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MMus/MA Composition

At RCS, our aim is for each of our graduates to build a distinct, artistic practice, with the skills required to embark on a professional career as a creator of new music.

Overview

The MMus and MA Composition programmes are pathways designed to explore your compositional voice. Embarking on your tailored learning journey, our tutors will apply their expertise to support your creative and professional development.

Composition students have opportunities to work in the superb electroacoustic and recording studios, devise new work in our purpose-built performance venues, and complete an optional second study in performance. You will be working with our diverse and talented performing community in some of the best facilities in Europe.

Performing new work is of paramount importance to us. The Composition department has a significant reputation for contemporary music. PLUG – our critically acclaimed annual festival – is a renowned platform for premiering hundreds of new works. Our professional partnerships with leading ensembles and orchestras will provide you with further opportunities to hear your pieces performed.

Composition can be a solitary existence, but our Composition programmes aims to challenge and provide students with collaborative experiences with artists from dance, theatre, film, and musical theatre disciplines to develop their skills.

The important details

UK Applicant Deadline:
2 October 2023

International (including EU) Applicant Deadline:
1 December 2023

Institution Code:
R58

Programme Code:
891F (MMus) / 820F (MA)

Audition Fee:
£65

Application Fee:
£27.50


Why Study Composition at RCS?

The Composition department at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland offers unique opportunities to learn and develop as an artist. Our approach sets us apart, with benefits including: 

The photo is split in two. The top half pictures students performing a scene from 'LEtoile'. The bottom of the photo is of the students playing music for the scene in the Orchestra Pit.

Community and Collaboration


Studying at one of the most multi-disciplinary conservatoires in the world, you’ll experience a real sense of community with your fellow Composition students, staff and PhD cohor with weekly meetings of the Composers Forum. You will also have plenty of opportunities to collaborate across art forms and with other programmes, including Modern Ballet, Acting, and Filmmaking. 

A composing student, violinist, percussonist, a sound production student, celloist and pianist prepare or Plug fest.

Performance Opportunities


RCS is one of the busiest performing arts venues in Scotland. As a result, you’ll have numerous opportunities for your work to be performed live by Conservatoire performers and external professionals. 

The back of a composing student is centre in the photo. On the right, a violinist, percussonist, and a sound production student. On the left, a celloist and pianist. They prepare to play for Plug fest.

PLUG Festival


Each year RCS stages PLUG, our annual contemporary new music festival. PLUG has been part of the RCS calendar for 17 years, with over 500 new works receiving their premiere performances during the run of the festival. PLUG has been created to offer a professional platform for our students to showcase their works. The Herald named it “…Scotland’s most ambitious and daring new music project.

Errollyn Wallen headshot

Visiting Professors


We have regular Visiting Professors from industry who share their knowledge and experience with our students. Our current visiting professors are Errollyn Wallen CBE, Sir James MacMillan, and Anthony R. Green.

Professional groups, including Red Note and Hebrides Ensemble, have also premiered over 30 student compositions as part of our ongoing public masterclass programme. 

Students celebrate their graduation with a glass of champagne in the RCS cafe. They wear blue graduation gowns and formal attire.

Graduate Employment


In the HESA Graduate Outcomes survey 2019/20, 96% of RCS School of Music respondents were in work or further study.

Woodwind students play in The Ledger Recital Room. A composer directs from the front of the room.

Facilities


The Composition department has a full suite of computers which are equipped with the industry-standard versions of Sibelius, Protools, MaxMSP as well as other software designed to engage the compositional process.

Composers also have access to our three electroacoustic music studios (including a multi-channel, immersive sound system), one recording studio, a full-sized Indonesian gamelan, and Rhythm Theory expert Dr Steve Forman’s exciting collection of working exotic percussion, which has become a permanent collection, based next to our Wallace Studios buildings.

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra plays with RCS students on campus.

Industry Connections


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. 

Graduate Destinations

Our Composition graduates work across the world in a variety of settings, including concert music, film and media, and as performers, curators, educators and promoters of new music.

Alumni include: 

  • Amit Anand – Composer 
  • Rylan Gleave – Composer and Performer 
  • Electra Perivolaris – Composer 
  • Jay Capperauld – Member of the inaugural RSNO Composers’ Hub Scheme 
  • C Duncan – Mercury Prize Nominee 
  • Matthew Grouse – Composer 
  • John Harris – Director of Red Note Ensemble, Artistic Director of New Music Dublin 
  • Martin Keary – Composer, YouTuber and Software Designer 
  • Alex Mackay – Composer and touring musician for Mogwai 
  • Claire McKenzie – Co-founder of award-winning company, Noisemaker 
  • Juta Pranulyte – Composer and Curator, Artistic Director of Druskomanija New Music Festival, Lithuania 
  • Rufus Isabel Elliot – Composer and Curator 
  • Jennifer Walshe – Composer, Performer and Visual Artist 
  • Gareth Williams – First Composer-in-Residence for Scottish Opera 
  • Jessica Jones – Film and Media Composer 
  • Matthew Whiteside – Composer, Producer and promoter of new music concerts 
  • Paul Leonard Morgan – Film and Media Composer 
  • Patrick Doyle – Film and Media Composer 
RCS Composition Alumnus and Mercury Prize Nominee, C Duncan
Composer C Duncan poses on steps in front of a door of a close.

