Study A Music Degree In The UK – A Comprehensive Subject Guide

Are you passionate about music and dreaming of pursuing a music degree in the UK? This comprehensive guide is your roadmap to turning your musical aspirations into a reality. We’ll take you through every step of the journey, from selecting the right course to understanding the myriad career prospects in the world of music. As we navigate this harmonious path, we’ll also explore the rich heritage of British musical academia, helping you find your unique route to a melodious future in the world of music.


Table of Contents

What is Music?

At its core, music is a universal language that transcends cultural, linguistic, and geographical boundaries. It’s a form of artistic expression that communicates emotions, stories, and ideas through sound. But defining music can be as intricate as composing a symphony. Music encompasses a wide array of elements, making it a multi-faceted art form.

The Elements of Music

  • Melody: Melodies are the most recognisable aspects of music. They are the sequences of single notes that create a tuneful line. Melodies can be catchy and memorable, leaving a lasting impression.

  • Harmony: Harmony is the combination of different musical notes played or sung simultaneously. It adds depth and complexity to the music, creating rich textures.

  • Rhythm: Rhythm is the heartbeat of music. It’s the pattern of beats and the duration of notes in a piece. From toe-tapping rhythms to intricate drum patterns, rhythm is what keeps music moving forward.

  • Dynamics: Dynamics refer to the variations in loudness and intensity within a piece of music. This adds emotional depth and drama to the composition.

  • Timbre: Timbre, often referred to as “tone colour,” distinguishes one instrument or voice from another. It’s what makes a piano sound different from a violin, and a soprano voice unique from a baritone.

  • Form: The structure of a musical composition is its form. It dictates how the music unfolds, with sections like verses, choruses, and bridges.

Emotional and Cultural Significance

Music is a powerful means of conveying emotions and stories. Whether it’s the melancholy of a blues song, the jubilation of a symphony, or the rhythm of a dance track, music connects with human emotions on a profound level. It has the ability to uplift spirits, express sorrow, and evoke nostalgia.

Furthermore, music is deeply entwined with culture. Every society and community has its own unique musical traditions, which reflect its history, values, and identity. Studying music is not just about understanding the technical aspects but also about delving into the cultural and historical context that shapes the art.

Why Study Music?

The decision to pursue a music degree is a significant one, and it often arises from a deep passion for music and a desire to turn that passion into a career. While the path of a music degree is not without its challenges, it offers a range of compelling reasons to consider:

1. Pursuing Your Passion:

For many, music is more than a hobby; it’s a lifelong passion. Choosing to study music allows you to immerse yourself in what you love, dedicating your time and energy to a subject that resonates with your soul. It’s a chance to explore your creativity and deepen your understanding of an art form that has the power to inspire and transform lives.

2. Skill Development:

A music degree equips you with a range of valuable skills, not only as a musician but also as a well-rounded professional. These skills include discipline, time management, teamwork, problem-solving, and effective communication. As a music student, you’ll learn to harness your creativity, master your instrument, and hone your performance and composition abilities.

3. Academic and Theoretical Understanding:

While natural talent is a great starting point, a music degree offers you a structured academic environment to deepen your theoretical understanding of music. You’ll explore music history, theory, composition, and the cultural contexts in which music exists. This knowledge broadens your perspective and allows you to engage with music at a more profound level.

4. Contribution to Culture and Society:

Music plays a vital role in society and culture. By studying music, you can become a cultural contributor, preserving and evolving musical traditions, and creating new works that resonate with audiences. Music has the power to inspire, console, and provoke thought, and as a musician, you can be a part of this meaningful cultural conversation.

Best Universities for Music in the UK

Here is a list of the top UK universities in this field according to the latest QS World University Rankings:

