Master in Sacred Music


Program Description

The MLitt in Sacred Music offers a unique interdisciplinary formation in Sacred Music for musicians, scholars, and leaders in artistic ministry. It is taught jointly by the School of Divinity’s Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts and the University of St Andrews Music Centre.

The MLitt in Sacred Music is a one year full-time or two years part-time taught programme and is run jointly by the School of Divinity's Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts (ITIA) and the University of St Andrews Music Centre.

The course is aimed at those intending to carry out church music performance and leadership roles, clergy, and those seeking a self-contained programme of study in sacred music or planning to pursue doctoral research in the field.

Students will deepen their understanding of the theological and artistic underpinnings of sacred music-making, and, where applicable, will develop their practical skills of sacred music performance and leadership.

The University of St Andrews has a range of unique music facilities for Sacred Music students, including the new state-of-the-art Laidlaw Music Centre. Students will be supported by ITIA and Music Centre staff who have research and practical expertise in sacred music.


  • Develop skills relevant to your area of specialism in music-making (e.g. composition, choral directing, organ, instrumental music in worship) or in music journalism and lecturing.
  • Gain insights into the theological and philosophical underpinnings of music in worship, both in the past and in the present day.
  • Study at the School of Divinity, based in the ancient St Mary’s College Quad, and at the University of St Andrews Laidlaw Music Centre, opening in early 2020.
  • Receive expert tuition from musicians and scholars working actively in the field of sacred music, including Sir James MacMillan, composer and professor of Theology, Imagination and the Arts.
  • Benefit from excellent music resources, including cutting-edge electronic music studios, a purpose-built recital hall, four pipe organs, and the acclaimed St Salvator’s Chapel Choir.

Teaching format

The programme consists of four taught modules taken over two semesters followed by either a 12,000-word dissertation or a practical project undertaken during the summer.

Students will learn through a mixture of lectures, seminars, practical workshops and one-to-one supervision or teaching.

Assessment comprises a combination of practical and theoretical methods. Practical assessment methods may include the musical performance of sacred music repertoire, a performance of originally composed sacred music or a live lecture presentation on a topic researched during the course.

Outwith the core requirements of the course, students are encouraged to attend ITIA’s weekly research seminar and participate in the vibrant musical life of the University.


Students are expected to take three core modules and one elective module followed by either a final dissertation or a practical project. Each module has varying teaching and assessment methods.


  • Music and the Sacred in Theory and Practice: introduces students to the wide diversity of music in its relation to the sacred, in and outside different denominational church contexts. It addresses topics such as the sacred in Pop Music, Music Theatre, and Opera, as well as in Contemporary Christian Music, Gregorian and contemporary chant, traditional Catholic and Anglican music, and the relationship between music and liturgy in different Christian denominations.
  • Making Music in a Church Context: invites students to reflect upon the practical role of a church musician in its different facets and contexts. In exploring roles such as choir director, organist, composer, and worship ensemble leader, students gain a better understanding of the technical, organisational, and interpersonal skills required for successful church music-making. Weekly seminars with specialist church music practitioners allow all students to engage critically with different types of church musicians. Specialist small group teaching allows theoretical insight to be developed alongside practice-based competency.
  • Sacred Music in the West: History and Context: focuses on the history and development of sacred music-making in a variety of confessional traditions informed by Western musical practice. Students explore when, where, and why Christians have made music in their worship.


In Semester 2, students must pick an elective module to study from either ITIA MLitt for Theology and the Arts or from another Divinity MLitt.

Examples of ITIA electives

  • Religious Experience and Aesthetic Theory
  • Christian Doctrine and the Arts
  • Theological Engagements with the Arts

Elective choices are subject to the approval of the course coordinator and subject to change each year. Some also may only allow limited numbers of students.

Dissertation or final project

The end-of-year assessment provides students with the opportunity to draw together the theoretical, philosophical, and professional practice strands of the course. Students may choose from either a research or practical assessment.

Students choosing a research assessment must complete a 12,000-word dissertation on a topic in sacred music of their choice. Student dissertations will be supervised by members of the teaching staff who will advise students in their choice of subject and provide guidance throughout the research process.

Those choosing a practical project have the choice of either a recital of sacred music with a written exegesis of research on the programme (5,000 words) or a composition portfolio of sacred music with critical reflection (5,000 words).

If students choose not to complete the dissertation requirement for the MLitt, an exit award is available that allows suitably qualified candidates to receive a Postgraduate Diploma. By choosing an exit award, you will receive a PGDip instead of an MLitt.

The modules listed here are indicative, and there is no guarantee they will run for 2020 entry.


The MLitt in Sacred Music will benefit to those wishing to pursue a career as a church musician, or who are already active as church music makers.

Theology and Music, and Sacred Music, are growing fields of interdisciplinary scholarship, and this programme will also benefit those wishing to pursue doctoral study in the area.

The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students on a taught postgraduate course and offers a programme of events to assist students in building their employability skills.

Entry requirements

  • A good 2.1 undergraduate Honours degree and relevant experience in theology or music. If you studied your first degree outside the UK, see the international entry requirements.
  • English language proficiency. See English language tests and qualifications.

The qualifications listed are indicative of minimum requirements for entry. Some academic Schools will ask applicants to achieve significantly higher marks than the minimum. Obtaining the listed entry requirements will not guarantee you a place, as the University considers all aspects of every application including, where applicable, the writing sample, personal statement, and supporting documents.

Application requirements

  • CV
  • personal statement (300 to 500 words)
  • sample of academic work in English (2,000 words)
  • two original signed academic references
  • academic transcripts and degree certificates
  • evidence of English language proficiency (required if English is not your first language)


Recent Graduate Discount

The University of St Andrews offers a 10% discount in postgraduate tuition fees to students who are eligible to graduate or who have graduated from St Andrews within the last three academic years and are starting a postgraduate programme with the University of St Andrews.

Last updated Mar 2020

About the School

Founded in the fifteenth century, St Andrews is Scotland's first university and the third oldest in the English speaking world. St Andrews is a unique place to study and live. Nestled on the east coas ... Read More

Founded in the fifteenth century, St Andrews is Scotland's first university and the third oldest in the English speaking world. St Andrews is a unique place to study and live. Nestled on the east coast of Scotland, students may find themselves crossing golf-courses on their way to class, or jogging along the beach after dinner. Not only does the University have a world-class reputation, but it also offers a diverse range of social activities, including over 140 student societies and 50 sports clubs. Historic buildings are juxtaposed against the modern facilities, and the many student traditions truly make studying at St Andrews an unforgettable experience. Read less
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