University of Chester

Programme Specification
Music Production and Sound Design FDA
2017 - 2018

Foundation Arts Degree

Music Production and Sound Design

Music Production and Sound Design

University of Chester

St. Helens College.

St Helens College Town Centre Campus

Undergraduate Modular Programme


Classroom / Laboratory, Work-Based inc.(practice / placement)

2 years

5 Years

Annual - September




17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Arts and Humanities Media

  • Music
  • Communication, media, film, cultural studies
  • Foundation Degree Qualification Benchmark



Monday 24th June 2013

The programme enables students to study a music technology curriculum with a focus on developing the students' employability and transferable skills. There is an emphasis on developing technical skills and competence in problem-solving, team work, and entrepreneurship. 

  • To produce graduates who have an informed and critical approach to music composition, music production, sound engineering and sound design.
  • To develop the cognitive potential of the students through the academic study of a range of technical, analytic and conceptual approaches relating to music production and sound design.
  • To provide a supportive and structured framework to facilitate students’ learning.
  • To develop transferable skills that are essential in a range of employment opportunities.
  • To allow the opportunity for students to develop a distinctive and individual portfolio of project work that reflects contemporary creativity in music production and sound design.
  • To equip candidates with the appropriate level of academic and professional practice to prepare for the music industry environment and to prepare the student for academic study at a higher level.
  • To foster ongoing development through professional practice and life-long learning.

Key knowledge areas addressed are: to develop underpinning knowledge of sound recording, acoustics, and the use of industry standard Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) platforms.  In addition, students will develop an understanding of the music industry, popular music history, and the skills necessary to work as an industry professional.

By the end of this programme the student will, typically:

Level 4

  • Demonstrate development of knowledge and competence in relation to appropriate industry related equipment with an understanding of its operations and technical requirements. These outcomes are addressed in the following modules:
  • ME4011 (DAW Techniques)
  • ME4013 (Studio Recording)
  • ME4014 (Practical Sound Theory and Acoustics)
  • ME4016 (Music Sequencing)
  • Show understanding of elements of music: harmonic structure, instrumentation, rhythm and stylistic characteristics. These outcomes are addressed in the Music Theory and Composition module (ME4015).

    Knowledge at this level is particularly aimed at developing technical competence and core academic skills.

Level 5

  • Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of advanced production and recording techniques. These outcomes are addressed in the following modules.
  • ME5014 (Production, Recording and Mastering)
  • ME5017 (Audio Post Production for Visuals).
  • Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of key issues within the field of music production. This outcome is addressed in the following modules.
  • ME5015 (Work-Based Learning and Career Research)
  • ME5016 (Popular Music Theory and Research)
  • ME5018 (Popular Music in Context)
  • ME5019 (Entrepreneurship in the Music Industry)

Knowledge at this level introduces the learners to academic research (ME5016), the field of popular music studies (ME5016) and study of the music industry (ME5018). There is also a focus on employability and entrepreneurship in modules ME5015 and ME5019. Specialist technical knowledge is developed further and demonstrated in modules ME5014 and ME5017.

Thinking and cognitive skills are developed in both years of the programme, with a particular emphasis on developing analytical and critical skills in year two. 

By the end of this programme the student will, typically:

Level 4

  • Use structured and coherent arguments to analyse and describe musical compositions and audio productions demonstrating an understanding of form, audio quality and context in a well-planned format. These outcomes are addressed in the following modules.
  • ME4011 (DAW Techniques)
  • ME4013 (Studio Recording)
  • ME4016 (Music Sequencing)
  • Access and critically evaluate information independently to support ideas and arguments. This outcome is addressed in the written assessments in all the modules. There is a particular focus on developing these core academic skills in the Personal and Academic Study Skills module (ME4012)

 Level 5

  • Reflect upon production processes and analyse self-produced music productions. These outcomes are addressed in the following modules.
  • ME5014 (Production, Recording and Mastering)
  • ME5017 (Audio Post Production for Videos)
  • Research and critically evaluate a topic using structured and coherent arguments. This outcome is addressed in the following modules.
  • ME5016 (Popular Music Theory and Research)
  • ME5018 (Popular Music in Context)



Students will demonstrate the ability to manage their time, meet deadlines, and will gain experience at project management whilst working as part of a group. They will demonstrate competence in sound recording, sequencing and composition. The work-based learning module (ME5015) and the entrepreneurship module (ME5019) enhance employability and develop business skills.

