The Best Universities for Music Degrees in the UK

Are you ready to embark on higher education in music? Which universities will stand you in good stead as an aspiring artist, producer, songwriter or instrumentalist?

The best universities for music degrees in the UK will equip you for like as a working musician. There are many to choose from across the country, offering varying styles of teaching, focussing on different areas of music and with a range of fee scales.

Read on to discover which institution is likely to be your ideal fit and find out why these particular places of study are so well respected.

The best universities for music degrees in the UK

From Glasgow’s Royal Conservatoire in the very north to Southampton uni, on the south coast, you can enrol in excellent music degrees across the UK. Which you choose will depend upon the following factors:

  • Your career plans
  • Your goals
  • Whether you’re looking for a more academic or practical programme
  • The style of music you practice
  • The further education grades obtained
  • Whether you want a niche or wide syllabus
  • If you want to combine your music study with another subject
  • Your budget
  • Level of skill (if a competitive audition process is involved)
Where can I study music in the UK

University of Manchester

Is music a good degree?

It certainly is, and these courses aren’t purely for performers. As a music technician, producer, or engineer, a degree from a renowned educational establishment will open doors. Plus you don’t have to attend a standard style university. Those who’d rather be in an exclusively arts-based focussed setting can enrol in a conservatoire or performance-based college that offer degrees.

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Where can I study music in the UK?

We’ve included a mixture of options to suit all types of student, in our list of the best universities for music degrees in the UK…

Durham University music

This uni offers internationally recognised expertise in a wide variety of topics including musicology, theory and analysis, studies in electronic music, the psychology of music, the music of India, contemporary music performance, nineteenth- and twentieth-century British music, the music of the Soviet Union, musical life in France and Germany, historically-informed performance and Korean music.

Durham University’s music department consistently scores highly (usually top) on league tables, which does mean you’ll need some decent grades to be accepted (typical offers are A Level AAB and BTEC DDD.) The BA Music is spread across three years and six modules and achieves good results; in a survey, it was found that 87% of 2018 graduates were in paid employment or further study, six months after completion.

University of Manchester music

The Sunday Times has lauded Music at Manchester as being the best in the country, in its 2020 Good University Guide. Its facilities include a professional concert hall and specialist recording and practice studios in the NOVARS research centre. Known as Manchester 1824, it offers undergraduate courses:

  • Arts Management, Policy and Practice MA
  • Composition (Electroacoustic Music and Interactive Media) MusM
  • Composition (Instrumental and Vocal) MusM
  • Music (Ethnomusicology) MusM
  • Music (Musicology) MusM

And postgraduate research in:

  • Arts and Cultural Management Professional Doctorate
  • Arts Management and Cultural Policy
  • Composition
  • Electroacoustic Composition
  • Musicology

RNCM (Royal Northern College of Music)

At the undergraduate level, students can choose between a more classical-based Bachelor of Music (Hons) or UK’s only four years Bachelor of Music (Hons) Popular Music. Based in Manchester, the pop music course attracts tutorage from visiting music industry professionals (session musicians, producers, songwriters, recording artists, composers, musical directors, writers, managers, promoters and performers). 93% of graduates were found to be in work or doing further study 15 months after the course. RNCM also gives its students a thorough grounding in aspects of the business such as A&R and professional engagement.

University of Cambridge

One of the best universities in the world. The University of Cambridge’s music faculty offers a broad range from medieval genres to blues. And from advanced analysis to study of music history. This makes it ideal if you’re seeking a niche subject, or fancy a degree from one of the most prestigious alma maters in history. Those looking for very high-level study can opt for a PhD in composition, ethnomusicology, music analysis, music cognition, musicology or performance studies. Be aware that you’ll need top grades (most attendees will exceed the conditions of their offer). So if you’re not an A grade type student, this one won’t be for you.

University of Southampton

This south-coast university in Southampton was named the Number One Music Undergraduate Programme in the UK, by The Guardian in 2019. It specialises in popular music performance and production, making it ideal for those wishing to work in the contemporary music industry. The courses are suitable for performers, songwriters and producers.

A typical offer to this Batchelor of Arts programme is ABB to BBB and takes three years to complete. Students can spend a semester studying abroad and take advantage of in-house electronic studios and networked multimedia workstations.

Solent University Southampton

If you’re seeking to study music production, you’ll find these facilities unbeatable, with nine recording studios (networked with Protools HD and Logic Pro), mixing workstations and a Production Lab with 24 Apple workstations (these come equipped with Pro Tools, Logic Pro and Sibelius). You’ll also have access to large rehearsal rooms fully equipped with backline and PAs.

Solent University offers a BA (Hons) Popular Music Performance and Production. This course aims to encourage both artistic creativity and technical know-how. You’ll learn about copyright, contract law and career pathways. Students are also expected to develop transferable skills in research, IT, presentation, teamwork, creative thinking, communication and project management. A selection of students are given the chance to record at the famous Abbey Road Studios.

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

This educational institution is all about the performing arts, with a stellar reputation across the disciplines. The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is a great choice if you want to be in an environment exclusively surrounded by musicians, actors, producers, technicians and dancers. Course topics include performance, production technology, traditional, jazz, and B.Ed Music for those aspiring to teach in schools.

The Bachelor of Music (Honours) course runs across four years, and there are postgrad options too. Undergrad courses come in at just a few thousand pounds, with more advanced postgrad studies average around 10k. Most full-time, Scottish-resident undergrads will have their tuition fees paid by SAAS (Student Awards Agency Scotland). The Conservatoire is in the city of Glasgow, a top spot for emerging musicians.

