Cultural Studies - PhD


Choose to undertake a PhD in Cultural Studies and you’ll research visual, design and urban cultures.  Based within Edinburgh College of Art, you’ll have access to exciting opportunities for cross-disciplinary exploration and research.

The PhD in Cultural Studies is offered as a 3-year full-time (or 6 year part-time) degree. It is an independently directed and intensive piece of research based on a substantial written dissertation. Topics for PhD study are normally proposed by applicants but can also be negotiated with individual members of staff. Working closely with the supervisors, doctoral students pursue independent research leading to the thesis. The PhD thesis is an original, significant, and creative contribution to knowledge in visual and cultural studies.

Research environment

PhD in Cultural Studies is supported by a wide ranging scholarly expertise in the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA), a world leading centre for the study of architecture, the city and visual culture. Located within Edinburgh College of Art at the University of Edinburgh, ESALA boasts a wide variety of specialisms in cultural theory and history, design and urban cultures, visuality and visual knowledges, place memory and spatial practices, and architectural theory and criticism.   

Research is central to the life of Architecture within ESALA. It motivates both the intellectual and creative facets of our activities, as well as driving our collaborations with a broad range of external institutions, both within the UK and internationally. Postgraduate research in particular is vital in maintaining our critical dynamism and international profile. We actively promote interdisciplinary approaches to the understanding of architecture, culture and the city and encourage research projects that challenge conventional modes of practice and thought. In addition to supporting students’ individual research, academic staff encourages and facilitates collective project-based activities, including publications, symposia and exhibitions.

Top five reasons to choose the programme

  • Distinct research focus on the city and visuality, visual knowledge and critical attention to modalities and strategies of representation and display. Areas of particular interest include urban photography, graffiti and street art, curating and exhibition design, new forms of visual, spatial and textual practices, critical approaches to image and writing.
  • Unique research context that encourages collaborations with research by design and creative practice. We encourage experimentation with graphic and visual essay, curatorial strategies, creative and collaborative approaches to research.
  • Curatorial projects and experimentation with forms of critical writing and modes of presentation of research. We support exhibition projects and innovative events that involve non-academic participants and audiences.
  • Summer School in Berlin:  PhD students participate in an intensive week-long series of workshops and colloquia organised in collaboration with Humboldt University in Berlin and with participation of international scholars presenting research-in-progress and exploring innovative research methodologies and modes of documentation and presentation of research.
  • Support for publishing and dissemination of research.  Our students are encouraged to actively contribute to research culture by transforming their academic work into publications: collaborative book-projects, articles in academic and professional journals, exhibition reviews and magazine articles, online journals and blogs.


Dr Ella Chmielewska, Programme Director | View staff profile >

This is a research programme. Support and supervision may be provided by any of the teaching staff in this School.

View the full staff list for Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture >


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Scholarships & bursaries

Successful applicants will have a research interest aligning with, or cutting across, ECA's five Schools.

The scholarships cover tuition fees, maintenance allowance, research and travel allowance.

Designed to attract high quality students applying for PhD research.

Funding for PhD students undertaking interdisciplinary research at ECA. (£16,000 per year)

Open to overseas students starting a PhD at University of Edinburgh.

News & events


The six contestants who took part in the ECA heat of this year's 3 Minute Thesis competition
The six contestants who took part in the ECA heat of this year's 3 Minute Thesis competition

Six PhD students battle it out, with wins for Music and Landscape Architecture.


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