Programme Structure

The MMus/MA Composition degree course shares many attributes with the BMus degree. This facilitates the cross-fertilisation of ideas from a similar discipline across degree structures. 

There is strong dialogue between composers of all levels of experience at the Conservatoire from undergraduate, postgraduate through to research, which creates a strong and supportive learning environment. 

The Masters composers are encouraged to develop their own personal directions. These are considered when learning journeys are agreed at the beginning of each academic year.

In addition to 1:1 lessons, composers also have access to a diverse and comprehensive diet of classes each year, such as:

  • Masters Studies Classes 
  • Composers’ Forum 
  • Cowcaddens Gramophone Society 
  • Music for Media 
  • Orchestration 
  • Analysis 
  • Sonic Arts 
  • Interactive Composition 
  • Contemporary Repertoire 

Principal Study 1 – 80 credits 

  • 27 weeks of 90 minute individual lessons 
  • 2-3 negotiated performance assessments 

Supporting Studies 1 – 30/20/10 credits 

  • Negotiated departmental activities 

Practice Research – 10 credits 

  • Research Project 

Options – 0/10/20 credits 

  • Range of optional classes drawn from School of Music and School of Drama, Dance, Production and Film 

Negotiated Study – 60 credits

  • Individual composition, performance or academic project

Principal Study 2 – 90 credits 

  • 27 weeks of 90 minute individual lessons 
  • 2-3 negotiated performance assessments 

Supporting Studies 2 – 30/20/10 credits 

  • Negotiated departmental activities 

Options – 0/10/20 credits 

  • Range of optional classes drawn from School of Music and School od Drama, Dance, Production and Film 

The MMus is the standard two-year programme undertaken by most students. 

The MA is a shortened version of the programme for students who wish to get a Masters degree in a single year of study. 

The first three terms of the MMus and MA are identical: MA students complete a further module in term 4 in order to complete the degree in a single year. There is no difference in the nature of the degrees: both concentrate mainly on performance rather than academic work. 


Entry Requirements

Academic Requirements

Candidates for both the MMus and MA are normally expected to hold a good honours (at least 2:2) degree, or its overseas equivalent, in a subject area relevant to the demands of the programme. 

 

English language requirements

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. 


Fees & Funding

Tuition fees

  • UK: £12,870 (Full-Time), £6,435 (Part-Time)
  • International (including EU): £27,467 (Full-Time), £13,734 (Part-Time)

Funding & Scholarships

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

Funding & Scholarships

 

Cost of Living & Programme Costs

In addition to tuition fees, it is estimated that you will need between £11,200 and £15,300 per year to live in Glasgow, plus programme costs. Much will depend on your lifestyle and whether your course runs for three or four terms. 

Programmes within the School of Music have a range of associated costs related to the specific activities required and advised by the programme team. You can find an indication of these costs below: 

School of Music Programme Costs 


How to Apply

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. 

You can read our guidance about using UCAS Conservatoires on our dedicated how to apply 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: MMus Composition: 891F OR MA Composition: 820F.  

The closing date for on-time applications for UK students is 2 October 2023 and for International students is 1 December 2023.  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 admissions@rcs.ac.uk in the first instance to check we are accepting late applications. 

Application/Audition fees

There is a UCAS application fee of £27.50 to register to use UCAS Conservatoires. 

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland additionally 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.

Policy

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.

References

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 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.

Please note that the Conservatoire is obliged to offer one audition date per application. If you are unable to submit your application/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 application/ 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.

Portfolio Submission and Interview

All interviews are planned to take place in-person at our campus in Glasgow in November 2023.  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.

Applicants are asked to submit a recorded portfolio via Acceptd.

Once you submit your UCAS Conservatoires application, please then upload your portfolio to Acceptd. Once you submit your portfolio, this may be followed up with an interview.

Composition applicants should submit a substantial portfolio of recent compositions together with recorded performances wherever possible. Explanatory notes can, if appropriate, be submitted.

If invited to interview, applicants will be required to demonstrate:

  • a high degree of technical competency on the instrument or voice in the service of specific repertoire
  • an ability to demonstrate a considerable degree of understanding of the repertoire performed
  • an ability to perform specific repertoire convincingly
  • a considerable degree of self-confidence and creativity with respect to the repertoire performed
  • a degree of self-sufficiency, initiative and independence in selecting, preparing and performing a particular programme
  • a developing musical personality

More from the Composition Department

Why RCS?

We are the only place in Europe where you can study all of the performing arts on the one campus. There is a distinctive creative energy at RCS and you’ll be made to feel part of our inclusive and diverse environment from the very beginning of your studies.

Our graduates are resourceful, highly employable and members of a dynamic community of artists who make a significant impact across the globe.

At RCS, students develop not just their art but their power to use it.

Find out more 

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World Top Ten


We were voted one of the world’s Top Ten destinations to study the performing arts (QS Rankings) in 2024, the eighth time we have been placed in the top ten since the ranking was established in 2016.