We have been supervising research degrees in art and design since the 1980s and have an international reputation for the development of research training programmes and resources. There are currently more than 40 MPhil and PhD students working on a diverse range of topics across art and design.
Key areas of research interest are:
- Architecture and sustainability
- Art in the public sphere (curatorial practice and public art)
- Digital visualisation
- Cultural and historical interpretation
- Fashion design in international and cross-cultural contexts
- Innovations in materials and processes in fine art and jewellery
- Knowledge exchange in design
- Landscape interpretation and perception and its relation to wellbeing
- Human computer interaction and interface design
- Performance and performativity in art
- Psychology of fashion
- Urban design
Why study for a research degree?
The PhD is the pinnacle of academic achievement and has been seen primarily as preparation for an academic career. The history of art and design subjects within the academy means that the qualification has been, and remains, much less prevalent here than in the sciences, social sciences, and much of the arts and humanities; nevertheless, the demand for PhD-qualified staff in art and design has grown considerably in the last two decades, as art and design practice has become increasingly research/knowledge-based.
Beyond higher education, staff with doctoral qualifications are found in senior positions in all sectors, where the combination of subject expertise, intellectual capacity, research skills and independence are highly valued. After completing their studies, many of our graduates go on to become academics in universities, or researchers in industry, business and the public sector.
How to Apply
Applications for research degree study are assessed according to your academic track record, the quality and viability of your research proposal, and the fit with our supervisory expertise and research priorities.
Potential applicants are therefore invited to review our current research interests and the activities of research centres, and are strongly advised to contact a potential supervisor to discuss their proposal before making a formal application.
If you are unsure whether we have the expertise to supervise your research, please email your enquiry to the address below.
All applicants are normally expected to have a good first degree in a relevant subject and those applying to study directly for PhD will also normally have a relevant Master's qualification.
Applications need to contain the following:
- An outline proposal, including a preliminary title for the project, identifying the main area of research, commenting critically on the literature and indicating possible research methods. (See below for further details.)
- A completed application form. Please append any supporting documents to the application (eg transcripts of degree results).
- Supporting visual material. Where appropriate you may supply additional visual material (up to 1-2 pages scanned and captioned images; never send original work).
- Two letters of support from academic referees. These should be from individuals who are in a position to assess your potential to undertake higher degree research and offer a provisional view of the promise of your outline proposal.
- Evidence of proficiency in the English language in the case of overseas (non-EU) students: in IELTS a minimum overall score of 6.5, with not less than 6.0 in any individual band; TOEFL at least 575.
Please note: students wishing to be considered for an AHRC award or any of our other studentships should refer to the specific eligibility criteria, application process and deadlines detailed separately in the studentships section of this website.
This is a key document in assessing your application. In preparing this statement you should consider the following:
Your reasons and purposes for undertaking this project
- Key areas/issues of the project, and why you wish to pursue this research
- How the proposed work relates to what you have studied already
- How the doctoral research relates to your eventual career aims
Your research project
- A working title
- The research problems or questions you intend to address
- The research context in which those problems or questions are located
- The particular contribution to knowledge and understanding in this area that you hope to make, explaining why the work is important
- The methods and critical approaches that you plan to use
- Any ethical issues relating to the research project
- How the project will develop or how you will structure the work over the period of the award
Preparation and previous experience
- A brief indication of any previous experience or preparation that is relevant to your proposed research project (e.g. aspects of your Master's study, additional degrees, qualifications, training or relevant skills)
- For practice-led subjects, you should include details of relevant professional experience
All applications will be assessed against the following criteria:
Quality and preparedness of the applicant - taking into account prior academic performance, and, if relevant, professional experience, and the extent to which the applicant's academic studies and/or professional experience prepare the applicant for the proposed project or programme.
The proposed project or programme of study - taking into account the intrinsic quality, coherence and feasibility of the project or programme, the merits of the applicant's intellectual and/or professional goals, and, in the case of doctoral applicants, the potential contribution to knowledge.
