Frequently asked questions

Find answers to common questions about the MSc Sound Design.

What is the difference between the MSc Sound Design and the MSc in Digital Composition and performance?

The Sound Design and Digital Composition and Performance MScs currently share some of their courses. The fields are of course quite related, with their common focus on digital technology for sound production. The programme aims do differ however:

Sound Design explores a range of sound practices including the creation and treatment of sound for industrial audio, screen, gaming, and emerging technologies. It is vocationally focussed but the programme develops through a playful experimentation with industry conventions. The idea is to graduate with a distinctive voice attractive to employers across the sound spectrum.

Digital Composition and Performance concentrates on a number of applications of digital technologies to music composition (Sound Design does not include this), improvisation, and new performance practices. Though the music our students create may be applied in a wide range of situations---including but not limited to live shows, web, and film---it is in general a more artistically focussed degree than the vocationally directed Sound Design MSc.

The difference between the two MScs will be highlighted most clearly in the Final Project concentration, as well as the focus and application of the techniques presented in the various courses.

What are the qualifications needed for entry to this programme?

This is a postgraduate programme and applicants usually already hold a recognised university degree before they apply, however applications can be considered from experienced professionals who do not have formal qualifications.

Your first degree could have been in a wide range of disciplines (not necessarily sound based, or even design-related) however, as standard, we require a first degree result equivalent to a UK upper-second class honours degree, a 2:1. It is not easy to define what this means in terms of other systems but our College Postgraduate Office will make a judgment. As a rough guide, if your institution awards degrees that are at a similar standard to a UK university, you should be in the top 25-30% or so of a typical year group.

If you do not have a recognised university degree, it may still be possible to apply. This is certainly the case for practitioners who have considerable professional experience and are keen to find new directions for their work. Anyone who applies without a sound-related first degree will be required to submit a portfolio, may be asked for interview by phone and may also be invited to write a short essay on sound to reinforce the application.

We  do not require any particular kind of computing knowledge or experience: we assume only that you will be able to learn very quickly. We do not aim to offer detailed training on specific kinds of software, but rather help you to build the skills and knowledge that underlie the use of all sound design.

What documents do I need to send when applying?

You will need the following when you apply online:

  • A fully completed online application form (via the online applications system)
  • It is very useful if, within the personal statement section of the online form, you can provide a brief account of why you wish to enter our programme (especially if your background is not in design or a related area);
  • An uploaded scan of your degree transcript (translated if appropriate);
  • An uploaded scan of your English Language certificate (if applicable);
  • One reference. You can simply include a name and e-mail address on the online application form, and we will send an email request for the reference. Otherwise, you can include the reference with your application. In that case, it must be an uploaded scan of an official headed letter, and should refer to this specific degree programme. The letter should also provide official contact details should we wish to confirm validity of a reference.

Do I need to submit a portfolio of sound work, or to have specialised sound/sound technology knowledge?

Not necessarily, but a portfolio of sound related work is very helpful for the admissions tutor and is particularly useful when there is competition for places. The portfolio is a very helpful way for us to evaluate how good a fit you are for the programme and for us to understand how the programme may help you to take your career forwards.

If your first degree is not in a sound related subject then we definitely need you to send us a link to your portfolio. Your portfolio could range from an essay on sound through to a collection of recent recordings you have made. There is no requirement for applicants to have any particular standard of design work, and in fact we have had successful students who were not designers before they came here.

What should my portfolio consist of?

The portfolio should be representative of your recent and best sound-related work. It doesn't need to be large but some of your best projects should be there, choose the ones that you are most proud of. If the work is collaborative, you should clearly state what your role in each project was. Examples of work you could include might be an essay about sound, a collection of music, websites, animations or any other project where sound had an important role. If you're submitting a portfolio, please either mail an SD card or USB stick to the programme director at the address below, or include a link to an online space where we can access your files such as dropbox.

Post portfolios on USB stick or SD card only to

MSc Sound Design
c/o Dr Martin Parker
Alison House
12 Nicolson Square
Edinburgh
EH8 9DF
Scotland, UK

Will I be interviewed?

There is a strong possibility you will be interviewed on the telephone before an offer is made but this is not always necessary. If we do call, we'll ask you questions about your career and creative goals and your main reasons for applying to the MSc. In particular, we want to know what it is about Edinburgh's Sound Design programme that excites you.

Will I be asked to submit anything else?

Possibly. Certainly, those who apply for the MSc without the standard academic qualifications will be asked to submit a 1500 word essay entitled What is sound design? which should be correctly annotated with a bibliography and signed stating this is your own work. It is best if this is accompanied with the online application as a PDF file but we may ask you for it once your application has been processed.

What standard of English language competence do I require?

If English is your first language, or you have taken your first degree in an English-speaking country, then you will not normally need to prove your English competence. Otherwise, you will need a certificate. There are various testing services whose certificates are recognised here. Currently, the required English score on various of these tests is:

  • TOEFL paper-based 580 (including at least 55 in section and 4.0 in the Test of Written English (TWE));
  • TOEFL computer-based 237 (including at least 21 in each section and 4.0 in TWE);
  • TOEFL-iBT 92 (with at least 20 in each section);
  • IELTS 6.5 (including at least 6.0 in each section);
  • Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English Grade A
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CP) B.

Note that if you need to take or re-take an English test, you should consider the timing: results of these tests are often issued in September, which is too late if you are aiming for admission in October of the same year. Please try to take an earlier test, to avoid this problem. Bear in mind also that we will need an original of your certificate, not any kind of copy.

Does it matter how old I am?

No. Your age makes no difference at all.

When should I apply if I want to be admitted in September of a given year?

Any time, but preferably before the end of March of that year. We will still do our best to process later applications, but there can be problems with immigration issues, language testing deadlines, etc.

How long will it take to get a response to my application?

It could take several weeks after we receive your application, depending on what time of year your application arrives, and how busy the College Postgraduate Office is.

How long does the programme last?

The programme involves 6 courses and a project (for the MSc) or 6 courses (for the Diploma), and takes a full academic year, September to August (September to May for the Diploma). There is no difference in fees for the MSc or Diploma. The programme is also available part time over two years in which case the fees are split over two years.

Do you have holidays?

There are two 12-week semesters of teaching, and then a semester devoted to your final project. There are holidays at Christmas and around Easter. These are generally of about 3 weeks.

Can the programme be studied part-time? Or as a correspondence course?

You can study part time over two years, but not by correspondence, you must be resident in Edinburgh to take this programme.

Where will I live?

There are various University halls of residence, otherwise it is possible to find accommodation in flats, bed-sitting rooms, etc. in the city.

How much does it cost?

Costs have two components: fees and living costs. For the latest fees you can visit the University of Edinburgh Taught Degrees fees page and search for Sound Design from there, as well at other useful links below:

Is there any funding, e.g. scholarships, available for this programme?

Students are usually either self-funded, or funded by non-UK government scholarships.

What are the employment prospects for graduates from this programme?

Many and various. Much will also depend on your previous background and where in the world you plan to work. But graduates will have valuable skills in sound design, in the use and understanding of the tools involved in sound design, in professional and practice issues, and in the impact and use of the sound across many of the interrelated disciplines. This implies many open routes into employment, into diverse kinds of design practice, and also into further research, perhaps for an academic career. (We are very open to proposals from students who would wish to continue to study for a PhD.) Some of our recent graduates are working for the BBC, in multimedia and web design or have been commissioned to create sound design as freelance practitioners.

If you still have a question that has not been answered, please email the Programme Director, Dr. Martin Parker at martin.parker@ed.ac.uk