Edinburgh Napier University

Also in Scotland, but on the east coast, is Edinburgh Napier. Its popular music course has a  100% satisfaction rate (National Student Survey, 2020) and was named the top UK modern university for Music in The Guardian University Guide 2021. The course prepares students for careers in performance, composition, production and engineering, teaching, management and promotions, music therapy, and community music projects.

You’ll be given the chance to study at a partner institution abroad or to complete a work placement in the industry. And the department’s facilities include three high-end recording studios and a fully networked MIDI lab, running Logic, ProTools and Sibelius.

LIPA: Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts

Co-founded by Sir Paul McCartney in 1996, no less than 6000 students have completed courses here. LIPA offers a variety of undergraduate courses and a Master’s degree course including popular music and songwriting. If you want to follow in the footsteps of the famous, this is the way to go for your degree. LIPA’s alumni include Dan Croll, Sandi Thom and Little Jinder.

It’s all about contemporary professional music here and preparation for a career in the industry. There’s an emphasis on developing the essential business skills to help graduates to navigate the industry as professional musicians. If you’d prefer to strengthen your skills before diving into the BA programme, you can enrol on the ​Foundation Certificate Popular Music & Music Technology. The Grammy award-winning producer, Mark Ronson, said of the institute:

“There’s absolutely nothing like LIPA in this country. It’s a genuine incubator of creativity because graduates leave with instantly applicable and viable skill sets”. 

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The best music universities in London

Royal Academy of Music

As the country’s capital and a cultural hub, it’s no surprise that London has many of the best music degree courses. However, it’s important to bear in mind, that while studying in the big smoke can be exciting and provide access to a wealth of opportunities, it is also the most expensive place to live. So if this is likely to be an issue for you, stick to one of the unis we’ve already mentioned.

ACM (Academy of Music and Sound)

For a true industry grounding, this is a superb facility. ACM’s goal is to instil into each student, the belief, desire and understanding of how to become a credible, self-sufficient artist. It’s far more hands-on than some of the other courses we’ve listed. And it offers ground-breaking subjects, like the new Rap & MC Pathway BA (Hons) Music Industry Practice, based in London. And there are scholarships available for those struggling to finance their studies. Courses can also be taken in Guildford – just outside of the city and in Birmingham. Further options include:

  • Producer Route (EMP)
  • BA (Hons) Music Industry Practice
  • Technical Services Route
  • BA (Hons) Music Industry Practice
  • Creative Artist Route
  • BA (Hons) Music Industry Practice
  • Musician Route
  • BA(Hons) Music Industry Practice
  • – Keyboards Degree
  • – Vocals Degree
  • – Drums Degree
  • – Bass Degree
  • – Guitar Degree
  • Rap & MC Pathway
  • BA (Hons) Music Industry Practice
  • Music Production Diploma
  • Level 3 Extended Diploma in Music Performance and Production
  • Music Performance Diploma
  • Level 3 Extended Diploma in Music Performance and Production
  • Songwriting Diploma
  • Level 3 Extended Diploma in Music Performance and Production
  • Music Performance and Production
  • Level 2 Diploma in Music Performance and Production

Royal Academy of Music (University of London)

The Royal Academy of Music is the oldest conservatoire in the UK. Many notable alumni include Elton John (who funds a scholarship here), Mylene Klass, Katherine Jenkins, Phil Gould, Gareth Malone and Annie Lennox. It accepts students from around the world, averaging 50 nationalities, and as well as its degrees has part-time non-academic study options too. It has a strong reputation for classical music, opera, musical theatre and jazz, with specialisms for instrumentalists.

RAM has changes a great deal over the years, with more musical diversity incorporated. Ex-student Elton John spoke of his time there:

“In those days, the Academy meant classical music and nothing else – certainly no rock ‘n roll. That was the devil’s music. But without my training, I never would’ve been able to write the songs I’ve written.”

Mountview

London’s West End brings billions into the UK’s economy each year and is a major employer for singers and musicians. So it’s no surprise that some degree courses are geared to training musical theatre performers. And with more pop, rock and even rap musicals popping up, the ground you’ll get crosses over well with popular music. Mountview is one of the names that pop up most frequently in theatre programme bios. Here you can study as an actor-musician, in musical theatre, or in sound production. Competition for places is high and you’ll undergo a rigorous audition process, with minimal places available.

Royal Holloway

If you’d like to combine your music degree with another topic, Royal Holloway is the place to do it. Drama and music, Economics with music, History and music, modern languages and music, music and English are all options you can choose. Graduates here are currently employed across the industry – from the English National Opera to EMI. And it’s always in the top ten on the music university league tables.

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Taking time to complete a degree is an investment in your future. But it’s not for everyone. Many – if not most – artists currently trending on Spotify don’t have academic credentials. So don’t be dejected if you didn’t get the results you’d hoped for. There are plenty of vocational courses you can sign up for at independent music colleges, such as Access Creative College and the Academy of Music and Sound.

Related Questions

  • What jobs can I do with a music degree?

Teaching (private, one to one or in schools), music therapy, on the production or technical side of music-making, as a songwriter, backup singer, solo artist, instrumentalist, theatre performer and sound engineer/technician. Tangential career paths include radio, arts admin and arts management.

  • How much does a music degree cost?

The average music degree is just over 9k, but for independent schools, it may be more. If you are resident in Scotland and choose to study at a university there, you won’t pay. Do bear in mind that most students are eligible for a loan to cover the costs that won’t be repayable until you’re earning a salary of over 27k.

  • Is studying music hard?

Yes. There’s sometimes an assumption that studying a related arts subject is somehow an easy ride. But the opposite is true. These courses are designed to prepare and equip you for life in a competitive industry. So while it can be hard work studying music, it is invariably exceedingly rewarding.

Have you studied music at a UK university? Perhaps you’re partway through a course right now. Was it the right decision and how did you find it? Let us know in the comments below.

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