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Co-designing digital orchestration tools for the music classroom (RDF23/CIS/NICHOLSON)

   Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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  Dr Rebecca Nicholson, Prof Paul Vickers  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The UK music industry was worth £4 billion in 2021, employing 145,000 people. Music technology skills however, particularly live mixing, are not regularly taught in schools, despite amplified or technology enhanced music now being the norm in the music industry.

While teachers recognise the importance of offering students experience with music technology, they often struggle to include it in the classroom as they do not feel they have the expertise. As such many barriers exist for those who want to enter the music industry, particularly for poorer students who struggle to access specialist music education.

We have seen that digital orchestration tools, including learning analytics can offer support for teachers enacting complex pedagogies. To date, these have not been explored extensively within the creative arts domain, particularly within music technology. 

This PhD project will focus on understanding the potential role of digital orchestration tools in supporting teachers to teach music technology skills, specifically live music mixing in the classroom. Understanding how to support teachers to offer music technology skills in the classroom could lower the barriers of access for those seeking careers in the music industry.

This PhD project aims to: (i) use co-creation methods to identify and design digital orchestration tools to support teachers to teach music mixing skills, and (ii) deploy and evaluate the use of these tools in the classroom.

This project aligns with research carried out in both the Digital Learning Lab research group, as well as with Northumbria Social Computing, one of the largest and most successful Human Computer Interaction groups in the world. The student will work with friendly colleagues across disciplines and will be based in the brand-new state-of-the art £7m Computer and Information Sciences building in the Newcastle city centre. 

Prospective candidates should have a background in computing or education and should have an interest in music or educational technology. Programming experience, or a strong interest in learning to program, is highly desirable.

Academic Enquiries

This project is supervised by Rebecca Nicholson. For informal queries, please contact [Email Address Removed]. For all other enquiries relating to eligibility or application process please use the email form below to contact Admissions. 

Funding Information

Home and International students (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. The studentship is available to Home and International (including EU) students and includes a full stipend at UKRI rates (for 2022/23 full-time study this is £17,668 per year) and full tuition fees. Studentships are also available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £10,600 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities).  

Please also see further advice below of additional costs that may apply to international applicants.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if they are already a PhD holder or if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have settled status, or
  • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student.  Applicants will need to be in the UK and fully enrolled before stipend payments can commence, and be aware of the following additional costs that may be incurred, as these are not covered by the studentship.

  • Immigration Health Surcharge
  • If you need to apply for a Student Visa to enter the UK, please refer to the information on It is important that you read this information very carefully as it is your responsibility to ensure that you hold the correct funds required for your visa application otherwise your visa may be refused.
  • Check what COVID-19 tests you need to take and the quarantine rules for travel to England
  • Costs associated with English Language requirements which may be required for students not having completed a first degree in English, will not be borne by the university. Please see individual adverts for further details of the English Language requirements for the university you are applying to.

How to Apply

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see   

For applications to be considered for interview, please include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words and the advert reference (e.g. RDF23/…).

Deadline for applications: 27 January 2023

Start date of course: 1 October 2023 tbc

Northumbria University is committed to creating an inclusive culture where we take pride in, and value, the diversity of our doctoral students. We encourage and welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds a bronze Athena Swan award in recognition of our commitment to advancing gender equality, we are a Disability Confident Employer, a member of the Race Equality Charter and are participating in the Stonewall Diversity Champion Programme. We also hold the HR Excellence in Research award for implementing the concordat supporting the career Development of Researchers.


UK Music, 2022 This is Music 2022, Available online at:
Voss, B. (2021) ‘Design principles for music technology education support: Just-in-time learning in the recording studio using mobile technologies’. Journal of Music, Technology & Education, 14(1), pp.21-42.
Dillenbourg, P. and Jermann, P. (2010) ‘Technology for classroom orchestration’, in Khine, M.S, and Saleh, I.M. (eds) New science of learning, Springer, New York, NY, pp. 525-552.

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