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Contemporary and Popular Music BA Honours

  • UCAS code: W301
  • Full time
  • 3 years

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

You are currently viewing course information for entry year: 2024

Next start date:

  • September 2024

Fees (per year)

  • Home: £9250
  • International: £21600

Entry requirements and offers

  • A-Level: ABB
  • IB: 32 points

UCAS Institution name and code:

  • NEWC / N21

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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Your course and study experience - disclaimers and terms and conditions  
Please rest assured we make all reasonable efforts to provide you with the programmes, services and facilities described. However, it may be necessary to make changes due to significant disruption, for example in response to Covid-19.

View our Academic experience page, which gives information about your Newcastle University study experience for the academic year 2023-24.

See our terms and conditions and student complaints information, which gives details of circumstances that may lead to changes to programmes, modules or University services.

Quality and ranking

Professional accreditation and recognition

All professional accreditations are reviewed regularly by their professional body.

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.

To find out more please see our terms and conditions.

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.

You'll study compulsory modules covering contemporary and popular cultural, theoretical and creative approaches, alongside a cross-disciplinary module on writing about music, and developing academic and professional skills. You'll also select from a range of optional modules.

Compulsory ModulesCredits
Introduction to Popular Music Studies 20
Academic Practice for Music Studies 20

You must also take a combination of optional modules totalling 60 credits

Of these, you must take at least one of the following modules:

  • Introduction to Ethnomusicology
  • Understanding Music History
  • Traditions of These Islands
Optional ModulesCredits
Introduction to Ethnomusicology 20
Understanding Music History 20
Traditions of These Islands 20
Studio Production 20
Contemporary Pop Performance 20
Creative Projects 20
Essentials and Applications of Music Theory 20
Applications and Structures of Music Theory 20
Essentials and Structures of Music Theory 20


You can study a broad range of historical, cultural and practical options and have increasing freedom to determine the balance between these different strands as you progress through the degree.

There are also modules that help you develop as a creative musician and others that explore the historical and cultural areas of contemporary and popular musics.

Optional ModulesCredits
Themes in Musical Modernism 20
Composing for Spaces and Places 20
Performing Early Opera 20
DJing Skills and Turntablism 20
Contemporary Musical Materials 20
Practising Music Analysis 20
Indian Music in Practice 20
Free Music Practice: Experimental Pop & Interdisciplinary Performance 20
Applied Composition and Songwriting in Folk, Modal and Acoustic Musics 20
Case Studies in Early Music 20
Performance Studies 2 20
Orchestration 20
Jazz Today: Tomorrow Is The Question 20
Popular Music and Media 20
Folk Music Studies: Resources and Research Materials 20
Folk Ensemble 2 20
Music and Empire 20
Professional Practice for Music 20
Community Music: Theory and Practice 20

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).

You must take one of the following compulsory modules:

Major Specialist Study: Composition 40
Major Specialist Study: Dissertation 40
Major Specialist Study: Performance 40
Major Specialist Study: Project 40

You may choose a Minor Specialist Study module from the following list. This must be in a subject area that is substantially different to your major specialist study.

Minor Specialist Study: Composition 20
Minor Specialist Study: Dissertation 20
Minor Specialist Study: Performance 20
Minor Specialist Study: Project 20


Optional Modules Credits
Themes in Musical Modernism 20
Composing for Spaces and Places 20
Elements of Hip Hop 20
DJing Skills and Turntablism 20
Contemporary Musical Materials 20
Practising Music Analysis 20
Applied Song Writing and Composition (Folk and Modal Musics) 20
Case Studies in Early Music 20
Translation for Singing 20
Performance Studies 2 20
Contemporary Music Practice 2 20
Orchestration 20
Popular Music and Media 20
Folk Music Studies: Resources and Research Materials 20
Folk Ensemble 2 20
Music and Visual Culture 20
Music and Empire 20
Topics in Ethnomusicology 20
Professional Practice for Music 20
Community Music: Theory and Practice 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
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
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 provide the ideal setting for 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


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, and your degree title will show you have achieved the placement 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 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.

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

Recognition of professional qualifications outside of the UK

From 1 January 2021 there is an update to the way professional qualifications are recognised by countries outside of the UK

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements and offers below apply to 2024 entry.

International Baccalaureate

Other UK and the Republic of Ireland qualifications

Contextual Offers

Through one of our contextual routes, you could receive an offer of up to three grades lower than the typical requirements.

What is a contextual offer? Find out more and if you’re eligible for this or our PARTNERS Programme supported entry route.

Qualifications from outside the UK

English Language requirements

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. 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.

Credit transfer and Recognition of Prior Learning

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) can allow you to convert existing relevant university-level knowledge, skills and experience into credits towards a qualification. Find out more about the RPL policy which may apply to this course.

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 2024 entry (per year)

Qualification: BA Honours

Home students

full time 3 years

Tuition fees (per year)


International students

full time 3 years

Tuition fees (per year)


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:

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

Get in touch

By phone

Call us on +44 (0) 191 208 3333 and press option 1. Our opening hours are Monday to Friday 10am until 4pm.

Live chat

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You'll find our NCL chatbot in the bottom right of this page.


Fill in our enquiry form

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