Applying to study music 

If your students are considering studying music courses at Higher Education (HE), then a few extra things need to be considered when making those applications.  

We can break these down into three main areas: institution types; application systems; and auditioning.

Music courses are extremely specialist so the process for applying is a little different to a more typical academic degree. 

Institution types 

Music can be studied at most HE providers, but how it is delivered is likely different.  

A ‘typical’ HE provider is likely to offer an academic course, with a lot more detail going into the theory and history of music and often more traditional written academic assessments. 

Music courses at a conservatoire will be a lot more practical, with performance opportunities built into the course and more practical assessment types. We explore a bit more about what a conservatoire is in this Go Higher West Yorkshire blog. 

Small specialist music institutions will often teach in a similar way to a conservatoire, the courses will be very practical and will often have really strong links to employment.  

There is no ‘right’ way to study music. Like all other courses, a student must consider how they want to be taught and ultimately what they want to get out of their HE experience.

Application systems 

For most music courses, your student would apply through the UCAS main scheme application system, completing the standard application form. 

Most conservatoires take applications through UCAS Conservatoires. This is separate from the main application scheme and students can have up to six choices. As this is separate from the main scheme, students could also apply to five courses through the traditional UCAS route, so could have up to 11 choices. It also has an earlier application window, even earlier than Oxbridge and Medicine. UCAS Conservatoires opens for applications in June and closes around 1 October.

Some specialist providers do not use the UCAS systems at all and will only accept direct applications to the institution. They may also set their own deadlines.  

Your students should read each institution’s website carefully to see how to apply and when to apply by.  


A really important part of the process of applying to a music course is an audition and in some cases a portfolio submission. These are often part of the conditions of an offer.  

Most institutions charge for their auditions so students should be made aware of the cost implications. There are very few institutions that offer auditions for free, Leeds Conservatoire being one of them. Others do also offer fee waivers if a student meets their eligibility criteria. 

Auditions could be in person, online or a mix of both. There may only be one to attend but sometimes students may be recalled for a second audition. Each institution is looking for something different so it’s incredibly important that your students prepare by reading the audition guidance provided, usually readily available on the institution’s website.  

Further information 

For more information about studying music at a conservatoire, check out the Conservatoires UK website or find out more about Leeds Conservatoire.


James Rew, Access and Participation Manager, Leeds Conservatoire