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Preparing for a Practice-based PhD in Fine Art, Design, and Film

Expand your knowledge of practice-based research and PhDs in the arts, and make an informed decision in pursuing your doctorate.

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  • Duration

    6 weeks
  • Weekly study

    2 hours

Understand what it means to do a PhD in fine art, design, or film

Undertaking a PhD in the arts is significantly different from the undergraduate and postgraduate levels of study. While pursuing a PhD in the arts can be an exciting journey, graduates often lack awareness of what this entails.

This six-week course from the Lucerne School of Art and Design will break down practice-based research and key topics in the research process to help you understand what it means to develop and execute a PhD in film, arts, and design.

Prepare for the transition from an MA to a doctoral research degree

There is a sizable gap between how a Master’s degree equips graduates and the requirements for entering a PhD. Practitioners in fine art, design or film are very often poorly prepared for pursuing a research degree or lack a clear idea of what is expected from them.

The experts on this course will help you understand the full scope and expectations associated with a doctorate, and prepare you with detailed information about specific steps to pursue a PhD.

Experience PhD projects by contemporary designers, artists and filmmakers

On this course, you’ll review several highly interesting examples of PhDs done by practitioners of the arts.

Through the exploration of these projects, you’ll gain insight, experience, and inspiration from the work of fellow artists, designers, and filmmakers.

Make an informed decision supported by the expertise of your educators

The Lucerne School of Art and Design is experienced in guiding designers, artists, and film makers to realise and develop their professional futures, and the lead educators on this course are two of the most experienced persons in this field.

With the support of your educators and arts practitioners, you’ll be well-equipped with the knowledge you need to make a decision on pursuing your PhD.


  • Week 1


    • What is this course about?

      This activity provides an overview of what we'll cover in this course.

    • Introduction of our educators and experts

      This is your chance to get to know our lead educators and experts. Discover what it means to do a practice-based PhD.

    • Introduction in to practice-based research

      In this activity you will explore the term practice-based research.

  • Week 2

    Getting started

    • Framing research

      This activity gives a brief summary of the topics we'll cover this week and explains how to begin a research project.

    • Begin your research

      In this activity you get to know the different approaches of our experts and you will be asked to define your own field of interest.

    • Research questions and proposals

      This activity shows how to construct a state-of-the-art on the topic you feel most passionate about.

  • Week 3


    • The research process

      In this activity, you'll discover what kind of challenges our experts encountered and how their practice evolved. You will be asked to tell us what inspires you most.

    • Practice as research

      You'll now look at the connection between practice and reflection, the challenge will be to develop your own approach.

    • Developing a research practice

      In this activity, you’ll explore how reading and writing are constant companions throughout your PhD. They are forms of thinking and communicating your thoughts and findings.

  • Week 4


    • Creative practices as research

      In this activity, you’ll see what happens after the planning. You learn about challenges and obstacles that need to be addressed.

    • What are methods?

      You’ll now examine how methods play a big role in research. They are specific approaches that help you to gain and develop knowledge.

    • How do we use methods?

      In this activity, you'll discover how methods are employed in practice-based research in the arts. You'll be asked to build a collection of methods

  • Week 5


    • Institutional Infrastructures

      You'll now look at different institutional contexts and how they support doctorate studies.

    • How support structures work

      This activity asks you to to start looking for institutions that you might consider for your own PhD.

    • Networking

      In this activity you will get to know the most effective strategies for improving your chances of successful research.

  • Week 6


    • Dissertation & publication

      In this activity you'll explore how a written dissertation is a means to make the knowledge you produced explicit.

    • Outcomes and impact

      This is your chance to see and hear about some of the products and outcomes delivered by our experts during their PhD.

    • Wrapping up the course

      Congratulations you have almost finished the course. In this last activity you'll look at the huge impact a doctorate can have and you'll get some advice from our experts.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Discuss what a practice-based PhD entails and how creative practice can produce relevant knowledge for the arts.
  • Identify how to define your research interest and how to develop a relevant research question.
  • Explore the actual process of a PhD, the challenges it imposes and how a permanent writing practice can support your research.
  • Compare various methods and approaches towards producing new knowledge, from quantitative to qualitative methods and from hermeneutics to creative practice.
  • Evaluate the infrastructure and support networks for practice-based PhDs, starting with the search for a supervisor and ending with the requirements of the final examination.
  • Reflect what you have learned from this course and build up your research journal as valuable resource for your further studies. Now you will be well prepared for your journey towards a PhD.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for artists, designers, and filmmakers considering a practice-based PhD and practice-based research in a creative field. It will also be suitable for those interested in learning more about creative doctorates and practice-based research.

Who will you learn with?

Rachel Mader is an art researcher. Since 2012 she has directed the competence centre Art, Design & Public Spheres at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Art

Axel Vogelsang is Professor and Head of the Research Centre for Visual Narrative at the Lucerne School of Art & Design. His is interested in the use of digital media in cultural institutions.

Who developed the course?

Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts

The Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts considers itself to be a place for people who help to shape the future and who approach the new and the unknown with an open mind. The range of programmes encompasses a total of 19 Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes in the areas of Design, Film and Fine Arts.

Learning on FutureLearn

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  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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