By the end of this programme the student will, typically:

Level 4

  • Employ a broad variety of equipment and software involved in the field of music technology, music and audio production to produce and compose original audio products. These outcomes are addressed in the following modules.
  • ME4011 (DAW Techniques)
  • ME4013 (Studio Recording)
  • ME4015 (Music Theory and Composition)
  • ME4016 (Music Sequencing)

Level 5

  • Employ professional competence in a wide range of relevant audio and visual practices. These outcomes are addressed in the following modules. 
  • ME5014 (Production, Recording and Mastering)
  • ME5015 (Work-Based Learning and Career Research)
  • ME5017 (Audio Post Production for Visuals)
  • ME5019 (Entrepreneurship in the Music Industry)
  • Demonstrate critical judgment in the creation of audio and visual products. This outcome is addressed in the following modules.
  • ME5014 (Production, Recording and Mastering)
  • ME5017 (Audio Post Production for Visuals)


Students on the programme will develop effective communication skills, both orally and in writing. They will demonstrate the ability to communicate with members of a team, and develop the ability to work independently in a professional environment.

By the end of this programme the student will, typically:

Level 4

  • Communicate ideas and analyses in an appropriate manner in spoken and written forms using ICT. This outcome is addressed in all the modules. Specific development work on this outcome takes place in the study skills module. There is a focus on developing numeric skills in the acoustics module.
  • ME4012 (Personal and Academic Study Skills)
  • ME4014 (Practical Sound Theory and Acoustics)
  • Recognise and evaluate personal responsibility for own learning and work as part of a group when necessary. This outcome is addressed in the following modules.
  • ME4012 (Personal and Academic Study Skills)
  • ME4013 (Studio Recording)

Level 5

  • Exercise personal responsibility for self-directed learning and decision-making skills. This outcome is addressed in all the modules.
  • Apply personal and academic skills in the workplace. This outcome is addressed in module ME5015 (Work-Based Learning and Career Research).


The programme offered is a Foundation Degree programme studied over two years on a full time basis. Each module is worth 20 credits with 200 hours of associated teaching and learning. The structure has at its core the establishment and development of knowledge, skills and understanding of commercial music production situated within the political, social and economic factors which impact upon them and upon which they impact. Assessment of these modules will be through academically, personally and vocationally orientated outcomes designed to prepare the student for graduate level study/or employment in the creative industries.

Programme Level Four

At Level 4 teaching provides a well-balanced, progressive and sequential learning path throughout the year. The technical aspects of the course are initially explored from a theoretical perspective; this knowledge is then later employed in practical work within the programme. The music production and sound design software packages explored on the course reflect current industry standards. The craft of sound engineering and music production is integrated within the teaching and learning, and students are also made aware of career opportunities within the industry that relate to these core skills. The students are actively encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning and to pursue learning for its own sake. These values are an integral part of the Level 4 Personal and Academic Study Skills module and inform the programme overall.

Programme Level Five

At Level 5 the technical skills developed in Level 4 are extended, for example, the learning that occurs on the technical modules at Level 4 are then used as a platform for further development at Level 5. The practical and technical skills developed in Level 4 and 5 also impact on the Work Based Learning and Career Research module and the Entrepreneurship in the Music Industry module at Level 5, which in turn prepare the learners for employment or self-employment in the music industry. The specifically academic modules at Level 5 are designed to aid progression onto Level 6 study at Chester. These modules develop the students’ academic skills and outline the field of Popular Music Studies. Both modules require the students to extend their intellectual abilities and research skills, and the research component at Level 5 allows the students the opportunity to develop their academic writing skills in an extended essay.

