skip to primary navigationskip to content

M.Phil. in Music Studies

The M.Phil. in Music Studies is a 12-month programme which combines structured teaching with supervised study. It is a freestanding programme, but is particularly suitable as a basis for doctoral studies, whether you continue at Cambridge or go elsewhere. There are common elements in the programme, but you specialise in one of seven areas:

  • Musicology
  • Theory, analysis and criticism
  • Ethnomusicology
  • Jazz, popular and media music
  • Performance studies
  • Music and science
  • Composition

All of these are areas within which members of the Faculty conduct research, and you can get a sense of our work in them from our Research pages. At the same time, the M.Phil. programme is flexible, allowing a high degree of customisation for your own individual interests, and it is designed to give you:

  • Critical awareness of issues and trends, informed by current research, across a broad spectrum of music studies. Most students take a course entitled ‘Musicology and its debates’: centred round an extensive set of readings, this will make you aware of current thinking in a wide range of areas from musical historiography, sociology, and reception theory to ethnomusicology, media, and performance studies.
  • The opportunity to acquire or develop research skills and expertise relevant to a specified area of music studies: whichever of the seven areas you choose, you will work either in a small group or individually with a subject expert to acquire the particular knowledge and skills necessary to carry out more advanced work in that area. In certain cases this may include work carried out in another Faculty.
  • Experience in carrying out focused research under close supervision. If you have chosen Composition you will submit a portfolio of compositions. If you are specialising in Performance studies you will have the option of either submitting a 15,000-word dissertation on a suitable performance-related topic, or presenting a recital and an extended essay for the final assessment. Students choosing one of the other areas will submit a dissertation on a subject of their choice, normally of about 15,000 words.  

Composers may choose to offer an extended portfolio of compositions in place of ‘Musicology and its debates’. The extended submission option is also available, on an exceptional basis, to other students. Information on the Course Structure is available by clicking here.

As a graduate student you will also participate in skills training courses, colloquia, and other events within the Faculty of Music, and will have access to the outstanding facilities of one of the world’s top research universities. Browse this website to see what is on offer.

We realise that for many potential applicants, funding is a major issue. See Funding Graduate Study for information on costs and links to the University’s graduate funding pages. Please note that, if you specialise in Performance studies and choose the recital option, you will need to take vocal or instrumental lessons with an approved teacher, for which we recommend that you budget a further £1,200. Students specialising in Ethnomusicology may opt to carry out fieldwork, in which case you are strongly advised to make an additional financial provision of up to £1,000.  Small grants may be available to support these costs, but they cannot be relied upon to meet the total cost of lessons or fieldwork expenses.

Applications must be made online and details of How to Apply can be found here. Please include a sample of your recent written work (c. 3,000, and no more than 5,000 words in total). Please also submit a summary in approximately 250 words of your proposed dissertation or extended essay topic (you will not, however, be tied to this).

Applicants who wish to specialise in Performance studies with the recital option should additionally include one or more audio recordings featuring a range of repertoire lasting approximately 60 minutes in total. Audio recordings cannot be uploaded through the online application system, but should be submitted directly to the Faculty through Dropbox, by sharing files with

Applicants wishing to specialise in Composition are asked to submit:

  • between two and four original scores which demonstrate the breadth of their work. (Candidates should submit recordings of some or all of these pieces in support of their application; in cases where a representative live recording is unavailable, midi realisations are admissible. Composers whose work is primarily electroacoustic may submit recordings of their works in place of scores. Audio recordings cannot be uploaded through the University’s online application system but should be submitted directly to the Faculty through Dropbox, by sharing files with
  • a Curriculum Vitae which should include a list of works and details of the candidate’s previous studies in composition.

If you live in the UK you may be invited to an interview; if you live elsewhere we can usually conduct an interview using Skype or by phone if necessary.

Further details of graduate life at Cambridge may be found on the University’s Student Registry website.

Study Music at Cambridge