Research overview

A superb opportunity to develop your own portfolio of compositions in a professional and supportive environment. We welcome a broad range of styles and approaches.

There are many opportunities to perform your own work, or have them played and recorded by others, both within the University and the wider city.

Research areas

We have particular strengths in four core areas.

Music, space and place

  • Music and musical culture in a specific time and place
  • Transnational and transcultural exchange
  • Urban geographies and mobility


  • How music interacts with other art forms
  • Applying and developing methodologies from other disciplines

Musical creativity and community

  • Musical creativity
  • Development of communities and networks

Music, politics and identity

  • How music has contributed to local, national and international political change
  • How music shapes individual identities

Explore all our research themes and projects in detail


Housed in a purpose-built building our facilities provide an ideal environment for you to compose and have your compositions recorded and performed.

Your department

  • Department of Music website
  • The department was ranked 7th among the Russell Group universities for research outputs in the Research Excellence Framework 2021.

Course content

Normally taken full-time over three years or part-time over six years (with an additional year often taken for final writing up, submission and viva).

Assessed by a portfolio of compositions lasting around 60 minutes and an accompanying commentary of 20,000 words.

Example theses in the department

A critical and reflective commentary on a portfolio of compositions (audio) - Angela Slater

Their Dreams and Ours: Britten, Film, and 'The Turn of the Screw' - Peter Auker

Intermezzo under Hapsburg rule (1707-1734): new theories of composition and musical meaning - Eric Boaro

Changing the record: reassessing effectiveness and value in prison music projects - Sarah Doxat-Pratt

A range of optional modules are available in consultation with your supervisory team. These include music modules as well as ones to build your research skills. Examples include:

Develops core skills in digital composition.

Using Logic Pro software you'll gain professional technical skills in:

  • creation of sounds using synthesis
  • audio recording and sampling techniques
  • audio and MIDI programming and editing
  • scoring (inc. exporting to Sibelius)
  • mix techniques such as dynamic processing, time-based effects (reverb, modulation), equalisation and automation to attain width, height, space and depth
  • audio files and formats
  • mastering (metering, loudness)

As well as technical skills you'll also:

  • look across genres at how different techniques are used in particular settings
  • learn to work in a professional way using industry specific composition briefs.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Music is often integral to the success of a film. It can set the mood, heighten drama, enhance emotions and provide a sense of continuity. Together we'll look at the various styles of film music developed during the history of cinema, and consider aesthetic and technical issues around them. You'll also develop an awareness of historical, commercial and social factors in the entertainment industry, including music for television and videogames.

Topics will include:

  • silent film
  • the golden era of Hollywood
  • characteristics of different genres (such as animation, musical comedy, film noir, science fiction, etc.)
  • European cinema
  • animation
  • documentary film
  • uses of pop, jazz and classical music in film scoring

In your coursework, you'll be encouraged to apply the general lessons learnt from seminars and lectures to specific areas of film you are particularly interested in.


This module is worth 20 credits.

See our BA Music year two and three modules for more examples of modules available.

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules.

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2024 entry.


Masters degree in a relevant subject or equivalent research experience.

If your Masters is in a subject other than music you must demonstrate a suitable level of aptitude.


Provide three scores, with recordings if available. At least one work must be for a large ensemble.


Masters degree in a relevant subject or equivalent research experience.

If your Masters is in a subject other than music you must demonstrate a suitable level of aptitude.

International and EU equivalents

We accept a wide range of qualifications from all over the world.

For information on entry requirements from your country, see our country pages.


Provide three scores, with recordings if available. At least one work must be for a large ensemble.

IELTS7.0 (no less than 6.0 in any element)
English language requirements

As well as IELTS (listed above), we also accept other English language qualifications.

This includes TOEFL iBT, Pearson PTE, GCSE, IB and O level English.

Meeting our English language requirements

If you need support to meet the required level, you may be able to attend a presessional English course. Presessional courses teach you academic skills in addition to English language. Our Centre for English Language Education is accredited by the British Council for the teaching of English in the UK.

If you successfully complete your presessional course to the required level, you can then progress to your degree course. This means that you won't need to retake IELTS or equivalent.

For on-campus presessional English courses, you must take IELTS for UKVI to meet visa regulations. For online presessional courses, see our CELE webpages for guidance.

Visa restrictions

International students must have valid UK immigration permissions for any courses or study period where teaching takes place in the UK. Student route visas can be issued for eligible students studying full-time courses. The University of Nottingham does not sponsor a student visa for students studying part-time courses. The Standard Visitor visa route is not appropriate in all cases. Please contact the university’s Visa and Immigration team if you need advice about your visa options.

We recognise that applicants have a variety of experiences and follow different pathways to postgraduate study.

We treat all applicants with alternative qualifications on an individual basis. We may also consider relevant work experience.

If you are unsure whether your qualifications or work experience are relevant, contact us.


We encourage you to get in touch with Dr Elizabeth Kelly about your research proposal before submitting an application. She may be able to help you with your proposal and offer support in finding funding.


You will have a minimum of two supervisors who will offer expert guidance, support and feedback throughout your research. 

Joint supervision and collaboration is available from partner universities and organisations for Midlands4Cities funded students.

Supervisors and research specialisms

Midlands4Cities (M4C) 

You must apply for a place at Nottingham before submitting your M4C application.

Our step-by-step guide contains everything you need to know about applying for postgraduate research.

How to apply


Home / UK£5,100

Additional information for international students

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you may be asked to complete a fee status questionnaire and your answers will be assessed using guidance issued by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA).

These fees are for full-time study. If you are studying part-time, you will be charged a proportion of this fee each year (subject to inflation).


