Music has been part of the life of Oxford for more than 800 years. There are around 30 academic staff, of whom 15 give lectures regularly – scholars with distinguished reputations as musicologists, performers and composers. Oxford welcomes visits from numerous speakers and professional performing ensembles. Students enjoy performance and composition workshops, and play an active part in the life of the faculty and their colleges – in chapels, orchestras, ensembles, bands and stage performances, and in musical outreach to the broader community.
The faculty building incorporates practice rooms, electronic music and recording studios, and one of the best music libraries in any British university. The world-famous Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, housed in the faculty, lends historical instruments to students. The faculty also has a gamelan orchestra.
The course is broadly based but allows increasing specialisation and choice as you proceed. Whether you’re a performer, a composer, a budding scholar of music history, sociology, psychology or education, the Music course offers something for you. Students graduate as mature and well-rounded musicians with an informed and lively sense of the contemporary study and practice of the subject, and the ways in which music contributes to society more broadly.
The first year
In your first year (‘Prelims’), you will tackle a wide range of skills and topics as a broad introduction to the advanced study of music, but there is also the opportunity to choose particular options. Compulsory papers including Stylistic Composition, Arranging, and Transcription; Musical Analysis and Critical Listening, and papers looking at specific methodologies and historical topics. Options include composition, performance, writing an extended essay, and studying further practical skills such as conducting.
The second and third years
In your second and third years (‘Final Honour School’) you have even more opportunity to choose options that particularly interest you. You will choose eight papers, which will include a range of historical and critical topics and an array of other papers, including Dissertation, Solo or Chamber performance. Analysis, Composition, Music Ethnography, Choral Conducting, Recording and Producing Music, and Music in the Community.
The Music course at Oxford gives students the opportunity to explore music as a rich and multifaceted part of human experience. Students explore case studies from history and musical practices from around the world, as well as using different methodologies to engage with music as a phenomenon, such as psychology, ethnography, and sociology. Moreover, students can develop practical musical skills in performing, composing, conducting, arranging, and writing about music.
With such an array of transferable skills and experience, our graduates move on to a wide range of careers, including broadcasting, publishing, teaching, arts administration, law, politics, and the civil service. Many students undertake further study in performance, often at conservatoires in the UK and abroad. Rather than limiting your career prospects, a music degree opens doors to a wide range of careers both within and outside the arts.
“The Oxford music course suits me because it is broad and varied, but also has lots of space to make it my own. For my final exams I am sitting papers in broad aspects of music history (from English renaissance polyphony to electronic music), analysis, and issues to do with how we study music but I am also writing a dissertation about the music in a primary school near Oxford, essays on Brazilian music, and a report from the term I spent working on a music project with children with autism. I have friends who are playing the Rite of Spring for piano duet for a chamber music exam, who are singing Schubert Lieder for a solo recital, and who are analysing Bach organ fugues for an analysis portfolio – and those are just the people in my year in my college!” SARAH
“From playing for three evensongs a week to being immersed in the sound world of the Bosavi Rainforest people in Papua New Guinea, Oxford has been a fantastic experience so far. One aspect of Oxford’s music course that first attracted me was the diversity and the choice it gives students, particularly in the final year. I am currently studying a variety of history topics, ranging from the 13th-century motet to film music, along with some composition and analysis courses. I want to be a performer and knowing that I can choose to concentrate on this later in the course has helped me to focus my interests throughout the term.” OLIVIA
The varied nature of the course enables students to develop highly desirable skills in areas such as self-management, creativity, data analysis, performance, teamwork, problem-solving, and communication, all of which make them an attractive prospect for potential employers.
Teaching, performance and arts administration are among the popular destinations for music graduates, but others include broadcasting, publishing, law, politics and the civil service. Many students undertake further study in performance, often at conservatoires in the UK and abroad. Rather than limiting your career prospects, a music degree opens doors to a wide range of careers both within and outside the arts.
And take a look at the videos below for some examples of the opportunities a music degree has to offer.
Join us for the Faculty of Music Open Days on Wednesday 28th September, Thursday 29th September, and Friday 15th September! This is a great chance for future applicants to meet our staff, students, tour our Faculty, and ask any questions they might have. Whether you've already decided to apply for a BA Music, are on the fence, or are simply curious about music at Oxford more broadly, please do come along!
Find out more about the University Open Days here.
One of the things you might wish to do as part of your application is to choose a college. Colleges serve as your ‘home’: you’ll live, eat, and socialise in them, and you’ll probably also receive a large part of your teaching there.
23 colleges offer undergraduate music courses; they have much in common, but also differ in terms of age, size, location, and the facilities they offer. If you don’t have a preference, you can put in an open application and we will assign a college for you. Whichever college you end up at, you’ll be studying for the same degree as all the music students in your year, so college choice is really down to personal preference.
Oxford seeks to attract the best and brightest applicants irrespective of background. There is no such thing as an ‘Oxford type’; in Music, we welcome students with a huge variety of musical tastes and experiences. The only two essential criteria are a dedication to and passion for your subject, and a dedication to learning. If you think you meet these criteria, then we are interested in you, and you should seriously be considering applying to us!
