About the PhD

Research Degrees
(MUSR31) PhD - three years full time
(MUSR41) PhD - up to six years part time

The doctoral degree requires completion of a major, original research project. It is supported by individual supervision and by the Departmental and University doctoral training programmes. Graduate Study Days, weekly research seminars and meetings organised by research clusters provide further input. Research findings may be presented for examination in any one of the following formats.

Typically, a dissertation at this level comprises approximately 70,000 words. The thesis should be of publishable standard and must be suitably original and substantial for the degree to be successfully completed.

Students may apply for a PhD in the area of original composition. A folio of original compositions is prepared by the student and discussed in individual meetings with his or her tutor. An accompanying commentary not exceeding 10,000 words in length is also submitted. The compositions should show coherence, invention and originality in a variety of extended structures.

Performance Studies
This degree is examined through presentation of a dissertation (around 50,000 words) and a performance element. The performance element may take a number of formats, including a recital, lecture-demonstration and video-recorded performances. The performance and written work need to cohere together and both meet the demands of originality and innovation. Students in this programme normally possess a very high level of practical musical skill prior to the start of their studies.

Music Technology
Students applying for a PhD in the area of music technology may consider submitting a portfolio of creative music technology research and accompanying thesis of 30,000 – 40,000 words contextualising the research within a critical artistic and/or technological perspective.

Find a supervisor

Once you know what you would like to study, it’s important to find a supervisor who is an expert in the area, and can guide you through the three-year programme. This is the first step in the application process. The Department of Music hosts a broad spectrum of researchers with expertise across composition, ethnomusicology, musicology, music technology, performance, psychology of music and the intersections between these fields.


Prof. Adrian Moore
Prof. George Nicholson
Dr Dorothy Ker
Dr Adam Stanovic


Dr Fay Hield
Dr Simon Keegan-Phipps
Dr Andrew Killick


Prof. Nicola Dibben
Prof. Simon Keefe
Dr Dominic McHugh
Dr Tim Shephard
Dr Adam Stanovic

Music Technology and Sonic Arts

Prof. Adrian Moore
Dr Adam Stanovic


Performance PhDs in Sheffield are pursued in combination with a different area of expertise such as Musicology, Composition, or Psychology. Performance PhD applicants are asked to look for a supervisor within one of the other areas that is most closely related to their area of interest and research.

Psychology of Music, Music Education and Management

Prof. Nicola Dibben
Dr Fay Hield
Prof. Stephanie Pitts
Dr Renee Timmers
Dr Victoria Williamson

The Roles of Different Types of Supervisor

Primary supervisors

Primary supervisors are the main point of contact for research students, and are responsible for communications regarding the student's progress to department and the faculty. You will meet most frequently with the primary supervisor to plan and develop your research, to receive feedback on drafts, and to determine the overall pattern of work. It is common to also discuss your training needs and doctoral development with your primary supervisor, although this may also be reserved to be discussed with the secondary supervisor.

Second Supervisors

Second supervisors are responsible for providing general support and advice as appropriate. This may relate to training needs and doctoral development, personal needs, or specific areas of expertise, such as a particular methodology. In the first month of registration the student should meet at least once with their second supervisor. In some instances, it may be appropriate for supervisory sessions to more regularly involve both primary and secondary supervisors. This is a matter of negotiation between the supervisors and the student. Progress reports are reported to both supervisors.

Joint Supervisors

Interdisciplinary research projects may be supervised by two academics who share the project supervision. In this case, supervision may alternate between involving both supervisors and having one-to-one meetings. At the end of the first semester, the supervisors and student should have negotiated how they want the supervision to be shared and set the responsibilities of each supervisor.

Next steps: Getting in contact

Once you have found a suitable supervisor, please email them directly to discuss your research proposal and to check their availability and willingness to support the application. Supervisors will need to have the capacity to take on additional students, and the proposal needs to fall within supervisor’s area of expertise and research interests. When contacting potential supervisors, please include your research proposal and a brief CV. The Postgraduate Support Officer provides specialist support and guidance from the initial point of contact, throughout the period of study and through to completion.

At any step in the process, you can also email music-admissions@sheffield.ac.uk for information about the application process.

Click here for advice on writing your research proposal