The department currently grants academic music degrees, based on the following programs: musicology, western music research, ethnomusicology, music technologies, music education, music therapy, and composition. These different programs share a common rationale which is that the student in the department may engage not only in analytical music research but also in its practical application: the music therapist draws upon music in the treatment of various populations, the music teacher transmits the musical tradition to the next generations, while the composer performs his works publicly after they have withstood the "laboratory" tests of his fellow students. In the 1990s, additional interdisciplinary courses were opened which straddled the fields of music and other areas (computers, film, literature, psychology, etc.)
These courses broadened the academic horizon inasmuch as the examination of music is not local or insular but rather integrated and seeks interaction with other areas of research in academia.
The first step towards integrating the arts in the academic curriculum of the university was already taken in 1955-1956 by Prof. Pinchas Churgin, the founder of Bar-Ilan University and its first president. His program included establishment of a five-building center for music and the fine arts and it is possible that that program was the source for the university's decision to open a department of musicology.
In the year 1968, Prof. Uri Sharvit presented a detailed plan for the establishment of the department which was reviewed in the relevant university forums with great interest and attention. In June 1969, the first practical step was taken toward the realization of that plan by Prof. Harel Fish, the then rector of Bar-Ilan. He turned to Prof. Bathia Churgin, daughter of the university's founder, who was already then a renowned musicologist and asked her to establish the department. Prof. Churgin arrived at Bar-Ilan in the summer of 1969 in order to examine the conditions and to evaluate the quality of the library and equipment and in the fall of 1970 she organized the first year course of study and solicited many contributions for learning materials.
In addition to the department's "broadening," interdisciplinary concept, it also promotes the intra-disciplinary aspects which developed over the years. Since the inception of the department, it was clear that the music student cannot only be satisfied with academic studies, but, in order to understand music on a deeper level, he must experience music making through actual music playing. This is where the where the academic music realm meets with the practical one. This intra-disciplinary enrichment assumed many forms throughout the years. For example, composers are also musicologists, who engage in researching the sources for their and other works in order to achieve a convincing, authentic and sincere composition. Composers learn new technologies and employ them in their music composition and performance. Ethno-musicologists also are in direct contact with people from overlapping areas of music: artists from the popular music world, artists in the Israeli song market, and singers and people from the various arenas of music broadcasting.
In the past 10 years of the department's existence, a certain academic-social policy has arisen, a product of the department's sensitivity to the community and Israeli public. The Center for Research in Israeli Popular Music (2003), is attentive both to the public's issues and the history of the state. The areas of interest in this center are not limited to the academic ivory tower but are specifically from within the heart of Israeli society, in radio broadcasts, popular song and beloved Israeli songs, and the proof can be seen in the full attendance and public interest in the workshops sponsored by the Center. Additional community projects such as "choir in prison" and "music dialogue" are aimed at forming a dialogue with the community, The concert series, which in most of the department's earlier years was aimed at the internal college campus, has lately become almost exclusively geared toward the public, attended not only by the department's students and campus population, but residents of Givat Shmuel, Kiryat Ono, and Ramat Gan. This phenomenon might leave the impression that the direction of the 21st century is geared toward community outreach.