The alignment with our strengths and priorities - taking into account: a) how well the applicant's research goals fit with our research interests and priorities; and b) the specific support available to the applicant, in terms of supervision and teaching, subject-specific training opportunities, and library and other appropriate resources.
Following this assessment candidates may be invited for a formal interview. This will normally involve the Faculty Research Degrees Co-ordinator and/or the Associate Dean (Research) and at least one other member of staff with appropriate supervisory expertise.
Applications should be submitted to:
Research and Enterprise
Faculty of Arts, Design and Media
Birmingham City University
5 Cardigan Street
Birmingham B4 7BD
Tel: +44 (0)121 331 7823
Fax: +44 (0)121 331 7824
Email: Faculty Research
Fees and Finance
Fees for students from the UK or EU countries?
|Sep 2013||FT||TBC||PhD / MPhil||£3,900|
|Sep 2013||PT||TBC||PhD / MPhil||£1,950|
Fees for students from non-EU countries (International)?
|Sep 2013||FT||TBC||PhD / MPhil||£10,500|
|Sep 2013||PT||TBC||PhD / MPhil||£5,250|
Most of our undergraduate and postgraduate courses start in September/October, at the beginning of the academic year. However, some courses also have January/February or April start options. Short courses take place throughout the year.
Many of our courses can be studied on a Full-Time (FT) or Part-Time (PT) basis.
We also offer a Sandwich (SW) option for some courses – this usually involves two periods of Full Time study separated by a 'sandwich' placement spent working in an occupation related your course.
Online Learning (OL) courses can be studied remotely, usually using online learning tools.
Fees quoted are only for the academic year or start date stated. Fees may change in future years.
The University reserves the right to increase fees broadly in line with increases in inflation, or to reflect changes in government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament.
Please note: International students are only able to study in part-time mode under specific circumstances.
Postgraduate students must find ways of funding their tuition fees and living costs rather than relying on government grants and loans. We offer further information on possible financial support.
Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.
The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK. Our reputation for excellence is soaring globally, thanks to the superb links we forge with industry, our international alliances, and our focus on practical, vocational learning.
Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:
- Explore some of the good reasons why you should study here.
- Find out how to improve your language skills before starting your studies.
- Find all the information relevant to applicants from your country.
- Learn where to find financial support for your studies.
- Discover what current and former international students have to say.
Postgraduate Open Event
Wednesday 19 November 2014, 2 - 7pm
The Parkside Building, City Centre Campus
Our postgraduate open event offers you the chance to:
- Meet with lecturers and other prospective students to discuss study options
- Meet and chat with our current students
- Obtain advice on fees and funding opportunities.
93 per cent of our graduates find work or further study within six months (DLHE). Explore your potential at our open evening.
Who is it for?
Whether you are coming to the end of your undergraduate studies, or have been in your job for a while and want to progress in your career or change direction, a postgraduate qualification gives you the opportunity to stand out from the crowd in a competitive market.
Our graduates are already shaping the world in a variety of high-profile roles – and you could be next. Read some of our inspiring case studies.
For more information, visit our Open Days page or call our Course Enquiries Team on +44 (0)121 331 5595.
University Approach to Employability
Birmingham City University is committed to preparing students for successful employability and professional careers. We have an innovative approach to employability that will help you obtain an interesting and well-paid graduate job.
Read our Employability Statement to find out more.
We currently offer two types of research degree:
The Doctor of Philosophy or PhD is recognised worldwide and is often an essential requirement for those wishing to follow an academic or research career in industry or commerce. PhD research can be carried out in all subject areas, including art and design. The key principle of a PhD is that it is a programme of research resulting in a contribution to knowledge. A PhD typically requires three or more years of full-time study.
