Doctoral Research: MPhil/DMus/PhD

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Two white female puppeteers performing in Hansel and Gretel

Key information:

Art form:
Doctoral Research | Drama | Interdisciplinary | Music | Other Art Forms | Pedagogy | Production Arts | Visual Arts | Writing
31 March 2023
Level of study:
Doctoral Research
Mode of study:

About the programme

This programme is validated by City, University of London. 

Research degrees are awarded for an independent research project that contributes to existing knowledge in a given area. Guildhall School’s research programme has a distinctive focus on research in, through and for the performing arts. As a world-leading conservatoire, we are well equipped to support research projects that integrate creative practice with scholarly enquiry.

Our DMus award is for world-leading music composers and performers whose own practice forms an integral part of their research. The PhD award may also encompasses research by creative practice as well as historical, ethnographic, musicological and other modes of enquiry.

Our doctoral researchers are expected to complement their expertise in the performing arts, with methodological and theoretical skills perspectives drawn from arts, humanities and/or social science research as is pertinent to their project.

The School is committed to diversifying its doctoral student population and welcomes applications from under-represented groups.

Research environment

Our research students investigate a wide range of topics in music, theatre and related artistic and pedagogic practices, including composition, instrumental performance, historical performance, opera-making, theatre-making, performing arts pedagogies, institutions and cultures. Their research tends to fall within these three broad themes:

  • 21st century creative processes in new music composition, theatre, opera, participatory and socially-engaged practices
  • The performer’s perspective in the context of: concert and chamber music, jazz and other music of the black Atlantic; theatre and acting.
  • Training and professional development of performing arts practitioners - including pedagogic approaches and conservatoire culture.

Students across these disciplines and subject areas study together on our specialist research training programme which creates opportunities for fruitful exchange and mutual support. What also unites our doctoral research at the Guildhall School is a commitment to exploring the role of the performing arts practitioner in society, and the personal, social, ethical and political impact and implications of performing arts practices.

A research degree can offer a substantial period of reflection and renewal for artists and pedagogues exploring their own practice. It is also a preparation for a research career. It is a significant undertaking, demanding a high level of self-motivation, intellectual curiosity, resilience and commitment. A PhD or DMus is usually undertaken over 3-4 years (full time) or 6-7 years (part time) and an MPhil is 2 year (full time) or 4 year (part time). Minimum admission requirements include a masters degree or equivalent professional experience. Prospective candidates are encouraged to contact possible supervisors or the doctoral programme as far in advance of application as possible.

Types of research award

Doing your doctorate at Guildhall School

Structure & assessment

A research degree is a largely independent endeavour: you pursue a self-directed research project that culminates in the submission of a thesis (which may include elements of practice). A doctoral degree will normally be completed within three years of full-time study, followed by either a one-year period of ‘writing-up’ or a further year of supervision. The degree is also available on a part-time basis. 

There are two formal assessment points: the ‘upgrade’ and the final examination. Students initially register for the MPhil degree, transferring to DMus/PhD status through the ‘upgrade’ which occurs around 16 months from registration (or part-time equivalent). For this examination, you will submit a sample of your research and undergo a viva. The final examination involves the submission of a thesis and viva. The format of your final submission will vary according to your research, but it will be the include a written element (of between 13,000 and 80,000 words) and, in some cases, practical elements such as recitals, performances, scores and recordings. The submission will form the equivalent of 80,000 words in total. The format of the submitted material will be agreed with supervisors and the doctoral team as you progress through your final year.

Guildhall School provides a comprehensive package of support to ensure that you prepare well for these assessment points and keep on track with your studies.


Each student on the doctoral programme is allocated a supervisory team, made up of at least two members of staff who have the appropriate combination of academic and artistic expertise. You will meet regularly with your supervisors to report your progress, get feedback on your ideas and draft material, discuss key debates in your field of research and prepare for examination.

Induction and Research Training

Our induction programme welcomes you to the doctoral community and to the wide range of facilities and services provided by the School. This is followed by a weekly programme of specialist research training.

There are ‘core’ sessions which take place Monday mornings are compulsory for first year students and cover a range of topics including working with supervisors, using research tools, key methodologies such as practice-based research, writing workshops, preparing for assessment and transferable skills such as inter-personal skills and wellbeing.

The core programme also includes a day-long symposium at the end of each term which are opportunities for students to share their research with their peers. In addition to the core training, there is also a rich menu of sessions available to all students. These include sessions on exam preparation and professional development; special interest groups and guest speakers. 

Research community and resources

Our research students are the foundation of Guildhall School’s blossoming research culture, which encompasses over 70 students and around 40 research-active staff and associates. Opportunities to engage in this community include our regular ResearchWorks series (which includes a termly doctoral student panel), conferences and a vibrant events programme.

Research is also supported by specialist libraries at Guildhall School, Barbican and City University; comprehensive student support services; outstanding facilities; and association with external resources such as the Institute of Musical Research.