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Research Degrees in Music

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Postgraduate research students may work towards the degrees of MPhil or PhD in a range of topics that match or are allied to the research areas of academic staff, including

  • historical and contemporary studies of musical texts, contexts and performance;
  • interdisciplinary themes in music research, including film and literature;
  • the social and cultural study of music.

Each student is supported by at least two supervisors, as well as a programme of university-wide training in research skills. OU students benefit from the flexible approach to learning offered by the University, which also allows them to receive supervision from staff working in different faculties. In addition, they have opportunities to participate in a lively research culture and to contribute to regular seminar programmes, conferences and workshops.

Further information on PhD study can be found in the Research Degrees prospectus.

How to apply

Funded study

We accept applications for funded doctoral study each year; the deadline falls in early January. Applicants are initially assessed for a place on the Music PhD programme; successful applications are then forwarded to internal and external panels that consider them for AHRC studentships. Here is the guidance on how to apply.

Applicants for research degrees usually hold a good undergraduate degree in music as well as an MA in the subject (although a number of our students have come to doctoral study by other educational routes).

We encourage applicants to send us, at least a month before the January deadline, a draft research proposal following the guidelines in the studentship posting. The draft will enable us to assess your topic and approach, provide you with feedback, and let you know whether we have the specialist staff to form a supervisory team for your project. It often takes a significant amount of time and effort to put together a strong PhD proposal, so we encourage you to send your draft early.

Please send draft proposals and questions to

Self-funded study

We also accept applications for self-funded study outside of the studentship process, with applications due in early January (for study starting the following October) and at the end of August (for study beginning the following February). 

We encourage potential applicants to send us, at least a month before the application deadline, a draft research proposal following the guidelines here.

Please send draft proposals and questions to

Current research students

Heather Armsby: The role of women in the British brass band

Amanda Ashworth: Associations with the visual arts in the music of Debussy: from Pre-Raphaelitism to Art Nouveau

Samantha Bassler: "The Most Splended Period of English Music". Sir Richard Terry and the Reception History of William Byrd's Latin-Texted Music in Britain during the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

Paul Britten: English Municipal Orchestras in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

Natalie Burton: The marriage of music and poetry: structure in the twentieth-century English song cycle

Michael Busk: The early nineteenth-century music festivals in Manchester and the industrial north-west of England

Kirsty Caine: The Story Tellers: Narrativity in Popular Music from 1998–2008

Sarah Clarke: An Instrument in Comparative Oblivion? The Guitar and Amateur Players in Victorian England

David Force: A 'Holding, Uniting-Constant Friend': The organ in seventeenth-century English domestic music-making

Daniel Gouly: Soundcloud, sampling and sonic experimentation: community in hip-hop's online underground

Chris Grey: Church-musical aesthetics (co-supervised with Philosophy)

Ann Grindley: Fin-de-siècle Salon Culture: A Reappraisal of Cécile Chaminade

Tristan Harkcom: Wagnerian Wounds: Trauma and Wagner’s post-1849 Works

Tom Hewitt: Cyborg Music: A Future Musicotechnographic Aesthetic (co-supervised with Philosophy)

Maciej Kierzkowski: The history of brass bands of Poland

Angelo Pinto: The Symphony as a Novel: Mahler’s Tenth

Giancarlo Ranzani: Learning rhythm in a Cuban school: A qualitative case study

Recently Completed PhDs


Lucinda Cradduck: Spirituality in the Music of Edmund Rubbra

Kerri-Anne Edinburgh: A study of the effects of nationalism, patriotism and politics on the experience of listening to music in wartime Britain, 1939–1945


David Hammond: British Army Music in the Interwar Years: Culture, Performance, and Influence

Jessika Rittstieg: The role of Eugene Ysaye in the promotion of Contemporary Franco-Belgian Chamber Music

Martyn Strachan: Style in the Music of Arthur Sullivan: An Investigation


Andrew Cusworth: Welsh Folk Music of the 19th and early 20th centuries


Ben Byram-Wigfield: The Sacred Music of Antonio Lotti: Idiom and Influence of a Venetian Master

Owen Coggins: Drone Metal and Mysticism (co-supervised with Religious Studies)

Anthony Prechtl: Adaptive music generation for computer games


Alan Karass: Music and the Negotiation of Identity at the International Festival of the Sahara in Douz, Tunisia

Richard King: Contemporary Catholic Liturgical Song 

Photo credit: By Chas, H. Prince, Alderley Edge -, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

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