Ph.D.- Music

Course 651AA (2012)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2012.

Year and Campus: 2012 - 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.


Catherine Falk


Melbourne Conservatorium of Music
T: +613 99053471 or +613 83444337
E: /

Melbourne Conservatorium of Music
VCA and Music Student Centre


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 OR equivalent to 80,000 words in the case of the PhD (Composition) and the PhD (Music Performance) – see Confirmed Candidature, below. 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.


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 Student's Confirmation 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 Committee comprising the the student's supervisor(s), the Chair of the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music's Graduate Studies Committee and additional members of academic staff co-opted for the confirmation, 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 Committee, and the Committee will assess the feasibility and resource requirements of the proposed project and offer suggestions towards its successful completion.

In the Melbourne Conservatorium 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 Melbourne Conservatorium of Music’s Confirmation Panel;
  • The candidate has attended an interview with their Confirmation Committee and satisfied the Committee that he or she is ready for full PhD candidacy. The Committee will normally require the presentation of 10,000 words of the thesis or, in the case of Composition, the presentation of at least 30 minutes of music and at least 3,000 words of the dissertation component;
  • The Confirmation Committee is satisfied with the student's research aptitude and progress;
  • The candidate has attended the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music’s Postgraduate Seminar at least nine times.

Some students will be transferring from a Masters degree, where they will have met some 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, in the case of the PhD (Composition) to a folio of compositions (90–120 minutes) and an accompanying dissertation of 20,000–25,000 words OR in the case of the PhD (Music Performance) to a thesis and a folio of performances (CD, DVD or other approved format) where the folio may not exceed 50% of the total submission. 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 Melbourne Conservatorium 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 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 Melbourne Conservatorium of Music 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. For further information regarding the PhD in Music see this web page:

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

The application must be approved by the supervisor(s), Head of Department, Dean of Faculty and the Chair of the Graduate Studies 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

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy signifies 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. In the creative arts (including composition), a PhD thesis may take the form of a corpus of creative work plus a dissertation that aims to address, elucidate and contextualise the work. The creative work and dissertation will be examined as an integrated whole.
In addition to the consolidation of compositional output and engagement, this degree prepares composers for the demands and responsibilities of employment in the tertiary sector.

In addition to a proposal for the PhD folio & dissertation, applicants are required to submit two or three representative works only, including a major work of over 15 minutes duration for large acoustic ensemble (or alternative medium), equivalent to that required for Masters standard. These should include at least one notated, bound score and at least one work written in the last 2 years. Recordings of MIDI versions are not acceptable. Live or studio performances and electro-acoustic works should be submitted on CD. Applicants should discuss their submission with a member of the composition staff in person, or by email (if interstate or overseas).

Applicants should also include a list of works composed (including instrumentation, duration, and date), together with a list of any publications (scores & recordings), performances and broadcasts to date.

In addition to examples of their compositional work, applicants for the PhD in composition are required to submit a substantial piece of scholarly writing with their application.

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 constitute (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 Applied Research Methods in Music Or MUSI90022 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:

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. The Melbourne Conservatorium of Music website can be found at:

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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