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
- psychology of music
- performance studies
- aesthetics of music
- popular music
- critical and empirical musicology.
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.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course 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.
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.
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.
All students will be initially admitted to the status of Probationer Research Student (PRS). Within a maximum of four terms as a PRS student (and normally by the third) you will be expected to apply for transfer of status from Probationer Research Student to DPhil status. Part-time students are required to apply for transfer no later than their eighth term.
A successful transfer of status from PRS to DPhil status will require either (A) or (B):
A. For those intending to offer compositions as part of the final submission:
- a portfolio of two significantly contrasted compositions (together lasting between 10 and 15 minutes maximum);
- a related essay of 5,000-6,000 words (not exceeding 6,000 words);
- a stand alone 250-word overview of the topic of their thesis; and
- a proposed work-schedule for the following year.
B. For all other candidates:
- a literature review essay of c.5,000 words that provides a discursive review of the historical and/or theoretical literature relevant to the thesis topic and its field;
- an essay of c.5,000 words on a focused topic relevant to the proposed thesis, and intended to constitute a part of it;
- a stand-alone 500-word overview of the topic of the thesis; and
- a provisional timetable for completion of the thesis.
Students who are successful at transfer will also be expected to apply for and gain confirmation of DPhil status within eight terms of admission (sixteen if studying part-time), to show that your work continues to be on track.
Both milestones normally involve an interview with two assessors (other than your supervisor) and therefore provide important experience for the final oral examination.
You will be expected to submit an original thesis of up to 100,000 words after three or, at most, four years from the date of admission (after six, or at most, eight years if studying part-time). For those specialising in composition, your final submission will be a Portfolio of Compositions and Critical Writing within the same time frame. To be successfully awarded a DPhil in Music you will need to defend your thesis orally (viva voce) in front of two appointed examiners.
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.
Changes to this course and your supervision
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. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
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 illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.
Other courses you may wish to consider
If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.
Entry requirements for entry in 2022-23
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:
- a master's degree with a good pass or distinction grade in music or related fields; and
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in music or related fields.
However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.
Relevant professional experience may be considered as a substitute for academic attainment.
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 GPA of 3.7 out of 4.0.
If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.
GRE General Test scores
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
- Publications are not expected but any publications should be listed in your application.
If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.
English language requirement
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.5||7.0|
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
†Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.
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
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 a minimum of 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.
Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. The After you apply section of this website provides further information about the academic assessment of your application, including the potential outcomes. Please note that any offer of a place may be subject to academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions may vary depending upon your individual academic circumstances.
Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:
- Socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot on selection procedures and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
- Country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
- Protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
After an offer is made
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer letter will give full details of your offer and any academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will be required to meet the following requirements:
If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.
Disclosure of criminal convictions
In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.
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.
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.
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.
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).
The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2022-23. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential.
For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.
Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:
Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the faculty's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2022-23
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Course 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 course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
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.
There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) 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.
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.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2022-23 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,215 and £1,755 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. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2022-23, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.
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.
All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs).
For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges.
The following colleges accept students for full-time study on this course:
The following colleges accept students for part-time study on this 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:
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.
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.
A maximum of 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.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
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.
Two essays, a maximum 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.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
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.
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 document upload portal 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.
Start or continue an application
Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.
Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.
Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and the deadline information in our Application Guide. Plan your time to submit your application well in advance - we recommend two or three weeks earlier.
Step 4: Check if you're eligible for an application fee waiver. Application fee waivers are available for:
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds who meet the eligibility criteria;
- residents in a country on our low-income countries list (refer to the eligibility criteria);
- current Oxford graduate taught students applying for readmission to an eligible course; and
- additional applications to selected research courses that are closely related to your first application.
Step 5: Start your application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, consult our Application Guide for advice at each stage. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.