RankInstitutionEntry StandardsStudent SatisfactionResearch QualityContinuationGraduate prospects outcomesGraduate prospects on trackOverall Score
1University of Cambridge2044.033.5899.28288100
2University of Oxford1983.913.08100888497.3
3University of Southampton1684.033.3198.8869696
4University of Manchester2064.033.596.4707095.4
5University of Sheffield1694.23.3297.3828894.9
6Durham University2083.773.3896.3727294.3
7University of Leeds1863.883.4799667693.3
8Guildhall School of Music & Drama1574.073.2897.4908293.3
9Royal Holloway, University of London1753.893.6897.5727493
10King's College London, University of London1743.713.6191.6947692.8
11University of Birmingham1703.893.2195.1828491.9
12University of Surrey1674.193.0798.7767291.5
13University of Bristol16843.4198.5726891.4
14Royal Northern College of Music1503.892.7698.3907889.3
15University of York1564.153.2995.5746689
16The University of Edinburgh2063.683.3995.3706288.3
17Royal Academy of Music, University of London1503.962.4596.8908088.1
18Bangor University1514.183.0895727287.8
19Queen's University Belfast1603.853.298.3646887.7
20University of Glasgow2133.793.4493.9607487.6
21Birmingham City University1564.013.1495.7707887.1
22University of Nottingham1413.913.4396.8647886.6
23Cardiff University1523.963.1596.6666486.3
24Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance1323.732.9295.8807684.7
25Royal College of Music1313.963.0199.284.6
26Royal Conservatoire of Scotland1843.682.8397.5747284.3
27University of Plymouth1393.663.1991.2787283.8
28University of East London1314.132.2998827283.6
29University of Aberdeen1714.262.7490.4649283.1
30University of Liverpool1604.013.192.9525682.9
31Newcastle University1573.673.3395506082.8
32Ulster University1304.143.0787.9727682.5
33University of Huddersfield1314.293.5690.2586082.4
34University of Brighton1283.833.279682.4
35City, University of London1403.663.5288.782
36University of Kent1363.593.5690.5587281.4
37University of Chester1483.82.4695.4666681.4
38Leeds Arts University1484.2910081.1
39York St John University1284.212.8486768081
40University of Lincoln1363.733.0494.2547080.7
41Brunel University London4.052.8594.7506080.6
42University of Winchester1254.242.8690646680.4
43Falmouth University1183.993.17726680.1
44Edinburgh Napier University1974.091.9595.8586679.9
45University of Chichester1513.722.2594646479.2
46Oxford Brookes University1293.762.6390.2726878.9
47Goldsmiths, University of London1363.273.1990.5646678.8
48Bath Spa University1273.782.6194.8646878.5
49University of Sussex1353.943.1987.2546078.4
50University of Salford1394.112.7888.6586678.2
51University of West London1353.622.7891.1646478.1
52University of Gloucestershire1144.122.6991607078
53Liverpool Hope University1233.912.6390.6587677.9
54University of Bedfordshire1314.3299626677.8
55Rose Bruford College3.862.3595527477.6
56Canterbury Christ Church University1073.992.9687.7628277.3
57University of South Wales1333.951.5594.4647277.2
58Middlesex University1124.112.6581.4808276.9
59Leeds Beckett University1363.972.2991.7566676.7
60University of Derby4.132.4693.3466476.7
61Coventry University1264.093.1678.1667676.6
62Kingston University1213.943.187.5606076.6
63De Montfort University1364.053.0586.3506276.4
64University of Hertfordshire1154.012.7193.6585876.2
65University for the Creative Arts1074.353.0695.8405676
66Edge Hill University1383.842.9487.2446875.7
67University of Greenwich1573.8495.2545475.5
68Staffordshire University1434.282.7493.8243675.2
69University of Hull1174.082.8885.9505874.3
70Nottingham Trent University1264.0492666674.2
71Solent University (Southampton)1413.891.9490.8565473.8
72Anglia Ruskin University3.413.3583.3507073.7
73University of Wales Trinity Saint David1493.9186.8567073.3
74University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI)4.1190.9527673.2
75University of Northampton1243.462.2388.7606072.7
76Bournemouth University11342.9786.2563672.3
77University of Central Lancashire1263.32.2985565870.1
78Buckinghamshire New University1313.9883.3606470
79Liverpool John Moores University1304.0282.1586469.2
80University of Westminster, London1203.7784.8745069.1
81University of the West of Scotland1603.632.3582.3486068.1
82London South Bank University864.042.8281.8386666.5
83University of Sunderland843.933.2178.9406466.1

Entry Requirements for a Music Degree

The entry requirements for a music degree in the UK can vary depending on the university and the specific programme. However, there are some common requirements and considerations:

Academic Qualifications:

    • A-levels or equivalent qualifications are typically required. Music A-level or an equivalent music qualification can be particularly beneficial.
    • Some universities may also consider International Baccalaureate (IB) or other international qualifications.
    • Entry requirements often specify grades and subjects required, so it’s essential to check the specific requirements of the institutions you’re interested in.

