Top UK universities for music students to consider

Whether your passion lies in performing, composing, or delving into music theory, the UK offers premier opportunities for pursuing a professional degree in music.

Beyond enhancing your technical abilities and musical knowledge, a music course fosters essential qualities like discipline, perseverance, and creativity. Playing an instrument or singing demands practice and commitment, and mastering a piece of music can bring immense satisfaction. At UK universities, you can explore various musical genres and concentrate in areas such as performance, composition, musicology, and production.

As a music student with dreams of pursuing a career in music, why not explore these universities for a path to a successful music career?

Let’s explore the essence of music.

Music is a type of entertainment that combines sounds in a manner that people enjoy, find intriguing, or dance to. Typically, music involves singing with voices or playing musical instruments like the piano, guitar, drums, or bass.

Music classification:

1 .Idiophones: Sound is created by the instrument’s own body.

2. Membranophones: Sounds are produced by tightly stretched membranes.

3. Chordophones: Sound is generated by the vibration of strings.

4. Aerophones: Sound is created by vibrating air.

Best UK universities for studying music

Here are the top universities in the UK for studying music, as per the Guardian University Guide 2024:

1. University of Surrey

The NMus (Hons) program at the University of Surrey, one of England’s premier music schools, is ranked fifth in the UK by the Guardian University Guide and boasts an impressive overall satisfaction score of 95.2% in the National Student Survey. This degree offers a comprehensive exploration of diverse musical styles, ranging from classical to popular, jazz, contemporary, and musical theatre. Students have the opportunity to engage in orchestras, choirs, bands, and improvisation.

Throughout the course, students delve into performance and composition each year, studying music across various historical periods and cultures, while also developing advanced expertise in music theory and analysis. Graduates receive a BMus qualification, highlighting practical skills such as performance and composition. During the final year, students undertake a substantial individual project. Additionally, students can opt for a year-long Professional Training placement as part of the four-year degree to gain valuable experience in the music and broader arts industries.

Entry Requirements: A-level: BBB

2.University of Oxford

The University of Oxford provides a comprehensive music course encompassing diverse genres, cultures, and contexts. This includes Western classical music, popular music, music from various cultures, and community music. Students learn to approach music through a range of methods, such as reading, listening, performing, and composing.

In the first year, students engage with six subjects, including compulsory modules like Foundations in the Study of Music, Stylistic Composition, Arranging and Transcription, Musical Analysis and Critical Listening, and Topics I. Moving into the second year, students tackle eight subjects, with compulsory modules in Topics II and III covering a broad spectrum of historical and critical areas. They also have the opportunity to choose from elective options such as an extended essay, composition, performance, critical studies  balladry,historically informed performance, and musical skills.

Entry Requirements:A-levels: AAA; International Baccalaureate (IB): 38 points (including core points) with 666 at Higher Level

3. Royal College of Music

The Bachelor of Music (BMus) program at the Royal College of Music (RCM) provides a thorough music education, blending intensive training in solo, chamber, and ensemble performance with a critical exploration of music’s historical and modern contexts. Undergraduate students experience personalized instruction through one-on-one lessons with renowned musicians, small-group classes in core subjects, and numerous chances to perform. The RCM boasts distinguished professors from London’s major orchestras, ensuring students receive exceptional guidance, mentorship, and networking opportunities, setting them up for prosperous careers in the music industry.

Entry Requirements:

Two A Levels at grade E or higher, or an equivalent qualification.

4. Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Guildhall is among the UK’s most esteemed music colleges, offering the BMus program tailored to enhance practical musicianship skills for performers, composers, and electronic musicians. The curriculum places a strong emphasis on Principal Study, comprising at least two-thirds of the program and featuring a minimum of 30 individual lessons annually with renowned academic staff. Students also engage in over 100 hours of departmental classes, workshops, coaching, and projects with notable artists, along with opportunities to perform in prestigious venues.

