An Overview


The Composition pathway is designed to develop artistically aware, imaginative and confident creators, who are equipped to succeed as musicians in a rapidly-changing cultural landscape.

We are looking for active and engaged individuals, who are interested in developing professional attitudes towards compositional practices, willing to collaborate and develop communication skills for use with other composers, performers and artists from a broad range of disciplines, demonstrating an independent willingness to prepare for lessons and classes, and a clear interest in widening musical experiences as they progress through their studies with us here at the RCS.

When you study Composition, you will be working with our diverse and talented performing community in some of the best facilities in Europe. You’ll benefit from our professional partnerships with leading ensembles and orchestras, and there will be opportunities to hear your work performed. The performance of new work is of paramount importance to us, and we have a significant reputation for contemporary music. PLUG, our critically acclaimed annual festival, has become a renowned platform for new work, premiering hundreds of new works.

You’ll follow your own tailored path through the programme; you have the option to include a second study in performance, work in the superb electroacoustic and recording studios, or devise new work in our purpose-built performance venues.

Our staff are working artists, with various areas of specialist expertise. There’s a real sense of community among our composition students, staff, and PhD cohort; the Composers Forum meets weekly, and our students are offered support in setting up their own collectives for collaboration and performance. Composition can be a solitary existence; at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, we help you to develop the skills to work with other artists across disciplines, allowing our students to develop a number of projects with dance, theatre, film, and musical theatre.

Institution Code:


Programme Code:


UK Deadline:

2 October 2023

International Deadline:

1 December 2023

Programme Structure

This is a four-year course, designed to help you develop a range of high-level skills. As such the course is suited to the students’ needs and develops at the speed of the individual. The Department recognises that most composers come to composition later than most instrumentalists and we take that into consideration when developing each individual’s compositional journey. The Composition department prides itself on its camaraderie and supportive environment and all the years from undergraduate to postgraduate to research are closely integrated.

Each composer is assessed through a portfolio submission at the end of each academic year, which will reflect the integration of your practical composing, improvising, reading, writing, listening, collaborating and musicianship skills that you will develop during the BMus course.

The Composition department has connections and relationships with most professional music groups in Scotland and recently has collaborated with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Psappha, the Fidelio Trio, the New Music Players, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Red Note, and Icebreaker, amongst other internationally-recognised orchestras and ensembles. We have also taken part in collaborative projects with Glasgow School of Art, Stirling University Art Collection, Glasgow Caledonian University and the Scottish Music Centre.

In addition to individual lessons, you will also take part in Composition Studies classes each year, such as:

  • Composers’ Forum (talks from visiting composers and practitioners)
  • Cowcaddens Gramophone Society (a composers’ weekly record club)
  • Music for Media (composition for TV and film)
  • Orchestration
  • Analysis
  • Sonic Arts
  • Interactive Composition (combining acoustic instruments with technology)
  • Contemporary Repertoire

Graduate Destinations

Composition graduates work across the world in a variety of industries including orchestras, film and TV, and gaming. Graduates include:

  • Amit Anand Film composer
  • Jay Capperauld Member of the inaugural RSNO Composers’ Hub Scheme
  • C Duncan Mercury prize nominee
  • Marcos Fernandez Teacher of composition at the Trinity Music Academy
  • Matthew Grouse Composer
  • John Harris Co-Director of Red Note Ensemble
  • Martin Keary Composer, YouTuber and software designer
  • Alex Mackay Composer and touring musician for Mogwai
  • Claire McKenzie Co-founder of award-winning company, Noisemaker
  • Lewis Murphy Young Composer-in-Residence, Glyndebourne
  • Juta Pranulyte Composer and Curator, Artistic Director of Druskomanija New Music Festival, Lithuania
  • Jay Richards Producer and Composer for film, tv and musical theatre
  • Matt Rogers Doctoral Composer-in-Residence at Royal Opera
  • Jennifer Walshe Composer, performer and visual artist
  • Gareth Williams First Composer-in-Residence for Scottish Opera
  • Jessica Jones Film and TV composer
  • Matthew Whiteside Composer, producer and promoter of new music concerts
  • Henry Macpherson Composer and researcher at the University of New Huddersfield Center for Research in New Music
  • Robert Reid Allan Composer and Scottish Award for New Music nominee
  • Paul Leonard Morgan Film and media composer

C Duncan

Mercury Prize-nominated BMus Composition graduate C Duncan shares his experiences studying at RCS and of his time since graduating from the course.

