Doctor of Philosophy in Music

For students with an MMus (or equivalent), a three-year research degree, culminating in a substantial thesis with optional creative component.

This page refers to the 2019 academic year unless otherwise specified.

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programme suits students wanting to study musicology, ethnomusicology, music theory, music education, music therapy, performance, and composition (including sonic arts) at the highest academic level.

This degree is based on research and the preparation of a thesis carried out under supervision. The research is articulated through a substantial written thesis that engages with the breadth and depth of current scholarly discourse on the topic, and may also include a portfolio of compositions and/or performances.

A PhD thesis demonstrates the candidate's ability to carry out independent research and constitutes a significant and original contribution to knowledge or understanding of a field of study. As well as intelligence and research aptitude, the degree requires considerable dedication and tenacity.

During your first year of enrolment, your programme of study may, with approval, include a course or courses related to the development of your full research proposal but shall not normally exceed 60 points in total. In cases where this is a condition of your acceptance into the PhD programme there will be no tuition fees incurred and a minimum grade of B+ will be required to be considered for confirmation to full registration.

To enter the PhD programme you must have completed a Master of Music (MMus) or equivalent with First or Second Class Honours (Merit or Distinction). In certain circumstances it is possible for a candidate to begin a Master's degree and upgrade to a PhD before submission. In exceptional circumstances, a student with a Bachelor of Music with First Class Honours or Second Class Honours Division 1 or equivalent may be considered.

Applicants intending to include composition must submit an acceptable portfolio of compositions or sound-based works, as appropriate. Applicants intending to include performance must also pass an audition. All prospective PhD students must demonstrate advanced research and writing skills, through the submission of an extended sample of academic writing (around 2,000 words). At the discretion of the NZSM Postgraduate Committee this requirement may be waived for Victoria Master of Music graduates.

A minimum of three years’ full-time study is normally required to complete the programme. The thesis must be submitted within five years of first enrolling for the qualification.

PhD students are normally expected to be resident in Wellington during their year of provisional registration but with permission of the Associate Dean (Postgraduate Research, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (FHSS)), part of the research programme may be carried out at other locations.

Programme requirements

Music for PhD

NZSM 690 Music for PhD.

Year 1 - provisional registration

Development under supervision of a research proposal, which may include components of composition and/or performance.

Years 2 & 3 - full registration

Completion of a thesis of not more than 100,000 words (360 points over the course of three years), or less when performance and/or composition form part of the thesis. The scope of the creative work and written thesis will be agreed at the confirmation event but the creative work will not exceed 60% of the total thesis.

Publicly presented performances, professional level CDs and/or composition components must be documented and submitted as part of the final thesis in formats that can be examined by distance with standard technology, and meet the requirements for deposit in the library.

Progression from provisional to full registration

Full registration is conditional on satisfactory progress during the provisional period. At the end of this period, you are expected to present a fully-developed written research proposal with creative work where relevant. The Postgraduate Coordinator will schedule a confirmation event, which will comprise a public presentation of your research proposal and creative work if relevant, and an interview with a specially-appointed confirmation committee. Normally the confirmation event will take place by the tenth month from your initial enrolment, or by the eighteenth month for part-time students.

Enrolment is year by year. Except for approved periods of suspension students shall be continuously enrolled until the submission of the thesis for examination.

How to apply

You must apply online through the Faculty of Graduate Research (FGR), Victoria University of Wellington, where you'll find application forms, details of available funding, application dates, and answers to a host of questions.

There are three deadlines per year - 1 March, 1 July, and 1 November. You may, if you wish, make contact with one or more potential supervisors prior to submitting your application, but please note that a full research proposal is not required at the time of application.

Performance applicants - audition

You must arrange to take your audition at least two weeks in advance of the online application deadline you select. If you prefer, you can take it well in advance. To arrange your audition please contact the NZSM Postgraduate Administrator, email

Applicants resident outside Wellington may submit a DVD, to reach the FGR at least two weeks in advance of the online application deadline you select.

Composition applicants

Your portfolio of work must be sent to the FGR by the online application deadline you select.

Financial support

Victoria University of Wellington offers scholarships which intending NZSM doctoral students may apply for Victoria University of Wellington Postgraduate Scholarships.

A limited amount of funding may be available from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (FHSS) Research Grants.

Further information

For more information about the PhD please contact Samantha Owens.