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Doctor of Performing Arts

The Doctor of Performing Arts programme is the Royal Conservatoire’s innovative professional doctorate in artistic practice.


Validated by the University of St Andrews, the purpose of the Doctor of Performing Arts programme is to enable professional artistic development at the highest level and provide a structure within which you can make a significant and original contribution to your chosen artistic field. It is a doctoral programme comparable in scope, level and ambition to the PhD, but squarely focused on making a significant and original contribution to the artistic field within which the work resides.

You can choose to study this course full-time (three years) or part-time (six years).

The vision of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is to be Scotland’s globally-recognised and inspirational leader in learning for the performing arts, attracting and nurturing the next Scottish and international creative talent.

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland offers opportunities for suitably qualified students to work towards the achievement of a Doctor of Performing Arts in appropriate areas of enquiry. Applications will only be successful if it is clear that the proposed work can best be undertaken within a conservatoire context, in which performance and/or creation is held central, and that the Conservatoire has the appropriate artistic expertise to offer appropriate artistic mentorship and guidance.

The important details

UK Applicant Deadline:
26 January 2024

International (including EU) Applicant Deadline:
26 January 2024

Institution Code:

Programme Code:
470F (Full-time) or 470P (Part-time)

Audition Fee:

Application Fee:

Programme Structure

Doctor of Performing Arts students will pursue a special programme of artistic practice and supplementary study. This will comprise:

  • A) A series of Professional Projects (360 credits, level 12)
  • B) Individually tailored Supplementary Studies (120 credits, level 7 and above)
  • C) A Written Component (60 credits, level 12)

All elements must be passed for the successful award of the degree.

These are the core of the programme of study. Within the broad outline of approximately 3600 hours of work, the student, in consultation with the supervisor, will propose any appropriate set of projects for the approval of the Research Degrees Committee.

In practice, this component of the portfolio will normally include 3-4 Artistic Projects and one Development Project. Recognising the core aim of developing advanced artistic practice, the Professional Projects may be assessed ‘live’ (for example, through a performance) or through appropriate media (such as video or audio recording).

Artistic Projects

The artistic projects will form a coherent artistic whole. In some programmes of study, this coherence may be self-evident (a focus on particular techniques, a body of repertoire, or a well-defined professional context), but in others it will require more careful articulation. In all cases, however, the artistic projects will clearly establish a well-integrated body of artistic work: they must be focused enough to permit the candidate to make a significant and original contribution to her or his professional field.

Supervisors will be able to offer guidance on the level of work required in each project: all projects will demonstrate some work at a professional, post-Masters level in the chosen artistic field.

Development Project

The purpose of the Development Project is to broaden the professional development of the candidate by facilitating significant work beyond the framework of the core Artistic Projects. The Development Project is therefore designed to challenge the candidate to apply their artistic insights in new and unfamiliar contexts, expand their professional skills, and provide opportunities to maximise the impact of their artistic work. The scale of the Development Project will normally be similar to one of the Artistic Projects: the Development Project therefore represents a substantial and extended piece of work.

The nature of the Development Project will depend significantly on the proposed Artistic Projects: where these are located primarily within formal contexts such as the studio, concert hall or performance space, candidates will be encouraged to expand their professional versatility by pursuing the Development Project in a community or business setting.

The detailed proposal for a candidate’s programme of study will explain how his or her Development Project complements the proposed Artistic Projects. Together, the Professional Projects are the heart of the programme of study.

Supplementary Studies are taught courses, to a total of 120 credits, the purpose of which is to broaden and deepen the candidate’s artistic practice. In the detailed proposal for the programme of study, the candidate will propose a programme of taught study that will support the development of her or his artistic practice.

These taught courses may be drawn from the Conservatoire or the University course catalogues (dependent on availability and pre-requisites), and may also be pursued at other higher education institutions, such as the Open University. Procedures for credit transfer will be used to ensure the widest possible flexibility, and the specification for doctorates provided within the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework allows that these courses be at any level between SCQF 7 and 12 (that is, any level from first year undergraduate, to doctoral level).

These taught courses may be theoretical, practical or research-related, and may be ‘close’ to the candidate’s proposed artistic field or, where a clear case can be made, more ‘distant’ from that field.

For example, a student pursuing a project focussed on 19th Century German Lieder might propose Supplementary Studies relating to German language and poetry, but could also propose a programme of work focussed on related philosophical currents, or social history, where a case can be made that these will directly enrich his or her artistic practice. Likewise, a contemporary performance maker might propose a programme of supplementary study that centres on cultural theory, but could equally pursue studies in economics or natural history, where a case can be made that these studies will meaningfully inform his or her artistic practice.

The aim of the written component is to provide a reflective synthesis of the Professional Projects and Supplementary Studies, drawing them together into a coherent whole and contextualising the contribution made by the candidate to their chosen artistic field.

