Practice-based Doctorates in Creative and Performing Arts and Design

Sir Christopher Frayling

Professor Sir Christopher Frayling was until recently Rector of the Royal College of Art, the only wholly postgraduate university of art and design in the world, where he is also Professor Emeritus of Cultural History.

This report focuses on practice-based doctorates but raises fundamental questions about the content, form and conduct of doctoral work. 

In setting out proposals for doctoral study a series of recommendations are made for the creative and performing arts and design. It is hoped that these proposals will give rise to major debates within the community and some action. Certainly, it will be of great benefit to many subject areas to reconsider what constitutes a doctorate. However, it is also important to open up further fields of study at doctoral level.

The paper has been prepared by a Working Group convened by Professor Christopher Frayling, Rector, Royal College of Art. The other members of the Working Group were Mrs Valerie Stead, former Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Greenwich, Professor Bruce Archer, Royal College of Art, Professor Nicholas Cook, University of Southampton, Professor James Powell, University of Salford, Dr Victor Sage, University of East Anglia, Professor Stephen Scrivener, University of Derby, and Professor Michael Tovey, Coventry University. The UK Council is very grateful to all members of the Working Group for their time and effort in preparing this paper which will assist institutions to debate the issues raised by the development of doctoral awards in creative disciplines. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the UK Council for Graduate Education.

The case has already been made that it is neither valid nor worthwhile to differentiate a PhD in a practice-based subject from a PhD in any other subject. It is the research orientation that is paramount. There is a substantial amount of doctoral research, particularly in the humanities, which, though not practice-based, does not conform to a narrow (and probably mythical) definition of a traditional scientific’ model of doctoral research and indeed much work in the sciences does not fit this model. 
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