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Richard Parncutt, updated 2020

Are you interested in a doctorate in the area of music psychology or music cognition under my supervision? The Centre for Systematic Musicology at the University of Graz has good infrastructure for doctoral students, and we are always on the lookout for promising new researchers to join our team.

Here is what you will need to get started:

  • A relevant academic bachelor's degree
  • A relevant academic master's degree
  • Experience carrying out and writing up a smaller empirical study (abstract, introduction, method, results, conclusions, references). This might be a master’s thesis or an article to which you made a major contribution.

These points may sound like formal bureacratic requirements. In fact, it is in your interest as a student to fulfill them, one at a time. As part of your doctorate, you will carry out and write up one or more independent research projects in competition with other international researchers. To do that successfully, you will need bachelor-level fundamentals, masters-level research skills/insight, and practical research experience. Without these three prerequisites, you risk wasting a lot of valuable time. Possibly years! Imagine collecting and analyzing a large amount of data, discovering a "fatal flaw" in your design, and starting again. 

You will also need:

  • Qualifications required by the University of Graz for entry to the doctorate in humanities. In our case, that usually means a master's degree in humanities-based musicology or similar.
  • Money. Our tuition fees are low relative to Britain and the USA. Sometimes, our Faculty of Humanities offers fellowships. Please ask about that. Another possibility is the DOC fellowships of ÖAW, and you might find other options at stipendien.at or oead.at. If you have time to (co-) apply for an FWF stand-alone project with yourself as research assistant, I could be the lead applicant. If your project is about digitalisation, check this. In 2020 the European Commission invited applications for Horizon 2020 - Research and Innovation Framework Programme (Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions).

If the above seems realistic, please then offer to give a talk in our weekly research seminar. If you can’t come physically to Graz on that occasion, you can present virtually.

After that, you might apply for a grant, or we might apply together. Keep in mind that the success of a grant application typically depends on:

  • anonymous evaluations by international experts (so make sure your application has a clear focus and will likely yield new, interesting, publishable findings; at the same time, avoid controversial issues),
  • the expertise of the applicants (recent good relevant publications are important),
  • the match between the applicants' expertise and the proposed research, and
  • the current success rate of applications (which depends on the finances of the grant-giver).

A word of warning about interdisciplinary grant applications: They may fail because reviewers from different disciplines disagree with each other, especially if one is from the humanities and the other from the sciences. Grant agencies may claim to be aware of this problem, but in practice fail to compensate for it, financing second-best projects and rejecting the best. That being the case, it may be a good idea to situate your grant application within one discipline or subdiscipline (the one in which you are best qualified) and hope that all reviewers will come from that discipline. This principle is diametrically opposed to the aim of the Centre for Systematic Musicology, which is to strive for the highest academic standards by delving deep into all disciplines that are relevant to a given question.

What is it like to do a PhD in Graz, Austria?
There is plenty of systematic musicology research going on in Graz, in diverse university departments. There is also a thriving student scene and lots of live music. Graz has four universities: University of Graz plus independent universities of art/music, technology and medicine.

The label “Centre for Systematic Musicology” allows us to be broadly interdisciplinary in our approach and present the benefits of our interdisciplinarity in grant applications.  We focus on music psychology, but we also like to incorporate approaches, arguments, materials and methods from areas like acoustics, sociology, physiology, computer science, ethnology, history, anthropology, philosophy, and music theory, plus practically oriented disciplines like music performance, music education, music therapy, and music medicine.

There is no German language requirement for doctorate programs in Graz, and the English language skills of most students and academics in Graz are very good. Our weekly research seminar is in English.

Enrolment for a doctorate in humanities at Uni Graz

The process has two stages:

  • university level (Studien- und Prüfungsabteilung) (info)
  • faculty level (Geisteswissenschaftliche Fakultät) (info)

To be admitted to the program “Doktorat der Philosophie in den Geisteswissenschaften”, the Studien- und Prüfungsabteilung will ask you for grades of courses that you consider equivalent to those offered in the Musikologie curriculum (BA and MA) in Graz. If your application passes the initial screening, it will be considered by the Curriculum Committee (Curriculakommission) of the doctoral program (Doktorat) of the Faculty of Humanities (Geisteswissenschaftliche Fakultät, GEWI-Fakultät). The Dean of Studies will ask for:

  • "Meldung zum Doktoratsstudium". Your major subject (Pflichtfach) will normally be systematic musicology and your minor or elective (Wahlfach) will usually be a relevant discipline in which you are already qualified (e.g. "developmental psychology", "historical musicology"). At the end of the program, your second examiner might be an expert in the Wahlfach.
  • Your supervision agreement "Betreuungsvereinbarung", which gives you three years to complete.
  • Your research plan (Skizze des Dissertationsprojekts), which might be 2-3 pages long. It should clearly explain your main question, and something about relevant theory, methods, and literature.
  • Your student transcript (Studienbuchblatt), indicating when you were enrolled in what course at what university and what grades you got for what subjects. 

If you prepare a complete draft of these documents and send them to me, I will comment so you can revise. There is no particular starting date, but people usually enrol at the start of a semester. Winter semester is from 1 October to 31 January, and summer from 1 March to 30 June (or a few days later).

The dissertation

As a doctoral student in the humanities, you will be required to write a traditional dissertation. If you publish one or more relevant articles before submitting the dissertation, you can adapt them to become chapters. From the curriculum: "Veröffentlichung von Teilen der Dissertation in wissenschaftlichen Zeitschriften/Sammelbänden ist auch vor der Beurteilung der Dissertation zulässig. Ein Verzicht auf eine abschließende Gesamtarbeit wird dadurch aber nicht ermöglicht".

Postdocs can apply for:

  • Lise Meitner fellowship (FWF)
  • IFK Senior Research Fellowship (IFK = international research centre for cultural studies)  
  • Intra-European Fellowships for Career Development (IEF)

Other possibilities are listed at fwf.ac.at. Again, let me know if I can help.

Univ.-Prof. Dr.phil.

Richard Parncutt

Univ.-Prof. Dr.phil. Richard Parncutt Centre for Systematic Musicology

Merangasse 70
8010 Graz, Austria

Telefon:+43 316 380 - 8161

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