Why the PhD studio

Naren Barfield and Laura Gonzalez.Why the PhD studio? College Art Association, 95th Annual Conference, New York, 14-17 February 2007

Presented on the 15th February 2007, as part of the Creative Futures: Is the MBA Us? panel.

For details on the conference, click here.


Why the PhD studio?

What is the “PhD Studio” and why is it popular? In recent years in the United Kingdom, the premise that it is possible to produce knowledge through creative studio practice has become linked to the development of a new level of qualification: the practice-led doctorate.

Pathways in postgraduate research are multiplying, and these will feed back into the programs of study designed to prepare students for professions and diversify the career options of art and design graduates. The need to legitimize knowledge and the pressures of an increasingly competitive global market demand that art and design graduates conduct specific research and acquire transferable business skills, coupled with a high degree of creative thinking. A further, vital consequence of this economic rationalism is the renewal of links between creative industries and art education, which drive each other reciprocally but also generate tensions.

In this context, the PhD studio makes an important contribution in generating new knowledge by creative practitioners, and in shaping our postgraduate landscapes. In the UK the expansion of the PhD studio has focused attention on the relationships among creativity, studio practice, and knowledge production. The PhD studio is central to the debate on links between academia and industry, and the reframing of graduate education, including the MFA.

The production of knowledge through creative studio practice is shaping postgraduate experience: curricula have been developed to include units or modules aimed at equipping students with explicit research skills and competencies, including uunderstanding and application of methodologies and project-management skills, and dissemination of outcomes; and familiarity with complicated and highly competitive funding structures and intellectual-property tight laws. The communities of art, business, research and academia have become intertwined in dynamic and complex new relationships that continue to evolve.

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