The next Graduate Open Day will be in Autumn 2022. This is an opportunity to learn all about our graduate programmes here at the Faculty of Music, including the DPhil, MSt and MPhil.
Under normal circumstances, you are welcome to visit the University. College grounds are usually open to prospective applicants but you can also get in touch with the college linked to your region and let them know you are coming. You may also be able to attend an event listed in our outreach calendar whilst you’re here.
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.
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.
Various forms of assessment are used in University examinations: written paper, practical test, portfolio submission, take-away paper and recital.
The first year
The first year ends with the First Public Examination, Preliminary Examination in Music (‘Prelims’). In the first year, students study three compulsory papers:- Techniques of Composition and Keyboard Skills, Analysis, and Special Topics. They also choose two options from: Foundations in the Study of Music, Extended Essay, Introduction to Music Ethnography, Composition and Performance.
The second and third years
The final year ends with the Second Public Examination, the Final Honour School in Music (‘Finals’). A candidate must be examined in eight modules, in which some are compulsory. You can tailor your degree to suit your strengths and interests in terms of topic or the way you submit your work. Up to 25% of the degree can be performance-based.
Colleges also set internal exams called ‘collections’. These are designed to give focus to an undergraduate’s studies, to monitor progress, and to provide practice in examination technique. The forms of assessment vary from examination to examination, and from college to college. The results of the collections do not form part of the University examinations.
Oxford seeks to attract the best and brightest applicants irrespective of background. We encourage and welcome applications from all kinds of candidates, whatever their age, nationality or schooling. There is no such thing as an ‘Oxford type’: 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!
The Faculty of Music admits students with a range of qualifications including international examinations. The Faculty of Music prides itself on being inclusive and diverse.
As part of its commitment to a broad recruitment drive, the Faculty has in recent years participated in various summer school programmes for UK state school applicants. For more detail, see the University’s UNIQ summer school initiative, which the Faculty supports.
No matter what your background, if you are a promising musician you should consider applying to Oxford.
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:
A-Level Music plus two other A-level subjects (AAA)
If you do not offer A-level Music: A-level Music Technology and Grade 7 or above Music Theory (ABRSM), plus two other A-Level subjects. (AAA + ABRSM Music Theory 7+)
If you do not offer A-level Music or A-level Music Technology: Grade 7 or above Music Theory (ABRSM), plus three other A-Level subjects. (AAA + ABRSM Music Theory 7+)
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
If you are an International student, you can find the equivalent qualifications 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 strongly recommended.
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.
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.
Shortlisting criteria in Music
Candidates will normally be invited for interview unless the first-choice college believes beyond reasonable doubt that the candidate would find the Oxford Music course too demanding and too difficult for it to be of value to them.
Shortlisting decisions are normally based on some, or all, of the following criteria:
results in GCSE and/or equivalent examinations;
predicted results for A Level and/or other impending examinations;
results at A Level and/or equivalent examinations if an application is made after A-Level or equivalent examinations;
school report and submitted written work;
interest in the subject in the candidate’s application.
It should also be noted that the standard offer made to candidates is AAA at A Level with an A in Music: if a candidate is predicted, or has been awarded, grades lower than AAA, that will under normal circumstances constitute grounds for not inviting a candidate to interview in itself. The first-choice college (or allocated college in the case of open applicants) will consult other colleges and will only take the decision not to interview an applicant if all colleges agree. All decisions are reviewed by the Music Faculty Admissions Co-ordinator to ensure consistency of standards and procedure across the gathered field. However, requests for feedback about individual decisions should normally be directed towards the first-choice college.
Offer of a place is based on your performance at interview, followed then by meeting the academic entry requirements.
Sending in written work
Upon applying to Oxford, please send in the following:-
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. Although it is preferable to submit two essays, students will not be disadvantaged if they can only submit one piece due to any limitations they have faced during their education from COVID-19. Students can submit essays from any subject, they do not have to be music-based.
One or two examples of teacher-marked harmony and counterpoint (e.g. Baroque chorale, 16th century counterpoint, 2-part invention, string quartet, Romantic songs). 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. This can be marked by a music, theory or your instrumental teacher. Please see our guidance for the exercise: Faculty of Music – Chorale harmonisation instructions.
If you wish, 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.
Interviews and audition
The majority of Music applicants are called for interview over two or three days in December. During this period you will attend a minimum of two interviews. In 2021, all interviews will be conducted online rather than inviting applicants to Oxford.
Here are the interview criteria that tutors are looking for:
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.
Applicants for Music are not required to register for a test. There is no written test for Music.
If you are invited to interview in Oxford you will be asked to email a 5-minute continuous video recording of a musical performance on your chosen instrument or voice. Videos can be made on any device such as a mobile (file type .mov or .mp4). Please upload the video and a scan of the sheet music to a shareable drive (for example, Google Drive) and email the link to email@example.com with the cover sheet. Please do not email the video file. The quality of the recording will not be taken into account.
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.
If you are at all interested in what we have to offer, then do submit an application. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
The Faculty of Music at Oxford welcomes applicants from any and all backgrounds: if you’re excited about music and about the prospect of studying its history and theory — as well as composing and performing it — then Oxford could be for you! If you’re thinking about studying music here, we invite you to come to one of our open days. Alternatively, the Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences run every March, in different locations around the country. These can also give you a taste of what we have to offer. You’ll find more information here: http://oxfordandcambridgeoutreach.co.uk/student-introduction.php. You may also be interested in the UNIQ summer schools: http://www.uniq.ox.ac.uk/about.
Our Music Education programme is a new course, allowing second- and third-year music students to develop knowledge and skills fundamental to the planning, provision, and evaluation of effective music learning in schools, and giving kids and teachers with little experience of music (and especially music in school) the chance to explore music’s benefits for themselves and for their broader engagement with the curriculum. Alongside regular local placements in schools, our students will work with professional musicians to plan and deliver educational outreach programmes.
Music in the Community is an existing course for second- and third-year students, which allows students to engage with specialist partner organisations who bring music to groups of people with special needs. Through this programme, student participants develop their musicianship and creativity, and access the therapeutic dimensions of music making and emotional expression; they work with specialist charities such as Turtle Key Arts and Sing Inside. These placements offer musical encounters that enrich the lives of young people with autism, dementia sufferers, those in prisons and others with little or no access to music.
Access and outreach
Alongside our Music Education programme, we are currently expanding our work in outreach and access. Funding raised through our Sound Thinking campaign will allow us to run several Faculty Fun Days throughout the academic year for visiting schoolchildren. Visitors to the Faculty will actively explore the Faculty’s Bate Collection of Musical Instruments and electronic music studios and take part in a gamelan workshop. The programme for each Faculty Fun Day is tailored to each visiting group, and it allows Faculty of Music students to extend their skills by actively participating in outreach.
Funding provided by the Finzi Trust and supportive alumni has also allowed us to arrange reciprocal visits for school children, so that professional performers in conjunction with Faculty students can offer taster concerts in schools.
If you are interested in bringing a school group to the Faculty of Music or just in finding out more about the Faculty’s Music Education campaign, please contact the Faculty by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bate Collection: Javanese gamelan workshops
The gamelan is an Indonesian orchestra of bronze gongs and other metallophones. Learn to play a traditional Javanese piece while exploring the use of cyclic patterns and pentatonic scales. Discover the cultural context of the music, the influence of gamelan on composers, and how to employ gamelan techniques and structures in group composition. For all bookings, please email email@example.com.
If you have any specific queries you can, of course, send the Faculty an email. We plan to run more access and outreach programmes in future, so watch this space!
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.