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Research overview

We welcome a broad range of topics for doctoral research. All of our academic staff are internationally recognised scholars in their fields. You are encouraged identify a suitable supervisor to discuss your proposal.

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

Performance opportunities

There are also many opportunities to engage with music and perform:

  • individually and as part of ensembles
  • on-campus and as part of the wider Nottingham musical scene.

Course content

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

You will:

  • complete a written thesis of up to 100,000 words, with expert support and advice from your academic supervisors
  • take a verbal examination (viva voce) where you explain your project in depth to an examination panel.

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.

Music modules

Examples include:

This module offers the opportunity to conduct research into the folk music of Britain and Ireland. Students will learn about the diversity of folk and traditional music cultures of the British Isles through in-depth case studies of musicians, musical styles and iconic eras. Although the musical content will be predominantly focused on English and ‘Celtic’ styles, students will be encouraged to explore the traditional music of other communities residing on these islands such as those of Syrian refugees or the South Asian diaspora. Topics for individual study include regional tune, ornamentation and arrangement styles, early song collectors and their fieldwork, pioneering artists, seminal recordings, revival movements, the politics of folk and the impact of English and ‘Celtic’ styles on music in other countries or other styles of music.

This module offers an introduction to the fields of ethnomusicology and popular music studies. Students will study a range of musical cultures beyond the traditional canon of Western art music. The module examines different meanings, practices, and theories of musics from a diverse range of cultures, surveying traditions from Asia, the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and the Pacific. It incorporates an introduction to ethnomusicological theory and method and an overview of key studies in Anglophone popular music.

This module centres on participation in primary school music teaching in partnership with the Nottingham Music Hub. Students attend weekly in-school sessions throughout the autumn and spring semesters, assisting with Nottingham First Access mentoring (In Harmony and/or Whole Class Ensemble) or contributing to the direction of post-first-access ensembles. In the spring semester, fortnightly classes will supplement the in-school experience with sessions on topics such as: the national music plan and music hubs; different teaching and learning styles; Musical Futures; musical inclusion and teaching in inner-city schools; and special educational needs.

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

Research skills

This module has been developed to introduce you to a range of research techniques and methodologies. It will also help you develop a variety of valuable transferable skills for your future career.

You will achieve:

  • greater confidence in dealing with original research
  • a recognition of the huge range of approaches that can be used to address research questions.

We build on the research skills you have already developed during both your undergraduate degree and discipline-specific MA modules. The emphasis is on:

  • ensuring you are possessed of a range of practical ways to approach research
  • making you think about the nature of your discipline-specific approaches within a context of growing interdisciplinarity.

You will have the chance to consider topics as varied as:

  • academic publishing
  • digital transformations
  • use of illustrations in dissertations.

You will also have the opportunity to hear academics from across the Faculty talk about the problems they have confronted and how they overcame them.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Mastering the Arts introductory video 

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 2021 entry.

Undergraduate degree

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.

Undergraduate degree

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.

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.

English language support

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

For presessional English courses, you must take IELTS for UKVI to meet visa regulations.

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.

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.


Your application should include a 1000-3000 word research proposal, containing a proposed title, an aim, objectives, methods, summary of content and outline bibliography.

We encourage you to get in touch with Dr Nick Baragwanath 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. 

Supervisors and research specialisms

Start dates

  • October 2021
  • December 2021
  • February 2022
  • April 2022
  • July 2022

Midlands4Cities (M4C)

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

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£4,496 (estimate) per year
International£19,000 per year

UK fees are set in line with the national UKRI maximum fee limit. The figures shown above match the limit for 2020 entry. We expect fees for 2021 entry to be confirmed in February 2021.

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland starting your course in the 2021/22 academic year, you will pay international tuition fees.

This does not apply to Irish students, who 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 Brexit information for future students.


Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Programme

The Midlands4Cities programme provides funding, enhanced support, expert supervision and excellent networking opportunities for PhD candidates.

M4C logo

Apply to become an M4C student at the University of Notitngham.

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

Our step-by-step guide contains everything you need to know about funding your postgraduate degree.

Research 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 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 St Peter’s church.

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

As well as funding and expert supervision Midlands4Cities students have access to a range of training, placement and networking opportunities.

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 Academy

The Researcher Academy is the network for researchers at the University of Nottingham. As a postgraduate researcher, you will have access to our members’ area, which includes online resources, training courses and award-winning postgraduate placements.

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
  • visa and immigration advice
  • welfare support

Where you will learn

Music facilities

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.

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.

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.
Dr Nick Baragwanath, Associate Professor of Music

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 13 October 2020. 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.