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The notion of research is introduced in the final year of undergraduate studies at the Lyon CNSMD (introduction to research methodology) and students must undertake research at master’s and doctorate levels. Students must do a research project on a practical aspect of music-making, an area of repertoire or an original theme which is presented for assessment in the form of a written document and an oral defence at the end of the master’s programme or in the form of a thesis for the doctorate.


The division of higher education into bachelor’s master’s and doctorate levels, as recommended by the Bologna Process of the European Higher Education Area, is now widely applied in the field of the arts. The reforms have opened up encouraging possibilities for the development of artistic research through the creation of new courses which did not exist before.

The doctorate of music was previously strongly associated with the university culture of the English-speaking world (the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand), and found only rarely in continental Europe, where music performance courses were traditionally offered by conservatories and other specialised music-teaching institutions. Many of the latter are now setting up doctorates in music, in partnership with universities.

The ‘Research and Practice’ Doctorate of Music, which was devised jointly by the Universities of Paris-Sorbonne, Lyon 2 and Jean Monnet (Saint-Etienne) and the Lyon and Paris Conservatoires Nationaux Supérieurs Musique et Danse, belongs to this new and encouraging trend.


The doctorate is distinct from the doctorate of musicology and is designed for high-level musicians who hold a master’s degree or an equivalent master’s level qualification and who wish to follow a joint programme in music performance and research. The diploma is awarded for skills both in music performance, as demonstrated by the final recital at the end of the course, and in music research, as shown by the submission and defence of a thesis.

There will inevitably be more and more cross-fertilisation in the future between music and university studies. Research will stimulate innovation and both the creativity and skill of the artists destined to play a central role in the artistic and cultural world of tomorrow.

At the end of eight years of studies, as recommended in the Bologna Project, the doctorate in music will be awarded to musicians who have distinguished themselves in the performance or the production of music and have achieved, in addition to their high-level technical studies, a similarly high level of attainment with regard to scientific, aesthetic and musicological conceptualisation.

Admission to this doctoral programme is in two stages: candidates’ professional skills are examined by audition by the conservatories and their scientific skills are examined by the representatives of the doctoral schools. The university application is similar to that used for humanities and social science doctorates. The teaching of the doctorate programme is undertaken jointly by the university and the conservatoire, and consists of theoretical classes, seminars and practical teaching.


The degree is also obtained in two stages, organised jointly by the two institutions concerned, by the presentation and defence of a thesis, together with a recital or a public performance of the results of the research before examining panels representing both partner institutions. The information given below gives details of admission, programme content and assessment of the doctorate of music.

It must be emphasised that it is relatively costly for the conservatories, which are financed by the Ministry of Culture and Communication, to provide theoretical classes at doctorate level. On the other hand the university’s doctorate teaching is arranged at no extra cost to the institution because it is one of the normal activities of the research director of the doctoral schools, who are expected to teach doctorate of music students as well as to undertake research in the team they belong to.

It is hoped that the Research and Practice Doctorate of Music described here will become an exemplary case of the application of the Bologna Project reforms to doctorate programmes in the arts.


Five students were accepted on the programme on an experimental basis in Paris (Paris-Sorbonne University and the Paris CNSMD) in 2009. Similarly, seven others applied to the Lyon CNSMD in 2010.

French universities have recently been granted greater autonomy, but the Minister of Higher Education and Research has insisted that constant efforts are made to achieve and maintain standards of excellence, pursue innovative teaching projects and work to improve graduate employment results. The ‘Research and Practice’ Doctorate of Music clearly corresponds to this requirement.