Music PhD / MPhil

The Department is at the forefront of current research and postgraduate teaching across music styles and repertoires from a wide variety of critical perspectives. From 19th Century classical music to game music our staff and students undertake cutting edge, internationally recognised research. We are home to the Institute of Popular Music (IPM), the first academic centre created specifically to study popular music, and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Composition and Technology (ICCaT), a research institute dedicated to exploring how music composition and sonic art forms intersect with technology, performance and perception.

Why study with us?

My PhD here has offered countless opportunities to develop skills outside of the university arena and these skills are invaluable.

Áine Mangaoang - Music PhD student
  • Top

    quartile for impact classified as 'outstanding' (4*) in the latest Research Excellence Framework (2021)

  • 1988

    our Institute of Popular Music (IPM), founded in 1988, was the first academic centre created specifically to study popular music.

  • 20

    members of staff cover 10 specialisations.


In a UNESCO City of Music with a wealth of musical institutions, organizations, festivals and events, our PhD students also have an opportunity to both study and participate through partnership with locally based cultural and creative industries.

Our lecturers and postgraduate students conduct research on a wide variety of topics in a vibrant and diverse department within an internationally renowned city of music. Our world-leading expertise in music encompasses numerous methodological approaches and critical perspectives including critical musicology, popular music studies, composition, music psychology and ethnomusicology. We particularly welcome research proposals that match those of our researchers, including:

  • Music industries
  • Music analysis – (with a particular emphasis on aesthetics, psychoanalysis, music and emotion, popular music)
  • Music and the moving image (film, television, music in gaming and music video)
  • Critical theoretical approaches (including Gender studies, race and ethnicity and diaspora)
  • Heritage and history
  • Non-Western musics
  • Composition (with a particular emphasis on its intersection with technology)
  • Technology and digitisation
  • Ethnography and ethnomusicology
  • Jazz studies
  • Music psychology

Research students participate fully in our research activity. They present papers at the Department’s research seminars and work as Teaching Assistants within the Department (with pedagogical training and support provided). There are also weekly research, career, and teaching seminars for all postgraduates. As a postgraduate student you'll be able to attend research seminars involving guest speakers from many disciplines and sub-disciplines.

We also offer a Masters by Research (MRes). Please visit the MRes Arts: Music page for further information.


The Department of Music, which is a member of the prestigious Russell Group, offers a stimulating research environment. Our critically acclaimed research encompasses a wide spectrum of music studies. With two supervisors assigned to every PhD student we encourage imaginative combinations of discipline and repertoire to explore new approaches to creative musical excellence and research innovation. Our PhD students also benefit from their involvement in the cutting-edge research of our staff.

We are home of the Institute of Popular Music (IPM), the first popular music research centre in the world founded in 1988, and the newly established Interdisciplinary Centre for Composition and Technology (ICCaT), which investigates how music composition and sonic art forms intersect with new technology, performance and perception. The Department has an extensive network with national and international academic institutions and organisations, including the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM), Society of Music Analysis and Royal Music Association (RMA).

The departmental facilities for performance, composition and music technology include: practice rehearsal spaces, SSL studio, iMac suites, electronic music research studio and video game research lab. In addition to the extensive music section in the University's main Sydney Jones Library, the Department of Music also houses an extensive collection of recorded sound materials.

The dedicated postgraduate study room in the department is a hub for our PhD community. It offers designated desk spaces and computers, in addition to a couple of hot desks for those who want an occasional study space. The weekly PGR seminars are held in the boardroom in the IPM wing of the department where rigorous academic discussions and social interactions take place.

All PhD students are supported by the Liverpool Doctoral College which offers extensive training programmes for a wide range of research and professional skills development. The department’s partnership with local and national music and creative industries and organisations also offer a myriad of opportunities for the PhD students to research on and take part in the dynamic cultural scene in Liverpool. Our partner organisations include: the Liverpool Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT), Radio Merseyside, National Museums Liverpool, Liverpool Open Gallery, Liverpool Sound City and Milapfest.

Study options and fees

The fees below reflect one year of study during the 2024/25 academic year

MPhil / PhD Duration UK students International Students
Full time 2-4 years £4,786
  • Faculty of Health and Life Sciences £29,750 (Band A)^
  • Faculty of Science and Engineering* £29,750 (Band A)^ or £23,400 (Band B)
  • Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences £23,400 (Band B)
Part time 4-6 years £2,393
  • Faculty of Health and Life Sciences £14,900 (Band A)^
  • Faculty of Science and Engineering* £14,900 (Band A)^ or £11,700 (Band B)
  • Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences £11,700 (Band B)

The fees stated in the table above exclude potential research support fees also known as ‘bench fees’. You will be notified of any fee which may apply in your offer letter.

* Please note that if you are undertaking a PhD within the Faculty of Science and Engineering the fee you pay, Band A or Band B, will reflect the nature of your research project. Some research projects incur a higher fee than others e.g. if you are required to undertake laboratory work. You will be informed of the fee for your programme in your offer letter.

^ Self-funded, full-time international students studying a PhD programme classified as Band A will receive a £2,000 reduction in their fees for the first year only.

Entry requirements

Research degrees (MPhil, PhD) may be taken either full-time (one year for MPhil, three years for PhD) or part-time (two and six years, respectively). The normal entrance requirement is an undergraduate degree of at least 2:1 (upper second) standard. We would normally consider a taught Masters level qualification to be an important precursor to research. All applicants for a research degree should send an outline of their proposed topic and a sample of their written academic work with their application. In general, we would expect applications for September entry to be received by 15 May, and wherever possible, we encourage students to begin studies in September.

Applicants with an undergraduate degree in Music or other relevant subjects (including joint-honours degrees with another subject) are encouraged to apply. The normal expectation is at least a 2:1. All applicants will normally be interviewed and we shall look at candidates not simply in the light of conventional profiles, but with regard to individual qualities. Hence, students with first degrees obtained from music conservatories (both from EU and Overseas institutions) and mature students with non-traditional backgrounds are encouraged to apply. 

English language requirements

IELTS Academic requirement - SELT and non-SELT Overall 7.0 no band below 6.5
TOEFL iBT requirement Minimum 100 overall with L 21 R 21 W 21 and S 23
C1 Advanced CAE requirement Overall 185 with no less than 176 in any paper
PTE Academic requirement69 with minimum scores of 61 in each component
Trinity College London, Integrated Skills in English (ISE II)ISE II with an overall pass with merit in components
Cambridge IGCSE as a First LanguageGrade C
Cambridge IGCSE as a Second LanguageGrade B
Cambridge English Level 3 Certificate in ESOL International (Proficiency)Overall 185 with 176 in components
Cambridge English Level 3 Certificate in ESOL International (Advanced)Overall 185 with 176 in components
Cambridge English Level 2 Certificate in ESOL International (Advanced)Overall 185 with 176 in components

How to apply

Research degree applications can be made online.  You'll also need to ensure that you have funding to cover all fees.

Applications are open all year round.

More about applying for research degrees

Apply online

Before you apply, we recommend that you identify a supervisor and develop a research proposal

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Doctoral Training Partnerships support future researchers with funding and a rewarding learning environment where you can collaborate with leading researchers.

Find a scholarship

We offer a range of scholarships to help you meet the costs of studying a research degree.

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