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Postgraduate research programmes

Postgraduate Research

Since its foundation, the Music Department at King's College London has been internationally recognised as one of the outstanding research departments in the UK. Holders of King's College London PhD degrees are to be found at the top of the musical profession around the world, and include many well-known composers, conductors, musicologists and teachers.

Research is central to the Department's activities. We have one of the highest numbers of graduates in the country and hold a weekly series of public colloquia where international scholars present their latest research, composers discuss their works, and our graduates report on work in progress. King’s also hosts a number of large international research projects.

The Department offers PhD programmes in Musicology and Composition.

Timeline for research students

A timeline showing an overview of the "journey of a research student" within the Faculty of Arts and Humanities is available under the Research section of this handbook.  This provides details of the key activities, documents and stages research students will encounter and required during their period of studies:

  • the Student-Supervisor Agreement
    Note that this agreement must to be completed within a month of enrolment and returned to the Research Administrator.
  • Individual Progress Reports (IPR)
  • Ethical approval
  • Upgrade from MPhil to PhD
  • Teaching Opportunities
  • Small grants for research activity
  • Writing-up status
  • Thesis submission, viva and graduation

Centre for Doctoral Studies

The Centre for Doctoral Studies provides important resources for postgraduate research students, including training programmes, funding opportunities, partnerships and induction sessions.

College regulations

Please refer to the 2018/19 Academic Regulations, and click on the Academic Regulations for Research Degrees (R) white title (note that you might have to open to document as a pdf to permit interaction).

Useful information

Emergencies and Health & Safety

Strand Security desk: 020 020 7848 1024

To report an emergency situation at any time
020 7848 2222 - or 2222 from any campus phone

A&E department closest to Strand Campus: St Thomas' Hospital

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Please familiarise yourself with the following information:
Fire safety
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Electrical safety
Protecting the environment

Supervision and pastoral care

Each research student in the department is allocated a first (main) supervisor - a member of the core Music staff -, as well as a second (review) supervisor. Students will have regular supervision meetings with both or either of them.

Students should keep a record of supervisory meetings' dates and agreed action points. Students should also take responsibility for keeping a long-term plan and agreeing topics for meetings.

The Faculty of Arts and Humanities at King's College London specifies that PhD students can normally expect a minimum average of one meeting per month with their supervisors.

Students, in consultation with their supervisor, will create their own programme of study an research. The supervisor offers advice, and guides the student to successful and timely completion of the thesis. This is likely to be more prescriptive and directive in the early part of the PhD career, and more advisory and dialogical in latter stages.

Indeed, whilst the supervisor is an expert, one would hope that the student’s expertise of the subject area will begin to exceed that of the supervisor. The focus of the supervisory relationship is shaping the research project, issues of analysis and focus, and the writing project. The supervisor will introduce the student to the world of academic life, help identify training needs, facilitate contacts with researchers to help with development of the thesis. 

Please note that it is your responsibility to keep the supervisor informed of any changes in personal or other circumstances that might affect the progress of work. 

The main points of contact other than your supervisor are:

Academic queries:  Uri Smilansky - PhD Lead

Administrative queries: Claudia Mazzoncini, Research Administrator - please email

Support provided by the College Students can find various support services on the College Student Support webpage.

Student Voice and Representation

Students have the chance to be elected as student representatives and to officially report comments, issues and praises to the  Music Staff-Student Liaison Committee (SSLC).

For further information on the role of student representation across the College and ways in which you can get involved, visit the KCLSU website.

KDSA - King's Doctoral Students' Association
The KDSA gives research students a voice within KCLSU (King's Student Union), the Faculty, and the Centre for Doctoral Studies, as well as promoting student-led activities and provisind support for both academic and non-academic issues.

KDSA webpage

Research Ethics and Fieldwork Risk Assessment

All students should familiarise themselves with King's Research Ethics (log-in required) and establish whether and when they require ethical clearance.

Students involved in fieldwork activities must also ensure they are aware for any potential risk and, if required, completed a Fieldwork Risk Assessment. See the College Fieldwork activities webpage (log-in required).

