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W301 - Contemporary and Popular Music

Contemporary and Popular Music

BA Honours

  • UCAS code: W301
  • Full time
  • 3 years
  • Next start date: September 2020
Year :

Specialise in contemporary and popular music studies as a critical thinker, composer, and performer with an emphasis on creativity, experimentation and artistic risk-taking.

Fees (per year)

  • Home: £9250
  • International: £18600

Entry requirements

  • A Level: ABB
  • IB: 32 points

UCAS Institution name and code:

  • NEWC / N21
Work placement opportunity Study abroad opportunity

Course overview

This three-year Contemporary and Popular Music degree focuses on a range of musics and approaches, from acoustic singer-songwriting to experimental electronic forms, and from ethnomusicology to cultural theory. You'll grow as an accomplished musician while developing your creativity and critical thinking.

While you may choose to specialise in contemporary and popular music, the beauty of music at Newcastle University is that we offer a broad musical education so you can also take modules from world, classical, and folk and traditional music. You’ll study a range of historical, theoretical and cultural topics such as: analysing music; music history; Indian music; DJing and turntablism; composition; and music, politics and policy.

You'll receive one-on-one tuition and group lessons from our performance tutors, who are experts in their craft.

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Please rest assured we make all reasonable efforts to provide you with the courses, services and facilities described. However, it may be necessary to make changes due to significant disruption, for example in response to COVID-19.

See our terms and conditions for more information

View our Frequently Asked Questions

Your course during COVID-19

Whilst things will not be the same when you join us in September, this course page is intended to give you insight into what to expect from your course and your learning experience for the duration of your degree.

We have updated all course information where there are specific changes in the first semester.


Most of our student services are now available online. As COVID-19 restrictions lift, we'll be opening up our on-campus facilities as soon as it is safe to do so, so that you can get the best out of your studies.

Your learning experience

Your teaching will be a mixture of online and in-person on-campus teaching. In semester one, as a result of physical distancing requirements, all lecture materials will be delivered online along with many tutorials, workshops and labs.

Our aim, if Government guidance allows us, is to deliver up to three hours of labs, seminars and tutorial teaching in-person on campus where this is possible and safe to do so. We'll review this regularly and plan to return to full in-person, on-campus teaching in semester two if restrictions allow.


In semester one, we will not be running face-to-face, on-campus examinations. We will instead use different approaches to assessment. These will test and support your learning.

Field trips

We will be running some but not all of our planned field trips. Some of those that do run, will be run virtually. For those that do not run, we will be offering alternative learning activities. These learning activities will give you the opportunity to achieve the same learning.

Terms and conditions and student complaints

The University has terms and conditions which create a positive environment for learning and academic achievement.

Further information

Our COVID-19 Study page gives more information about your Newcastle University 2020 study experience.

Given the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the commitments outlined are subject to the guidelines that may be in place at the time.

Quality and ranking

We have a long tradition of excellence in teaching, recognised in many external surveys and assessments, but also by our own students.

Our commitment to teaching quality and an excellent student experience is reflected through our results in national and international student satisfaction surveys.

Modules and learning


The information below is intended to provide an example of what you will study.

Most degrees are divided into stages. Each stage lasts for one academic year, and you'll complete modules totalling 120 credits by the end of each stage. 

Our teaching is informed by research. Course content may change periodically to reflect developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback.

Optional module availability
Student demand for optional modules may affect availability.

Full details of the modules on offer will be published through the Programme Regulations and Specifications ahead of each academic year. This usually happens in May.

To find out more please see our terms and conditions.

You'll complete a major specialist study, which could be: an original composition; a creative project; a performance; or a dissertation/project on an area of interest which you hope to focus on in your life and work after leaving University. You may also take a minor study in a second area of specialism.

You'll choose the remaining balance of modules from a range of historical, cultural and practical options offered by the world-leading research-active staff at our International Centre for Music Studies (ICMuS).


