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Ph.D. in Music

The Ph.D. in Music is available as a full-time programme lasting three years, or a part-time programme lasting five years. It is currently available in all areas in which we can offer supervision, including composition and practice-based research in performance.

Doctoral research in the Faculty of Music is centred on individual scholarly activity in fields such as historical musicology, analysis, performance studies, composition, ethnomusicology and music cognition. The overwhelming majority of graduate students in the Faculty are undertaking research that is directly connected with the particular research interests of specific members of the Faculty, and for this reason the best starting point for an application is often to get in touch with the member of staff whose interests seem most in line with yours.

Our list of Graduate Supervisors will give you an idea of some specific areas in which Faculty members are willing to supervise, and our Research area gives an overview of the principal areas of the Faculty’s research. You may also want to explore the publication lists of individual Faculty members, who are listed under Academic Staff.

Because of the diversity of research topics pursued, the Ph.D. programme in music at Cambridge does not involve a core taught component: there is a variety of training in a range of skills, and some incoming research students audit courses offered within our M.Phil. programme, but in general you will be working mainly with your individual supervisor. Your formal studies will be complemented by attendance at Faculty colloquia and seminars, where you will meet other graduate students and members of the wider community centred round the Faculty, while membership of a college will enable you to socialise with students and others from a wide variety of disciplines. As you will quickly realise as you explore this website, studying for a Ph.D. at Cambridge gives you access to facilities and a range of Research Resources that compare favourably with anywhere in the world.

Recorded performances may now be included within a doctoral submission, along with an academic thesis of the standard length. Students who wish to pursue this possibility are encouraged to make contact with the member of staff most relevant to their particular performance-related interests.

We realise that for many potential applicants, funding is a major issue; see Funding Graduate Study for information on costs and funding options, with links to the University’s graduate funding pages. Applicants whose proposals involve fieldwork, performance tuition, or other substantial expenses should include an indication of approximate total costs as part of their application.  While small grants may be available for research and travel purposes, these should not be expected to cover funding for your case studies, performance tuition or fieldwork expenses. Some support for doctoral students undertaking fieldwork is available from the School of Arts and Humanities.

Applications must be made online, and details of How to Apply are available here. If you are applying in an area other than Composition, please include with your application a summary (approximately 750 words plus bibliography) of your proposed research, and one or two samples of your recent work, e.g. essays of 2,000-4,000 words each or an undergraduate or Master's dissertation.

Applicants who wish to include a performance component in their eventual submission are specifically asked to describe how their scholarly research and performance activity will interrelate and inform each other. In addition, they should submit the following as part of their application:

  • one or more audio recordings featuring a range of repertoire lasting approximately 60 minutes in total. 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 list of relevant performance activity and details of previous performance tuition.

Candidates for the Ph.D. specialising in Composition are asked to submit:

  • between three and five original scores which demonstrate the breadth of their work and which should normally be accompanied by a live recording of at least one of these works. (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 direct to the Faculty through Dropbox by sharing electronic files with
  • a written proposal of around 750 words outlining a proposed programme of work and its end results and clarifying their artistic intentions in terms of both their technical and poetic aspects. (Candidates are also encouraged to consider how the opportunity presented by the Ph.D. may deepen their artistic self-awareness.)
  • a list of works and details of 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.

We can accept applications to work towards a Ph.D. on a part-time basis over five years instead of full-time over three. This is not a distance degree: although you will not need to live in Cambridge, you will be expected to attend supervisions in person and participate in some Faculty activities. If you come from outside the EU, please note that it is not possible to obtain a student visa for part-time study. See the University’s Graduate Admissions pages for further details on part-time study.

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

Study Music at Cambridge