Mod-Code Level Title Credit Single
ME4011 4 Digital Audio Workstation Techniques 20 Comp
ME4012 4 Personal and Academic Study Skills 20 Comp
ME4013 4 Studio Recording 20 Comp
ME4014 4 Practical Sound Theory and Acoustics 20 Comp
ME4015 4 Music Theory and Composition 20 Comp
ME4016 4 Music Sequencing 20 Comp
ME5014 5 Production, Recording and Mastering 20 Comp
ME5015 5 Work-Based Learning and Career Research 20 Comp
ME5016 5 Popular Music Theory and Research 20 Comp
ME5017 5 Audio Post Production for Visuals 20 Comp
ME5018 5 Popular Music in Context 20 Comp
ME5019 5 Entrepreneurship in the Music Industry 20 Comp

Level 4 – Successful completion of at least 120 credits at Level 4 or above– Leads to Certificate of Higher Education.

Level 5 – Successful completion of all six 20 credit modules equals 240 credits (including 120 credits at level 4) – Leads to Foundation Degree in Music Production and Sound Design.

Typically, on receipt of application, candidates will be invited to attend an interview with the programme leader, bringing with them a portfolio of work to illustrate their current skills and abilities in music production and related areas.  Candidates must typically be able to satisfy the following general admissions requirements and minimum qualifications. Mature students can be accepted based on prior experience (APEL) and a suitable level of functional skills. They are also likely to be required to demonstrate an aptitude and suitability for the programme; this is evidenced by a test essay if the programme leader considers it appropriate.

  • School/College leavers will normally have reached the age of 18 years on admission.
  • Satisfactory completion of an interview.

Applicants should possess 120 UCAS points, and preferably have at least Level 2 Maths and English. The necessary UCAS points can be obtained from the following qualifications, assuming the applicant obtains a suitable grade (or grades) that equates to 120 credits on the UCAS tariff summary.

  • Successful completion of a National Award and National Certificate.
  • Successful completion of a National Diploma.
  • Successful completion of ‘A' Level study.
  • Qualifications deemed equivalent to the above.
  • Points achieved through key skills will also be acknowledged.
  • Access to HE, HNC, HND.

Although entry to the programme is not dependent on students having formal music/music technology qualifications they are expected to have some experience with either: music recording, music sequencing, music production, or DJ skills, and possess some instrumental and/or compositional ability.

The above is indicative of the profile of a typical applicant.

The programme has been designed with the QAA Foundation Degree Qualification Benchmark Statement (2010) in mind. The programme is also informed by relevant aspects from the Skillset National Occupation Standards for Sound.

The QAA suggest that Foundation Degrees should integrate academic and work-based learning through close collaboration between employers and programme providers. Foundation Degrees build upon a long history of design and delivery of vocational qualifications in higher education, and are intended to equip learners with the skills and knowledge relevant to their employment, so satisfying the needs of employees and employers.

When designing the Foundation Degree it was important to consider the balance of intellectual and practical skills, and the related opportunities to apply such learning within the workplace. Learning and work are closely interlinked within the Foundation Degree programme. Learning in the workplace can take many forms and serves a variety of purposes. When planning the curriculum for the Foundation Degree it was important that consideration was given to the ways in which the work-based learning is appropriate to the particular needs of the relevant employment sector or type of employer, and how the programme helps to provide the knowledge and transferable skills needed for employment.

Foundation Degrees are intended to make a valuable contribution to lifelong learning by providing access to higher education for learners from different starting points and with different entry qualifications, e.g. apprenticeships, access programmes, NVQs and diplomas. A clear route that facilitates opportunities for successful progression from Foundation Degrees towards another qualification are an important feature of Foundation Degrees, this is offered in this instance by the progression route to the BA (Hons) Media at the University of Chester.

After successfully completing the Foundation Degree in Music Production and Sound Design, students should be able to demonstrate the following skills, which are expected by the QAA.

