Research Degree Programme

The RNCM offers the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Degrees are awarded by Manchester Metropolitan University for a collaborative programme of research, undertaken and supervised at RNCM.

Pathways and Duration

There are five specialist pathways:

  • Performance — including performance practice and practice-as-research
  • Composition — in a variety of media and genres
  • Musicology — including the historical, analytical and cultural study of music
  • Music Psychology and cognate disciplines — including both quantitative and qualitative research in the fields of expert music performance and training
  • Music Education and pedagogy — including the philosophy, history, practice and theory of music education

A full-time PhD degree usually takes three years. UK students can also take the degree part-time, in all pathways, over six years.

PhD students at RNCM benefit from the College’s membership of the North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership (

How to Apply

First, please note that PhD submissions (including theses and portfolios of submissions in composition and performance) are described in Section 12 of the RNCM-Man Met Regulations (Preparation and Presentation of Thesis).

Next, read the Guidelines for Applicants and browse the research interests of RNCM staff  to determine who might be a potential supervisor for your research project.

You are strongly advised to discuss your research project with the potential supervisor you have identified, or with one of the members of staff listed below. They will not suggest specific topics to you; rather, they will expect you to be familiar with published and on-going research in your field of interest, and to be capable of constructing a proposal for an original research project.

Once you have received feedback on your draft research proposal from the appropriate member of staff, have identified two referees who know your current or recent academic work, and are ready to make a formal application, you should download and complete an Application Form.

Applicants must download a PGR Reference Request and Report 2024 and send it to their referees. Referees must then complete the form and return it to [email protected].

Entry Requirements

Applicants for PhD are normally required to hold a good (Distinction or Merit) master’s qualification in a relevant subject, having undertaken research training and produced a dissertation and/or portfolio of compositions or performances. They will also be considered for a place on the RNCM-Manchester Metropolitan University research degree programme if they expect their master’s qualification to be awarded within the first three months after they have enrolled. All enrolments are expected to take place in September.

For applicants whose first language is not English, minimum scores on language tests are required for entry to all programmes of study at RNCM and Manchester Metropolitan University, regardless of how long applicants have lived in the UK and whether they undertook their bachelor’s and/or master’s degrees at UK higher education institutions. Applicants may be exempted if they achieved the minimum scores required before they undertook their master’s degree at RNCM, or another HEI where their learning was undertaken in English, and can provide evidence of having produced a dissertation of at least 8,000 words.

The minimum requirement for applicants to the composition and performance pathways is an average IELTS score of 7.0 with no less than 6.0 in any of the four components, or equivalent scores on a test approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) taken no more than 12 months before the application was made.

The minimum requirement for applicants to the music education, music psychology and musicology pathways is an average IELTS score of 7.0 including a minimum of 7.0 for writing and no less than 6.0 in any of the other three components (listening, reading and speaking), or equivalent scores on a test approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) taken no more than 12 months before the application was made.

If you are unsure of the status of your qualifications or require further information, please contact Charlotte Wheatcroft (Programmes and Assessments Coordinator [PGR]) at [email protected].


Take a look at the tuition fees for RNCM programme.

Tuition fees are reviewed annually.

A limited number of bursaries may be awarded on the basis of need and merit. You can apply if/when you have received an unconditional offer of a place on the RNCM research degree programme.

Important Dates

The deadline for applications for self-funded places with a September 2024 start is 5pm (GMT) on Tuesday 7 May 2024. Application forms, recordings and portfolios must be submitted via Acceptd (the system we use to manage and store applications and supporting documents). Links to online recordings are acceptable.

RNCM interview dates

New applicants will be interviewed in late May and June 2024, dates to be confirmed.

Further information

For questions related to the application process, please contact the RNCM Admissions Team on [email protected]. For questions related to the programme, contact Charlotte Wheatcroft, Programmes and Assessment Coordinator (PGR) at [email protected].