BA (Hons) Popular Music (Top-up)

Start date(s):
13 Sep 2021
1 year
Level 6
Credit Value:
Course Code:
Study Mode:
Full Time
Attendance Type:
Attendance Pattern:
Framwellgate Moor Campus
Course costs:
This programme is validated by Open University


Course details may be subject to change

This top-up programme will provide you with interdisciplinary and collaborative working opportunities, and an opportunity to explore the aspects of popular music that interests you most.

You will develop your own music practice within a variety of professional contexts, whilst refining your academic skills and technical understanding. The programme aims to reflect the professional reality of the contemporary music industry, preparing you to creatively respond within a range of professional situations.

You will be provided with opportunities to study projects that explore performance, analysis and the creative practice necessary to produce technical professionalism and application. You will engage in entrepreneurial activities that are likely to support future work in the field of music, such as work in music performance, creative practice, freelance work and music education. With a teaching team that combines practitioners and academics, it is intended that you will be supported to develop confidence in conceptual thinking, problem solving, presenting ideas and project management.

Experience Higher Education

We offer a wide range of degrees, higher apprenticeships and professional qualifications.  Find out how our flexible higher education programmes have progressed the career of our ex-students!

FE Dance

Take a tour around our Performing Arts facilities

Our drama, dance and professional recording studios give our students access to industry standard equipment. 


Through the Decades 2017

Through the Decades

Our HE Music students performed in two sell out shows in the drama studio at New College Durham.

Songwriters Showcase 2

Starbucks houses songwriters evening

Students showcased their creative ability in our on-site Starbucks.

Brooks Williams jam session

Jam session

Our music students took part in an incredible jam session with American blues singer and songwriter Brooks Williams.

Colorado Roots Music Camp

Colorado Roots Music Camp

Foundation degree music students visited Colorado in the United States to attend the Roots Music Camp.

Paul Elliott (HE Music)

World class drummer visits HE Music students

Paul Elliott visited New College Durham to spend the day with our HE Music students.

Adam from DurhamBID

Durham BID and Filament PR share expertise

Students gained insight into the marketing and events management industry.


This programme aims to:
  • Encourage the development of professional, innovative and creative outcomes in a supportive work-focussed learning environment
  • Allow you to engage in academic activities and projects, as simulated or live client briefs, underpinned by personalised learning and individual focus
  • Promote engagement in industry focussed work, supporting the acquisition of professional skills relevant to employment or self-employment opportunities within the music industry.


  • Creative Practice - This module aims to facilitate opportunities to explore, expand and deliver a project/product based upon creative practice within music. You will demonstrate advanced skills in the realisation of a creative project and to apply an understanding of the processes involved in the delivery of a successful venture. You will work individually to realise a creative project to a professional standard, synthesising a range of techniques and skills, critically evaluating your product against concepts in line with industry expectation.
  • Individual Recital - The module provides opportunities for you to establish a mature understanding and capability as a solo performance specialist. You will develop musicianship through professional performance practices that refine individual performance skills within vocal and/or instrumental performance.
  • Ensemble Performance Project - This module provides the opportunity for you to function as a professional within a music ensemble. You will be expected to achieve professional standards in the context of music ensemble performance. You should consider developing a repertoire base which demonstrates versatility, adaptability, insight, imagination and creative flair.
  • Working to a Client Brief - The module aims to build professional skills through the application of musical skills and knowledge. You will independently pursue a client brief to gain experience of an example of practical real world musical activity and to develop the skills and understanding necessary to appropriately respond to a prescribed set of requirements in the form of a commission.
  • Research Project - The module aims to develop academic research and promote the analysis and critique of a topic based on the interest of individual students. You will develop arguments and rationales to support theories and concepts that are relevant to an area of music linked to their expertise.

Time commitment

Average number of hours per week

Work Placement
Assignment Feedback
Independent Learning


*Days and times of study are subject to change. Timetables are confirmed at the start of term.

Teaching & assessment

You will engage in the following:
  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • One-to-one tutorials
  • Group tutorials
  • Workshops
  • Performance projects.