Why Choose Us?

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is consistently ranked in the World Top 10 for performing arts education (QS World Rankings 2023)

  • Receive 60-minute individual lessons with the option for an extra 30 minutes of Additional Performance Study in your first year, and then 90-minute individual lessons in your second, third, and fourth years.
  • Study in one of the busiest performing arts venues in Scotland, with numerous opportunities for your work to be performed live by Conservatoire performers and external professionals.
  • Professional partnerships both nationally and internationally have included the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Icebreaker, Psappha, Red Note, Garth Knox, Richard Craig, the Kreutzer String Quartet, Scottish Ensemble, Ensemble Modern, the Hebrides Ensemble, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Darragh Morgan, the Brodsky Quartet and Ilya Gringolts.
  • Annual contemporary new music festival Plug which, over the past 11 years, has premiered 500+ new works
  • Opportunities to collaborate with artists on other programmes including Modern Ballet, Acting, Film and Contemporary Performance Practice
  • Visiting Professors have included Sir James MacMillan CBE, Judith Weir CBE and Dr Kate Moore
  • Excellent staff-student ratio
  • Experienced staff with international profiles, all active within the industry
  • 100% of undergraduate respondents from the School of Music are in employment or further study (HESA, 16/17)

Virtual Tour

Explore the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in our 360 virtual tour. You’ll be able to see our rehearsal and practice rooms, professional performance venues, production workshops, editing suite, ballet studios and more.


PLUG has been created to offer a professional platform for our students to showcase their works, through an annual festival of new music.

PLUG has grown from strength to strength over the years, and so far over 300 new works have received their premiere performances. Many other opportunities for performances of new student work also exist elsewhere in the calendar year, and many new collaborations and working relationships are forged by our students inside and outside of the building each year.

“…Scotland’s most ambitious and daring new music project .” (The Herald)

Masterclasses and Staff Achievements

Previous composers in residence have included Judith Weir and Param Vir. Each has brought their own unique approach and they have been joined by a growing list of composers including:

  • Philip Venables
  • Rolf Hind
  • Sir Harrison Birtwistle
  • Thomas Adès
  • Sir Richard Rodney Bennett
  • Mark-Anthony Turnage
  • HK Gruber
  • Yannis Kyriakides
  • Donnachy Dennehy
  • Nigel Osborne
  • Richard Ayres
  • Trevor Wishart
  • Sir Peter Maxwell Davies
  • Jonathan Harvey
  • Simon Steen Andersen
  • Tansy Davies

Recent Staff achievements: 

  • Ailie Robertson was composer in residence at Glyndebourne between 2019-2021
  • Dr Oliver Searle’s album – Pilgrim of Curiosity – was released through Delphian Records in 2021
  • Dr Oliver Searle won a British Composers Award for his work ‘Microscopic Dances’ in 2018
  • Dr Stuart MacRae wrote a new opera Anthropocene with librettist Louise Welsh, performed by Scottish Opera in 2019
  • David Fennessy’s latest orchestral piece The Ground was performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in 2018


Entry Requirements

General Academic Entrance Requirements

Our admissions processes are designed to be fair, transparent and efficient. The audition/interview approach serves the dual nature of allowing the panel to assess first-hand an applicant’s suitability for their chosen programme and it also affords the applicant the opportunity to gain a deeper insight into the nature of that programme and the opportunities offered by the RCS.