The Master of Philosophy or MPhil is a Master’s level research degree programme which typically requires two or more years of full-time study. While the MPhil is a stand-alone research degree, many students start an MPhil and subsequently transfer to PhD. Note that the MPhil is a research degree programme not a taught course and should not be confused with the MRes common at many institutions.
What is involved?
Studying for a research degree is a very significant commitment and research students need to be well qualified, highly motivated and capable of working independently. Each student’s research degree programme is personalised to match their interests to the research priorities, staff expertise and research facilities available. A typical full-time PhD programme may have the following broad phases:
Year one: undertaking research training requirements, participating in research seminars, reviewing the relevant literature, refining the initial research proposal for approval (registration), identifying sources and developing a methodology, pilot studies, preliminary data gathering or fieldwork.
Year two: undertaking substantial primary research appropriate to the study (e.g. fieldwork, interviews, experimental or practice-based studies, etc.), further refine the research topic and argument and begin drafting thesis structure and chapters.
Year three: may involve completing remaining research but with an increasing emphasis on preparing and revising material for submission and examination.
Mode of study
Research Degrees can be undertaken in full-time or part-time mode. Part-time study is particularly suitable for candidates who are in employment who wish to enhance their knowledge and skills by undertaking further research in an area that interests them.
Full-time research students will normally spend at least 37 hours per week engaged on their research. Students enrolled for MPhil by full-time study would normally be expected to complete their research and submit their thesis for examination within 24-30 months and students enrolled for PhD by full-time study would normally be expected to complete their research and submit their thesis for examination within 36-42 months.
Part-time study for a research degree is suitable for those who wish to undertake a research degree over a longer time period, often while in employment or in other cases where full-time study is impracticable. Students enrolled for MPhil by part-time study would normally be expected to complete their research and submit their thesis for examination within 36-48 months and students enrolled for PhD by part-time study would normally be expected to complete their research and submit their thesis for examination within 48-72 months.
A research degree can be undertaken where the candidate resides at some distance from the university, including outside the UK, but wishes to study under the supervision of a member of our staff. However, this is only permitted under carefully controlled circumstances and where the university can ensure that robust procedures are in place for remote supervision.
Note: The indicated completion times for MPhil and PhD are for guidance only. There is no minimum registration period that must elapse before the thesis can be submitted for examination. The rate of progress made with the research is primarily controlled by the amount of time the candidate can commit.
Every research student, whether full-time or part-time, will be guided by a supervisory team comprising a Director of Studies and at least one second supervisor. In some cases it can also be helpful to appoint an additional supervisor and possibly one or more external advisors. At least one member of the supervisory team will have had previous experience of successful supervision to MPhil or PhD as appropriate and the team will be qualified and experienced in the domain of the research.
The student is expected to meet with the supervisory team on a regular basis to review progress and to obtain guidance and direction. The supervisory team will provide guidance, support and direction throughout the research degree from the shaping of the initial proposal to the viva examination. Students should remember, however, that the study remains their own responsibility and relies on the strength of their thinking and ability. The supervisory team is required to make periodic reports on progress to the faculty, university and, where relevant, funding bodies.
Prospective students from the UK or EU
- Take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions for answers to a range of questions about our courses and studying here.
- If you need further help, you can contact the Course Enquiries Team online by using the Course Enquiry Form.
- Alternatively, call us on +44 (0)121 331 5595.
Prospective students from non-EU countries
- International enquirers from non-EU countries may enquire via the International Enquiry Form.
- Alternatively, call us +44 (0)121 331 6714.
For an overview of our postgraduate courses and a range of other information please download our Postgraduate Prospectus (6Mb).
If you are considering studying for a research degree you may wish to consult the following:
- The UK Doctorate (Quality Assurance Agency)
- Doctoral Degree Characteristics (Quality Assurance Agency)
- Code of Practice for Postgraduate Research Degree Programmes (Quality Assurance Agency)
- Research Development Framework (Vitae)
- Policy and Code of Conduct on the Governance of Good Research Conduct (Research Councils UK)