In particular, the written component should set out the artistic and intellectual context for the Professional Projects, reflect self-critically on the process of professional artistic development (including the role of the Supplementary Studies undertaken), and articulate the artistic insights achieved through the programme of study.

The written component will be 12,500 — 15,000 words (excluding bibliography and appendices), unless the Research Degree Committee has specifically granted permission for the word limit to be increased.


The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is housed in a modern, specially designed building and has some of the best performance and rehearsal facilities of any conservatoire in Europe.

The Royal Conservatoire library contains one of the most comprehensive performing arts collections in the UK. The collections feature extensive print and online material covering all Conservatoire subject disciplines and wider multi-disciplinary research materials. The RCS Archives is also a unique research resource, rich in both the depth and diversity of holdings. ICT facilities and a study lab for research students are available.

Conservatoire research students also have access to the extensive library resources held by the University of St Andrews. Students also have access to the specialist academic training through the University’s Centre for Academic, Professional and Organisational Development (CAPOD).

All research students undertake training within the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland through participating in a number of study days held throughout the academic year and engaging in The Exchange Talks series. The resources of the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities (SGSAH), of which the Conservatoire is a member, can also be accessed.

Head to our Campus and Facilities page to find out more.

Current DPerf Students

A black and white image of Paulius smiling towards camera

Paulius Rudokas

Paulius’ study focuses on the three German composers of the Romantic era: R. Schumann, C. Wieck and J. Brahms. The main focus of this research is to reveal the relationship between the three personalities and reflect the spiritual and psychological connection they all shared together through their compositions. Each artistic project will focus on different elements of their connection including the artistic, emotional and collaborative aspects. Focusing particularly on Clara Wieck’s vibrant personality demonstrates her influence on the compositions of J. Brahms and R. Schumann.

Visit Paulius’ Pure profile

A black and white image of Petersmiling towards camera

Peter Johnstone

The central theme of my DPerf is to distill my musical essence down to its core ideals and apply these to both jazz and classical music. I am looking to take the most interesting characteristics that each style has to offer and look for ways to combine them along with my own musical personality in order to find new possibilities.

There are many differences between jazz and classical music, but there is also so much common ground, and it is here through expanding this common ground that I am looking to find new possibilities of process and consequently sound. I also have several projects which look to directly combine jazz and classical music.

Visit Peter’s Pure profile

Entry Requirements

Academic Requirements

Admission to doctoral level programmes is normally on the basis of a first degree at 2(i) level or higher (or the overseas equivalent) in the relevant subject or a relevant postgraduate qualification. However, where a prospective student lacks a suitable first degree, alternative mechanisms for assessing qualifications and preparedness, reflecting professional or other work experience, may be used. Increasingly the UK research councils in several disciplines require that funded students on doctoral programmes have first completed an approved masters programme that prepares the student for doctoral work. The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is committed to the principles of the Accreditation of Prior Learning, including experiential learning, and will bring those to bear on the admissions process for its doctoral students.

Applicants for whom English is a second language must demonstrate an IELTS score of 7.0.

We accept a wide range of qualification, including international qualifications. If you wish to check the suitability of your qualification/experience, please contact us at

Fees & Scholarships

Tuition fees for academic year 2024/25


  • Scotland, RUK, and ROI: £9,637
  • International (including EU): £22,428


  • Scotland, RUK, and ROI: £4,818
  • International (including EU): £11,216

Sources of external funding

You can find out about the funding and scholarships available for studying at RCS by visiting our dedicated page:

Funding & Scholarships

How to Apply

Apply via UCAS Conservatoires

Applicants for doctoral study should apply through UCAS Conservatoires. Please then submit your proposal online via Acceptd. The Guide for Applicants and template of the online proposal form can be found on our How to Apply – Research page.

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. You will also require the following programmes codes to apply: 470F (Full-time) or 470P (Part-time)

The closing date for on-time applications for all students is 26 January 2024.  If you submit your application after this date, we cannot guarantee that your application 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. 

Application/Audition Fees

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 £55 per programme applied for. Fees are not refundable. The fees are paid via the UCAS Conservatoires website and not directly to RCS.

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 have a number of policies and statements which you should read when applying to study at the Royal Conservatoire.

Please select the links below to read each policy.


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.

Interview process

Applicants for doctoral study should apply through UCAS Conservatoires. Please then submit your proposal online via Acceptd. The Guide for Applicants and template of the online proposal form can be found here.

An audition panel will be chaired by a specialist member of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland staff and will include other members of staff or external advisers as appropriate. An interview panel will normally be chaired by the Head of Research and will include at least one other member of staff or external adviser as appropriate. At the conclusion of the interview and audition process, the panel will formulate a recommendation to the Research Degrees Committee regarding the application.

Audition Requirements

Applicants who are invited for interview and audition will be sent information on audition requirements. For musicians, these requirements are likely to be a programme of around 30 minutes, preferably related to the proposed programme of study.