  • Knowledge and critical understanding of the well-established principles in their field of study and the way in which those principles have developed.
  • Successful application in the workplace of the range of knowledge and skills learnt throughout the programme.
  • Ability to apply underlying concepts and principles outside the context in which they were first studied, and the application of those principles in a work context
  • Knowledge of the main methods of enquiry in their subject, and ability to evaluate critically the appropriateness of different approaches to solving problems in their field of study and apply these in a work context.
  • An understanding of the limits of their knowledge, and how this influences analyses and interpretations based on that knowledge in their field of study and in a work context

Typically, holders of the Foundation Degree in Music Production and Sound Design will be able to:

  • Use a range of established techniques to initiate and undertake critical analysis of information, and to propose solutions to problems arising from that analysis in their field of study and in a work context.
  • Effectively communicate information, arguments, and analysis, in a variety of forms, to specialist and non-specialist audiences, and deploy key techniques of the discipline effectively in their field of study and in a work context
  • Undertake further training, develop existing skills, and acquire new competences that will enable them to assume responsibility within organisations.

They should also have developed the following skills:

  • The qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment and progression to other qualifications requiring the exercise of personal responsibility and decision-making.
  • The ability to utilise opportunities for lifelong learning.

The mixture of practical, academic, and work-based learning that students will experience on the course fully addresses the QAA Foundation Degree Qualification Benchmark statements.

There is also a range of links at all levels of study specifically to address QAA ‘Music' benchmarks, all of which are embedded to various degrees, specifically across the practical production modules. As regards compositional and knowledge-based skills, learners will "demonstrate the ability to analyse, manipulate, interrogate or create musical materials (texts, artefacts, technologies and phenomena) and to present results or findings in a coherent and communicable form" and will "show an understanding of the relationship between theory and practice in music, and be able to use relevant techniques and methods to explain and demonstrate that interrelationship".

Strong links are to be found in relation to practical and technological skills, where learners will demonstrate "...a measure of personal expression, imagination and creativity in practical music-making (whether this takes the form of performing, composing, arranging or improvising), and the ability to communicate through music employing appropriate technical and interpretative means", "...the ability to recognize (analyse) musical organisation, whether aurally, or by studying a written score", "...the ability to work in combination with others on joint projects or activities, and to show skills in teamwork, negotiation, organisation and decision-making" and "...the ability to present work in accessible form, intelligible to both expert and non-expert audiences (readers, consumers etc)."

These links to the QAA ‘Music' benchmarks and associated skills are not exhaustive, and there are other examples that relate well to the programme content, for example, where learners will "use an appropriate range of equipment for creating and recording music", "use and create computer software for musical tasks including composing and performing, making notation, recording, editing, analysing and synthesising sound" and "combine musical sound with other media, such as film, digital animation, interactive web and mobile technology applications".

The production and composition modules cover these above points.

Generic skills identified by the benchmarking statement such as effective communication, IT literacy, teamwork, problem-solving and personal planning skills are explicitly taught and assessed in the study skills module. These skills are also a key part of many of the summative assessments on the course. 

Students on the Foundation Degree in Music Production and Sound Design have the opportunity to fully maximise their development through the following features;

  • The use of a dedicated suite of computers equipped with industry standard production software.
  • Access to both analogue and digital recording studios (typically).
  • A typically very low student to staff ratio that allow students access and direct contact with supportive staff.
  • Staff rooms are typically located close to the teaching and technical areas, which facilitates an ‘open door' policy that allows students excellent access to the course tutors.
  • All hand-outs and presentations are available on the VLE, as are student grades and feedback on coursework.

Students arrive with varied academic backgrounds and with differing levels of experience in the creative, practical and theoretical aspects of the subject. The programme team therefore ensures that in their first year all students develop an underpinning of practical, theoretical and technical study that will be built on in their second year at St Helens, and then at Level 6 study at Chester. Throughout the programme the principal concern is for learning to encompass individual development, intellectual challenge and development of professional capability. The Foundation Degree in Music Production and Sound Design therefore intends to use a combination of lectures, seminars, individual tutorials, presentations and practical based studio activities, directed and self directed learning. Overall this will develop all associated skills, impart knowledge, encourage creative and technical exploration and begin the development of self-motivated and effective learners who know how to access and use the available resources.

The balance between technical aptitude, intellectual growth, research, conceptual exploration, and the practical achievement of vocational capability with the aim of enhancing employability is the basis for the structure and format of the programme.

