Ph.D.- Music

Course 651AA (2011)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2011.

Year and Campus: 2011 - Parkville
CRICOS Code: 056960M
Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Level: Research Higher Degree
Duration & Credit Points: Students are expected to complete this research in 3.00 years full time, or equivalent part time.




Faculty of the VCA and Music Centre
Tel: +61 3 9685 9419
Fax: +61 3 9685 9358

Course Overview:

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy signifies that the holder has undertaken a substantial piece of original research, which has been conducted and reported by the holder under proper academic supervision and in a research environment for a prescribed period.

The PhD thesis demonstrates authority in the candidate's field and shows evidence of command of knowledge in relevant fields. It shows that the candidate has a thorough grasp of the appropriate methodological techniques and an awareness of their limitations. The thesis also makes a distinct contribution to knowledge. Its contribution to knowledge rests on originality of approach and / or interpretation of the findings and, in some cases, the discovery of new facts. The thesis demonstrates an ability to communicate research findings effectively in the professional arena and in an international context. It is a careful, rigorous and sustained piece of work demonstrating that a research 'apprenticeship' is complete and the holder is admitted to the community of scholars in the discipline.

In scope, the PhD thesis differs from a research Masters thesis chiefly by its deeper and more comprehensive treatment of the chosen subject. It is written succinctly, in English, unless approval has been given for the thesis to be written in a language other than English. The normal length of a PhD thesis is 80,000 words, exclusive of words in tables, maps, bibliographies and appendices. Footnotes are included as part of the word limit. The thesis should not exceed 100,000 words (or equivalent) without special approval from the Research Higher Degrees Committee.

Objectives: Doctoral degrees at the Unviersity of Melbourne seek to develop graduates who demonstrate academic leadership, increasing independence, creativity and innovation in their research work. In addition, professional doctoral studies provide advanced training designed to enhance profesional knowledge in a specialist area, and encourage the acquisition of a wide range of advanced transferable skills.
Course Structure & Available Subjects:

Probationary Candidature

Normally PhD candidates are first admitted as 'probationary' candidates, except for those who have converted from a Masters by Research, or in some cases, have transferred from another institution.

Probationary candidature is for a minimum of 9 months and a maximum of 12 months (or 18 and 24 months for part-time students) except where an extension is officially approved. During the probationary period the student's suitability for sustained independent work is assessed, and the Faculty Confirmation Sub-Committee must be satisfied of the student's readiness for full PhD candidacy before recommending Confirmation.

The Confirmation Report Form is sent to the candidate after 8 months (full-time) probationary candidature. A Confirmation Sub-Committee comprising the Dean of Faculty, the student's supervisor, and members of the Faculty's Graduate Studies Committee, meets to interview the candidate toward the end of the probationary period. The candidate may be required to verbally defend his or her written report to the Confirmation Sub-Committee, and the Committee will assess the feasibility and resource requirements of the proposed project and offer suggestions towards its successful completion.

In the School of Music, confirmation is generally recommended when all of the following are satisfied:

  • A precise thesis topic and a fully-developed thesis proposal has been submitted, presented to, and approved by the School's Confirmation Panel;
  • The candidate has attended an interview with the School's Confirmation Panel and satisfied the Panel that he or she is ready for full PhD candidacy. The Committee will normally require the presentation of 10,000 words of the thesis;
  • The Confirmation Sub-Committee is satisfied with the student's research aptitude and progress;
  • The candidate has attended the School's Postgraduate Seminar at least 9 times.

Some students may have met some of these requirements while still undergraduates; others will be transferring from a Masters degree, where they will have met most of these requirements. Consequently, the probationary program for each PhD student is arranged individually according to the research training and background of the student.

Confirmed Candidature

Once confirmed, a PhD candidate undertakes supervised work that leads to a thesis (of approximately 80,000 words), or to a folio of compositions or performance and thesis (in composition/performance). The thesis may be presented after two or three years of full-time study (four to six years part-time), depending on whether the student entered with a prior Masters degree. Candidates are required to present the findings of their research at the Postgraduate Seminar prior to submission.

Entry Requirements:

The minimum requirement for admission to PhD candidature is a four-year honours degree from an Australian university, or a qualification or combination of qualifications considered by the PhD Committee to be equivalent. In assessing overseas qualifications, the PhD Committee will consult guidelines published by the National Office of Skills Recognition.

The School of Music generally requires applicants to have completed a Master of Music by research (or equivalent qualification) before being eligible for admission to the PhD program. Applicants who have not met this requirement are usually advised to apply for the Master of Music (Ethno/Musicology specialisation) with a view to applying for Conversion to PhD Candidature after 9 months of enrolment in the Master of Music.

Application Procedure

Applicants for PhD candidature should obtain information from the RHD Coordinator (email: about the department's research activities and potential supervisors who are qualified and available to accept PhD candidates for supervision, prior to lodging a formal application.