Applicants wishing to read music at Oxford from the UK will normally have taken or be about to take one of the four options below. The standard offer is given in brackets.
• A-Level Music plus two other A-level subjects (AAA)
• A-level Music Technology and Grade 7 or above Music Theory (ABRSM), plus two other A-Level subjects. (AAA + Pass at ABRSM Music Theory 7+)
• Grade 7 or above Music Theory (ABRSM), plus three other A-Level subjects. (AAA + Pass at ABRSM Music Theory 7+)
• Equivalent qualifications such as Pre-U, Scottish Highers, and International Baccalaureate. More information on this can be found here
The Faculty of Music considers vocational qualifications in Music, such as the BTEC Extended Diploma in Music; however, an accompanying A Level in an essay subject is usually required as part of an offer.
Keyboard ability of ABRSM Grade V or above is recommended but not essential.
All candidates wishing to apply for an undergraduate place at Oxford must submit a UCAS application online. UCAS is the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, the central organisation that processes all applications for entry to higher education in the UK.
Applications for entry close in the October before the year you wish to commence studying.
If you are applying for a choral or organ award, this process starts earlier in the year. You can find more information here: https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/applying-to-oxford/choral-...
For further details about the application procedure, including how to choose a course and a college, please refer to the Undergraduate Admissions pages of the University website.
Candidates will normally be invited for interview (shortlisted) if they have met, or are predicted to meet, our standard offer of AAA at A Level with an A in Music (or equivalent). We will carefully consider additional circumstances such as access to music education, and educational disruption, in line with University procedures.
As part of your application, you will need to submit some written work and a recording of you performing. This will not be considered as part of shortlisting. Please submit:
Two pieces of teacher-marked written work, The emphasis is on quality of thought, not on quantity, so each of the two essays should be around 1500 words. It is fine to submit an excerpt from a longer piece such as an EP essay. It is perfectly acceptable to send one Music essay and one from another subject if you choose to.
One or two examples of teacher-marked harmony and counterpoint (e.g. Baroque chorale, 16th century counterpoint, 2-part invention, string quartet, Romantic songs, jazz realisation). We understand that not all candidates will have the opportunity to study this formally in school or college. We ask simply that you try and attempt an example. You may ask your school or instrumental teacher to help you find one, or use the one provided, with accompanying guidance, here: Faculty of Music – Chorale harmonisation instructions.
One or two short examples of original composition, which should be in some form of notated score. This is not compulsory.
All written work should be clearly titled and labelled with your name and must include the University cover sheet which can be found here.
Please send your work to the admissions team of your first-choice college. If you have submitted an open application, please send your work directly to the Faculty of Music. You can submit digital or hard copies, though digital copies via email are preferred. If sending digital copies, please ensure the files are clearly labelled with your name. If you submit your work in hard copy, each piece of work should have its own cover sheet and should be fastened together (not stapled). Please print on only ONE side of the paper.
In addition to the written work, please provide a 5-minute continuous video recording of a musical performance on your chosen instrument or voice. Videos can be made on any device including mobile phones (file type .mov or .mp4). You will not be assessed on the quality of the recording. Please upload the video (file type .mov or .mp4) and a scan of the sheet music (.jpg or .pdf) to a shareable drive (for example, Google Drive) and submit this via this link.
The deadline to submit the written work and performance video is early November (date confirmed on University website).
Applicants for Music are not required to register for a test. There is no written test for Music.
The majority of Music applicants are interviewed over two or three days in December. Since the pandemic, interviews have been conducted online, and will be online again in 2022. Every Music candidate has a minimum of two interviews with two different colleges. This gives every candidate more than one opportunity to talk about their interest in Music and why they want to study at Oxford.
The interview process all might sound rather daunting, but it should not put you off. Most people who are invited to interview – whether or not they are offered a place – say how much they enjoyed the experience. We try to make it as comfortable for you as we can.
Interviewing tutors will consider:
• Knowledge acquired though a current or completed A Level Music course (or equivalent);
• Powers of reasoning: ability to reason and think critically;
• Communication: ability to engage in debate and use appropriate terminology;
• Potential to engage with the undergraduate course.
After the initial interviews, you may be invited for a third, panel interview with tutors. You will be given plenty of notice if this is the case during the Admissions period. Following the interviews, all tutors will meet and carefully consider every application based on:
• UCAS application (personal statement and reference)
• Results in GCSE or equivalent examinations
• Actual or predicted results at A Level or equivalent
• Submitted written work
You will be informed as to whether you have been offered a place in January.
If you have further questions, you can look at our frequently asked questions on how to apply, or contact the Academic Administrator: firstname.lastname@example.org
Q2 Does it matter what other A Level subjects I am doing, besides Music?
The Faculty of Music has no preferences regarding choice of A Level subjects, other than Music or Music Technology. However Extended Projects, General Studies or Critical Thinking qualifications cannot be part of the standard offer of 3 A grades at A level.
