Art - PhD


This is a research degree which offers graduates the opportunity to undertake advanced research leading to original contributions to knowledge in a variety of areas. These include: Contemporary Art Practices (Intermediality, Painting, Sculpture, Print, Drawing, Film & Video, Photography, New Media, Performance, Movement/Dance/Choreography, Sound Art, Artwriting, Artists' Publishing, Curating), Extradisciplinary Arts (Education/Anthropology/Social Practices/Science), Parahumanities, Contemporary Visual, Material & Sensual Cultures, Contemporary Cultural Theory & Criticism, Artist-led Cultures, Histories of Contemporary Art (1975-Present).

For UK and European Union candidates, the PhD in Art is available in both full-time mode (three years) and part-time mode (six years). However, for overseas candidates, this degree is only available in full-time mode due to visa restrictions. The degree is based on independent study, supported by a supervisory team, which normally includes two or three supervisors. Second or third supervisors can be based in areas outside the School of Art, either in ECA, or the wider University, depending on the interdisciplinary needs of the proposed research project.

Entry requirements include a 2:1 Honours degree or equivalent, and a research proposal of doctoral level (guidelines are available), in an area which can be supervised by available academic staff (please check staff research profiles). Candidates with relevant professional experience, who do not hold the required academic qualifications, can submit a research proposal of doctoral level accompanied by a portfolio with evidence of relevant professional practice.

During their first year of study, students are encouraged to attend a Research Methods course run by the School of Art, as well as training sessions and workshops coordinated by the University’s Institute of Academic Development (IAD). These are designed to help them undertake their research more efficiently, and develop transferable skills. Students are also encouraged to attend relevant lectures, seminars and workshops which take place across all levels of provision in the School of Art, the wider Edinburgh College of Art, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the University more generally.

Students benefit from a range of libraries (including the Main Library of the University and two specialised libraries within ECA), studios, and a large number of specialised workshops, as well as exhibition spaces, both within the premises of ECA and the wider University, as well as in other venues in the city of Edinburgh with which ECA has developed links, partnerships and various types of collaborative relationships. Furthermore, research students in the School of Art benefit from related activities taking place in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, such as the Edinburgh Festival.

Students registered for an MPhil in Art can apply to transfer to PhD in Art, before the end of their second year of full-time study (fourth year of part-time study) at the latest.


Candidates are required to submit a thesis of maximum length of 100,000 words, or if appropriate a thesis of maximum length of 50,000 words accompanied by an appropriate portfolio of practical work. Students are normally examined by means of a viva voce (oral examination), in which one external and one internal examiner interview the candidate after having read the written work, and considered any practical work that might be part of the submission (including work presented in exhibition format, performances, and experimental writing).

Knowledge and understanding

In this degree, we expect students to progressively develop an original contribution to knowledge in their chosen specialist area. They should be able to relate their work to the general body of knowledge within this area, and present the results of the research in a critical and scholarly manner. The presentation of the outcomes could be by thesis alone or, when appropriate, by a combination of thesis and portfolio of artefacts, artworks and other practice-based, practice-led or practice-related outcomes more generally.

When appropriate, students should be able to also show an informed awareness of the variety of methods, theoretical frameworks as well as creative and professional practices that have shaped the ways in which their chosen area is understood, interpreted and is manifested within past and current practices. They are also expected to contribute to the development of such methods, theoretical frameworks and creative/professional practices as necessary. Students should be able to display a sophisticated grasp of specialised terminology current within their field of study (or combination of fields of study, when the research is interdisciplinary) and demonstrate the ability to understand, analyse and evaluate different arguments and competing critical claims within their area of expertise, as well as develop their own original arguments, positions and approaches as appropriate, in both textual and other formats.

If students choose to follow a research methodology informed by practice, which might lead to the production of a portfolio of artefacts, practice-based, practice-led, or other practice-related outcomes submitted alongside the written thesis, this portfolio must comprise original work which is worthy of public exhibition, shows competence in the appropriate ancillary technical skills, and is suitably documented to provide an appropriate permanent record of the work. Finally, students should be able to demonstrate the ability to undertake theoretical and practical explorations in the form of a coherent and consistent dialogue between theory and practice leading to an original contribution to knowledge in their chosen field of study, and expressed through an overall position, which is jointly supported by all aspects of theory and practice involved.

Career opportunities

Graduate with a PhD in Art have career opportunities as academics concentrating  on teaching and research, or just research roles. They are also equipped for research and other roles within the industry, depending on the focus of their research, and how effectively they have taken advantage of the several non-academic links offered by the University with non-academic institutions, such as galleries, museums, and private companies.


Dr Susannah Thompson, 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 the School of Art >


Everything you need to know about finding perfect student accommodation.

Resources for History of Art, Art, Architecture and Landscape Architecture students.

An amalgamation of the University's extensive art collection and ECA’s collection of prints, drawings, paintings and sculpture.

A fully operational, entirely student-run 90-seat theatre housed in a neo-gothic church.

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Carving and mould-making facilities, a ceramics kiln, and casting amenities for bronze and aluminium.

The Centre for Research Collections (CRC) is the main space for anyone using the University of Edinburgh’s historic collections.

Work spaces are available across the University. ECA's computers include software tailored to the disciplines studied here.

At the heart of the Evolution House Learning and Research Zone, the ECA Library provides an innovative environment for learning, teaching and research resources in art and design.

ECAfé provides a full catering service to all staff, students and visitors to Edinburgh College of Art.

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A Georgian garden that doubles as a venue for performances in the centre of the city.

The primary collection of books, periodicals, manuscripts, and research material.

Welding torches, a forge, forming and shaping tools, and a 1-ton gantry crane with access to main workshop areas.

Overlooking Edinburgh Castle, our painting studios provide a bright and airy space for working in.

By day, a café, bar and study space, and by night a club venue. Potterrow’s dome is also home to the Advice Place and the Potter Shop.

Includes a screen-printing room, relief room, lithography room, process room, intaglio room, and caseroom.

The neo-classical Sculpture Court in the ECA Main Building is home to the many pieces from the Edinburgh Cast Collection, and is regularly used for student exhibitions.

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Talbot Rice Gallery is the public art Gallery for the University of Edinburgh.

Home to six distinctive bars, Teviot is the oldest purpose built students' union in the world.

265 plaster casts of Antique, Renaissance, and Gothic statues, bas reliefs, and architectural passages.

A hub for the University Societies and setting regular live music, comedy, spoken word and poetry nights.

A bar at the Lauriston Campus which hosts regular events including club nights and gigs.

Woodworking tools and machinery include laser cutters, a vacuum former, and a 3D scanner and printer.

Scholarships & bursaries

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

Scholarships available for one academic year of postgraduate study at Edinburgh College of Art. (£15,000)

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

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Still from a film called Poison the Cure
Still from 'Poison The Cure' (2017) by Jenna Bliss
Image courtesy of the artist

PhD student, Naomi Pearce, tells us about her work on a new London exhibition blending the historical and the contemporary.

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Photo of an artist during a performance piece
Daphne de Sonneville, centre, in 'Conversation piece'
Daphne's week-long residency will be at Cove Park
Image courtesy of the artist

Two of the three 2017 residencies have been awarded to ECA students: Daphne de Sonneville (Art); and Katerina Talianni (Music).


Edinburgh College of Art Postgraduate Admissions

Phone: +44 (0)131 650 4086