The PhD in Design is for those students with prior advanced knowledge of and qualifications in a Design discipline who want to pursue a rigorous, in-depth study of a specific topic under specialist supervisory guidance. We welcome prospective students with a strong idea of what they want to research and how they will carry it outA willingness to engage with primary-source material and to interpret this alongside existing literature in the field are essential attributes in those wishing to undertake this programme. The student’s aim will be to make an original and substantial contribution to knowledge in the chosen area of study. 

Undertaking an MPhil or PhD in Design offers you the opportunity to become part of a dynamic and varied research community. We have students engaged in a wide range of research projects covering, deepening and extending the disciplines that make up the School of Design.   

We encourage students to explore both discipline-specific areas, and interdisciplinary programmes of research, and as such, supervision may be provided by a range of academic staff from across Design and beyond. We welcome both practice and research led approaches to research.   

Whichever area your research engages with, you will elect to carry out a practice-based programme of research, or a standard MPhil/PhD. The first offers you the opportunity to work through and submit a practical portfolio and textual output, while the standard approach requires a fully text-based output. Both routes can be studied at PhD-level over three years full-time, or six years part-time. At MPhil-level full time study is two years, or four years part-time.

Research interests

Research is central to the School of Design, providing MPhil and PhD candidates with a rich variety of staff research interests, and we specialise in areas including: animation practice and theory; illustration; place, body and environment; design, craft and digital technologies; immersive technologies, interaction and gaming; materiality and making; design informatics and computational crafts; narrative; design anthropology; design history and theory; contemporary film theory and practice; design for healthcare and wellbeing; design management and service design; design for change (transition and transformation); cultural and heritage studies; sustainability and the circular economy; and participatory and co-design approaches.

How to apply and entrance requirements

If you'd like to study on a postgraduate programme at Edinburgh College of Art, you must apply through EUCLID, our online application system. You can find out how to do this on the University of Edinburgh website, where you'll also be able to:

  • see detailed entrance requirements for each programme on the Degree Finder
  • get information on what to expect after you apply
  • find out about study modes, start dates and fees
  • find out if, and how, you need to submit a portfolio, showreel or research proposal
  • find out where to go for further advice and guidance

Take me to the University of Edinburgh website on how to apply for postgraduate study


Application process


Before you apply  

Students are assigned two research supervisors, the second of which may be from another discipline within ECA, or from somewhere else within the College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (CAHSS) or wider University. 

Please ensure that at least one member of staff (see below) maintains an active research programme that aligns with the themes of your proposed project.  

Prospective students are strongly encouraged to make contact with the relevant member(s) of staff via email to explain your research interests prior to submitting an application. Please note that we only accept applications and review application materials submitted through the official EUCLID application portal.

After you apply 

Once your application has been submitted for consideration, it will be sent to a team of academic reviewers for their attention. They will then make a decision about your application and research topic, and decide whether it is possible to make an offer of a place to study with us. You may be asked to attend a brief online interview but if this is the case, you will be notified in advance. 


Professor Sarah Kettley

Chair of Material and Design Innovation, School of Design

Postgraduate Research Director PhD/MPhil Degrees, School of Design

Email: sarah.kettley@ed.ac.uk

Tel: +44 (0) 131 651 5836

Facilities and resources

Students at the University of Edinburgh have access to a range of library resources across the campus and online.

The printmaking suite provides a host of facilities for traditional and contemporary printmaking processes.

Scholarships and bursaries

AHRC PhD Doctoral Studentships

  • Deadline: 1 December 2022
  • Value: PhD tuition fees and stipend at the UKRI level for 3.5 years
  • Eligibility: For research interests aligning with, or cutting across, ECA's Schools.

ECA PhD Scholarship

  • Deadline:
  • Value: Tuition fees plus stipend at the UKRI level for three years
  • Eligibility: Applications are invited from first year applicants for PhD research projects that take advantage of the leading research expertise across ECA. Home and Overseas applicants welcome. Funding for full-time and part-time study (pro rata) and PhD by Distance study.

College Research Award

  • Deadline:
  • Value: Tuition fees plus stipend at the UKRI level for three years
  • Eligibility: Applications are invited from first year applicants for PhD research projects that take advantage of the leading research expertise across ECA. Home and Overseas applicants welcome. Funding for full-time, part-time (pro rata) and PhD by Distance study.

Edinburgh Doctoral College Scholarship

  • Deadline:
  • Value: Covers the tuition fee plus stipend equal to UKRI minimum rate for the relevant academic year (approximately £17,668 per year)
  • Eligibility: Open to UK and overseas students applying to start their first year of study for an on campus research degree in 2023-2024.

Carnegie PhD Scholarships

  • Deadline: 24 January 2023
  • Value: Covers tuition fees, a maintenance allowance and a research expenses allowance.
  • Eligibility: For graduates of an eligible Scottish university with a first-class honours degree, or final year students of an undergraduate degree at an eligible Scottish University expected to obtain a first-class honours.


Edinburgh College of Art Postgraduate Admissions

Email: ecaresearchdegrees@ed.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0)131 651 5736