This top-tier music school in London also facilitates exposure and networking through collaborations with esteemed organizations like the Barbican, London Symphony Orchestra, and BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Entry Requirements:2 A-Levels (GCE Advanced A2) – Pass (grades A-E); International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma –  24 points

5.  Royal Academy of Music

The undergraduate composition course at the Royal Academy of Music provides a wide range of study areas, including concert, media, TV, film, staged productions, and electronic intensive project-based learning and collaboration. Over the course of four years, students focus on developing compositional techniques with personal attention from dedicated, active composer professors. Core modules cover analytical and aural skills, contextual understanding of music, and exploration of 20th and 21st-century repertoire, equipping students for versatile and effect careers in the music industry.

Entry Requirements:A-level: EE. Passing grades in two GCE Advanced-level (A2) examinations.

6.Bangor University

Bangor University’s BA in Music provides a dynamic learning environment guided by distinguished composers, performers, and researchers. With a strong history of academic achievement, the curriculum offers diverse pathways for students to excel in their chosen areas. Practical instruction provides unique avenues in composition, electronic music, and historically informed performance.

Engagement with a lively music community is encouraged through performances and student societies. The BA Music course offers interdisciplinary modules, while the BMus program focuses solely on music. Students can take advantage of Music Performance Scholarships and state-of-the-art facilities, preparing them for a versatile career in music.

Entry Requirements:A Levels: grade B in Music. International Baccalaureate Diploma: grade H5 in Music.

7. University of Manchester

The University of Manchester presents the MusB Music program, acclaimed as the UK’s leading music department according to the Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024. Established in 1891, this prestigious degree blends tradition with innovation within a vibrant cosmopolitan environment. Students receive different guidance in solo performance, composition, and the latest technology at the NOVARS studios.

Entry Requirements:

ABB, with an A in Music. For IB: 35 points overall with 6, 6, 5 in Higher Level subjects.

8.University of Cambridge

At Cambridge University, you’ll find a prestigious music faculty known for nurturing some of the most influential figures in British music, spanning composers, performers, conductors, writers, and broadcasters. The undergraduate music course boasts a robust academic foundation, delving into history, analysis, composition, and performance, with additional coverage of areas like screen and media composition. The faculty building is equipped with a state-of-the-art concert hall, an extensive music library housing books, periodicals, and recordings, along with purpose-built studios and music computing laboratories.

Entry Requirements:

A Level: A*AA; IB: 40-42 points, with 776 at Higher Level

9. University of Bedfordshire

The University of Bedfordshire presents a BA (Hons) in Media Performance for Film, TV, and Theatre, offering extensive training for aspiring actors. This dynamic program encompasses various facets of the industry, including acting, directing, scriptwriting, and production management.

Graduates have successfully secured roles in television, film, radio, and various behind-the-scenes positions, demonstrating the program’s versatility and relevance to the industry. With opportunities for work experience, masterclasses, and placements, students cultivate essential skills, forge industry connections, and adopt a professional approach, laying the foundation for a fulfilling career in media performance.

Entry Requirements:

Three A levels, grades CCC or ACE.

10.University of Sheffield

The University of Sheffield presents a BMus Music with a Foundation Year, thoughtfully crafted to bolster students’ confidence, refine academic abilities, and instill crucial subject-specific understanding. Administered by the Department for Lifelong Learning, the foundation year prepares students for advanced study through diverse teaching approaches including lectures, seminars, and independent research.

Following the foundation year, students seamlessly advance to the Department of Music, ensuring a smooth transition to higher education while offering abundant academic and personal development prospects throughout the program.

Entry Requirements:For admission, applicants must meet one of the following criteria: achieve grades AAB, with Music included; attain grades ABB, coupled with Grade 8 in either Practical (ABRSM/Trinity/Rockschool or equivalent) or Performance (ABRSM/ARSM), along with Grade 5 Theory (ABRSM/Trinity).

Bottom Line

Embarking on a music degree journey might appear complex, yet top-tier universities in the UK welcome aspiring music students who meet their requirements.

We’ve compiled a list of these universities along with their essential requirements. Feel free to explore them and select the one that suits you best.

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