In arriving at its recommendation, the audition/interview panel will take account of all aspects of the applicant’s profile i.e.:

  • Performance at audition/interview
  • Commitment to the particular programme
  • Potential to benefit from the programme
  • Academic qualifications
  • Personal statement
  • Performance qualifications
  • Performance/practical experience
  • References
  • Contextualised data


General Academic Entrance Requirements

  • Scottish Highers — 3 passes (grade C or above)
  • A Levels — 2 passes
  • International Baccalaureate — minimum score of 24 with 3 subjects at Higher Level
  • Recognised equivalences (EU and International Entry Requirements)

We welcome the Scottish Baccalaureate and will accept combinations of Highers and Advanced Highers.

We offer a flexible approach to students taking Higher over more than one academic year and/or who achieve their qualifications in more than one sitting.

Subjects recommended

Within the minimum academic entrance requirements listed above, the subject recommended are:

  • Music at Higher, Advanced Higher or Advanced level or equivalent
  • English at Higher, Advanced Higher or Advanced level or equivalent
Other Standards

A strong indication of potential is sought at the entrance audition for this programme. Successful applicants will normally be of a standard at least equivalent to Grade 8 with Distinction of the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music in their Principal Study. You can apply and audition without having obtained Grade 8 with distinction, however as an indication only, applicants are normally expected to have reached this standard in their performance.

Language of Study

The language of study is English. Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to provide evidence of proficiency in English. We accept the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Level 6.0 (with a minimum score of 5.5 in each component) is required of applicants to the School of Music.

Direct Entry

Applications for direct entry beyond Year 1 will be considered on a case-by-case basis and in accordance with the Royal Conservatoire’s Recognition of Prior (Experiential) Learning policy. If you wish to apply for direct entry, please mark the point of entry on UCAS Conservatoires application as 2 or 3.

Non-Standard Entry

We welcome applications from individuals whose academic qualifications or English language qualifications do not match (in terms of equivalence) or fall short of the normal entrance requirements, where specified*. Having satisfied the Audition Panel that they meet the selection criteria and demonstrated that they have the capacity to pursue the proposed course of study, such applicants will be considered through examination of contextualised data provided in accordance with the Non-Standard Entry Policy. The appropriate Head of Department/ Programme will make a case in support of the applicant for consideration by the Directors of the Schools and Convener of the Quality and Standards Committee.

*Note that UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) imposes minimum English Language qualifications in respect of international (non-EU) applicants who require a Tier 4 Visa to study in the UK.

Mature Students

RCS welcomes applications from mature students, i.e. students over the age of 21 at entry to the programme. Whilst the selection procedures will still be applied, consideration will be given to appropriate artistic experience not normally expected in school leavers, which is deemed to compensate for any lack of traditional entrance qualifications. Successful mature applicants, as for all other applicants, must convince auditioning panels that they have the ability and potential to cope with the demands of the programme. Their progress, especially in the early stages of the programme, will be closely monitored and appropriate advice and support given.

How to Apply

Apply via UCAS Conservatoires

Apply via UCAS Conservatoires:

Applications are made through UCAS Conservatoires website. The UCAS Conservatoires application system is separate from the main UCAS undergraduate application system. If you wish to apply to conservatoires and universities within UCAS, you will need to register for both services. There is a UCAS application fee of £27.50 to register to use UCAS Conservatoires.

To begin a new UCAS Conservatoires application, you will need to register. You can read the UCAS Conservatoires’ advice on completing the UCAS Conservatoires application. If you need assistance with your application, you can contact UCAS Conservatoires team by telephoning (Monday to Friday, 8.30 — 18.00). Phone 0371 468 0470 from within the UK or +44 330 3330 232 if you are calling from overseas.

Application deadline date

The deadline dates to apply and submit your portfolio can be found in the table below –

UCAS Conservatoires Application Deadline Portfolio Submission Deadline
UK Applicants 2 October 2023 2 October 2023
International Applicants 1 December 2023 1 December 2023

International student applicants

We are aware that international students may struggle with the UCAS deadline. As a consequence, we have set an additional deadline of 1 December 2023 for international students.

