Doctoral Research: MPhil/DMus/PhD
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.
- 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:
- Contact details:
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.
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
All research students will begin their project registered for an MPhil before then 'upgrading' to either PhD or DMus at around 16 months. Students can also register for an MPhil degree which will usually take two years.
A DMus is a specialist award in composition or instrumental music performance. This is a highly selective programme: applicants to the DMus are expected to be at an advanced stage of creative practice at the point of application – as a minimum they should hold a Master’s degree in their principle instrument or have at least a year of professional experience. This is because creative practice forms the main research methodology and outcome. Applicants will also need to demonstrate capacity or potential to manage a small-scale research project and engage in critically informed analysis and reflection.
Composition: With guidance from staff in the composition department, students will design a research project structured around a series of compositions (professional works or self-commissions). Reflecting on the processes or products of this project, they address research questions that, on completion of the doctoral, contribute to current knowledge in the field of music composition. The submission for DMus Composition will normally consists of around 75 minutes of original composition with a critical commentary of at least 13,000 words.
Performance: With guidance from staff in one of the music departments (eg Keyboard, Strings, Historically Informed Music), students will design a research project that culminates in a doctoral recital in their principal instrument. Reflecting on the processes or products of this creative work, they address research questions that, on completion of the doctoral, contribute to current knowledge in the field of music composition. The submission for DMus Performance will normally consist of a doctoral recital and up to 60 minutes of documented practices with a critical commentary of at least 30,000 words.
A PhD award is open to students pursuing research about a range of performance arts practices and allows a wider range of options in terms of methodologies and submission format. A traditional PhD culminates in a written thesis of 80,000 words but many of our students also include practice elements (in which case the written element will be at least 30,000 words).
As a PhD is not necessarily structured around performing arts practice, there are no pre-set minimum requirements in terms of the student’s prior training or professional experience (though this must be appropriate to the proposed research).
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.
The Doctoral Programme at Guildhall School benefits from a wide pool of academic staff, but you can meet the core programme team here: