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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
  • Sarah Clarke: An Instrument in Comparative Oblivion? The Guitar and Amateur Players in Victorian England
  • Caroline Cowan: August Manns, the Crystal Palace concerts and the English Musical Renaissance
  • Chris Grey (co-supervised with OU Philosophy): A theological aesthetic of musical beauty, drawing on the notion of poetic knowledge in the work of Jacques Maritain (1882-1973)
  • Ann Grindley: Fin-de-siècle Salon Culture: A Reappraisal of Cécile Chaminade
  • Louise Guy: Recorders in Scottish Education: the life and work of Brian Bonsor
  • Tristan Harkcom: Wagnerian Wounds: Trauma and Wagner’s post-1849 Works
  • Maciej Kierzkowski: The history of brass bands of Poland
  • Giancarlo Ranzani: Learning rhythm in a Cuban school: A qualitative case study
  • Giorgio Zampirolo: MOOCs in 21st Century Music Education:  a quality survey that integrates theory and case study research

Recently Completed PhDs




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