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Department of Music, School of Arts

MMus Ethnomusicology

Duration: One calendar year (full-time); Two or three years (part-time, daytime only)


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Minimum Entry Requirements: Minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent), usually in Music

Start of programme: September intake only

Mode of Attendance: Full Time or Part Time

Theoretical and practical grounding in the discipline of ethnomusicology, as well as the opportunity to develop performance and ethnographic skills, regional expertise, and a deeper understanding of global music – just some of what you can expect to develop on the MMus Ethnomusicology. This programme is tailored for musicians and musicologists, anthropologists, teachers and composers, as well as those dedicated to developing an in-depth knowledge of a specific music tradition.

You will study with the largest and most influential team of ethnomusicologists in the UK, who are experts in the musical traditions of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Central Asia and the Jewish world. You will be part of a thriving culture of performance, research and active engagement with music around the globe.

The programme will suit those looking for a springboard into further research or employment in a range of music-related fields including journalism, industry, NGOs and education, and often serves as a conversion route for those trained predominantly in western music traditions.


Learn a language as part of this programme

Degree programmes at SOAS - including this one - can include language courses in more than forty African and Asian languages. It is SOAS students’ command of an African or Asian language which sets SOAS apart from other universities.

The MMus programme involves taking three courses and writing a 11,000-word dissertation. In addition to these formal elements, students are expected to attend regular postgraduate and public seminars and may also participate in performance ensemble classes and other activities. 

Course Detail

The four formal elements of the MMus Ethnomusicology programme are:

  1. The full unit core course Ethnomusicology in Practice.
    A broad introduction to the major themes of ethnomusicological study. Taught as a weekly two-hour lecture/seminar with additional tutorials. Part-time students must take this in their first year.
  2. The Dissertation in Music.  
    A special study 11,000 words in length on a topic agreed with the candidate's supervisor. This will normally relate to the "major region" chosen below, but may instead deal with a theoretical or comparative topic. Part-time students normally take this in their final year.

Select courses to the value of 90 credits from List A,B,C and/or D,including at least one course from list A.

List A: Area Courses
List B: Additional Music Courses
List C: Courses at King's College

Students may also take up to a maximum of 45 credit units from King's College Department of Music (see this link for available options: https: //www.kcl.ac.uk/artshums/depts/music/study/handbook/programmes/pgt/mods15-16.aspx) . Special assessment rules apply for SOAS students taking King’s College courses to bring the credit rating of each course up to 45 credits. Please check with course tutors at King’s for specific requirements. Course choices will vary each year, at the time of completing this document, the following courses are available:

List D:

Courses at SOAS from other departments in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities or MA Area Studies courses (including languages) in the Faculty of Languages and Cultures. Course choices are subject to the agreement of both the course convenor and the MMus Ethnomusicology convenor. Courses will normally relate to the same geographical region chosen from List A course(s).

Programme Specification

Teaching & Learning

Teaching & Learning

The Department of Music has been highly rated for teaching and research in all recent assessment exercises, and is regularly ranked amongst the top Music departments in the UK in Good University Guides.

Music students have access to the large Main Library of the School which holds numerous books, journals and recordings relevant to the study of ethnomusicology and world music, as well as the nearby British Library Sound Archive and other London libraries and museums.

The SOAS Library holds copies of standard reference works on music, such as the current edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. The Grove dictionary and the RILM database can also be accessed on line from computer terminals in the Library or elsewhere on the SOAS network. Listening facilities are provided in the Library, and most CDs are available on short loan. Among special items in the Department’s collections are:

  • field recordings, films and slides
  • a large working collection of musical instruments from Asia and Africa
  • extensive staff collections relating to specific research interests


A postgraduate degree in Ethnomusicology from SOAS gives students greater intercultural awareness, improved competency in performance and a better understanding of global music which will enable them to continue in the field of research or engage in related work. Equally, they develop a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek in many professional and creative capacities including interpersonal skills, communication skills, focus, team work, passion and dedication. A postgraduate degree is a valuable experience that provides students with a body of work and a diverse range of skills that they can use to market themselves with when they graduate.

Graduates have gone on to work for a range of organisations including:

Internet Advertising Board
Marie Stopes International
Association of Culture & World Music
School of Traditional & Popular Music
Vortex Jazz Club
S24 Film
British Library
Grant & Cutler
British Library
UK Government
Warner Music 
Types of roles that graduates have gone on to do include:
Production Assistant
Sound Archive assistant
Finance Manager
Manager of Musical Association
Junior Research Executive
Project support officer
Policy adviser
Library Assistant
Local Councillor 
For more information about Graduate Destinations from this department, please visit the Careers Service website.

A Student's Perspective

SOAS is a great place to study Ethnomusicology. It has the flavour of the world spread through the music made by the students, lecturers and guests.

Marina Di Giorgi