Sacred Music (MLitt) 2024 entry

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.

Start date
September 2024
End date
September 2025
One year full time
School of Divinity

Application deadline

Thursday 8 August 2024

Applicants should apply as early as possible to be eligible for certain scholarships and for international visa purposes.

“Sacred music is taught in teams, which allows each lecturer to contribute a highly-specialised perspective to the wider scope of our learning. The resources made available through St Mary’s and the Music Centre have powerfully enhanced my studies here through weekly research seminars and lecture events, recording technology, and musical ensembles willing to test out new compositions, ”
- Massachusetts, USA

Entry requirements

The qualifications listed are indicative 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 your own, single-authored academic work in English (2,000 words) 
  • two original signed academic references 
  • academic transcripts and degree certificates  

For more guidance, see supporting documents and references for postgraduate taught programmes.

English language proficiency

If English is not your first language, you may need to provide an English language test score to evidence your English language ability.  See approved English language tests and scores for this course.

Course details

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. 
  • 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. 


The modules published below are examples of what has been taught in previous academic years and may be subject to change before you start your programme. For more details of each module, including weekly contact hours, teaching methods and assessment, please see the module catalogue.

Students are expected to take three compulsory modules and one optional  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.  
  • Making Music in a Church Context: enables students to develop their skills in such roles as choir director, organist, composer, worship ensemble leader, and music journalism, through specialist small-group teaching. 
  • Sacred Music in the West: History and Context: invites students to explore when, where, and why Christians have made music in their worship, focusing on the history and development of sacred music-making in a variety of confessional traditions informed by Western musical practice.  

In Semester 2, students must pick an optional module. This optional module can either be from the Theology and the Arts MLitt or from another Divinity MLitt. 

An example of a Theology and the Arts option: 

  • Christian Doctrine and the Arts 

Optional choices are subject to the approval of the course coordinator and subject to change each year. Some also may require a minimum number of participants or only allow limited numbers of students (see the University's position on curriculum development).  

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 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. 

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. 

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
  • a live lecture presentation on a topic researched during the course. 


The Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts (ITIA) is a vibrant community of established scholars, post-docs, and graduate students. 

The weekly research seminar, at which internal and guest speakers discuss their ongoing work, is at the heart of the Institute’s day-to-day life. 

The ITIA research forum allows postgraduate students to discuss ongoing research and also provides professional and practical training.




More information on tuition fees can be found on the postgraduate fees and funding page.

Funding and scholarships

The University of St Andrews is committed to attracting the very best students, regardless of financial circumstances.

Taught postgraduate scholarships    Postgraduate loans

After your degree


The MLitt in Sacred Music will benefit 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 as well as a programme of events to assist students in building their employability skills.

Further study

In addition to the MLitt, the School of Divinity offers a two-year residential Master of Philosophy (MPhil) degree option in Theology and the Arts. 

Many graduates continue their education by enrolling in PhD programmes at St Andrews or elsewhere. 

Postgraduate research

What to do next

Online information events

Join us for one of our information events where you can find out about different levels of study and specific courses we run. There are also sessions available for parents and college counsellors.

Postgraduate online visiting days

We encourage all students who are thinking of applying to the University to attend one of our online visiting days.

Contact us

+44 (0)1334 46 2826
School of Divinity
St Mary's College
South Street
St Andrews
KY16 9JU

School of Divinity website