About the Doctoral Programme in Music Therapy


The Doctoral Programme in Music Therapy was established in 1993 at Aalborg University and ran as a Nordic research network funded by NorFA. In 1996 the PhD programme was set up as an international research school which in 2008 became one out of five doctoral programmes under the umbrella of the Doctoral School of the Humanities. The programme has been directed by Inge Nygaard Pedersen (1993-1995), Lars Ole Bonde (1995-1997), Tony Wigram (1997-2011), and Hanne Mette Ridder (2010-present). In April 2016 the 20 years anniversary of the programme was celebrated at an international symposium. Since the beginning, 45 theses have successfully been submitted and defended at a public viva.

The program is closely connected with the teaching and research milieu at the five years MA training in music therapy offered at the Department of Communication and Psychology. With a majority of international scholarship students, the program has a strong global orientation and partnership with front research milieus. International liaisons are fostered through well-established consortium partnerships, research networks and proficient data collection sites.

Evidence and practice based research

In order to provide an academic research culture with a perspective on practice integrated at all levels of training, the doctoral students are expected to document clinical expertise within a specific field. With this as a starting point, the aim is to promote accumulation of clinical evidence, scientific knowledge, advanced competence in research methodology, theory development and international cooperation in a collaborative atmosphere of learning. Clinically based research is increasingly demanded in health care, and the doctoral students are trained in research methodology that is directed towards both process and outcome research. Clinical fields that have been the focus of doctoral research to date are diverse and include autism, paediatrics, psychiatry, neuro-rehabilitation (dementia, acquired brain injury, disorders of counsciousnes), forensics, psycho-oncology and psycho-somatics.

An enriching learning community

Pedagogically the doctoral program is informed by the principles of Problem Based Learning, offering strategies where the doctoral students learn through peer-reflections and collaborative peer learning and take the role for self-directed and self-regulated learning with problematization as an important driving force. By offering internal courses where the students work with the peer group, invited presenters and the supervisors, a cross-disciplinary and enriching learning community is created where ideas and problems are shared, and where learning has value at an academic as well as at a professional and personal level. The peer group consists of a majority of highly experienced music therapists, but also other professionals, and at all levels of their doctoral training. The newly enrolled student therefore learn from the peers who are at different steps of the research process, and also from the public PhD defences where a committee of three experts discusses and evaluates the research with the candidate.

Credits and topics of learning

The goal of the Doctoral Programme is to train researchers with sufficient theoretical, technical, methodological and applied clinical research knowledge in the field of music therapy research to assure scientific rigor. The 5 ECTS biannual courses includes a rich mixture of course work and aim to cover the following topics of learning: a) Reflexive methodology including data administration and data analysis, b) Objectivistic methodology including data administration and statistical analysis, c) Research ethics and reflexivity, d) Theory of science, and e) Academic writing and dissemination. The working methods for the courses consist of workshops, round table discussions, lectures, presentations of research in progress, and feedback on written as well as oral presentations.

Reputation and awards

The doctoral programme has been developed on a strong foundation in the milieu around the well-established five years full time MA training in music therapy at Aalborg University, and has attracted researchers from all over the world with the intention of promoting new scientific areas within music therapy. From 1997 funding was provided by the Faculty of Humanities for the awarding of Scholarship Grants to students from Denmark and abroad to undertake PhD level research while continuing their clinical work. Several full time fellowships have been funded by the Faculty of Humanities or by the Danish Research Council. In 2007 the Danish Research Council, Forskningsrådet for Kommunikation og Kultur, handed the award for being the most dynamic research milieu in Denmark to Tony Wigram and Lars Ole Bonde. In 2010 the doctoral programme was awarded a mobility grant of 11 million DKK by the Danish Research Council that allowed a considerable increase in the enrolment of international doctoral researchers.

Quality assurance

The Doctoral Programme is organized within the Doctoral School of Humanities at Aalborg University and follows the Danish Ministerial Order on the PhD Programme at the Universities and Certain Higher Artistic Educational Institutions and the regulations and curriculum of the Doctoral School. The programme works within the objectives that doctorateness implies the demonstration of advanced scholarship and academic enquiry (QAA, 2011) and the training offered through supervision and courses is aimed to enable students to carry out independent and original research in defined areas, and produce dissertations demonstrating a high level of academic skills.


The doctoral researchers are required to follow defined guidelines for research ethics and to seek approval from an ethics committee or an institutional review board. In order to support high-quality research and strive for trustworthiness and high integrity, research conducted from the doctoral programme is based on the three basic principles of research integrity; Honesty, Transparency, and Accountability. These principles are described in The Danish Code of Conduct for Research Integrity that addresses the following six standards for conducting research:

  1. Research planning and conduct
  2. Data management
  3. Publication and communication
  4. Authorship
  5. Collaborative research
  6. Conflicts of interest

Guidelines for handling research misconduct and breaches of responsible conduct of research at the Humanistic Faculty, please see www.kommunikation.aau.dk/etik, www.informationssikkerhed.aau.dk/persondata and Retningslinjer for god videnskabelig praksis.


QAA (2011). The quality assurance agency for higher education. Doctoral degree characteristics. Retrieved online December 13, 2012

Ministry of Higher Education and Science (2014). Danish Code of Conduct for Research Integrity. Availabe online.

See also:
Wigram, T. (2007): Doctoral Research School in Music Therapy, Aalborg University. The article describes the growth of the Doctoral Research School in Music Therapy, and explain some of the important elements of the school.

Ridder, H.M.O. (2015). Doctoral Education: A model of problem-based learning. In K. Goodman (Ed.), International Perspectives in Music Therapy Education and Training: Adapting to a Changing World. Charles C. Thomas Publisher, Limited.

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