Each module is usually delivered via 3-hour sessions per week. How these sessions are used will vary according to the requirements of the module content and the pedagogic strategies of the individual lecturers.

Opportunity for group work occurs in the Level 4 module Personal and Academic Study Skills in the form of group presentations, and in the Level 4 Studio Recording module where the students work in a group to realise a recording project. In the second year of the programme students will work on a recording project as members of a team, to record musicians from outside the College as part of the Level 5 Production, Recording and Mastering module. This involves extensive planning, organisation and the adoption of specific roles.

The time allocation for the programme reflects Higher Education practice in that 20 credits equal 200 hours of learning activity. A detailed breakdown of the hours per module is found in the Module Descriptors.

The individual time allocation given to each module per week reflects the credit rating and scheduling for that module. Tutor contact is in the form of lectures, workshops, seminars and tutorials. In addition to this, students are expected to spend the identified amounts of time in research activities, developing their studio practice and computer based production activities. There is excellent accessibility to staff and this helps to ensure close co-operation between students and tutors in the development of individual learning strategies and the promotion of autonomous learning. This activity is supported by the tutorial system.

Module Handbooks describe in detail assignment tasks, suggested reading, links and resources, a programme of study and a module marking scheme. The programme provides the opportunity for students to develop and demonstrate knowledge and understanding, intellectual skills, professional practical skills and transferable/key skills.

Students are expected to actively participate in and contribute to evaluation of composition practice and recording studio sessions through critiques, self-analysis and constructive peer group comment upon colleagues' work. Practical studio sessions and input from both students' tutors and their peers help to engender a rapport and good working relationship between students and tutors and are vital to the monitoring of student progress in the acquisition and development of practical, evaluative and analytical skills.

All pieces of practical coursework contain an element of reflective evaluation and critical analysis to encourage students to investigate and examine their work. This self-evaluation/analysis is included in the assessment of that element of work although the coursework and modules themselves may be predominantly practical in nature. 

Methods of delivery include:

  • Lectures
  • One to one tutorials
  • Supervised recording studio sessions
  • Supervised composition and arrangement sessions
  • Seminars
  • Workshops and demonstrations
  • Presentations
  • DVD screenings

Opportunities for Personal Development Planning are provided through tutorials and assignment work integrated into key modules that span the levels of the programme.

The module Personal and Academic Study Skills in Level 4 will allow students the opportunity to begin the process of building a PDP whilst developing the necessary evaluative and self-analytical skills needed to manage and oversee their learning. The module leader will offer guidance in the development of a PDP and encourage self-motivation and an awareness of the necessity to become an independent learner.

In the second year, in the Level 5 module Work Based Learning and Career Research, students will reflect upon their current skills and what will be required in their chosen career path. They are also required to reflect upon how their learning and practice impacted on their experience on the work placement.

Pastoral tutorials support, guide and encourage students to reflect on their learning and experiences as they develop through the two years of the programme.

Knowledge and understanding are acquired via lectures, demonstrations, group seminars, self-directed learning, studio work and tutorials.

Intellectual skills are promoted and delivered through lectures, visits, seminars, group discussions and tutorials.

Professional practical skills are acquired through lectures, demonstrations, seminars, tutorials, project work and practical studio and composition practice.

All modules encourage students to think critically, work independently and in groups and present material in a variety of appropriate ways. Transferable/Key skills are directly promoted through the Level 4 Personal and Academic Study Skills module and the Level 5 Work-Based Learning and Career Research and Entrepreneurship in the Music Industry modules. Transferable/Key skills are acquired through demonstrations, seminars, group tutorials, group discussions, trips, project work and practical studio work. Personal Development Planning and the tutorial system also support this practice.

Assessment on this programme is designed to provide feedback to students on their performance in order to shape future learning, to verify achievement in order that students can progress through and beyond the programme and to evidence for internal and external use the maintenance and enhancement of the quality of the programme. In the early stages of the programme, the formative role of assessment to help students learn may be as important as the summative assessment for certification. As students progress through the programme more emphasis may be placed on the verification of achievement.

