PhD Programme

Music Therapy PhD

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Welcoming new applications for the MPhil/PhD programme 2019

phd Programme

The programme has two parallel tracks:

  • MPhil/ PhD in Music Therapy 
  • MPhil/ PhD in Music, Health, Society

This postgraduate research degrees programme is validated by Goldsmiths, University of London and is linked to both the Nordoff Robbins Research Department and to the Social, Therapeutic and Community Studies Department (STaCS) at Goldsmiths. It is a practice-orientated programme designed for experienced practitioners in either music therapy, or community music/ music and health who seek further professional development through research.

If you would like to learn more about the PhD Programme please download the Prospectus and FAQs, which provide further information on the programme and application process. You can also download the Application Form.

Please note that unlike larger doctoral programmes located within university departments, the Nordoff Robbins MPhil/ PhD programme recruits new students only when places become available. Because currently all of our students are part-time (taking up to seven years to complete their studies) the programme does not recruit on an annual basis. Instead, when places are likely to become available there is a formal call for applications, advertised on the Nordoff Robbins website and other bulletins.

The Programme Convenor is always keen to talk to people who may be thinking of making an application in the near future.

Please contact the Programme Convenor Prof Gary Ansdell:



One thing I have always loved about music therapy is that along with being a helping profession, it is an academic discipline. From my training in the late 90s I knew that there was so much out there for me to question and to develop within music therapy thinking, and this has continued to motivate me. I also knew that it would be very important to choose the right site for that questioning, and that for me, Nordoff Robbins would be the best fit.

I was drawn to the size of the programme, which is light on its feet, but which has a great range and scope in impact through the reach and reputation of the academic supervisors. It was responsive to my developing interests and topic, so that as I reached new territory in my enquiry, the programme was already there to meet me.

During and then after the programme, I was introduced to key figures in the international scene, both via my examination and through giving lectures in other universities, which have developed into important academic relationships in the UK and internationally, and I have since been awarded a research grant from the Wellcome Trust to develop an aspect of my doctoral studies.

The Nordoff Robbins programme helped to refine a vocabulary and set a standard of communication in my academic work which truly trained me - in the traditional sense of having changed me.


Having worked as a music therapist for many years, for me, deciding to do a PhD was a case of different things coming together.  I became interested in a specific area of everyday music therapy work, which became an itch that needed scratching!  It combined with a wish to challenge myself academically, to extend my professional roots in order to sustain me for the next phase of working life, and to contribute something to the wider music therapy world.

For me, Nordoff Robbins was definitely about finding supervisors who ‘got’ both me, and the area that I was interested in researching.  It was also important that I ‘got’ them, and their work, particularly in terms of their writing and thinking about music therapy, had appealed to me for years.  I also chose the programme because I knew it would be intellectually challenging, introducing me to ways of thinking that were new, sometimes felt just out of reach, and were certainly not always comfortable.   

Being on the programme has certainly extended and challenged me!  I do feel as though I’ve been helped to navigate those challenges by my supervisors, other staff, and fellow students.  The regular seminars have been a great platform both for presenting work, testing out new ideas, hearing from others, and having input from the team. 

One thing which I hadn’t expected was how doing a PhD would shift my thinking about my everyday music therapy work.  Not only has it fed into my usual work, but it has been instrumental in opening up the potential for new areas of work which I couldn’t have imagined when I started. 


Having practised music therapy for many years, I returned to academic work in order to understand more fully the relationship of music to social life and how this might be expressed in music therapy theory.

The Nordoff Robbins programme has offered me the opportunity to creatively pursue my own research agenda while providing solid methodological and theoretical training. The faculty are generous in their time and attention, and fellow students are stimulating and diverse in their backgrounds and interests. Seminars are filled with lively and challenging discussion, and are designed so that students at different stages of the research process can both learn from and help guide their colleagues. I could not imagine a better programme for anyone who is interested in a rigourous PhD experience, values a vibrant and supportive research community, and is passionate about contributing to an interdisciplinary conversation about what music therapy can be.

Programme Tutors & selected publications

Professor Gary Ansdell

Gary trained as a music therapist at the Nordoff Robbins Centre in London in 1987, and later at the Institut für Musiktherapie, Universität Witten-Herdecke, Germany. He has worked with many client groups in the UK and Germany (currently in adult psychiatry) and has been involved in developing and researching Nordoff Robbins music therapy and its broader growth within the Community Music Therapy movement. From 1994-7 Gary was Research Fellow in Music Therapy at City University London, during which time he completed his doctoral thesis: ‘Music Therapy as Discourse and Discipline’. In 2002 he established the Research Department at the Nordoff Robbins Centre in London. Gary designed the first music therapy doctoral programme in the UK (also at Nordoff Robbins), and also the new MA in Music Therapy (Community Music Therapy / Nordoff-Robbins) which launched in 2008 and is hosted at the Royal Northern College of Music. He is Honorary Research Fellow in Community Music Therapy at the University of Sheffield, and a member of the advisory editorial board of three journals: British Journal of Music Therapy, Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, Music & Arts in Action. In 2008 he was awarded the Royal Society for Public Health Arts & Health Award. He has written five books and published widely in the fields of music, music therapy and music and health/wellbeing.

Gary's Publications

Dr Simon Procter

Simon's Publications

Dr Neta Spiro

How and why do so many different people participate in music? How and why does it help so many different people? How can we explore these questions? These questions run through my research and by asking such questions, I hope to contribute to music therapy. At Nordoff Robbins, my focus is on exploring what happens in music therapy and why, as well as how it is viewed by people who engage with it in different ways, what the effects of music therapy are seen to be and finding ways of contributing to the music therapy community.

Neta's Publications

Professor Tia DeNora

Most of Tia’s research is in the area of music sociology, though she also has an interest in the social study of technology. She received her PhD from the University of California, San Diego. Her undergraduate studies were in music and sociology.

She works at the University of Exeter where she teaches research methods, music sociology and the sociology of culture and perception and also supervises PhD students in the SocArts Research Group (former PhD students include one Dr Simon Procter). She has worked with Gary Ansdell since 2005. They have co-authored numerous articles and chapters together and published their ten-year longitudinal ethnography of the SMART project with Sarah Wilson in 2016. Together they co-edit the Routledge Series on Music & Change.

Tia was elected Fellow of the British Academy in 2018. In 2019 she and Gary will begin a new, major AHRC-supported project on music and care, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Bergen (Randi Rolvsjord and Wolfgang Schmid), Heather Edwards and colleagues at Earl Mountbatten Hospice, Isle of Wight.

Tia's Publications