PURE Profile

PURE is the Research Portal for the College.

All PhD students and research staff have a profile on the Research Portal site, showing research information, biographies, funding details, as well as outputs such as published books and peer-reviewed journal articles.

Music profiles can be seen on the Music Portal webpages.

Student research profiles are generated automatically after enrolment, showing your start date, department and supervisors. It is encouraged that students then log into the portal themselves to update personal profiles and research interests.  

The Portal gives you the opportunity to present yourself and your research to the world and can help you develop an academic career. Information on how to update your profile can be found in the Faculty Student Handbook.

Please do update your personal pages, it will help promote yourself as a researcher.

Research seminars (Colloquium Series) and module auditing

Colloquium Series
At the centre of our research culture is the colloquium series, which meets once a week during term time, and which hosts a distinguished speaker, sometime from abroad, sometimes from nearer home.

In addition, there are numerous more specialised forums in which staff, graduate students and visitors can come together for discussion and debate.

Details can be found on the Colloquium Series webpage.

Module auditing The research programme does not include, but students may audit a module if they so wish, after consultation with their supervisors.

Please note that module numbers are capped, and lack of availabiliy will supersede supervisor's agreement.

As the department must prioritise places for undergraduate and postgraduate students, auditing places can only be confirmed once module registrations are complete, i.e. from mid-October for semester-one and full-year modules, and from the end of January for semester-two modules.

Research students are welcome to enquire about availability on a particular module by emailing the Programmes Team at at the times mentioned above - please mention that you are a research student in the Department and include both module code and title.

If you are interested in auditing a module outside your Department, please contact the Research Administrator (Claudia Mazzoncini) at - note however that other departments will prioritise places for their own students.

Research Training

The College, the Centre for Doctoral Studies and the Faculty of Arts & Humanities run training sessions for postgraduate research students, some of which are mandatory.

In line with Research Council requirements and QAA recommendations, research students should demonstrate that they are acquiring generic skills and skills in research methods. To this effect, the College recommends that all research students undertake the equivalent of 10 days' training and development activities per year, in addition to departmental seminars.

Students should consult their supervisors in their selection of training sessions.  

PGR training programme webpage

Centre for Doctoral Studies
Booking & Course Availability
Doctoral training partnerships
KISS Doctoral Training Centre

Training for Postgraduate Research Students

Work Space, free printing and Practice Rooms

Departmental space
Music Department PhD room: South East Block, room 1E.

Both rooms are accessed via card-swipe only - students whose ID card does not provide access should go to the Campus Operation Office, located in room K-1.95 (First Basement Floor, King's Building), to have their access updated.

Free printing is available from the printing/copying machines in South West Block, room 1; in Chesham 0.13 ('Staff Only' door on the left, coming in); in the Virginia Woolf Building (machines located outside departmental offices, along the corridors).

All Music research students should have swipe access to the Music practice rooms.  If you find this is not the case, go to the Operations office (room K-1.95) to obtain access.

Further information, including how to book the rooms, can be found on the Music Practice Rooms webpage.

Faculty space
KCL Postgraduate Space (log-in required)

College space
Facilities for postgraduate students Library Services

Research Funding Opportunities

Postgraduate funding database

PGR Funding opportunities (Small Grants, Group Events Grant, Individual Research Grant)

Centre for Doctoral Studies
Funding & Scholarships
KISS DTC studentships

Departmental funding
Additional departmental funding opportunities can be found on the  Music Conference Attendance Grant webpage.

Please note that as the Department only has a limited amount of funding, students must firstly seek out opportunities with the Centre for Doctoral Studies, Faculty, and College.

PhD studies - Suggested readings

The following books can be a useful aid for guidance on how to successfully undertake and complete a PhD.

  • Murray, Rowena, How to Write a Thesis (Open Up Study Skills), third edition (2011), Open University Press
  • Phillips, Estelle, and Pugh, Derek S, How to Get A PhD: A Handbook for Students and their Supervisors, sixth edition (2015), Open University Press
  • Dunleavy, Patrick, Authoring a PhD: How to Plan, Draft, Write and Finish a Doctoral Thesis or Dissertation (Palgrave Study Guides), 2003 edition, Palgrave Macmillan

These books are available from the Library - see Library catalogue.