The basic functions of assessment are as follows:

  • Measure achievement against learning outcomes
  • Measure achievement against specified assessment criteria
  • Identify student strengths and weaknesses
  • Communicate written & verbal feedback to students on their progress
  • Ensure national academic standards are met in comparison to other awards

Assessment is acknowledged to be a major driver of student learning. Students' work is assessed in order to ensure the programmes standards are met. All modules contain assessed work that is normally generated by an assignment brief. All assignment briefs will contain both evidence requirements for submission and a set of assessment criteria that explain what is being assessed. The assessment criteria will reflect the learning outcomes of the module and it is with these in mind that the examiner can make a judgement on an individual student's performance.

ICT plays an important role in assessment. As the course has a strong technical focus many of the modules require the development of considerable ICT skills. Also, the written components and presentations develop the students' competence in using standard computer packages such as Word and PowerPoint. It is hoped that students take responsibility for the integration of ICT into their everyday research, development and production of assignment work across all aspects of their learning.

Formative assessments occur at assessment points during each module and provide support and guidance for later summative assessments.

Coursework may include a variety of methods e.g. essays, studio practice, recordings, compositions and presentations. Assessment is linked to assignment assessment criteria and learning outcomes.


On graduating from the Foundation Degree in Music Production and Sound Design a typical student will be competent in the use of a range of industry standard recording and production software, they will have gained audio recording skills, have an overview of music production techniques, and have developed an underpinning knowledge of the theory of sound recording and acoustics.

They will be capable and practiced in experimental, problem solving activities and possess the necessary skills and knowledge to become practitioners in the music industry.

Graduates of the FD will possess the abilities that enable the development and application of a combination of analytical, intellectual and conceptual skills to realise a personal, creative and academic identity.

Graduates will have developed an understanding of a complex body of knowledge, understand artistic and cultural precedents and production aesthetics and will be able to confidently explain the contemporary context of their own production practice.

They will be able to review, consolidate and extend their knowledge, use initiative and be capable of sustaining critical rigour to critically evaluate material of their own and that of others.

Typically, students graduating within this programme will display the following characteristics from the QAA ‘Music' benchmark: "Demonstrate the ability to gather and assimilate information and to synthesise and organise relevant outputs."

"Demonstrate the ability to develop ideas and construct arguments in both verbal and written form and to evaluate such ideas and arguments critically."

"Demonstrate the ability to work independently, and to show self-motivation and critical self-awareness."

Graduates will possess the necessary problem solving skills in preparation for employment in a range of creative and cultural industries. Career paths such as teaching, sound recording, music production, audio post-production, live sound, and workshop leading, will confirm the value of embedded transferable skills.

Finally, other graduates may, having achieved an appropriate level of professional practice, follow the path of professional practitioners developing and realising their own musical and production practice.

St Helens College's commitment to Equality and Diversity is reflected in our core values -
'We make sure that everything we do helps to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Equality Act 2010. We advance the equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not. We foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

As part of this commitment we aim to remove or minimise disadvantages experienced by people due to their protected characteristics. We take measures to fulfil the needs of individuals from protected groups where they are different from the needs of other persons. We support and encourage individuals with protected characteristics to participate in the public life of the college especially where participation is disproportionately lower.'

For full details please see the St Helens College Equality and Diversity Policy.


In addition to the curriculum providing the highest level of professional, practical and academic standards in the specialist area of Music Production and Sound Design, a number of modules specifically foster and support employability. At Level 4 a Personal Development Plan records and evaluates student practice with the aim of developing the learners’ skills to match their individual career aspirations. This activity is supported through tutorials and feeds into the Work Based Learning and Entrepreneurship modules at Level Five. In the second year, the Level 5 module Work Based Learning and Career Research module aims to focus learners on their possible career options. They also undertake a work placement that is closely related to their chosen career option. We have developed links with a number of local employers over the years that enable us to find suitable placements for the students. The Level 5 Entrepreneurship in the Music Industry module addresses the reality that many jobs in the music industry involve self-employment. The role of the creative entrepreneur is explored and the issues concerning self-employment in the music industry are explored. Transferable skills such as research techniques, problem solving skills, concept development, analysis and evaluation, organisational and planning skills are embedded into all assignment work to enhance employability.

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