  Popular Music Studies explores a wide range of popular music repertoires, especially the song-based lineages of American country and British folk music, American blues and gospel music, and the transnational languages of pop, rock, and rap. Issues in historiography are implicit throughout the module, especially in defining popular music. Musicological approaches are practised through active listening to selected recordings and live performances. 

Forms of writing are examined and discussed, in which popular music is seen within the context of sociology and politics, literary study, cultural and media studies, aesthetics and critical theory.

Advanced Musicology 2:Opera Studies

This route through the module explores recent critical thinking about the creation, performance and reception of opera and about operas as dramatic and musical texts. 

Amongst other topics, it focuses upon the following: opera historiography; the social, political and aesthetic contexts that have shaped operas; gender and sexuality on the operatic stage; national identity; operatic institutions and audiences; the staging and interpretation of operas; reception issues; opera on/in film and the role of opera in twenty-first-century society. 

Opera studies will range broadly across the operatic repertoire of the ‘long’ nineteenth century, and there will be a series of ‘repertory sessions’, focusing in detail upon a selection of operas as set works. The sessions aim to develop students’ historical research skills and to encourage them to consider critically the politics of opera today. 

Sessions will involve group discussion of weekly readings, as well as student presentations on specific operas and themes.

As our courses are reviewed regularly for quality assurance purposes, course content and module choices may change from the details given here.

Teaching and learning

The MA in Music is taught through a combination of seminars, tutorials and skills-based workshops. Those taking a work placement will also receive mentoring and formative feedback from an individual at the placement organisation.

During your time here you will engage in lively discussions and original research. We aim to give you an in-depth understanding of recent critical debates, scholarship and practice in your chosen field, as well as to broaden your knowledge of musical repertoire. 

Our pathways are original, exciting and flexible and one of the most striking features of the Music Department is its breadth of subject expertise. All staff members in Music are actively engaged in research and we have published our work in top journals and with the most highly respected publishers: our research in popular music, opera and sonic art was identified as 'world-leading' in the 2014 REF

You will have an opportunity to work closely with staff members not only through the course modules but also through our specialist research units in popular music, opera and sonic art. Membership of these units allows you to attend conferences, workshops and talks by visiting speakers that will complement your formal studies.

Approach to assessment

Assessment methods include essays, student presentations, literature reviews, concert or gig reviews, professional projects arising from work placements, dissertations, and compositions using scores, recordings, software patches or live electronics, performances and installations.

Specialist facilities

Music at Brookes hosts three specialist research units, which postgraduate students are welcome to join. These are:

  • OBERTO (Oxford Brookes: Exploring Research Trends in Opera)
  • PMRU (The Popular Music Research Unit)
  • SARU (The Sonic Art Research Unit)

Students have access to the Bodleian Library and its satellite libraries in Oxford as well as to the first-rate libraries and research facilities here at Brookes. Some of our students also use the British Library in London and attend research events hosted by the Institute of Musical Research, the Royal Musical Association and the University of Oxford.

The music department houses seven recently refurbished practice rooms, two dedicated music studios, a music technology room and a drum room. The studios are equipped with high spec iMacs running Sibelius, Pro Tools, Adobe Master Collection, Cycling 74's Max, Logic X, as well as Kontact Komplete 9high-end Avid HD Omni Interfaces and excellent Genelec monitoring speakers, with one studio featuring a sound-proof recording booth and the other a 55" LCD screen for visual mixing. The School of Arts digital suite provides access to Adobe Master Collection, Audacity, Logic X, Pro Tools and Sibelius. All machines are connected to the Oxford Brookes network and the Richard Hamilton Building is equipped with wireless internet access.

Field trips

The module Approaches to Opera includes attendance at a live opera performance. The cost of attendance is included in tuition fees.


Music staff have a wide network of contacts within the music industry, the media and academia, and can advise students on potential placements. However, an important aspect of the module is that the student takes the initiative to set up his or her own placement. There are many opportunities to take up local placements in Oxford or to do an in-house placement with one of our research units. Some students may wish to take up a placement further afield, for example with an arts organisation in London. Travel costs cannot be covered by the University but some external organisations may be willing to cover or contribute towards them.