Optional Modules Credits
Themes in Musical Modernism 20
Historic Techniques of Composition 20
Contemporary Musical Materials 20
Practising Music Analysis 20
Indian Music in Practice 20
Composition and Arrangement in Folk and Modal Musics 20
Case Studies in Early Music 20
Music and Cultural Theory 20
Ethnomusicology 20
Orchestration 20
Hardcore, Seduction & Anarchy: Music as Social Philosophy & Critical Praxis 20
Popular Music and Media 20
Experimental Approaches to Music Composition 20
Folk Music Studies: Resources and Research Materials 20
Folk Ensemble 2 20
Music Enterprise 20
Teaching Music in Community Contexts 20
The Folk Revival 20
Global Pop 20
Major Specialist Study: Composition 40
Major Specialist Study: Dissertation 40
Major Specialist Study: Performance 40
Major Specialist Study: Project 40
Minor Specialist Study: Composition 20
Minor Specialist Study: Dissertation 20
Minor Specialist Study: Performance 20
Minor Specialist Study: Project 20
Music, Politics and Policy 20
Richard Wagner and Wagnerism 20
Indian Music in Practice 2 20
Jazz Studies 20
Folk Music, Gender and Identity 20
Folk Ensemble 3 20
Teaching Music in Schools - socio-cultural contexts and approaches to practice 20
Stage 3 Recording Studio and Flexible Workspace Access 1 0
Stage 3 Recording Studio and Flexible Workspace Access 2 0
Stage 3 Practice Room and Instrument Access 1 0
Stage 3 Practice Room and Instrument Access 2 0
Stage 3 Skills Suite Access 1 0
Stage 3 Skills Suite Access 2 0
Music in the Holocaust (level 6) 20
Music and Creative Industries Placement 20

Teaching and assessment

Teaching methods

To bring out the best in you, we use different forms of teaching for the range of approaches to music we cover.

Some modules are based around lectures and seminars, with reading or listening assignments, others are smaller specialised study groups.

Performance modules are often a combination of one-to-one tuition, group workshops and specialist masterclasses.

Assessment methods

You'll be assessed through a combination of:

  • Assignments – written or fieldwork

  • Dissertation or research project

  • Examinations – practical or online

  • Musical performance

  • Portfolio submission

Skills and experience

Practical skills

If you want to study performance, you can showcase your skills as a solo performer or collaborate with fellow students and industry professionals in ensembles, concerts, recitals, gigs and our student-led Summer Music Festival. The city also has a great music scene.

Our outstanding rehearsal, performance and studio spaces will allow your artistic talents to flourish.

Business skills

You're able to develop business skills through:

  • placements in arts administration and education
  • opportunities to study abroad. We have links with universities and conservatoires in Europe, Canada, North America and Australia

Benefit from tuition by practising musicians with invaluable professional and industry experience.

Research skills

Our research is at the heart of what we do, informing our teaching and shaping our creative and scholarly community. Complete a major specialist study in your final year, which could be:

  • an original composition
  • a dissertation or project on an area of interest
  • an instrumental or vocal performance

Chat to a student

It’s a truly unique experience studying music at Newcastle - there’s such a broad variety of topics covered. The facilities are incredible, and all the staff are supportive and passionate about the subject.

Matt, Contemporary and Popular Music student


Study abroad

Experience life in another country by choosing to study abroad as part of your degree. You’ll be encouraged to embrace fun and challenging experiences, make connections with new communities and graduate as a globally aware professional, ready for your future.

You can choose to spend up to a year studying at a partner institution overseas.

If you choose to study abroad, it will extend your degree by a year. 

Find out more about study abroad

Work placement

Get career ready with a work placement and leave as a confident professional in your field. You can apply to spend 9 to 12 months working in any organisation in the world, and receive University support from our dedicated team to secure your dream placement. Work placements take place between stages 2 and 3.

You'll gain first-hand experience of working in the sector, putting your learning into practice and developing your professional expertise.

If you choose to take a work placement, it will extend your degree by a year. A work placement is not available if you're spending a year studying abroad. Placements are subject to availability.

Find out more about work placements

Facilities and environment


You'll be based in the School of Arts and Cultures, in the University's main campus.

You'll have access to outstanding specialist music facilities, including state of the art studios, rehearsal spaces, specialist tuition rooms, flexible study spaces, and a music skills suite.


Our professional recording and music production suites provide a space for:

  • full band multi-track recording
  • electro-acoustic composition multimedia work
  • sound art installations

We have a range of portable recording equipment and tools designed for live electronics and technologically mediated live performance. These are accessible to all music students.

Rehearsal spaces

You'll have access to a range of rehearsal spaces, including:

  • 25 acoustically treated practice rooms
  • five instrumental teaching rooms
  • a large, acoustically isolated, ensemble/band practice room
  • two large performance/rehearsal spaces (each seats up to 50 people)
  • the University's King's Hall (seats 400 people)

Opportunities to perform

We offer a free professional concert series every Thursday lunchtime during term time, followed by a student performance where you have the chance to perform for, and listen to, your colleagues from all of our music degrees.

There is also a student-organised annual Summer Music Festival, showcasing our students' talents and giving you the chance to gain real-world experience of event management.

Our music students immerse themselves in Newcastle's thriving music scene which includes everything from high-profile venues like the Sage Gateshead, the O2 Academy and the City Hall, to more intimate local spots such as The Cluny, The Cumberland Arms and Bar Loco. It’s also home to the UK’s first co-operatively owned music venue, The Globe.

