Research overview

Through an agreed programme of original research you will:

  • deepen critical engagement with, and understanding of, performance practice
  • explore specific aspects of technique or repertoire.

There are many opportunities to perform both individually and as part of ensembles, on-campus and as part of the wider Nottingham musical scene.

Research areas

Our research strengths are grouped into four themes.

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

Course content

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

There are two main assessment options.

Option one

One full-length public recital or lecture-recital of approximately 90 minutes, which can also be presented as a “minor” recital of 30 minutes at the end of year two and a “major” recital of 60 minutes at the end of year three.

The recital must be accompanied by a dissertation of approximately 50,000 words on a related area or equivalent, to be followed by a viva.

The recital performance should:

  • display an original and imaginative stance on the art of performance
  • show an advanced level of creative ability and outstanding technical and interpretative mastery
  • be worthy of a professional standard of performance

Option two

Normally two public recitals or lecture-recitals of approximately 60 minutes each, the first at the end of year two and the second at the end of year three.

The recitals must be accompanied by a 20,000-word commentary or equivalent, to be followed by a viva.

The recital or lecture-recital performances should:

  • display an original and imaginative stance on the art of performance
  • show an advanced level of creative ability and outstanding technical and interpretative mastery
  • be worthy of a professional standard of performance

Optional modules

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:

This module involves student performers, composers and music technologists working together to develop a new creative project, for performance in a venue in Nottingham. Improvisation will be fundamental to the developmental stages of the project. 

This module offers the opportunity for intensive development of ensemble performance skills. Students are required to pre-form small instrumental or vocal ensembles before the module commences, agreed with the Director of Performance. If students have a specific instrumental or vocal formation in mind that cannot be formed within the module, they may invite guest performers, normally up to one unassessed member per ensemble. Please note that the department does not provide accompanists for this module. Collaborative pianists should be regarded as an integral part of an ensemble. They are required to participate fully in regular rehearsals and workshops within the framework of the module. Ensembles will remain intact for the duration of the module. Should any member of the ensemble be unable to continue, this should be confirmed before the module transfer deadline and the other members will be required to find a replacement. No changes to the ensemble are permitted after the module transfer deadline. Pianists will have the option to choose collaborative piano (accompanying) as their specialism within the module. Students will receive a weekly coaching workshop/rehearsal session as well as further individual coaching. Ensembles are encouraged to explore existing repertoire during weeks 1–3, and thereafter to work on their performance of the work(s) selected by the group. All ensembles are assessed by performance and must also complete a log documenting rehearsals.

Get a thorough introduction to the fundamental techniques and practical skills of instrumental, orchestral and choral conducting.

You'll explore the problems and challenges conducting poses from a variety of angles and gain practical experience both in class and in front of an ensemble.

Some of the topics examined will be:

  • rehearsal techniques
  • score literacy, knowledge and preparation
  • interpretation
  • psychology of conducting
  • technical issues such as stance, movement, beating patterns and other relevant gestures

Through supportive workshops with your fellow students you'll practise specific pieces, with feedback coming from both group discussion and the tutor.

If you want to learn conducting this is an ideal introduction.

If you don't want to be a conductor this is a perfect way to understand more about what your conductor is doing and saying and so increase your understanding of what you are meant to be playing.

This module is worth 20 credits.

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

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 2022 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 approximately 45 minutes of contrasting repertoire, submitted as a recent unedited video performance (provided online or on DVD).


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 approximately 45 minutes of contrasting repertoire, submitted as a recent unedited video performance (provided online or on DVD).

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.

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 Xenia Pestova about your research proposal before submitting an application. They 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£4,625 per year
International£20,000 per year

Additional information for international students

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you will pay international tuition fees in most cases. If you are resident in the UK and have 'settled' or 'pre-settled' status under the EU Settlement Scheme, you will be entitled to 'home' fee status.

Irish students will be charged tuition fees at the same rate as UK students. UK nationals living in the EU, EEA and Switzerland will also continue to be eligible for 'home' fee status at UK universities until 31 December 2027.

For further guidance, check our information for applicants from the EU.

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 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

The average annual salary for postgraduates from the School of Humanities was £25,563*

*HESA Graduate Outcomes 2020. The Graduate Outcomes % is derived using The Guardian University Guide methodology. The average annual salary is based on graduates 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. 

Play video

Xenia Pestova, Director of Performance

I am interested in combining tradition and innovation. I embrace creation through improvised approaches, new repertoire and searching for new sounds and technologies. It’s an approach I encourage in my students – to push their boundaries and develop their repertoire. At the same time, we don’t simply “throw away” old music: we have to be grounded in what came before in order to learn and grow. All music was new music at one point!

Related courses

Research Excellence Framework

We are ranked 8th in the UK for research power (2014). The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system used by UK higher education funding bodies to assess research quality in universities.

  • 7th out of 56 UK music departments
  • 100% of the Department of Music's impact and environment submissions judged as world-leading or internationally excellent
  • More than 97% of research at Nottingham is recognised internationally
  • More than 80% of our research is ranked in the highest categories as world-leading or internationally excellent
  • 16 of our 29 subject areas feature in the UK top 10 by research power

This content was last updated on 15 October 2021. 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.