Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Musical Composition PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Musical Composition

The Reid School of Music offers an exciting research environment that combines the theory, history, composition and practice of music with the scientific study of sound.

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.

Supervision specialisms

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

The PhD programme comprises three years full-time (six years part-time) research under the supervision of an expert in your chosen research topic within Musical Composition. Your research will culminate in a portfolio of compositions which must comprise original work, with at least one of the compositions being a major and extended work.

Regular individual meetings with your supervisor provide guidance and focus for the course of research you are undertaking.

You will be encouraged to attend research methods courses at the beginning of your research studies.

And for every year you are enrolled on the programme you will be required to complete an annual progression review.

All of our research students benefit from Edinburgh College of Art's interdisciplinary approach, and you will be assigned at least two research supervisors.

Your first/ lead supervisor would normally be based in the same subject area as your degree programme. Your second supervisor may be from another discipline within ECA or elsewhere within the University of Edinburgh, according to the expertise required. On occasion more than two supervisors will be assigned, particularly where the degree brings together multiple disciplines.

Our research culture is supported by seminars and public lecture programmes and discussion groups.

Tutoring opportunities will be advertised to the postgraduate research community, which you can apply for should you wish to gain some teaching experience during your studies. But you are not normally advised to undertake tutoring work in the first year of your research studies, while your main focus should be on establishing the direction of your research.

You are encouraged to attend courses at the Institute for Academic Development (IAD), where all staff and students at the University of Edinburgh are supported through a range of training opportunities, including:

  • short courses in compiling literature reviews
  • writing in a second language
  • preparing for your viva

The Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities (SGSAH) offers further opportunities for development. You will also be encouraged to refer to the Vitae research development framework as you grow into a professional researcher.

You will have access to study space (some of which are 24-hour access), studios and workshops at Edinburgh College of Art’s campus, as well as University wide resources. There are several bookable spaces for the development of exhibitions, workshops or seminars. And you will have access to well-equipped multimedia laboratories, photography and exhibition facilities, shared recording space, access to recording equipment available through Bookit the equipment loan booking system.

You will have access to high quality library facilities. Within the University of Edinburgh, there are three libraries:

  • the Main Library
  • the ECA library
  • the Art and Architecture Library

The Centre for Research Collections which holds the University of Edinburgh’s historic collections is also located in the Main Library.

The Talbot Rice Gallery is a public art gallery of the University of Edinburgh and part of Edinburgh College of Art, which is committed to exploring what the University of Edinburgh can contribute to contemporary art practice today and into the future. You will also have access to the extraordinary range and quality of exhibitions and events associated with a leading college of art situated within a world-class research-intensive university.

St Cecilia’s Hall, which is Scotland’s oldest purpose-built concert hall, also houses the Music Museum which holds one of the most important historic musical instrument collections anywhere in the world.

In addition to the University’s facilities you will also be able to access wider resources within the City of Edinburgh. These include:

  • National Library of Scotland
  • Scottish Studies Library and Digital Archives
  • City of Edinburgh Libraries
  • Historic Environment Scotland
  • the National Trust for Scotland

You will also benefit from the University of Edinburgh’s extensive range of student support facilities provided, including:

  • student societies
  • accommodation
  • wellbeing and support services

The PhD by Distance is available to suitably qualified applicants in all the same areas as our on-campus programmes.

The PhD by Distance allows students who do not wish to commit to basing themselves in Edinburgh to study for a PhD in an ECA subject area from their home country or city.

There is no expectation that students studying for an ECA PhD by Distance study mode should visit Edinburgh during their period of study. However, short-term visits for particular activities could be considered on a case-by-case basis.

For further information on the PhD by Distance please see the ECA website:

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

Normally a UK Masters degree or its international equivalent. If you do not meet the academic entry requirements, we may still consider your application on the basis of relevant professional experience.

You must also submit a research proposal and portfolio; see How to Apply section for guidance.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

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

English language tests

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

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.0 in each component. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 59 in each component.

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, Trinity ISE or PTE, 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 (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Additional programme costs

There are no additional costs.

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhDMusical Composition3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhDMusical Composition6 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
PhDMusical Composition by Distance3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhDMusical Composition by Distance6 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
  • your residency status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Postgraduate Research Director, Dr Benedict Taylor
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 4155
  • Contact:
  • Edinburgh College of Art Postgraduate Research Team Student and Academic Support Service
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • Evolution House, 78 West Port
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH1 2LE
Programme start dates Application deadlines
9 September 2024 1 July 2024
6 January 2025 1 November 2024

If you are applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. All applications must be received by the deadlines listed above.

You must submit two references with your application.

You must submit two references with your application, one of which must be an academic reference and preferably from your most recent studies.

You should submit a research proposal that outlines your project's aims, context, process and product/outcome. Read the application guidance before you apply. If you wish to undertake research that involves practice then a portfolio will also be required, full details are listed in the application guidance document.

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

Further information

  • Postgraduate Research Director, Dr Benedict Taylor
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 4155
  • Contact:
  • Edinburgh College of Art Postgraduate Research Team Student and Academic Support Service
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • Evolution House, 78 West Port
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH1 2LE