Videos of student performance on our website

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You'll have the support of an academic member of staff as a personal tutor throughout your degree to help with academic and personal issues.

Peer mentors will help you in your first year. They are fellow students who can help you settle in and answer any questions you have when starting university.

Your future

Join our network of confident and successful graduates who benefit from our well-established ties with arts, music and creative organisations and businesses in the city, in the wider region and beyond.

89% of our BA Hons Contemporary and Popular Music graduates were employed or in further study within six months of graduating with an average salary of £22,380*.

*Destinations of (undergraduate, UK and EU) Leavers from Higher Education Survey 2016/2017

Preparing you for career success

As well as academic excellence, we cultivate the highest professional and intellectual skills, preparing our graduates to succeed in whichever careers they choose.

Our graduates often become professional musicians, performers, composers, teachers, academics, music therapists, studio managers or sound engineers. Other opportunities include:

  • arts administration
  • music production
  • music journalism
  • music librarianship
  • music publishing

The wide range of transferable skills music graduates develop means that you can easily move into other professions and graduate training routes. These include teaching, management, marketing, accountancy, law, events management, journalism, healthcare and IT.

Find out more about the careers our graduates choose

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Careers support

We'll help enhance your employability through access to career-related training, both as part of the course and through extra-curricular activities. Modules in music enterprise and teaching music help build skills needed for your future career.

We work with a range of arts, music and creative organisations and businesses including artist management and development, music production, community arts, festival and event management, and music therapy. These provide our students with guest lectures, masterclasses and placement opportunities. Examples include:

  • Nordoff Robbins
  • PRS for Music
  • Generator
  • Seven Stories
  • Side by Side Arts
  • Blank Studios
  • Harambee Pasadia

Our award-winning Careers Service is one of the largest and best in the country, and we have strong links with employers. We provide an extensive range of opportunities to all students through our ncl+ initiative.

Visit our Careers Service website

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2020 entry.

A Level


International Baccalaureate

32 points

Other UK qualifications (and PARTNERS)

Qualifications from outside the UK

English Language requirements


Through our PARTNERS programme, you could receive an offer up to three grades lower than the typical requirements, and get support throughout the application process. To apply through PARTNERS, you must be based in the UK and meet our eligibility criteria. 

Find out more about PARTNERS

Entrance courses (INTO)

International Pathway Courses are specialist programmes designed for international students who want to study in the UK. We provide a range of study options for international students in partnership with INTO. 

Find out more about International Pathway Courses

Admissions policy

This policy applies to all undergraduate and postgraduate admissions at Newcastle University, including Newcastle University London. It is intended to provide information about our admissions policies and procedures to applicants and potential applicants, to their advisors and family members, and to staff of the University.

Applicants who have an Higher National Diploma or approved foundation degree in any form of popular or contemporary musical practice may be considered for direct entry to this degree at Year 2.

Interview Days

If we feel you may be suitable for the course we will typically invite you to an Interview Day. These take place between December and April. If you are an international student living outside the UK, we may invite you to a Skype interview.

Our Interview Days are a very important part of the admissions process for our Music degrees. They give us a better sense of your individuality and strengths, and allow you to find out more about studying with us.

They consist of a short, informal audition as well as a sample lecture, student performances and a tour of our facilities.

Find out more about interviews

Tuition fees and scholarships

Tuition fees for 2020 entry (per year)

Home Fee Students


International Fee Students


The maximum fee that we are permitted to charge for UK students is set by the UK government.

As a general principle, you should expect the tuition fee to increase in each subsequent academic year of your course, subject to government regulations on fee increases and in line with inflation.

Read more about fees and funding

You will be charged tuition fees for each year of your degree programme (unless you are on a shorter exchange programme).

The tuition fee amount you will pay may increase slightly year on year as a result of inflation.

Read more about fees and funding

Year abroad and additional costs

For programmes where you can spend a year on a work placement or studying abroad, you will receive a significant fee reduction for that year. 

Some of our degrees involve additional costs which are not covered by your tuition fees.

Find out more about:


Find out more about:

Open days and events

How to apply

Apply through UCAS

To apply for undergraduate study at Newcastle University, you must use the online application system managed by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). All UK schools and colleges, and a small number of EU and international establishments, are registered with UCAS. You will need:

  • the UCAS name and institution codes for Newcastle University (NEWC/N21)
  • the UCAS code for the course you want to apply for
  • the UCAS 'buzzword' for your school or college

If you are applying independently, or are applying from a school or college which is not registered to manage applications, you will still use the Apply system. You will not need a buzzword.

Apply through UCAS

Apply through an agent

International students often apply to us through an agent. Have a look at our recommended agents and get in touch with them.

Visit our International pages

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By Phone

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