DPhil in Music | University of Oxford
Cello
String practice
(Image Credit: Zachary Domach / Graduate Photography Competition)

DPhil in Music

About the course

This degree, with specialisation in musicology or composition, is awarded upon successful completion of a substantial original contribution to these fields prepared over the course of usually three or four years for full-time students, or seven or eight years for part-time students.

The DPhil in Music is intended to provide you with a wide range of research skills as well as in-depth knowledge, understanding and expertise in your chosen field of research.

You are normally expected to have a master’s degree in music or equivalent before embarking on the DPhil, or you may first undertake one of the MSt programmes in music at Oxford.

Areas of research represented in the faculty include:

  • historical musicological topics from the Middle Ages to the present
  • music theory and analysis
  • composition
  • ethnomusicology
  • psychology of music
  • performance studies
  • aesthetics of music
  • popular music
  • critical and empirical musicology

You will be supported by a supervisor or supervisors who will help you to develop a programme of research and writing. You will also benefit from the advice and support of other members of the faculty who will be involved in your progression through the stages of the degree, and you can draw on the expertise of scholars and colleagues throughout the faculty and University.

Part-time students are fully integrated into the research culture of the university and expected to attend the University on a regular basis for supervision, study, skills training and participation in some of the many research seminars. If you are in employment, you must provide a letter from your employer stating you may take time off if necessary to attend the University as required for the duration of the course. The faculty appreciates that part-time research students will have non-standard attendance and work patterns. Your supervisor and the Director of Graduate Studies will be available to advise you on access to research and training provision for part-time students.

Graduate destinations

DPhil students go on into all manners of work and careers. Many seek postdoctoral positions in higher education all round the world. Others may become full-time performers or composers. Careers in concert and performance administration are also favoured and all manner of professions.

Related courses

Changes to the course

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2017-18

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in music or related fields. For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.6 out of 4.0. 

However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree, GPA of 3.7 out of 4.0, or the equivalent.

Applicants are also normally expected to be predicted or to have achieved a good pass or distinction grade in a master's course in music or related fields. 

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

Relevant professional experience may be considered as a substitute for academic attainment.

The minimum Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score sought is 163, or 650 (Verbal) in the previous scoring system. However, most successful applicants have a GRE score of 166 (700 in the previous scoring system) or above.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.  

Shortlisted candidates will normally be interviewed in person or, if overseas, via Skype, with video, or telephone conference. Shortlisting will be based on an assessment of written work or composition by a qualified panel, and on the candidate's references. Interviews will involve two interviewers from the Faculty of Music, and normally last around 30 minutes. Candidates will be asked to present their research plans and answer questions about them. 

Publications

Publications are not expected but any publications should be listed in your application.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Relevant professional experience may be considered alongside academic attainment. 

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the Faculty of Music to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Faculty of Music and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. 
  • Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Faculty of Music. In such cases, a co-supervisors from the Faculty of Music may be appointed.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.

In the case of students who require specific help to adjust to acquire new skills, the supervisor will work with them to ensure that they have additional support.   

Resources

The Faculty of Music is situated in specially adapted premises in St Aldates which include teaching and lecture rooms, offices, the faculty's library with listening, audio-visual and microfilm rooms, a dedicated Graduate Centre, a common room, the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, the multimedia resource centre (MRC), an electronic recording studio, computing facilities, an ensemble room, a rehearsal/lecture hall and a suite of practice rooms.

Libraries

The University’s Bodleian Library, receives every important British musicological study, in addition to acquiring most major books and editions published elsewhere; it has particularly important collections of printed sources for early music theory and nineteenth-century sheet music. Its manuscript collection contains many important sources for early English and European music, as do several college libraries.

Other significant research collections are held at the Taylorian Library (modern languages), the Sackler Library (art and archaeology) and the Maison Française. Oxford’s three important collections of musical instruments are the faculty’s Bate Collection, the Ashmolean Museum’s Hill Collection of old stringed and keyboard instruments, and the Pitt Rivers Museum’s extensive collection of ethnographic materials.

The Music Faculty Library is the University’s main repository for sound recordings and holds DVD recordings of opera, film and classical music. The library’s multimedia resource centre has 11 stand-alone Mac-based composition and research workstations with Sibelius 7 notation software, Pro Tools 10 audio production platform and Max/MSP audio and video modular programming language installed as standard, as well as specialist software for video editing, noise-removal, sound design, graphics editing, audio digitisation and transcription.

Studio facilities

The faculty’s Electronic Music Recording Studio (EMS) includes a dedicated, acoustically-treated control room, with tie-lines that are connected to the Octaphonic Research and Composition Studio and the Denis Arnold Hall, allowing for recording anything from single instruments up to full-size orchestras.