Audition or Interview:

    • Music degrees usually involve an audition or interview as a part of the application process. This is to assess your musical skills, talent, and potential.
    • Auditions may include playing an instrument, singing, and demonstrating your knowledge of music theory.

Music Theory and Aural Skills:

    • Proficiency in music theory and aural skills is often assessed during the audition or interview. Some universities may require candidates to pass a theory or aural test.


    • If you’re applying for a composition or music production programme, you may need to submit a portfolio of your work, including compositions, recordings, or productions.

English Language Proficiency:

    • If English is not your first language, you may need to demonstrate your proficiency in English through tests like IELTS or TOEFL.

Other Requirements:

    • Some universities may have specific prerequisites, such as a certain number of years of instrumental or vocal training, experience in a particular musical genre, or knowledge of specific software or technology for music production programmes.

It’s crucial to research and contact the universities or conservatories you’re interested in to get detailed information about their specific entry requirements. Additionally, make sure to meet application deadlines and prepare thoroughly for auditions and interviews, as they are crucial components of the selection process for music degree programmes in the UK.

Jobs for Music Graduates

Here are the career prospects for graduates in this field:

  1. Musician/Performer: Pursue a career as a professional musician, either as a solo artist, part of a band, or in an ensemble.

  2. Music Teacher or Educator: Share your musical knowledge by becoming a music teacher at schools, colleges, or private music academies.

  3. Composer/Arranger: Create original music or adapt existing pieces for various purposes, including film, TV, and live performances.

  4. Conductor: Lead orchestras, choirs, or musical ensembles to ensure harmonious performances.

  5. Music Therapist: Use music to help individuals with emotional, physical, or psychological challenges as a music therapist.

  6. Sound Engineer/Producer: Work in recording studios to ensure high-quality sound in music recordings and productions.

  7. Arts Administration: Manage the business and logistics of music organisations, such as concert venues and orchestras.

  8. Music Journalist/Critic: Write about music for newspapers, magazines, websites, and other media outlets as a music journalist or critic.

  9. Music Industry Professional: Explore roles in talent management, event coordination, marketing, or music publishing within the music industry.

  10. Instrument Technician or Luthier: Specialise in repairing and maintaining musical instruments or crafting and repairing stringed instruments like violins and guitars as an instrument technician or luthier.

These are some of the top career paths that music degree graduates in the UK can consider, depending on your interests and expertise within the field of music.

What Career Paths Do Music Graduates Tend to Pursue?

Among music graduates, three of the top five reported occupations are in artistic, literary, and media occupations (18%), teaching professionals (11%), and sales, marketing, and related associate professionals (6%). The distribution of employment sectors for these graduates is as follows: Arts, design, and media (23.5%), Retail, catering, and customer service (18.8%), Education (15.6%), Clerical, secretarial, and administrative (10.9%), and Other (31.2%).

Salary for Music Graduates

Check out the average salary for graduates in this field: 

Low skilled: £18,000

Medium-skilled: £18,900

High-skilled: £23,500

Topics for Music Dissertation

Below, we present a diverse array of research areas, each offering an opportunity to delve into the complexities of Music and make a significant contribution to its advancement:

  1. The Role of Music in Virtual Reality Experiences: Explore how music enhances or alters the immersive quality of virtual reality environments and its impact on users’ emotions and experiences.

  2. Music and Artificial Intelligence: Investigate the applications of AI in music composition, performance, and analysis, and the implications for the future of music creation.

  3. The Influence of Music on Dream Patterns: Research how different genres or styles of music affect individuals’ dreams and whether music can be used to induce specific dream experiences.

  4. Music and Memory in Alzheimer’s Patients: Study the therapeutic effects of music on memory retention and cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients, and how music therapy can be integrated into healthcare.

  5. Musical Patterns in Birdsong: Analyse the musical patterns in birdsong, their potential for influencing human music composition, and the connection between bird vocalisations and human culture.

  6. Soundscapes and Urban Planning: Explore how music and soundscapes can be integrated into urban planning to create more harmonious and liveable city environments.

