Music is ubiquitous in human culture. Music binds social life, it is a means for personal expression, it provides private solace and dignifies public occasions. Music challenges our tastes and ideas. At Sidney Sussex, we know that music matters to us all.

Important Note Concerning Interviews for 2024

Please note, all undergraduate admissions interviews at Sidney Sussex for the 2024-25 admissions round will be held online. Further details regarding interview platform will follow.

There is no music without music making. Music as a humanities subject is vitalised by practical engagement. At Sidney Sussex we have a thriving Chapel Choir, a Music Society, and a fine collection of instruments.

Studying Music at Sidney Sussex College

Sidney admits two undergraduate students a year, which means we have a group of just six studying the Music Tripos at any one time.  We are a close-knit group, who, along with the Director of Music and the Director of Studies, support and motivate one another towards our highest possible achievement. 

At Sidney we are looking for individuals with real academic ambition, and for those with a talent for rigorous and original musical thinking. We expect dedication and seriousness when it comes to the study of this increasingly demanding and wide-ranging subject. 

All music undergraduates will have a piano in their room. They will have regular meetings with their Director of Studies, an entitlement to music lessons, and support with learning and study skills. 

The first year of the Music Tripos provides a grounding in the main disciplines of music and musicology. Thereafter, students can follow more specialist pathways, selecting from historical musicology, ethnomusicology, popular music, music analysis, composition, film music, stylistic composition, post-colonial studies, women and music, and music and science.

Cambridge has an extraordinarily vibrant musical life, with most musicians finding themselves much in demand for performances of instrumental music, opera and music theatre. There are opportunities for composers, improvisers, and experimental musicians as well. Musical culture at Cambridge thrives off individual endeavour and vision. The sky is the limit.

Sidney Sussex College Choir

The Choir of Sidney Sussex College is one of the finest mixed-voice choirs in the UK, and tours regularly at home and abroad. In recent years the choir has visited Italy, Spain, Germany, the United States and the United Arab Emirates. Their recordings have been received with critical acclaim. Find us on Facebook or YouTube.

Since 2007 Sidney Sussex has hosted a number of professional Musicians in Residence, who work and mix with the student body. Previous holders of the post include the renowned viol consort Fretwork, harpist Andrew Lawrence-King, the Tippett Quartet and Grammy Award-winning American composer Eric Whitacre. Composer Nico Muhly currently holds a five-year position as Composer in Residence at Sidney.

Undergraduate Study

Music at Cambridge University is an exceptionally varied humanities subject, offering opportunities in music performance, composition, music theory and analysis, historical and contextual study, music psychology, popular music and ethnomusicology.

At Sidney Sussex we value rigour and intellectual ambition in our musicians as these qualities will allow students to flourish on the very demanding degree programme. If a career in music is not your aspiration, the study of music will furnish you with a vast range of transferable skills. With their work ethic, creative thinking, and collaborative aptitude, musicians are highly employable.

Your time will be divided between the Music Faculty – a 15 minute walk from Sidney – where you will attend lectures, and College where you will take part in small group teaching or ‘supervisions’. In your first year, many of your supervisions will be with a dedicated College Teaching Associate in Music. You will be encouraged to audition for our outstanding mixed choir and there will be ample opportunity to organise concerts with the Music Society. For those that like a good argument, do also consider participating in Sidney’s Music and Philosophy Reading Group.


Written work

One essay on a musical subject, and one original composition or music theory exercise. We will send out more specific information about what is required after the UCAS deadline, but you will not need to write anything new specially for this.

Admissions assessment

There will be no admissions assessment for this subject at Sidney Sussex College.

  • All undergraduate admissions interviews at Sidney Sussex for the 2024-25 admissions round will be held online. Further details regarding interview platform will follow.
  • You will have two subject based interviews in Music, which can include a discussion of a selection of musical examples given to the applicant beforehand, and some aural dictation and/or basic counterpoint exercises. You may also be given a text to read in advance of one interview.
Subject requirements
  • Learn about our standard entry requirements on Music on the University website.
  • At Sidney, candidates can offer ABRSM Grade 8 Theory of Music as a substitute for A-level Music. Grade 5 Piano is also useful, but not essential. Applicants should be acquainted with at least some of the standard repertory and have experience of writing about music. You are likely to have a good musical ear, some facility at the keyboard, and some proficiency in harmony and counterpoint.
  • Please note that offers are set on an individual basis using all of the information available to us in context of the entire field of applicants.
Beyond the syllabus

Are you excited to learn more about the subject by delving beyond the school syllabus? Explore our Beyond the syllabus resource hub to discover interesting websites, podcasts, videos, and books related to the subject you love!

Typical undergraduate intake each year

2 - 3

Typical A-level offer


Typical IB offer

41-42 points overall, with 776 at Higher Level

Postgraduate Study

Opportunities for postgraduate study in Music at the University of Cambridge include:

  • A 9-month MPhil in Music combining structured teaching with individual supervised study. This is a free-standing programme but is particularly suitable as a basis for doctoral studies at Cambridge or elsewhere.
  • Doctoral programme, available full-time over three years or part-time over five.
  • A one-year MMus in Choral Studies, which offers training in either choral conducting, vocal performance or organ performance, combined with related studies and placements within leading College Chapel choirs.

At the University of Cambridge applications for postgraduate study are processed centrally by the Postgraduate Admissions Office. The application form and supporting documents are submitted electronically via their website and the online self-service system, though academic decisions on applications are made by the Faculty or Department.


There are many funding opportunities at Cambridge from a wide variety of sources including the Cambridge Trust, Gates Cambridge, Colleges, Departments, Research Councils and central University funds. You can use the Postgraduate Admissions' Cambridge Funding Search to find out which type of funding you might be eligible for, and how and when to apply. They also operate a Postgraduate Funding Competition to co-ordinate some of these funding opportunities and make the process easier for you as an applicant.

To find information about the funds available for postgraduate students at Sidney, visit our Studentships and funding page.

Useful links

Course directory | Postgraduate Admissions | University of Cambridge

Funding | Postgraduate Admissions | University of Cambridge

How do I apply? | Postgraduate Admissions | University of Cambridge

International students | Postgraduate Admissions | University of Cambridge

Opportunities to work, travel and study

The College is able to offer financial support for a number of student pursuits including:

  • Professional and research internships
  • Study awards
  • Vacation travel
  • Arts and music
  • Sport

While it will not be possible to provide support in all cases, current students are strongly encouraged to apply if they have a project which would benefit from financial support.

Discover more on our Opportunities to work, travel, and study page.