Once you submit your UCAS Conservatoires application, please then upload your portfolio to Acceptd:

If you submit your application after this date, we cannot guarantee that your application/portfolio will be reviewed by the audition panel. If you do want to submit a late application, you must contact in the first instance to check we are accepting late applications. Late applications will be considered on a case by case basis and may not be considered in the first round of scholarship allocation.

We do not offer deferred entry. If you wish to commence in 2025, you must apply next year.

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland institution code is R58.

BMus (Hons) Composition: 302F

Joint Principal Study (Hons): 301F

Book an advice lesson with one of our Music tutors

An advice lesson gives you the chance to experience having a lesson at the Conservatoire and provides a great opportunity for you to gain some expert advice and insight. Advice lessons normally take place from late August to early October and are dependent on staff availability. Book your advice lesson here or e-mail our team for further information at

Application Fee

There is a UCAS Conservatoires application fee of £27.50. In addition to the application fee, each conservatoire charges an audition assessment administration fee. For RCS, the audition assessment administration fee is £65 per programme applied for. Fees are not refundable. The fees are paid via the UCAS Conservatoires website and not directly to RCS.

Audition Assessment Administration fee

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland charges an audition assessment administration fee of £65 per course.

We recognise that auditioning and interviewing for conservatoires, drama and ballet schools can be costly. The audition assessment administration fee charge allows us to offer a thorough and positive experience to all applicants and we encourage you to get in touch to ask the panel questions and find out more about the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland to see if it is the best place for you.

We are committed to ensuring fair access to a conservatoire education for students who have the talent and potential to benefit from it, regardless of their background. In support of this, audition fee waivers are offered to applicants whom financial hardship may be a barrier to auditioning. Please see the audition fee waivers document for more information.


It is your responsibility to ask two separate referees to write references and ensure that these are sent to RCS.

The references must be written by two different people and we will not accept references from family, other relatives or close friends. You can submit your UCAS Conservatoires application form and send your references at a later date, but they must be received prior to your audition date.

UCAS Conservatoires provides reference forms for you to download and send to your referees for completion.

Selection Process

Applicants who apply on time are invited to upload their portfolio to Acceptd. The deadline dates can be found below –

UCAS Conservatoires Application Deadline  Portfolio Submission Deadline
UK Applicants 2 October 2023 2 October 2023
International Applicants 1 December 2023 1 December 2023

International student applicants

We are aware that international students may struggle with the UCAS deadline. As a consequence, we have set an additional deadline of 1 December 2023 for international students.

If you submit your portfolio after this date, we cannot guarantee that your audition recording will be reviewed by the audition panel.

Please note that the Conservatoire is obliged to offer one submission per application. If you are unable to submit your audition recording by the deadline date above, you must email us immediately stating the reason. We have a specific period allocation to audition and all on time applications will receive a decision before Christmas. If your audition recording is delayed, there is a risk that places will already have been taken and your application may not be considered in the first round of scholarship allocation.

Applicants are selected first and foremost on the basis of merit and potential. However, due attention is also paid to the range of Principal Studies accepted in order to ensure the optimum experience for each student and to sustain the critical mass required for curricular activities, such as the symphony orchestra and choral activities.

BMus Joint Principal Study (JPS)

The Joint Principal Study pathway is intended to cater for the needs of individuals who are equally accomplished in two Principal Study disciplines (e.g. Flute and Composition, or Trumpet and Conducting, etc.) and who wish to maintain this intense level of dedication in their musical studies. Please note that Conducting is only available as a Joint Principal Study and Jazz Performance is only available in conjunction with Conducting or Composition.

The selection process for applicants applying for Joint Principal Study is the same as that for other applicants; please submit your audition recordings via Acceptd for each principal study. Applicants to the Joint Principal Study pathway who are successful in only one of their Principal Studies may be offered a place on the relevant ‘single-study’ pathway (i.e. Performance, Composition or Jazz).

