Postgraduate study

Musical Composition PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Musical Composition

Composition allows students to explore their creative language and horizons in relationship to contemporary compositional styles and challenges. Each student's creative work is developed and guided through supervision. There are no stylistic preferences and all contemporary styles are encouraged, including the use of new technologies.

Students submit a portfolio of original compositions in place of a thesis. The portfolio should normally include one major work, the performance of which would occupy an entire evening (i.e. an opera). Part or all of the portfolio may consist of computer-based or electronic fixed-media works, interactive work or work involving new media.

At the time of writing there is no requirement for an additional thesis or commentary to accompany the portfolio, but students are required to develop an understanding of the cultural context of their work.

Candidates for the PhD in Musical Composition are normally admitted as probationary students for the first year of study, and on satisfactory completion of this first year are approved for registration for either MPhil (normally two years full-time) or PhD (maximum four years full-time).

Please consult our staff profile pages to see our supervision specialisms and availability, spanning electroacoustic, algorithmic, computer music and music for screen.

All of our research students benefit from Edinburgh College of Art's interdisciplinary approach, and all are assigned two research supervisors. Your second supervisor may be from another discipline within Edinburgh College of Art (ECA), or from somewhere else within the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences or elsewhere within the University, according to the expertise required. On occasion more than two supervisors will be assigned, particularly where the degree brings together multiple disciplines.

  • Six purpose-built, acoustically treated music studios, with tie-lines to a shared recording space.
  • Recording equipment is available to students through BookIt, the online booking system.
  • More than 500,000 rare books, artworks, scientific artefacts, historically significant musical instruments, and manuscripts.

Normally a UK masters degree or its international equivalent.

You must submit a portfolio as part of your application. Your portfolio should include three pieces of composition or examples of work related to your proposed field of study.

If you do not meet the academic entry requirements, we may still consider your application on the basis of your portfolio and/or relevant professional experience.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS: total 7.0 (at least 6.0 in each module)

  • TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 20 in each module)

  • PTE Academic: total 67 (at least 56 in each of the "Communicative Skills" sections)

  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 169 in each module)

  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about our language requirements:

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhDMusical Composition3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhDMusical Composition6 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments. The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on your programme, the duration of your studies, and your residency status. (Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.)

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Edinburgh College of Art Postgraduate Office
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • Evolution House, Grassmarket
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH1 2LE

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

You must submit two references with your application.

You must submit a portfolio as part of your application. You will not be able to upload your portfolio immediately; you must wait for the email prompt, which will come within a few days and will explain how you can upload your portfolio. If you plan to submit audio files, please upload these to an online sharing website and add the link to the portfolio upload section of your online application.

You should submit a research proposal that outlines your project's aims, context, process and product/outcome. Read the application guidance before you apply:

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Edinburgh College of Art Postgraduate Office
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • Evolution House, Grassmarket
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH1 2LE