An Overview


Our context is the contemporary international scene and our composers share some of the best facilities in Europe with their performing contemporaries. Our critically acclaimed annual festival, Plug, has become a renowned platform for new work.

Professional groups, including Red Note and Hebrides Ensemble, have also premiered over 30 student compositions as part of our ongoing public masterclass programme. As a student composer you’ll also benefit from our excellent cohort of student performers. Capable of a range of professional performance, you won’t be limited to composing in a certain way for certain types of players, but will be free to develop your own compositional ideas.

As working artists with various areas of expertise, our tutors bring live projects into lessons helping you to explore your own compositional voice. Together with your tutor your end of year portfolio will be negotiated, not prescribed. Every student embarks on their own learning journey; you can pursue a second study, work in the superb electroacoustic and recording studios, or devise new work in our purpose-built performance venues.

There’s also a real sense of a community among our students, staff and PhD cohort. The Composers Forum meets every Thursday and might include visiting composers and poets or perhaps a chance to discuss your work. Involving the full department, it’s an opportunity to listen to styles of music which you may not have heard or considered before and can help to challenge the orthodoxy and even your own ideas; you may also discuss work by PhD students who are engaged in larger works not experienced in earlier years of study. Our students and staff have also set up their own Composers’ Ensemble which meets to perform open-score works, as well as engage in free improvisation; composition can be a solitary existence and at the Royal Conservatoire we are eager that composers develop the skills to work with other artists.

One of the best things about the Royal Conservatoire is our diversity, not just among musicians but across the whole institution. Due to differing artistic influences our students have developed a number of stand-alone projects in dance, theatre, film, and musical theatre. Different work in a range of different contexts makes us exciting and continually challenges our work. As Scotland’s national conservatoire we’re also approached countrywide with requests for new commissions and students often arrange their own performances of new work across Glasgow’s vibrant city centre.

By studying here you’ll be working with our diverse and talented performing community and will enjoy outstanding facilities and professional partnerships. Creative artists create because they have something in them they want to say. At the Royal Conservatoire we not only help you do that but also prepare you for the realities of professional life.

Institution Code:


Programme Code:

891F 820F

UK Deadline:

2 October 2023

International Deadline:

1 December 2023

Programme Structure

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

By design 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 and these are taken into account when learning journeys are agreed at the beginning of each academic year. There is the choice for collaboration across the Conservatoire’s Schools and weekly Composers’ Forums and seminars.

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 (focused, Masters-level seminars, led by Composition Department staff)
  • 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 (composing for mixed media)
  • Contemporary Repertoire

MMus and MA

MMus Stage 1 / MA Stage 1

Principal Study 1 – 80 credits

  • Individual composition lessons
  • Assessed portfolio of compositions

Supporting Studies 1 – 30/20/10 credits

  • Negotiated departmental classses

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

MA Stage 2

Negotiated Study – 60 credits

  • Individual composition, performance or academic project

MMus Stage 2

Principal Study 2 – 90 credits

  • Individual composition lessons
  • Assessed portfolio of compositions

Supporting Studies 2 – 30/20/10 credits

  • Negotiated departmental classes

Options – 0/10/20 credits

  • Range of optional classes drawn from School of Music and School of 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 composition rather than academic work.

Masterclasses and Staff Achievements

Previous composers in residence have included Judith Weir and Param Vir. Each has brought her/his 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


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 the 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)

  • Professional partnerships both nationally and internationally including Robin Michael, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Icebreaker, Psappha, New Music Players, Red Note, Garth Knox, Richard Craig, Kreutzer String Quartet, Scottish Ensemble, Glasgow New Music Expedition, Ensemble Modern and the Conservatoire de Paris, Hebrides Ensemble, Brodsky Quartet and Ilya Gringolts
  • Annual contemporary new music festival Plug which, over the past 11 years, has premiered 500+ new works
  • Visiting Professors include Sir James MacMillan CBEJudith Weir CBE and Kate Moore
  • Collaborative opportunities with artists from across the performing arts, including working with dance students to create new compositions for new choreographic works
  • Study in one of the busiest performing arts venue in Scotland, with numerous opportunities for your work to be performed live
  • Many opportunities for performance with Conservatoire performers and external groups
  • Opportunities to collaborate with students on other programmes including Modern Ballet, Acting, Film and Contemporary Performance Practice
  • 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)


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)

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.

Entry Requirements

Our Admissions Process

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
Academic Entrance 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.

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 who 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

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 audition recording 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.

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.

MMus Performance (2 years) – 890F

MA Performance (1 year) – 801F

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 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/portfolio submission 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 audition date and time, and your UCAS Conservatoires track will be updated with this information.

Applicants are asked to submit a recorded portfolio via Acceptd. 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. 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

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

Following your 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.

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 suitabl