Entry requirements

Postgraduate students of the Department come from a wide variety of backgrounds in the UK and from overseas. Most are performers of music as well as researchers; applicants are evaluated individually on the basis of their background and academic achievements. Applicants should normally possess a Master’s degree, or equivalent, in Music, Ethnomusicology or other relevant discipline plus one reference. Applicants who are accomplished performers or teachers, or who work in the music industry, may have alternative qualifications, and are encouraged to apply. International applicants should also see Doctoral School English language requirements

Months of entry


Course content

Staff and students of the Department of Music pursue research on a wide range of subjects, mainly but not exclusively focused on the music of Asia and Africa. Staff have regional interests in the music of East and Central Asia (Harris), Indonesia and Thailand (Gray), India and Pakistan (Williams), the Islamic Middle East and Jewish world (Webster-Kogen), West Africa and Cuba (Durán) and South and East Africa (Impey). However research is not limited to these areas: projects have been undertaken on American jazz, and on Caribbean, Mediterranean and Eastern European music, for example. Staff often have research interests in issues that cross regional boundaries; see the Department Staff page for a summary of their interests, and select the name of a lecturer for further details of their individual research specialisms and activities.

Whatever its regional origin, music is studied as a cultural phenomenon, and also from analytical and historical perspectives. Instrumental and vocal, sacred and secular, art and popular, traditional and modern musical forms are all of equal interest. Research methods employed include fieldwork, interview, archive research, recording and filming, performance, transcription and analysis, and composition.

The Department of Music at SOAS has been ranked best in the UK for research impact and 5th overall in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021.

How to apply

If the subject you are thinking of researching coincides with the research interests of one or more members of academic staff, you are welcome to contact them to discuss your project before applying. If you are not sure how your projects fits in with the department’s subject coverage, or if you have any other question about the department or the research programme in general, you may contact the Research Tutor. When you are ready to apply, do so online.

In considering your application, the Registry will advise the department as to whether your academic qualifications meet the normal requirements for MPhil/PhD at SOAS, and whether you meet English language requirements. The Department will consider your background and experience more generally, your research proposal, and your references. We will pay particular attention to the following points:

  • is your project one that can reasonably be completed within 4 years (or part-time equivalent), taking into account any difficulties there may be in working in particular parts of the world?
  • do you have the appropriate subject knowledge and skills, or can these be provided at SOAS as part of your research training? (you may be recommended to take a Master’s degree first before commencing research)
  • do you communicate effectively in written English?
  • does your referee confirm that you have the ability to carry out this research?
  • can the Department provide appropriate supervision?

Please ask your referee to note the questions on the reference form and respond to them as far as possible in their reference. Your referee should have personal knowledge of your academic and/or musical work (eg, performance, composition, etc.).

Residence requirements

MPhil/PhD students are required to be resident in London, with the following exceptions:

  • In Year 2, you may spend up to 12 months overseas on fieldwork
  • In Year 4, you may apply for permission to work away from SOAS (this does not affect your fees)

Part-present or Distance Learning research degrees are not currently available.

Department specialisms

Musics of Asia and Africa; Ethnomusicological Theory; Semiotics and Linguistics; Music Composition; Musical Anthropology; Historical Musicology; World Music; Music and Media

Information for international students

For details, including English language requirements

Fees and funding

For details of postgraduate fees, please see SOAS website

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • PhD
    part time
    72 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
    full time
    36 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
  • MPhil
    part time
    36 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
    full time
    24 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification

Candidates are normally registered for an MPhil and convert to a PhD after successful completion of the first year.

Course contact details

Postgraduate Enquiries
+44 (0)20 3510 6974