Q3 Must I have taken AS Music to apply to Oxford?
No, although you must be pursuing (or have already taken) one of the four options below:
A-Level Music plus two other A-level subjects or the equivalent (e.g. International Baccalaureate)
If your school does not offer A-level Music: A-level Music Technology and Grade 7 or above Music Theory (ABRSM), plus two other A-Level subjects
If your school does not offer A-level Music or A-level Music Technology: Grade 7 or above Music Theory (ABRSM), plus three other A-Level subjects
If your school does not offer A-levels, you will need to take equivalent qualifications (including in Music); the University Admissions pages specify the standard you will need to attain.
Q4 Must I have A* grades at GCSE to be considered for Oxford?
Grades at GCSE are seen as an indication of likely potential at A level, but a certain number or proportion of A*s are not required.
Q5 I am a UK citizen, but instead of A Level’s I am doing the International Baccalaureate. What is the minimum points level I need in order to apply?
You will need to have a total of at least 38 points (including core points), with 6 6 6 at Higher Level including in Music.
Q7 Is it true that you have to be at ABRSM Grade 8 standard as an instrumentalist or a singer to be considered for Music at Oxford?
No. Solo performance is an optional subject, both at Prelims (first-year exams) and at Finals. For application to Oxford, keyboard skills at ABRSM Grade 5 standard are desirable but not essential. Many fine performers do study at Oxford and are able to incorporate performance as a significant element of their course.
Q8 To what extent can I offer performance as part of my degree?
Up to 25% of your final degree can be performance-based. The majority of first-year students offer performance as an option in Prelims (first-year examinations). There are other Finals options besides Solo Performance which involve elements of performance and performance studies, such as Choral Performance, Choral Conducting and Chamber Music. It is therefore possible for performance to form a major part of an Oxford degree; it is equally possible to take Prelims and Finals without performing at all!
Q9 Who are the instrumental and vocal teachers on the Faculty staff?
Students are free to choose their own teacher. They do not have to be based at Oxford. For example, you could choose to stay with a previous teacher. There are no instrumental teachers employed directly by the Faculty; however, the Faculty does keep a list of recommended local teachers.
Q10 What are instrumental awards? When do I apply for one?
Many colleges offer scholarships to students who excel in performance. Students audition for these after entry to Oxford. They are not organized by the Faculty of Music itself. See the section on Instrumental Scholarships.
Q11 Do you have to be studying Music to receive a choral or organ award?
No. Applications for choral and organ awards are welcomed from applicants reading all subjects, although there may be restrictions placed by individual colleges on selected subjects. Find about more about these awards here, and do attend the Choral and Organ Award Open Day.
Q12 What scholarships are available at the Faculty of Music?
There are no full fee scholarships available.
Q13 I cannot come to the Faculty open days. Is it possible to visit at any other time?
The Faculty and University open days offer a unique opportunity to meet with tutors at all the colleges admitting students to read Music, but much information can also be obtained online.
Q14 Do you run summer schools?
The Faculty of Music participates in the University’s UNIQ Summer School, which offers an academic programme in Music to sixth-formers each July. Find out more about UNIQ here.
Q15 I find the college system confusing. Can you explain what this means for a music student?
The collegiate system can seem baffling to prospective students, but it is one of Oxford’s great strengths. The colleges are more than halls of residence: they are communities of academics, graduate students and undergraduates who interact with one another across subject areas to create the exciting environment which young musicians find so stimulating. It is important to realise, however, that each college is not a sealed unit. An undergraduate is part of a close-knit tutor group under the academic supervision and pastoral care of a college tutor, and has the opportunity to participate in the musical life (instrumental and choral) of their college; at the same time our students are part of the University-wide musical community centred on the Faculty of Music.
Q16 Will my choice of college affect my chances of gaining a place?
No. Although initial application is made to a college, the admissions process is centrally organised by the Faculty in order to identify the very best applicants. Tutors consider candidates as a group and exchange detailed information to ensure that the most able candidates are selected, regardless of the initial college preference. It is quite common for an applicant to be made an offer by a college which was not their first choice.
Q17 How is the teaching divided between the Faculty and the colleges?
Teaching is delivered through Faculty lecture courses, when students from all colleges meet for lectures, and seminars. This is supported by small-group tutorials in colleges when individual feedback and discussion of weekly assignments provide the stimulus for sustained academic development.
Q18 Is there such a thing as a ‘typical’ Oxford music student?
Not at all. Oxford admits between 65 and 70 undergraduates each year to read music. Students come from a wide range of backgrounds and from various countries, and are admitted entirely on merit.
Q19 Do I have to play the piano in order to get a place.
No, although it is recommended that you can play at a standard of grade V, many students can’t play the piano upon starting with us and develop these skills during the module Keyboard Skills. This module does not contribute towards your final degree. It is designed to help you develop different skills that you can go on to apply to other disciplines later. Your ability to play the piano should not put you off from applying.