  7. Music and Psychoacoustics in Advertising: Explore the use of music and sound design in advertising campaigns, focusing on how they influence consumer behaviour and brand perception.

  8. The Role of Music in Mindfulness Practices: Examine the use of music in mindfulness and meditation techniques and its impact on relaxation, stress reduction, and mental well-being.

  9. Music and Language Development in Children: Research the connections between early exposure to music and language development in children, including potential benefits in multilingual environments.

  10. Musical Innovations in Health and Rehabilitation: Explore the use of music technology and innovations in therapeutic settings, such as music-assisted rehabilitation for physical and mental health.

These topics offer a wide range of opportunities for in-depth research and can lead to unique insights in the field of music and its intersections with various disciplines and aspects of life

How Much Does it Cost to Study in the UK

One of the most important things to consider is how much the degree is going to cost. Here is a general guide for 2023/2024:

  • For home students in England, universities can charge up to a maximum of £9,250 per year for an undergraduate degree.
  • In Wales, institutions can charge up to £9,000 for home students. However, Welsh students can apply for a fee grant to cover some of the cost of their tuition fees. This grant is currently not repayable or income-assessed.
  • Northern Irish universities will charge up to £4,275 for home students and may charge up to £9,250 for students from elsewhere in the UK.
  • Scotland does not charge home students fees at the undergraduate level; however, students from England, Wales, or Northern Ireland are expected to pay up to £9,250 per year. International students from outside of the UK will pay significantly more to study in Scotland.
  • International students can expect to pay between £10,000 and £26,000 annually for lecture-based undergraduate degrees at universities across the UK. An undergraduate medical degree can cost overseas students up to £58,600 per year. As for postgraduate degrees, the average cost is estimated to be around £17,109 per year.
Besides the tuition fees, there are also several other cost considerations such as food, accommodation, phone bills, books, social life, memberships, and others. Remember to check out our free student budget calculator

Other Subjects to Consider

Given that you are interested in this subject area, you might also want to consider the following options: 

  1. Music Education: If you’re interested in teaching music, a degree in music education can prepare you for a career as a music teacher at various educational levels, from elementary to secondary school.

  2. Musicology: Musicology is the scholarly study of music, its history, theory, and cultural context. It’s an excellent choice if you’re interested in research, writing, and academic pursuits in the field of music.

  3. Business Administration: A business degree can be valuable for musicians who want to manage their careers, work in the business side of the music industry, or even start their own music-related ventures.

  4. Music Technology: This degree combines music with technology, focusing on recording, sound engineering, and the use of digital tools in music production.

  5. Psychology: If you’re interested in the psychological aspects of music, a degree in psychology can help you explore the impact of music on emotions and cognitive processes.

  6. Therapy or Counselling: For those who want to use music as a therapeutic tool, degrees in music therapy, art therapy, or counselling can be beneficial.

  7. Theatre or Drama: A degree in theatre or drama can be a great fit if you’re interested in musical theatre, opera, or other forms of music and dramatic performance.

  8. Media or Film Studies: If you’re interested in composing music for film, television, or other media, a degree in media or film studies can be a valuable addition.

  9. Communications or Journalism: These degrees are relevant if you’re interested in music journalism, public relations in the music industry, or media coverage of music events and performances.

  10. Liberal Arts: A liberal arts degree can provide a well-rounded education that complements a music degree, making you adaptable and versatile in various career paths.

When considering additional degrees, it’s essential to align your choices with your long-term career goals and personal interests. Some degrees may offer a natural synergy with a music degree, while others can provide diverse skill sets that can enhance your music career or open up alternative career options.

Frequently Asked Questions

Consider your interests, passions, and career goals. Research various degree programmes and their content to see which aligns best with your aspirations.

While earning potential is important, it’s also crucial to select a degree that you’re passionate about and suits your skills. A balance between your interests and potential career prospects is ideal.

Location can impact your overall university experience. Consider factors like cost of living, proximity to industry hubs, and personal preferences.

Evaluate tuition fees, available scholarships, and potential for part-time work. Create a budget to ensure you can manage your finances during your studies.

Consider combining your passions with practical skills. For example, if you love art but want job security, explore fields like graphic design or digital marketing.

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