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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.

Why choose this course?

  • 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.

This course in detail

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

  • Research Skills and Applied Research
  • Professional Experience

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

  • Dissertation / Major Project

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
  • Electroacoustic and Live Electronic Composition

Musicology pathway

  • Advanced Musicology 1: 19th-Century Music Studies
  • Advanced Musicology 1: Film Music Studies
  • Advanced Musicology 2: Popular Music Studies
  • Advanced Musicology 2:Opera Studies

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.

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.

Visit the MA/PGDip/PGCert Music page on the Oxford Brookes University website for more details!






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