Attendance pattern

Teaching is on Tuesday mornings and Tuesday afternoons, with the exception of the 'Composition and Sonic Art Practice' module, which may in some years be taught on Monday afternoons.

Programme changes

On rare occasions we may need to make changes to our course programmes after they have been published on the website. For more information, please visit our Changes to programmes page.

Tuition fees

Home/EU - full time fee: 2019/20: £5,780 2020/21 £7,500

Home/EU - part time fee: 2019/20: £2,950 2020/21 £3,750

International - full time: 2019/20: £14,000 2020/21 £14,700

Where part time fees are quoted this is for the first year only. Fees will increase by up to 4% each year.

Please be aware that some courses will involve some additional costs that are not covered by your fees. Specific additional costs for this course, if any, are detailed in the 'This course in detail' window above.

Questions about fees?
Contact Student Finance on:
+44 (0)1865 483088

Funding and scholarships

Faculty Taught Masters Scholarships are usually available for this course. For further information, visit: /studying-at-brookes/finance/postgraduate-finance---uk-and-eu-students/sources-of-funding-for-postgraduate-uk-and-eu-students/

Entry requirements

  • For UK students, a good honours degree, minimum 2:1  (not necessarily in Music)
  • For EU/International students, a qualification equivalent to a good honours degree

If you do not meet the standard entry requirement it may be possible to consider your application based on evidence of other relevant personal and professional experience, the support of your referees and examples of written work.

English language requirements

If your first language is not English, then an English language level of IELTS 6.5 is required with 6.0 in each component

Please also see the university's standard English language requirements

English requirements for visas

If you need a student visa to enter the UK you will need to meet the UK Visas and Immigration minimum language requirements as well as the university's requirements. Find out more about English language requirements.

International applications

Preparation courses for International and EU students

We offer a range of courses to help you to meet the entry requirements for this course and also familiarise you with university life. You may also be able to apply for one student visa to cover both courses.

  • Take our Pre-Master's course to help you to meet both the English language and academic entry requirements for your master's course.
  • If you need to improve your English language, we have pre-sessional English language courses available to help you to meet the English language requirements of your chosen master’s.

If you are studying outside the UK, for more details about your specific country entry requirements, translated information, local contacts and programmes within your country, please have a look at our country pages.

How to apply

Terms and Conditions of Enrolment

When you accept our offer, you agree to the Terms and Conditions of Enrolment. You should therefore read those conditions before accepting the offer.

How this course helps you develop

The MA in Music offers you the following opportunities for professional development:
  • to undertake a professional experience module in which you will make new industry contacts and gain experience in a career of your choice through working on a project as part of a work placement
  • to learn how to promote your research or composition work through journalism, social media or conference presentations as part of the Research Skills and Applied Research module
  • to network with industry professionals (including composers, performers, publishers, journalists, opera house personnel) and members of the research community through our specialist research units
  • to attend a seminar on career development as part of the Research Skills and Applied Research module
  • to have your compositions performed at professional venues throughout Oxford and beyond
  • to receive advice from staff on publishing your work and presenting it at conferences
  • to set up student-led forums and conferences that allow you and your peers to network and share work in progress


Having an MA will make you stand out from the crowd, whether you are joining the course straight after graduating from undergraduate study or returning to study after a break of several years. 

Our MA will provide you with the skills and knowledge to embark upon a career in music or to improve your current position. The transferable skills you acquire through studying for an MA in Music can also lead to careers in many other sectors, including management, law, journalism, media and the heritage industry.

Career destinations of our recent graduates include:

  • professional composition
  • performance
  • sound engineering
  • arts administration
  • HE administration
  • teaching (secondary and FE)
  • retail management
  • youth work

Our programme provides the necessary research training for doctoral work and many MA students continue on into further research and pursue careers in academia. Our students have an excellent success rate in securing funded PhD places. 

How Brookes supports postgraduate students

How Brookes supports postgraduate students

Module leaders are available to provide advice and guidance relating to the specific modules that they teach.

The MA Subject Coordinator acts as Academic Adviser to all students on the course. Further advice on matters such as module choice, dissertation topic and future employment may be sought from any member of Music staff as well as Student Support Coordinators.

