The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) research degree enables the undertaking of a sustained original project in musicology, performance science, music education, music and material culture, performance or composition.
Start date September 2024
End date Flexible depending on planned duration and possibility of a write-up period before completion
Duration 3 or 4 years full-time; 5 or 6 years part-time
'The cohort of PhD students comprises music practitioners from all corners of the world. Our conversations and camaraderie, both in the classroom and outside, made me feel part of a community.'
'I am incredibly fortunate to have supervisors who are founts of knowledge, and are genuinely interested in my doctoral research.'
'The multicultural background and the variety of research topics of the RCM research community has significantly enriched my perspective of musical research.'
As a PhD student, you will work with at least two supervisors on a written dissertation of between 80,000 and 100,000 words, which may include supporting practice work if appropriate to the topic.
If you are considering applying to undertake doctoral research, your first step is to identify a member of staff with relevant expertise to support your project and capacity to act as your supervisor. An initial enquiry with a potential supervisor will help to establish if they are interested to work with you.
Find a supervisor
Supplementing your individual supervision is an array of group classes and research events that will ensure you are fully embedded in the RCM’s diverse and supportive research community.
Recent PhD projects include:
AHRC doctoral studentships through LAHP
The RCM is the only music conservatoire in London to be part of an AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership, with full studentships awarded to exceptional applicants through the London Arts and Humanities Partnership.
Find out about the AHRC studentships and LAHP
Performance and composition opportunities
With a busy events calendar of more than 500 events every year, the RCM offers a vibrant environment for research projects in performance and composition.
Doctoral students are able to participate in the RCM’s performance programme (including access to coaching for chamber music) and to perform in the College’s public programme. Doctoral students may audition for orchestral and ensemble placements in induction week every year.
A proportion of supervision hours may be taken as lessons with a performance professor, where this tuition is integral to your project. This option should be discussed with your lead supervisor during the application process, who will explore the availability of a suitable professor with the relevant Head of Faculty. Involvement in other faculty activities is by permission of the relevant Head of Faculty and can be explored with your lead supervisor during the application process.
Composition at the RCM fosters partnerships with the College's large body of gifted instrumentalists. Doctoral composers will have the opportunity to hear performances of their own works and benefit from a range of collaborations, both within the RCM and externally.
The Royal College of Music is proud to offer its students fantastic practice and performance facilities with resources to support teaching and learning. We continually improve our facilities to ensure RCM students have the best opportunities.
Explore our facilities with a video tour of the RCM
Key facilities at the RCM include:
- The Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall - our primary performance venue for orchestras and large ensembles.
- Our 400-seat Britten Theatre, home to the RCM’s thriving International Opera School.
- A new Performance Hall, offering an alternative space for ensembles, with a retractable stage, Fazioli grand piano and variable acoustics.
- Intimate spaces for solo and chamber performance in our Performance Studio and Parry Rooms.
- Sound-proofed Amadeus Music Pods for private practice.
- A purpose-built percussion suite – you can watch a video tour on YouTube.
- Over 160 pianos, including 60 grand pianos and 20 early keyboards, as well as organ rooms.
- A Blüthner Practice Suite which holds ten Blüthner Model A upright pianos.
- Instrument surgeries including luthier services.
- RCM Studios: a commercial-grade facility, enabling live broadcasts around the world.
- Digital Innovation Lab: advanced recording and mixing suite.
- RCM Library with more than 200,000 scores, books and recordings in its lending collection, as well as access to more than 400 music journals.
- Recently refurbished RCM Museum, holding more than 14,000 instruments, portraits and images, as well as a climate-controlled performance space and the associated Wolfson Centre in Music & Material Culture | Royal College of Music (rcm.ac.uk)
Find out more about RCM facilities
The RCM’s Creative Careers Centre, which is recognised internationally for its innovative approach to supporting young musicians, provides an unparalleled service to current students and recent alumni. The dedicated team partners with leading consultants, reputable arts organisations and local communities, delivering unique career-building opportunities and a direct route to the music industry.
The work of the Creative Careers Centre allows students to discover their professional identity, gain hands-on experience and new skills, develop an entrepreneurial mind-set and build a fulfilling professional portfolio.
Extensive performance and teaching opportunities are available, as well as valuable guidance on CV and biography writing, concert programming, communication skills, project management, marketing and publicity, online promotion, financial matters and how to develop a business idea.
Find out more about the Creative Careers Centre
To be admitted onto the programme, you will normally need a good Master’s degree, the ability to demonstrate a close familiarity with existing theoretical and practical aspects of your topic area, a developed awareness of fundamental research skills, and ability to design and define a viable project. There should be a good match between your intended project and the expertise of your proposed supervisor at the RCM.
Performance applicants should be performing at a level that matches the entry requirements for the Artist Diploma in Performance.
The RCM welcomes applicants from all backgrounds and alternative qualifications may be considered. If your qualifications are not listed here, please contact our Admissions team, who will be happy to discuss your suitability for the programme.
English language requirements
All applicants must be able to demonstrate that their level of English language ability meets the Royal College of Music’s minimum requirements in order for their application to be accepted.
If you require a visa to study at the RCM, you must meet the English language requirements before the RCM is permitted to sponsor your visa application.
Find out about English language requirements
How to apply
If you are considering applying to undertake doctoral research, use our Find a supervisor list to help you find a suitable supervisor. An initial enquiry with a potential supervisor will help to establish if they are interested to work with you. General enquiries about the programme can be sent to our Head of Research.
Our Admissions team can help you with advice on fees, visas, language requirements, the online application process and other application enquiries.
Finding an expert supervisor is essential for doctoral study, so explore and contact potential supervisors on the Find a supervisor page. They will be able to advise whether they have the right expertise to support your proposed project. If a supervisor is willing to support your project, they will read and offer advice on your research proposal, and advise whether your research proposal is sufficiently developed to submit before the application deadline.
Please note that this agreement to support your application does not guarantee offer of a place, which will be dependent upon supervisory capacity and performance at interview.
For guidance on the format and content of your research proposal, please consult the following document:
RCM application deadline for candidates considering LAHP funding is 30 November 2023.
Applications received by this deadline will be assessed first for admission to the RCM, through an interview with their chosen supervisor and another member of RCM staff. If you are offered a place at the RCM, your research proposal will then be considered for submission to the LAHP studentship competition.
Please note that LAHP funding is intensely competitive, and the RCM is only able to support the strongest applicants for this scheme: an internal RCM panel (including the Head of Doctoral Programmes) will select applicants to be taken forward to the LAHP competition, and these applicants will receive mentoring on their proposals during December and January to maximise their chances of success. Applicants admitted to the RCM but not entered into the LAHP competition can apply to the RCM bursary scheme in May.
RCM application deadline for other candidates is 15 March 2024.
Applications received between 1 December and 15 March will be considered as they are received. Applicants will be considered for the RCM Bursary scheme in May.
Submitting an application
You will need to:
- Create an account on the RCM online submission portal.
- Complete the Doctoral application form and upload your research proposal and your supporting documents.
- Pay the application fee of £100.
- Arrange for your referees to email their references direct to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Promising applicants will be invited to interview, normally within two weeks of the application being received. Interviews normally take place online.
Submitting an application
If you are interested in pursuing your research interests at the RCM, use our Find a supervisor list to help you find a suitable supervisor.
If you have any questions about the admissions process please contact our Admissions team, who will be happy to help you.