Portfolio Submission and Interview

All interviews are planned to take place in-person at our campus in Glasgow in November 2023. International candidates will be able to partake in an online interview should that be your preference. Should you apply on time, you will be e-mailed directly with details of your interview date and time, and your UCAS Conservatoires track will be updated with this information.

The deadline dates to apply and submit your portfolio can be found in the table below –

UCAS Conservatoires Application Deadline Portfolio Submission Deadline
UK Applicants 2 October 2023 2 October 2023
International Applicants 1 December 2023 1 December 2023


International student applicants

We are aware that international students may struggle with the UCAS deadline. As a consequence, we have set an additional deadline of 1 December 2023 for international students.

Once you submit your UCAS Conservatoires application, please then upload your portfolio to Acceptd. Composition applicants should submit three or four compositions (preferably recent examples) together with brief analytical notes, recorded performances (digital or acoustic) and PDFs of scores (if applicable).

Once you submit your portfolio, this may be followed up with an interview.

In the interview applicants will be encouraged to demonstrate a detailed knowledge of varied repertoire. Applicants will be asked about how they began composing or how they were introduced to composition, and they will be invited to talk about the compositions they have submitted. Applicants will also be asked about their aspirations as a composer. Successful candidates will show style, imagination, an adventurous approach to composition and above all, potential to develop their beliefs and skills through the programme.

All decisions will be posted on UCAS Conservatoires following your audition via UCAS Conservatoires track (you will need your username and password). We aim to post outcomes before Christmas.

Following your Portfolio Submission and Interview

All decisions will be posted on UCAS Conservatoires following your audition via UCAS Conservatoires Track,  (you will need your username and password). You will also receive notification from UCAS Conservatoires when decisions on all your choices are available.

Please see below for an explanation of UCAS Conservatoires codes:

Guaranteed Unconditional (GU) RCS is satisfied from the information you have given, that you have already met the conditions for entry. Unless your application and/or qualification are subsequently shown to be fraudulent, a guaranteed unconditional offer is binding.

Guaranteed Conditional (GC) RCS has made the offer subject to you meeting certain conditions such as examination results. Conditions can be viewed via UCAS Conservatoires Track. Unless your application and/or qualifications are subsequently shown to be fraudulent, the offer is binding if you accept the offer and meet the conditions. You must meet the conditions of the offer by 31 August 2024, unless an earlier date is specified. If your conditions include obtaining IELTS (English Language test), you must meet this condition by 31 May 2024.

Reserve Unconditional (VU) RCS is satisfied from the information you have given, that you have already met the conditions for entry and you have been offered a place on our reserve pool.

Reserve Conditional (VC) RCS has offered a place on its reserve pool subject to you meeting certain conditions such as examination results. Conditions can be viewed via UCAS Conservatoires Track.

Unsuccessful (R) RCS does not wish to offer you any type of a place.

Reserve Outcomes

If you have received a ‘reserve’ outcome, it means that RCS is not able to offer you a guaranteed place at the time of making our decision. A ‘reserve’ outcome indicates that RCS would like the opportunity to review its outcome to you in the light of acceptances/declines to its guaranteed offers. You will become part of a ‘pool’ of ‘reserve’ candidates and RCS may choose to make you a guaranteed offer if a suitable place becomes available.  Reserve does not mean that a place has been ‘reserved’ for you. If RCS chooses not to make you a guaranteed offer, you will not have a place to start at RCS.

If you have been given a ‘reserve’ outcome, in order to be considered for a guaranteed place (should one become available) you will need to accept the outcome (and meet any conditions if applicable).

Reserve outcomes remain active until the end of August.  The decision to wait and see whether a guaranteed place becomes available, or to accept an offer at another conservatoire is entirely at your discretion. As soon as your situation changes, this is updated on UCAS Conservatoires.

Replying to Offers

As soon as a decision is made, UCAS Conservatoires will let you know. You must reply online via