If you experience personal problems that are affecting your academic performance, you can also seek advice from the Student Support Coordinator,Subject Coordinator, teaching staff and Student Services.


A course committee is responsible for the day-to-day running of the MA in Music. The committee, which has a meeting every semester, deals with long and short term academic planning, and any changes to the programme are first discussed in forum. The committee includes the Subject Coordinator, course tutors, the Head of School, the subject librarian and student representatives.

Student representation on the committee is important and is the most effective way in which you can make your views known about the running of the course. An election for postgraduate student reps takes place at the beginning of Semester 1 and reps normally serve for the duration of their time at the University.

Course evaluation

Evaluation offers you the opportunity to voice your opinions directly to those who teach you. It is therefore an important vehicle for student representation within the University. At the end of each module students have the opportunity to complete a module questionnaire. Student feedback is taken seriously by Music staff and often leads to changes in the content and delivery of modules.

Supporting your learning

From academic advisers and support co-ordinators to specialist subject librarians and other learning support staff, we want to ensure that you get the best out of your studies.

Research highlights

Music performed particularly well in the recent Research Excellence Framework. 26% of the research activity submitted by Music was deemed to be world-leading, which shows a significant increase from 15% in RAE 2008. This figure includes 4* (world-leading) research outputs and impact case studies and is the highest concentration of 4* research in any Unit of Assessment at Oxford Brookes in REF 2014. In addition 60% of our impact case studies, which describe the reception of our research among wider, non-academic audiences, have been classified as 4* (world leading). As a result Music has been singled out as an area of particular research strength within the University.

  • Dr Alexandra Wilson’s monograph The Puccini Problem: Opera, Nationalism, and Modernity (Cambridge University Press) was awarded the American Musicological Society’s Lewis Lockwood Award for an outstanding work of music scholarship. Dr Wilson secured a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship to undertake a major new research project on the reception of opera in 1920s Britain. To hear Dr Wilson talk about her research, click here.
  • Dr Barbara Eichner published a monograph entitled Music, History and the Construction of German National Identity (Boydell) on the interaction of music, historical myths and German national identities. To hear Dr Eichner talk about her research, click here.
  • Dr Dai Griffiths, whose research has helped to shape the discipline of popular music studies, is on the editorial board of several leading musicology journals, including Music Analysis and Popular Music. To hear Dr Griffiths talking about his research, click here.
  • Composer Professor Paul Whitty’s collaborative Vauxhall Pleasure project with Anna Best consisted of a site event at Vauxhall Cross, London; an installation at the Museum of Garden History as part of their Tempered Ground exhibition; and two performances at Tate Britain. The latest phase of the project has been funded by the AHRC.
  • Dr Paul Dibley is a Sonic Artist and Composer who mainly creates electroacoustic music and interactive computer music. He also has a particular interest in studying the use of human voice in electronic music.
  • Jan Butler is an expert in popular music whose research interests include the recorded musical work, cover versions, the Beach Boys, the development of album art and posters in the 1960s and the use of popular music in film.

Research areas and clusters

Departmental research interests in music at Oxford Brookes range from music in sixteenth-century nunneries to Radiohead, and from nineteenth- and twentieth-century opera to the sonic archaeology of urban sites.

We have particular strengths in popular music, opera and composition, and a research unit in each area:

The Opera Research Unit (OBERTO) provides a forum for the investigation of opera in all its interdisciplinary richness. We explore the history, performance and reception of opera; opera’s political, social and cultural contexts; and critical debates about opera both historical and contemporary. There is an annual OBERTO conference each Autumn.

The Sonic Art Research Unit provides a forum for dialogue between the fields of composition and sound art; including acousmatic, collaborative, electroacoustic, experimental, interdisciplinary and site-specific practices alongside engagement with field recording, and soundscape studies.

The Popular Music Research Unit provides a forum to investigate both contemporary and historical issues in the field of popular music. This incorporates both practice-led research and more traditionally disseminated textual research, touching on areas of musical analysis, critical musicology, performance, composition and songwriting.

Students may also have the opportunity to join cross-faculty, interdisciplinary research clusters.

Course downloads

  • Oxford Brookes Music brochure