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Postgraduate research opportunities

Royal Holloway's Music department has an international reputation for its  research. We achieved an extremely high rating among UK music departments in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), and in November 2013 were awarded the first ever Regius Professorship in  Music, which was also the first Regius Professorship awarded in the humanities for over a hundred years. Professor  Julian Johnson  is the inaugural holder of that title.

We have an excellent record of PhD completion and a thriving postgraduate community. Currently we have around 65 PhD students researching topics across the full range of Musicological and Ethnomusicological Studies and Compositional Practice. 

Royal Holloway has superior research facilities, including electronic resources and the largest library in the University of London. The Music department also has state-of-the-art electronic studios.

There are many opportunities for research students to work together at Royal Holloway. Doctoral students in Music participate in and lead a variety of research seminars, including the Visiting Researcher Seminar, four Postgraduate Days during the year when all postgraduate students come together to present their work, the Composition seminar (involving a visiting composer), and other specialist reading groups. There are many other seminar and reading groups across the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences that are available to postgraduate reserach students.

Encouragement and support is given to students who wish to present their work at conferences, or even organize their own conference: Each student has an annual research allowance, and is alerted to funds available elsewhere. 

Students are supervised in the department for the degrees of MPhil and PhD, awarded by the University of London. We will consider applications to undertake the faculty MA by Research (assessed entirely on the research dissertation: max. 40,000 words), though our lively taught Master’s degree  remains the methodological preparation for future research that we recommend.

To determine if your topic can be supported, please use Find an Expert search, and/or see the staff directory page for a summary of the research interests of all members of the Department, and details of their recent publications and activities.  

It is possible to study either full- or part-time. If you wish to find out about the feasibility of your research or creative project, an informal enquiry can be made to the postgraduate research admissions tutor, Professor Julian Johnson



General Information

We welcome postgraduate applications from students who have or are about to obtain an MMus in an appropriate subject, but candidates with degrees in other subjects or with relevant publications will be considered. We usually expect students to have achieved at least a 2:1 or equivalent in their first degree. 

Overseas applicants should have a degree of equivalent standard and must possess an excellent level of competence in spoken and written English. (Required IELTS scores are 6.5 overall with 7 in writing, and no remaining subscore to be below 5.5 if the applicant requires a student visa.)

Students are initially registered for an MPhil degree and transfer to PhD on satisfactory completion of the ‘upgrade’ process. Full-time PhD students are expected to complete their degree in three years (with a fourth and final year for writing up). These deadlines are enshrined in college regulations and strictly applied; if you are thinking of working part-time while doing your research, you must therefore take this into consideration.

Potential Supervisors

We recommend that you first consult the staff research pages and look through the research profiles of our academic staff involved in supervision. It is worth determining whether your research interests resonate with any of the specific areas of interests outlined and, if so, to emphasise this in your application. The following extremely broad categories might serve as a first pointer to more thematic patterns beneath; it is essential to visit individual staff websites.

·       Medieval & renaissance music (Helen Deeming)

·       16th to 18th-century music (Stephen Rose, Henry Stobart, Geoff Baker)

·       19th-century music (Mark Berry, Stephen Downes)

·       20th-century music (Rachel Beckles Willson, Mark Berry, Julie Brown, Stephen Downes,           Paul Harper-Scott, Julian Johnson, Tina K. Ramnarine)

·       Theory and analysis (Stephen Downes, Paul Harper-Scott)

·       Film and media music (Julie Brown, Anna Morcom, Shzr Ee Tan)

·       Ethnomusicology (Geoff Baker [The Americas], Henry Stobart [The Americas],                               Anna Morcom [India, Tibet], Tina K. Ramnarine [Northern Europe, The Caribbean],                     Shzr Ee Tan [East Asia, Gender])

·       Composition (Mark Bowden, Helen Grime, Brian Lock [electronica, film])

You may consider sending a preliminary research proposal to a potential supervisor ahead of completing your formal application. In addition to this, you may also choose to send a sample of your writing. This will offer you a chance to find out whether your proposed area of research matches the specific expertise and interests of any potential supervisor(s) with whom you might like to work. Alternatively, should you decide to go straight into the formal application procedure, your proposal will be circulated to all potential supervisors for consideration. 

Research Proposal

Although there is no set model for how to put together your research proposal, the following is a basic outline of what you should probably include:

* Research Aims / Objectives – including Research Questions (3-5 questions)

* Research Context 

* Research Methodology (including for Composition)

* Proposed Outcomes (including contribution to knowledge)

* Selected Bibliography

Applications Procedure for PhD in Music

Applications can be made throughout the academic year; studies generally commence in September or sometimes January.

Our standard application procedures involves filling out an on-line application, which you can find on the postgraduate research ‘How to Apply’.

In addition to any documents required by the college, you will need to submit the following directly to the Music Department:

* Any relevant funding application forms, if applying for funding

* Two samples of written work in English, which should take the form of two short academic essays (approx. 5000 words in total) or the equivalent, i.e. your dissertation from Masters programme or peer reviewed journal article

* Research proposal (up to approx. 2000 words)

* If applying for a composition PhD you will need to send in a portfolio of work consisting of scores and recordings

Please send all of these materials to music@rhul.ac.uk. Our standard application procedure operates on a rolling deadline, with successful candidates starting in either September or January. (If you intend to apply for funding, you need to follow the additional instructions outlined under the 'Funding' tab, and observe the deadline advertised there.) 

