Music HNC

Course code 103W

What is special about this course?

If you are interested in pursuing a career in popular or traditional music performance, this course is designed for you. It provides a strong grounding in core disciplines which allow you to develop and enhance your musical skills and understanding of the music industries.

Special features

  • You will have opportunities to perform your music locally and further afield
  • You can study full time or part time to suit your personal and professional circumstances
  • With locations across the Highlands and Islands you can choose the one that best fits your lifestyle and music. You can study at Lews Castle College UHI, on the Isle of Benbecula; Perth College UHI; North Highland College UHI, Alness campus; Shetland UHI or West Highland College UHI, Fort William campus.


We offer modern student accommodation at a number of our locations.

Entry requirements

  • 1 Scottish Higher at grade C or above Or
  • 1 A level at grade D or above Or
  • NC Music
  • Prospective students without the standard entry requirements as listed above are encouraged to apply
  • You will be asked to attend an audition and interview. You should prepare and perform a piece that demonstrates your skillset on your instrument or voice and, for writers, this can be an original composition or song. As a guideline, grade 4/5 is a rough equivalent of performance level for this course. However, consideration will also be given to musicians with similar experience that have not participated in graded repertoire. 
  • The interview will give you the opportunity to see our campus, meet staff and learn more about the course, including the resources and learning opportunities we offer to support your development.

Access routes

  • NC Music

Year 1 - HNC

Mandatory units are:

  • Music first study: instrument or Music first study: composition
  • Music: live performance
  • Music theory 
  • Music: graded unit 
  • Music business for musicians 

Option units may include:

  • Keyboard skills for music production
  • Songwriting
  • Music: session skills
  • Digital audio workstations
  • Creative project
  • Music: second study composition
  • Recording techniques for musicians
  • Music: research project
  • Music business: start-ups
  • Music history
  • Music second study: composition
  • Music: instrumental instruction

Option units available may vary depending on study location, for more information contact your chosen campus.

How will I study my course?

Additional information for course delivery in 2021-22

From September 2021, it is our intention that physical campuses will be open to all students for access to study facilities, support services and social activities, subject to Scottish Government guidance. Our priority is to provide a safe learning environment for all students and staff. We will continue to review government guidance as restrictions shift and will inform you of any further changes to the information provided below about your course. You will study the course through our blended learning approach. From September , where practical and safe to do so, on-campus practical delivery will be prioritised in line with the developing Scottish Government public health measures and guidance, including social distancing, where this is not possible alternative options will be available. The theory elements will be delivered online through a combination of video conference seminars, tutor-supported study and self-directed study using the university's virtual learning environment. You can access your online and video-based classes from home however it is our intention to provide on-campus space for individual students where required as far as possible. Further information will be provided by your home campus. You will have an opportunity to attend an online induction at the start of the course. International students requiring a Student Route visa to study with us must access scheduled classes on-campus
  • Full-time
  • Part-time (unstructured)
  • You will study by way of face-to-face lectures and tutorials in the classroom, and practical work in the music studio.

How long will my course last?

  • Full-time: 1 year
  • Part-time (unstructured): 2 years, 40 hours teaching per SQA unit plus some self-study time.

Where can I study my course?

  • Lews Castle College UHI - Benbecula campus, full-time study only
  • North Highland College UHI - Alness campus
  • Perth College UHI
  • Shetland College UHI
  • West Highland College UHI - Fort William, full-time study only

Start date

  • September


For students normally domiciled in Scotland, with a term-time address in Scotland, the following fees apply:

This includes

  • EU nationals with settled or pre-settled status in the UK,
  • EEA/Swiss nationals with settled status in the UK
  • EEA/Swiss nationals with pre-settled status who are self-employed or migrant workers in the UK.
Higher National Awards (HNC, HND)2020-212021-22
Full-time per year £1,285 £1,285
Part-time (per HN credit) £86 £86

Rest of UK students

For students normally domiciled in the rest of the UK (England, Wales and N. Ireland, including Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) and with a term time address in Scotland, the following fees apply:

Higher National Awards (HNC, HND)2020-212021-22
Full-time per year £6,720 £6,915
Part-time (per HN credit) £448 £461

Fees are payable in advance each academic year unless otherwise agreed.

There are a number of funding options available to UK students to help you pay for your studies and your cost of living while studying.

International students

For students who do not normally reside in the UK, including EU/EEA and Swiss nationals without settled or pre-settled status in the UK, with a term-time address in Scotland, the following fees apply:

This includes EEA/Swiss nationals with pre-settled status who are not self-employed or migrant workers in the UK.

Higher National Awards (HNC, HND)2020-212021-22
Full-time per year £7,020 £7,230
Part-time (per HN credit) £468 £482

Part-time study is not open to international student requiring Student Route visa sponsorship to study in the UK.


External scholarships and financial support may be available. Contact your enrolling college for more information.

What can I do on completion of my course?

This course will provide training to help you prepare for a future career in the music industries, in roles such as: live performer, session musician, producer, songwriter, composer, lecturer, teacher, or peripatetic instructor.

Can I progress into further study?

You can progress to our HND Music or to year two of our BA (Hons) Popular Music or BA (Hons) Applied Music.

Is there more information available online?

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What our students, graduates and staff say

I come from the Isle of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides and have recently moved back home to study on the HNC Music course at Lews Castle College UHI on Benbecula. Coming from an island, deeply enriched in culture and tradition has played a huge role in my love for traditional Scottish music of piping and Gaelic singing in particular.

I am so fortunate to have grown up here where my interest and love for traditional music began. I am surrounded by the everyday traditions and culture of the island and of course, the beautiful scenery  and am planning on continuing my studies by progressing onto the BA (Hons) Applied Music course next year.

Chloe Steele is studying on the HNC Music at Lews Castle College UHI.

I came from America to fulfil a dream to study music: piano is my first instrument and now I'm mastering the accordion. I love the breadth of this course - the choice of genres, the music theory units, the creative freedom and the opportunities to write and play with like-minded people.

I have a fantastic teacher who is a professional musician. Lecturers and college staff work closely together to share information and make the student experience as positive as possible. They all take a personal attitude towards the work they do with us: they seem to view work as an opportunity to enrich the community and place where they live. I love Fort William and plan to stay on and study either HND Music or Applied Music here.

RubyAnn Stiegelmeier studies HNC Music at our West Highland College UHI campus.

Apply for Music HNC

I want to start in Aug/Sep 2022

We are delighted that you are thinking about studying at the University of the Highlands and Islands. We operate a fair and open admissions system committed to equality of opportunity and non-discrimination. We consider all applications on merit and on the basis of ability to achieve, without discrimination on grounds of gender, age, disability, ethnicity and socio-economic background. We welcome applications from all prospective students and aim to provide appropriate and efficient services to students with disabilities.