Software in the control room and music technology lab includes the latest versions of Pro Tools Sibelius, Max/MSP, Logic Pro, Composers Desktop Project and Soundloom. Plug-ins by Waves (Gold Bundle) and Native Instruments are also available. A dedicated AVID C|24 control surface and Miller Kriesel stereo monitoring completes the control room.

The Octaphonic Research and Composition Studio (OSCaR) is a cutting-edge facility allowing the user to compose spatially using acousmatic technique, or perhaps explore possibilities of music perception and environment. It consists of eight speakers arranged in a diamond formation plus software, used to artificially simulate an acoustic environment.

Software platforms in the room include Logic Pro, Soundloom and Max-MSP. There is also a Yamaha Disklavier piano with MIDI connectivity to the studio computer so performance can be captured digitally.
The studio also functions as a 7.1, 5.1 and stereo mix room, allowing users to explore areas such as composition for media and film.

The Ensemble Recording Suite, suitable for recording medium-sized ensembles, is a 16-input, multi-track recording studio, with full floating-room acoustic isolation, air conditioning and professional audio tie-lines into a large acoustically designed live room with natural daylight and a view of Christ Church gardens, also boasting a Yamaha Baby Grand Disklavier piano.

The studio is built around a Universal Audio Apollo Quad interface with Audient ASP 880 microphone preamps and Neumann monitoring. There is a complimentary collection of professional microphones available to use also including an AEA R88 mk2 Stereo ribbon microphone and the DPA d:note classical recording kit.

Graduate Centre

There are listening facilities and a composition workstation available in the Graduate Centre, which includes vinyl, tape and CD playback, as well as the latest versions of Sibelius, Max/MSP, Logic Pro and Composers Desktop with a MOTU audio interface, M-Audio MIDI keyboard and controller, and laser printer (for printing scores).

Funding

There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.

The Ertegun Scholarship Programme and the Humanities Research Council (AHRC) each provide a number of awards every year, to support graduate students across a range of disciplines. To be considered for these studentships you must apply by the relevant January admissions deadline.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

Full-time study

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
c. £4,250£3,021c. £7,271
Overseas£18,080£3,021£21,101

Part-time study

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
c. £2,125£1,511c. £3,636
Overseas£9,040£1,511£10,551

The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; for courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Tuition and college fees are payable each year for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay tuition and college fees).

Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.

For more information about tuition fees, college fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details on the impact of the result of the UK referendum on its membership of the European Union.

Additional information

Full-time study

There are no compulsory elements of this programme that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs.  However, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Part-time study

Please note that you are required to attend in Oxford for a minimum of 30 days each year, and you may incur additional travel and accommodation expenses for this. Also, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur further additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Living costs

In addition to your tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2017-18 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between £1,002 and £1,471 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our Living costs page. If you are studying part-time your living costs may vary depending on your personal circumstances but you must still ensure that you will have sufficient funding to meet these costs for the duration of your course.

How to apply

You are invited to make contact with an appropriate member of academic staff in the Faculty of Music before you apply if you wish, though this is not essential.

You may research the profiles of academics on the Faculty of Music website and then contact the academic directly via email.

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

CV/résumé

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Research proposal:
Up to 2,000 words

You should submit a detailed outline of your proposed research, written in English.

For composition, research proposals should be subdivided into:

  • a composition research proposal giving details of anticipated compositional projects of around 1,000 words, and 
  • a proposal for critical writing submission, which may be musicological in nature or focus on your own compositions, of around 1,000 words.

The latter part should ideally note which other faculty postholder(s) you would be interested to seek co-supervision arrangements with in addition to your primary composition supervisor, who should be named elsewhere in your application.

The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for:

  • what it tells the faculty about your reasons for applying
  • its coherence; the originality of the project
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study or composition
  • the ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course
  • preliminary knowledge of research or compositional techniques.

It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this moment.

Written work:
Two essays of 2,000 words each

Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts of the requisite length from longer work are also permissible.

The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

Writing samples will be assessed for understanding of the subject area; ability to construct and defend an argument; powers of analysis; and powers of expression.

Portfolio:
Three to five compositions in score format (composition applicants only)

Compositions should be accompanied by recordings if possible, up to a maximum combined duration of 30 minutes.

Please submit both your score documents and mp3/mp4 recordings to Graduate Admissions via the online query form as it is not currently possible to send these file types via the application form.

Compositions will be assessed for their demonstration of invention, critical awareness of the field of contemporary classical composition, musicality, technical assurance, and for their clarity of presentation.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally academic

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

References should usually be academic. However, if you have had a significant break from studying immediately before you apply, one of your three references may be professional.

Your references will support intellectual, performance and compositional ability as relevant, academic achievement, motivation and research promise.