MPhil to PhD upgrade - Departmental notes

MPhil to PhD upgrade

As per the College  timeline, research students wishing to upgrade from the MPhil to the PhD complete an assessment after 9 months (full-time students), or 18 months (part-time students).

Upgrade requirements

Upgrade requirements are somewhat flexible, so the exact composition of your portfolio should be agreed with your supervisor/s well ahead of the date of submission. Typically, assessment portfolios comprise:

For musicologists

  • a substantial piece of work, preferably a complete draft of a chapter of the dissertation (between 10,000 and 15,000 words);

  • an overview of the proposed dissertation as a whole, with brief abstracts for each chapter, and (where useful) a select, annotated bibliography; 

  • a sketch of the next stages of research and writing, including a broad timetable up to the submission of the dissertation.

Musicologists typically submit their work during semester 1 of their second year (full-time) or third year (part-time), but the exact timing is agreed between the candidate and supervisor, within the constraints above.

For composers

  • a substantial work of 8-15 minutes’ duration, notated in a conventional manner (N.B., any work employing ad libitum procedures should be accompanied by a recorded performance);

  • a supporting portfolio of other pieces composed during the registration period;

  • a recording of at least one work from the sample submitted;

  • a technical commentary on the main work submitted (c.1500 words).

Composition candidates are strongly advised to submit their work for upgrade no later than enrolment week of their second year (full-time) or third year (part-time).

Students will then have a short viva with a panel made up of their first and second supervisors and at least one outside member who has not been involved in supervision.

Candidates who are unsuccessful on their first attempt to upgrade may resubmit their work for assessment within 3 or at most 6 months (as decided by the panel). Further attempts are not permitted and so, if still unsuccessful, candidates should plan instead to complete the MPhil.

Transfer to writing-up status - Departmental notes

As you will see in the timeline above, after three years of full-time registration (six years of part-time registration), College regulations allow the possibility of transferring to writing-up status.

Please note however that the Music Department will not allow this until the thesis is essentially complete in draft and submission is imminent. Writing-up status will not last for more than one year.

The procedure to move a student from full or part-time status to writing-up will include an appropriate form of progress report and/or meeting of the supervisory panel to decide whether the student is ready to transfer and can demonstrate that they will submit within the required submission deadline timeframe. During the write-up period, the PhD student is mainly editing and refining the work, and/or working on a last chapter. Please see the above timeline for details about the transfer.

Thesis requirements and submission

PhD Musicology 100,000 words maximum Including footnotes/endnotes but excluding bibliography, appendices and editions. Extensions on word-length are not normally granted.

PhD Composition A portfolio of substantial musical compositions which should show coherence and originality in invention and in the treatment of existing musical techniques; each work shall form the basis of a commentary on its context structure and an exposition of the methods employed; and the portfolio should be accompanied by recordings of as many of the works as possible. The compositions must be notated in a conventional manner; any work employing improvisatory or ad libitum procedures should be accompanied by a recorded performance.

Thesis submission
Information about submission, viva and graduation can be found on the Registry Services internal submission webpages.

Students will find detailed information about the process on the Students section of the Research Degrees webpages, which also include a comprehensive FAQ section.

Library Services also provide advice about writing and submission of theses - please see their Theses webpage.

Thesis binding and boxing
The work must be presented in a regulation blue box and students are advised to contact the approved bookbinders Collis Bird and Withey, who will be able to offer a 'bespoke' service for a box to contain several items as per the following specifications:

  • King's Blue (the company will know the exact hue
  • Lettering - PHD / Year of Award / Surname, Initials - embossed up the spine
  • Box File ideally 32cm (standard) or 37cm (Foolscap) for outsize scores

Please allow up to one month for manufacture.

Research Administrator

Claudia Mazzoncini, Research Administrator
Location: Room 0.12, Chesham Building
Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7848 2029

Directions to the office can be found on the Arts Cluster Professional Services Team.


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