Management and organisation skills are essential for successful performing and recording musicians, therefore, you will be required to plan and manage your own projects, workshops and individual and ensemble sessions. Modules will be assessed through a combination of:
  • Practice diaries
  • Recorded performances (sound and visual recordings as required)
  • Written reports
  • Essays.

All of the above will be supplemented and further developed through the incorporation of visits from industry specialists.

Research skills will be delivered and assessed via review and modelling of several analytical models. You will be able to utilise your practice diaries and evaluation feedback in order to assess yourself qualitatively.

Maths and English

Stobo Castle

Maths & English

Maths and English skills are essential for the workplace and university.

Industry links:

A selection of employers and current practitioners working within the music and creative industries are involved in the development of our higher education music courses. This includes music agencies, freelance performers and educators, singer songwriters, colleagues at Durham BID and artist managers.

Our music department has established links with the Gala Theatre in Durham to provide you with opportunities to perform on the main stage as part of your core assessment. Your tutors are practicing professionals who have links with professional venues, studios, producers, theatre companies, musical directors and agencies.


There are no formal placement requirements for the BA(Hons) Popular Music, however, students are encouraged to gain skills for the workplace through paid or un-paid work experience.


Root music 1

BA (Hons) Popular Music (Top-up) course handbook

Click below to read your course handbook.



HE Information

Regulations for validated awards of The Open University.


You could progress to a relevant master's degree or choose to study for a PGCE.

Alternatively, you could progress into employment or self-employment within the industry.

Meet our students

Thomas Lee - HE music

Thomas Lee

Thomas progressed from Level 3 to Level 6, at New College Durham, and is now a musician and teacher.

Meet the lecturers

What else?


General - External students 2

Annual increases

Tuition fees are chargeable for the academic period required by the programme, with annual amounts charged for each academic year of the programme unless otherwise stated. It is to be expected that tuition fees will include an inflationary rise each year, for the duration of study. This will be agreed by the College Strategy and Resources Committee who will consider Increases in College costs, including the provision of teaching, supervision and course-related facilities.

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Fees and funding

Find out more about course fees and financial support for UK, EU and non-EU students, plus how to pay your fees.

Refund policy square 2018/19

Refund Policy 21-22

View our refund policy for further and higher education programmes (page 2) and full cost courses.


Additional Costs

You will need your own instrument for your first instrument of study. Much of the required equipment, such as PA systems, microphones, guitar and bass amps, drum kits, and keyboards are provided in the rehearsal rooms.

We plan to visit the Colorado Roots Music Camp every two years. This is not a compulsory component of the foundation degree but is an outstanding opportunity to further develop your roots music knowledge and experience. The fee per student for the current visit was £850 but this could be subject to change each time we plan the visit. The next visit is planned for June 2019.

We would advise you invest in a laptop with music software and a music interface as past graduates have expressed that they have found this to be beneficial. Again, this is not compulsory as we are fully equipped in the department for you to complete assignment work.

Interview Instructions

If you are an external applicant, you will be required to complete a short academic piece as a response to a provided text.

You will demonstrate evidence of appropriate creative or performance experience or employment within the music and creative industries.

Further Education

Getting ready for your college interview

Find out more information about your college interview.

European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System Credits:


Entry Criteria

To gain entry to the programme, you will be required to satisfy the standard or non-standard entry requirements.

Standard Entry Criteria:
  • A Level 5 qualification in music or a related creative arts discipline
  • A successful audition and interview where level of music ability and experience will be assessed
  • Completion of short academic response to text provided (external applicants only)
  • To have or be working towards Level 2 or equivalent in English Language (or a minimum 5.5 IELTS in each band for international applicants).

Non-standard Entry Criteria:
  • Evidence of appropriate creative or performance experience or employment within the industry
  • An audition and interview to determine working level of music ability and experience. International applicants can be auditioned via internet/email (e.g. Skype)
  • Completion of short academic response to text provided (external applicants only)
  • To have or be working towards Level 2 or equivalent in English Language (or a minimum 5.5 IELTS in each band for international applicants).