Detailed information for prospective PhD students regarding the application porcess, including the applicaiton form is available at

The application must be approved by the supervisor(s), Head of Department, Dean of Faculty and the Chair of the PhD Committee. Applicants are required to meet the English language requirements. The official letter of offer is prepared by the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and contains advice on enrolment.

Applicants must also meet the University’s English Language requirements .

PhD (Composition) Applications

In addition to a thesis proposal, applicants for the PhD (Composition) degree are required to submit a folio of works including a major work for large acoustic ensemble (or alternative media), equivalent to that required for Masters standard. Recordings of MIDI versions are acceptable, though it is advisable to submit at least one example of a live performance. Electro-Acoustic works should be submitted on DAT or CD. Applicants should discuss their submission with a member of the composition staff in person, or by email (if interstate or overseas).

PhD (Music Performance) Applications

In addition to a thesis proposal, applicants for the PhD (Music Performance) degree are required to submit a DVD folio of performances including major repertoire for the instrument on which he or she intends to undertake the performance component. The research proposal should outline how the applicant intends to use recorded performances to illustrate his or her research in the final PhD submission, and also the percentage of the final submission that these performances are expected to consitute (a maximum of 50% is allowable).

Further information regarding submission and examination of Creative Works (Composition or Performance) is available on the Melbourne School of Graduate Research website:

Core Participation Requirements: All PhD candidates are required to complete the equivalent of at least 12 months full-time (24 months part-time) advanced study and research in the University unless studying at an outside institution approved by the Research Higher Degrees Committee (RHDC). The RHDC will not approve entirely distance supervision or entirely on-line supervision for research higher degree students.

Throughout their candidature candidates are expected to attend the University in order to benefit from planning, conducting and writing up their research within a University community and environment.

The residency requirement is deemed especially important during the period of probationary candidature. During probationary candidature the student is expected to interact on a regular basis with the supervisor, the department (including staff and other research students) and the University, so as:
  • to build the skills and knowledge necessary to carry out the proposed research program
  • to acquire an understanding of the standards and requirements for a PhD awarded by the University
  • to make use of support programs and facilities provided by the Melbourne School of Graduate Research throughout candidature.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability will impact on meeting the requirements of this course are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and the Disability Liaison Unit.

Candidates who do not have the appropriate research methodology background may be advised to take either of the following Research Methodology subjects in the first semester of their candidature: MUSI90134 (740-525) Applied Research Methods in Music Or MUSI90022 (740-522) Introduction to Music Research 1.

Graduate Attributes:

Doctoral degrees at the University of Melbourne seek to develop graduates who demonstrate academic leadership, increasing independence, creativity and innovation in their research work.

The University expects its doctoral graduates to have the following qualities and skills:

  • an advanced ability to initiate research and to formulate viable research questions;
  • a demonstrated capacity to design, conduct and report sustained and original research;
  • the capacity to contextualise research within an international corpus of specialist knowledge;
  • an advanced ability to evaluate and synthesize research-based and scholarly literature;
  • an advanced understanding of key disciplinary and multi-disciplinary norms and perspectives relevant to the field;
  • highly developed problem-solving abilities and flexibility of approach;
  • the ability to analyse critically within and across a changing disciplinary environment;
  • the capacity to disseminate the results of research and scholarship by oral and written communication to a variety of audiences;
  • a capacity to cooperate with and respect the contributions of fellow researchers and scholars;
  • a profound respect for truth and intellectual integrity, and for the ethics of research and scholarship;
  • an advanced facility in the management of information, including the application of computer systems and software where appropriate to the student's field of study;
  • an understanding of the relevance and value of their research to national and international communities of scholars and collaborators;
  • an awareness where appropriate of issues related to intellectual property management and the commercialisation of innovation; and
  • an ability to formulate applications to relevant agencies, such as funding bodies and ethics committees.
The University provides a variety of opportunities in addition to the supervised research program, to facilitate students' acquisition of these attributes.
Links to further information:
Notes: Application Procedure
Detailed information for prospective PhD students regarding the application process, including the application form is available at

It is important to note that there is a separate application form for local and international students.

PhD applicants should discuss their research interests with a potential supervisor at the department in which they would like to enrol prior to submitting an application.

The Find an Expert website may assist you to find an appropriate supervisor. Prospective PhD candidates should also investigate department websites for information on current research and contact details. Department websites are easily accessed from faculty homepages.

Applications are accepted year-round.

Which scholarship can I apply for?
Students can find information about graduate research scholarships offered by the University of Melbourne at the Melbourne Scholarships Office.

Facilities and Supports:
The Melbourne School of Graduate Research makes available a broad range of Programs & Services available to graduate research students.

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