Your References

Please choose your referees with care. If you intend to apply for funding, please inform your referees that they should include an assessment of the viability of your proposed project, and an assessment of the extent to which you are equipped to undertake it. The references submitted as part of your overall PhD application will also be used for the TECHNE scholarships process.

The Next Stages

After your application has been submitted, we will contact you about the status of your application and next phase in the process.


Postgraduate Admissions - PhD

Professor Julian Johnson (julian.johnson@rhul.ac.uk) +44 1784 443949


Director of Graduate Studies:

Professor Julian Johnson (julian.johnson@rhul.ac.uk) +44 1784 443949


Postgraduate Admissions - Masters

Professor Tina K. Ramnarine (Tina.Ramnarine@rhul.ac.uk) +44 1784 443947


Faculty Administration (All Postgraduate):

music@rhul.ac.uk      +44 1784 443540

Those intending to study for PhD in the Department are able to apply for funding opportuinties.

In addition to the information below, you should consult the College's general information on postgraduate funding available here.

We would draw your attention to these funding opportunities in particular:

       1.     AHRC TECHNE Studentships are open to UK and EU applicants (fee waiver at Home/ EU rate, plus stipend if the awardee is a UK student). These are offered through the TECHNE Doctoral Training Partnership   which is led by Royal Holloway and includes six other universities in London and the South East. TECHNE offers a rich and diverse training programme for doctoral students with a focus on interdisciplinarity. The training programme is enhanced by input and placement opportunities provided by TECHNE’s 13 partner organisations (including the Barbican, Natural History Museum, Museum of London, BFI and Science Museum) in the cultural sector. If the Music Department agrees that your proposal may be suitable for a TECHNE or College studentship, complete both a regular application form (see previous tab: Applications) and a TECHNE application form. The TECHNE application form and further information on the application procedure for TECHNE funding, as well as other College studentships, is on the TECHNE applications page. Send your completed TECHNE form to Professor Julian Johnson by the Music Department deadline of 21 January 2018. 

       2.     Royal Holloway Funded Scholarships are open to all students. These may include full awards (fee waiver at Home/ EU rate, plus full stipend), but are generally part-awards:either fees (at the Home/EU rate only) plus £5,000 per annum, or a Home/EU fee waiver alone. We will likely have a small number of these to award. However, keep in mind that if you are awarded one of these, you will need to be prepared to part-fund your studies. To apply, complete and submit the TECHNE form by the TECHNE deadline; the two schemes are considered together.

       3.     Leverhulme (Magna Carta) Doctoral Scholarships fund multi-disciplinary research into the impact of digital technologies on personal liberty, addressing the global challenge of how to balance freedom, privacy and security, embracing the spirit and principles of the original Magna Carta but updated to reflect the very different society in which we now live.These scholarships include UK/EU fees and a stipend of £16,296 p.a. for three years. They are awarded on the basis of outstanding academic achievement and the potential to produce cutting-edge research. Students interested in proposing projects should contact Director of Graduate Studies, Professor Julian Johnson, mentioning their interest in a Leverhulme Magna Carta award.


** The Music Department deadline for applications for TECHNE funding and all other College studentships is 21 January 2018.** 

Please note:

       1.     Before applying for TECHNE funding you should already have applied to the college for a place to undertake your PhD.   (See Applications tab)

       2.     As a guide, students awarded a full scholarship will normally have a first class Bachelor’s degree and a (predicted) distinction for their Master’s degree.

NB: Applicants NOT wishing to be considered for funding will need to complete a Research Proposal, then follow our standard application procedure by filling out an on-line application on the postgraduate research ‘How to Apply’ page (see Applications tab). Our standard application procedure operates on a rolling deadline, with successful candidates starting in either September or January. 

Further Enquiries

Please direct any further enquiries about Postgraduate Research in the Department of Music to music@rhul.ac.uk, or Professor Julian Johnson (Postgraduate Research Admissions).


College Training

The college offers a full platform of generic skills training through the Postgraduate Research Student pages. There is also a full Practice-Based PhD Programme run by the Faculty.

Department Training

The Music Department runs a series of sessions throughout the year to provide foundational music research skills: the first is a 2-hour seminar on research bibliography and resources. Relevant training sessions run by other departments and institutions such as the Institute of Musical Research (IMR) will be advertised.


Advice and pastoral support is initially by your supervisor (advice on the content and direction of your PhD), your advisor or Director of Graduate Studies (pastoral matters), or the departmental administrator (administrative queries), and also by various facilities in the college.

See also our page with Information for Current Students in Postgraduate Research for full information on training and support provided.
















Regius Professor of Music, Julian Johnson, introduces postgraduate music research at Royal Holloway in a short video:

Music PhD study

Film courtsey of PostgraduateSearch.com


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