M4C logo

Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Programme

Midlands4Cities (M4C) PhD students benefit from a high quality package of:

  • funding
  • enhanced support and training
  • expert supervision
  • excellent networking opportunities

You must apply for a place at Nottingham before submitting your M4C application.

Apply to become an M4C student at the University of Nottingham

Thanks to the generosity of our alumni and partners we sometimes have specific funding available for Music postgraduate students.

Funding for Music postgraduate students

There are many ways to fund your research degree, from scholarships to government loans.

Check our guide to find out more about funding your postgraduate degree.

Postgraduate funding


The department's lively research culture offers the chance to hear visiting scholars from elsewhere in the UK and from overseas. Events include:

  • regular research seminars
  • professional concerts
  • colloquia
  • conferences

Research in progress

These sessions for staff and postgraduates give you the space to present your developing work in a friendly and constructive environment. They also allow you to broaden your knowledge of the subject and gain a better sense of how research develops as part of an interactive process.

Performance opportunities

There are numerous opportunities to get involved in performing for both players and singers including:

  • University-wide orchestra and choir
  • Over 20 dedicated ensembles covering all types of music
  • A lively and wide-ranging musical culture in the city of Nottingham.

Find out more about performance opportunities

Research centres

The department hosts two research centres that you are encouraged to get involved in. They offer opportunities for research, performance and event support.

Nottingham Forum for Artistic Research (NottFAR)

NottFAR features performances and composers from our staff and high profile guests from around the UK and abroad. Performances take part both on-campus and at major venues in Nottingham such as the Royal Concert Hall and Rough Trade.

Centre for Music on Stage and Screen (MOSS)

Promotes the interaction of history, theory and practice in the study of opera, ballet, melodrama, film, video and other multi-media performance genres. It encourages multi-disciplinary and inter-institutional collaboration.

Midlands4Cities students

If you are funded through the Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Partnership you will complete a portfolio of research training, devised in consultation with your supervisors and Head of Postgraduate Studies.

Language learning

You can make full use of the Language Centre facilities for both research-specific learning and personal interest.


Find out more about our postgraduate support and community.

Researcher training and development

The Researcher Academy is the network for researchers, and staff who support them. We work together to promote a healthy research culture, to cultivate researcher excellence, and develop creative partnerships that enable researchers to flourish.

Postgraduate researchers at Nottingham have access to our online Members’ area, which includes a wealth of resources, access to training courses and award-winning postgraduate placements.

Graduate centres

Our graduate centres are dedicated community spaces on campus for postgraduates.

Each space has areas for:

  • studying
  • socialising
  • computer work
  • seminars
  • kitchen facilities

Student support

You will have access to a range of support services, including:

  • academic and disability support
  • childcare services
  • counselling service
  • faith support
  • financial support
  • mental health and wellbeing support
  • visa and immigration advice
  • welfare support

Students' Union

Our Students' Union represents all students. You can join the Postgraduate Students’ Network or contact the dedicated Postgraduate Officer.

There are also a range of support networks, including groups for:

  • international students
  • black and minority ethnic students
  • students who identify as women
  • students with disabilities
  • LGBT+ students

SU Advice provides free, independent and confidential advice on issues such as accommodation, financial and academic difficulties.

Where you will learn

Record, compose, research and experiment

We also have strong links with venues and spaces in the rest of Nottingham.


Whether you are considering a career in academia, industry or haven't yet decided, we’re here to support you every step of the way.

Expert staff will work with you to explore PhD career options and apply for vacancies, develop your interview skills and meet employers. You can book a one-to-one appointment, take an online course or attend a workshop.

International students who complete an eligible degree programme in the UK on a student visa can apply to stay and work in the UK after their course under the Graduate immigration route. Eligible courses at the University of Nottingham include bachelors, masters and research degrees, and PGCE courses.

Our graduates go on to many different careers. Examples include:

  • Music management
  • Programme controller
  • Composer
  • Civil Service Fast Stream
  • Marketing
  • Law
  • Accountancy
  • Airline pilot

Our recent PhD students have gone on to academic positions at the following universities:

  • Cambridge
  • Edinburgh
  • Manchester
  • Nottingham
  • Pavia (Italy)
  • Sheffield
  • Open University
  • Maastricht

50% of postgraduates from SCHOOL/COURSE NAME secured graduate level employment or further study within 15 months of graduation. The average annual salary for these graduates was £25,000.*

*HESA Graduate Outcomes 2019/20 data published in 2022. The Graduate Outcomes % is derived using The Guardian University Guide methodology. The average annual salary is based on data from graduates who completed a full-time postgraduate degree with home fee status and are working full-time within the UK.

The Department enjoys a close relationship with a number of performance venues in the local area, providing opportunities for public engagement and real world experience.

Portrait of Nick Baragwanath smiling at camera with sheet music and metronome
PhD researchers bring new insights and capabilities and are an integral part of our vibrant community. I love being exposed to their ideas and helping them develop and explore their passions to the full.
Professor Nick Baragwanath

Related courses

Research Excellence Framework

The University of Nottingham is ranked 7th in the UK for research power, according to analysis by Times Higher Education. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a national assessment of the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.

  • 7th among the Russell Group universities for research outputs
  • 80% of our publications, compositions and recordings rated as 'world leading' or 'internationally excellent'
  • 90%* of our research is classed as 'world-leading' (4*) or 'internationally excellent' (3*)
  • 100%* of our research is recognised internationally
  • 51% of our research is assessed as 'world-leading' (4*) for its impact**

*According to analysis by Times Higher Education ** According to our own analysis.

This content was last updated on 24 October 2023. Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, but changes are likely to occur between the date of publishing and course start date. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply.