Doctor of Philosophy in Music

For students with an MMus (or equivalent), a three-year research degree, culminating in a substantial thesis with optional creative component.

This page refers to the 2021 academic year unless otherwise specified.

A PhD is an advanced research qualification carried out under academic supervision and is the highest degree offered by the Wellington Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

The PhD thesis is a major piece of original research that demonstrates the candidate’s ability to carry out independent research and constitutes a significant and original contribution to knowledge or understanding in a field of study. As well as intelligence and an aptitude for research, the degree requires considerable dedication and tenacity.

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programme with the New Zealand School of Music suits students wanting to study musicology, ethnomusicology, music theory, music education, music therapy, performance, and composition (including sonic arts) at the highest academic level.

This degree is based on research and the preparation of a thesis carried out under supervision. The research is articulated through a substantial written thesis that engages with the breadth and depth of current scholarly discourse on the topic, and may also include a portfolio of compositions and/or performances.

During your first year of enrolment, your programme of study may, with approval, include a course or courses related to the development of your full research proposal but shall not normally exceed 60 points in total. In cases where this is a condition of your acceptance into the PhD programme there will be no tuition fees incurred and a minimum grade of B+ will be required to be considered for confirmation to full registration.

To enter the PhD programme you must have completed a Master of Music (MMus) or equivalent with First or Second Class Honours (Merit or Distinction). In certain circumstances it is possible for a candidate to begin a Master's degree and upgrade to a PhD before submission. In exceptional circumstances, a student with a Bachelor of Music with First Class Honours or Second Class Honours Division 1 or equivalent may be considered.

Applicants intending to include composition must submit an acceptable portfolio of compositions or sound-based works, as appropriate. Applicants intending to include performance must also pass an audition. All prospective PhD students must demonstrate advanced research and writing skills, through the submission of an extended sample of academic writing (around 2,000 words).

The minimum period of registration before a PhD thesis can be submitted for examination is 36 months full-time (or equivalent). The thesis must be submitted within 48 months of full-time registration (or equivalent).

PhD students are normally expected to be resident in Wellington during their year of provisional registration but with permission of the Associate Dean (Postgraduate Research, Wellington Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (WFHSS)), part of the research programme may be carried out at other locations.

Programme requirements

Music for PhD

NZSM 690 Music for PhD.

Year 1—provisional registration

Development under supervision of a research proposal, which may include components of composition and/or performance.

Years 2 and 3—full registration

Completion of a thesis of not more than 100,000 words (360 points over the course of three years), or less when performance and/or composition form part of the thesis. The scope of the creative work and written thesis will be agreed at the confirmation event but the creative work will not exceed 60% of the total thesis.

Publicly presented performances, professional level recordings and/or composition components must be documented and submitted as part of the final thesis in formats that can be examined by distance with standard technology, and meet the requirements for deposit in the library.

Progression from provisional to full registration

Full registration is conditional on satisfactory progress during the provisional period. At the end of this period, you are expected to present a fully-developed written research proposal with creative work where relevant. The Postgraduate Coordinator will schedule a confirmation event, which will comprise a public presentation of your research proposal and creative work if relevant, and an interview with a specially-appointed confirmation committee. Normally the confirmation event will take place by the tenth month from your initial enrolment, or by the eighteenth month for part-time students.

Students are re-registered year by year through a centralised process managed by the Faculty of Graduate Research. Except for approved periods of suspension students must keep their registration up to date.

How to apply

The Faculty of Graduate Research (FGR) is the best place to start if you are interested in doctoral study at Victoria University of Wellington. Its website will link you to the online application process, provide you with details of available funding, application dates, and answers to questions you may have about what is involved in undertaking a PhD.

Your acceptance will depend on a number of factors, including your previous qualifications and experience, the suitability of your topic for PhD studies and our capacity to supervise you and your topic.

Application for admission and for consideration for a Wellington Doctoral Scholarship is a combined process. You may apply at any time, but there are three deadlines for PhD applications to be considered:

  • 1 March
  • 1 July
  • 1 November.

Find out how to apply here. If you have any questions about the application process please email the Doctoral Admissions staff.

Performance applicants—audition

You must submit your audition recording at least two weeks in advance of the online application deadline you select. If you prefer, you can do this well in advance. Please see the Postgraduate auditions page on our website for more information.

Composition applicants

Your portfolio of work must be sent to the FGR by the online application deadline you select.

Financial support

Victoria University of Wellington offers scholarships which intending NZSM doctoral students may apply for. Visit the Postgraduate Scholarships page for more details.

A limited amount of funding may be available from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (FHSS) Research Grants.

Further information

For more information about the PhD please contact Jim Murphy.

Senior Lecturer in Sonic Arts/Music Technology
School of Music