Research course


Open University · Department of Music

Entry requirements

PhD: The normal minimum entrance requirement is an upper second class honours degree or master's degree, relevant to the proposed area of study, from a recognised higher education institution in the UK. You should also have experience of academic research in the previous four years, normally in the form of either a master's degree in research methods, an undergraduate degree with a research element in the final year, or work-related experience with evidence through research reports. If you're not sure if you meet the entry requirements, please contact us ( MPhil: Applicants should normally hold, or be expecting to obtain, a bachelors degree with at least first or upper-second class honours, or an equivalent qualification. However, entry requirements differ between academic areas, and sometimes a taught masters degree is also required. The research topic pages (in the menu on the right of our Research areas page) give details of specific entry requirements, and provide contact details to discuss your suitability for the MPhil with a member of academic staff.

Historical study of musical texts and contexts; Interdisciplinary themes in music research; Music computing and acoustics; Social and cultural musicology

Months of entry


Course content

The OU hosts a thriving music research culture encompassing historical, theoretical, ethnographic, social scientific and empirical approaches to musicology, as well as interdisciplinary fields including music computing and musical acoustics. Music research is developed through high-profile individual and collaborative projects, many of which have attracted substantial grants from the Research Councils and other funding bodies. Several of our individual researchers are internationally renowned in their own right, but our strength in collaborative work is just as important to us. A number of our researchers work with colleagues in different departments and faculties, and one of our most distinctive features is our strength in interdisciplinary research.

The Music Department accepts applications for the PhD programme each year from November until mid-January. Students are encouraged to submit early. Please note that applications for studentships have independent deadlines that may precede or follow the normal January cut-off; these will be given in the advertisements for each studentship.

Key facts
  • We were rated first in the UK for music research in The Guardian’s analysis of the REF 2014 results and 8th by Times Higher Education. The 2014 REF judged 94 per cent of our music research as ‘internationally excellent’ or ‘world leading’.
    Two fully-funded AHRC studentships were awarded in 2014 and 2015 through CHASE: the Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts Southeast England.
  • Our research facilities on campus include music computing and acoustics laboratories and an audio-visual recording studio.
  • An AHRC-funded project began in 2007: ‘G. F. Handel: The Collected Documents’.
  • An AHRC-funded project began in 2009: ‘What is Black British Jazz?
  • An AHRC-funded project began in 2010: ‘Military Sponsorship of Music in Britain in the Nineteenth Century and its Relationship with the Musical Mainstream’.
  • An AHRC-funded project began in 2012: ‘Atlantic Sounds: Ships and Sailortowns’.
  • An AHRC-funded project began in 2013: ‘The Listening Experience Database’.
  • We host a wide range of research conferences, international symposia and seminars in music.

In addition to the expertise of the academic members of the music department, the University boasts a range of services and facilities to support individual projects. There are also facilities specific to music research: a flexible 60m2 performance space fully equipped for audio and video recording, with an associated research laboratory including video editing (Avid), audio editing (ProTools), and observational analysis workstations.

The Acoustics Research Group’s facilities include two anechoic chambers, a laser laboratory, an ultra high speed camera, a scanning Laser Doppler Vibrometer, professional quality microphones, as well as a wide range of measuring apparatus, recording equipment and high-performance computing hardware.

The Music Computing Research Group hosts a Music Computing Laboratory stocked with a range of music-computing software, electronic musical instruments, motion trackers, pitch trackers, sensors and diverse technologies for gestural control and data capture. In close collaboration with the Pervasive Interaction Group, we construct and evaluate new musical interfaces using a variety of multi-touch, gestural and whole-body tracking systems. We also carry out experiments to cast light on how music works.

Department specialisms

Historical study of musical texts and contexts; Interdisciplinary themes in music research; Music computing and acoustics; Social and cultural musicology

Fees and funding

Please see The Open University website for more information.

Qualification and course duration


full time
36 months
distance learning
variable months
part time
72 months


distance learning
variable months
full time
15 months
part time
24 months

Course contact details

Dr Helen Coffey, Director of Research, Music
01908 653280