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ECA is a vibrant and diverse community of approximately 200 researchers working across the arts, humanities and social sciences. Our research takes place across our five subject areas as well as our two major centres – The Institute of Design Informatics and OPENspace – and over 20 smaller groupings.  

We value diversity of research modalities: abstract and applied, individual, collaborative and co-produced, disciplinary and interdisciplinary.  Our work generates creative and rigorous responses to key challenges of our time, from artificial intelligence, data literacy, climate action, health and wellbeing to social inequalities. Alongside this, we nurture our established areas of expertise.

Research themes

Our research falls broadly into the following themes:  

Critical and Cultural Studies, including art, design and architectural history and theory, philosophy, musicology, and film theory. 

Creative Practice, including contemporary art, filmmaking, animation, music composition, performance, graphic and media art, textiles and fashion, and architectural and interior design.  

AI, Data, and New Technologies, including design informatics, creative AI, data-driven innovation, acoustics, urban analytics, and music neuroscience. 

Community and Environment, including health and wellbeing, sustainable design, social inequalities, community outreach, and urban renewal. 

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Our centres and institutes

Centres and institutes are substantial externally funded research departments within ECA which bring together large numbers of academics around a central idea or methodology. They are long-term investments which often themselves fund a number of other research projects or lead degree programmes as well as undertaking their own research.

Institute for Design Informatics


Creative Informatics

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Major projects

Major projects are collaborative research programmes within ECA which have attracted substantial funding from UK funding councils. They bring together a number of academics (and often external non-academic partners) around a central research theme.



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Groups and clusters

Groups and clusters consist of academic staff and PGR students. They are typically centred on themes, methods, or problems and can either be located within our ECA subject areas or run across several of them. They often run seminars, workshops, conferences, and other events, supported by internal ECA funding.

Find out about our research groups and clusters

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Research seminar and events

REF 2021

ECA’s research scored highly in REF 2021. The majority of our outputs were judged to be world-leading or internationally excellent.  

Our research has secured £7 million in funding since 2021, from major UK and international funders.  


Through cultivating relationships with industry partners, cultural organisations, government and public institutions, we drive innovation and impact. Our partners include the National Health Service (NHS), Historic Environment Scotland, the BBC, Police Scotland, Edinburgh World Heritage, and both Scottish and international film industries.

Postgraduate research study

ECA supports the training of researchers through PhD/MPhil and MScR programmes.  With over 250 research students across five subject areas, the variation and range of topics is extensive. Competitive scholarship opportunities are advertised on our website.   

Researchers at Edinburgh College of Art

Interested in finding our more about the research outputs of our individual academics? Check out our academic staff profile pages.