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Art and Design

Research in Art and Design is focused around a series of distinct areas of expertise with research clusters embedded within and across a number of academic schools. Our lively community of doctoral researchers are engaged in projects that are practice-based, practice-led, theoretical and/or historical. 

Your doctoral research will be supported by supervisors who are experts in their field and active researchers who practice, exhibit, perform and publish. You will join one or more of our research clusters and be able to participate in cluster seminars, projects and events as well as accessing specialist facilities and workshops.

You will be hosted by one of the five academic schools in art and design: the Birmingham School of Art and the School of Visual Communication within Birmingham Institute of Creative Arts; the Birmingham School of Architecture and Design; and within Birmingham Institute of Jewellery, Fashion and Textiles, the School of Jewellery and School of Fashion and Textiles.

We welcome PhD applications that relate to our interdisciplinary research clusters:

Art Activisms 

The increasingly political dimension of contemporary art has given rise to a number of important questions about the role it plays in today’s society. We focus on the political dimensions of cultural production and, specifically, the extent to which art as a form of activism reflects upon, intersects with and, invariably, seeks to define debates within civil society, political movements and social practices. In short, researchers in the Art Activisms cluster at Birmingham School of Art aim to challenge and extend the potential of contemporary art to change the world. Supervisors: Anthony Downey, Jonathan HarrisSusan May, Lisa Metherell, Nuria Querol, Theo Reeves-Evison, Linda Stupart, Sian Vaughan, Gavin Wade, Stuart Whipps, Esther Windsor.

Centre for Chinese Visual Arts (CCVA)

As a leading research cluster in the UK, the CCVA aims to foster new understandings and perspectives of Chinese contemporary arts, design, media and visual culture through curating exhibitions, interdisciplinary practices and academic research. With extensive regional to international partnerships, CCVA brings together artists, designers, curators and researchers who are working with - or are interested in the contemporary contexts of - China, Hong Kong and Taiwan in order to share expertise, understanding, critiques and ideas of innovation. Using its unique position in the UK, CCVA continues its transcultural dialogues by questioning the existing histories of Chinese contemporary arts, design media and visual culture, while fostering new ways of thinking and modes of knowledge in relation to today’s global/Chinese situation. Supervisors: Jonathan HarrisJoshua Jiang, Nuria Querol, Jieling Xiao

Centre for Printing History and Culture

The Centre for Printing History and Culture is a joint initiative between Birmingham City University and the University of Birmingham. It encourages research into all aspects and periods of printing history and culture, as well as providing education and training into the art and practice of printing. The Centre aims to provide a means of exchanging information, skills and expertise in printing history and culture, to engage in ground-breaking interdisciplinary research, forge partnerships in order to encourage the investigation and understanding of printing history and culture, and promote the transfer and exchange of knowledge of the subject among individuals, as well as within communities and institutions. Supervisors: Caroline Archer, Susan May

Craft Cultures 

Craft Cultures provides a forum to explore the multidisciplinary characteristics of craft and its praxis. A core objective is to encourage research and understanding into all aspects of craftsmanship, from the creation of the object through the design, technology and material to the role of the object and how it engages and communicates with maker, wearer and audience. Craftsmanship is explored through two main themes: Craftsmanship as the creative endeavour - in the context of: heritage, contemporary practice, traditional and digital innovations, and the sciences; and Craftsmanship and its impact on - individuals, relationships, shared experiences and the wider society. Supervisors: Stephen Bottomley, Ann-Marie Carey, Sian Hindle

Dress in Context

Dress in Context is concerned with dress in all its manifestations, as well as its relationship to the individual and society. Dress is not restricted to clothing and fashion in the conventional sense, but encompasses all forms of personal adornment and self-presentation. We welcome doctoral projects that examine dress from a range of perspectives, including fashion theory and design, technology, psychology, sociology, literature, history and art. The cluster includes researchers from a variety of backgrounds and places emphasis on working collaboratively with academics from other institutions, as well as building bridges to those from outside the academy. SupervisorsNazli Alimen, Anne Boultwood, Sian Hindle, Joanna JarvisDilusha Rajapakse, Hye-Won Lim. 

Material Encounters

Through the Material Encounters cluster our researchers extend and interrogate the boundaries of materiality within the context of contemporary artistic practice. The cluster provides a critical, intellectual and transdisciplinary space for the exploration of embodiment, subjectivity and aesthetic practices as they are encountered through material and theoretical investigations. The broad range of individual research concerns include interests in photography, performativity, language, collaboration, material thinking and the possibilities and unknowns of matter as a critical meeting point between thought, intention and the expectancy of what might transpire. Supervisors: Catherine Baker, John HillmanLisa Metherell, Jacqueline Taylor

Urban Cultures 

Urban Cultures promotes and supports research projects on the changing pattern of art, crafts, architecture, and the urban environment in the context of both regional and global culture. We believe that design has a role to play in addressing these issues at a global and local scale. We aim to break new ground through an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to research and design responding to climate change and sustainability alongside the focus on social and cultural values of space. Utilising innovative and emergent thinking, new design methods and advanced technology, engineering and fabrication, we critique, challenge and disrupt traditional thinking and develop radical alternatives to current conditions.

Researchers in Urban Cultures also work with CATiD (Critical Artistic Thinking in Design) which is BCU’s multidisciplinary design and consultancy hub UK. CATiD is based on an innovative idea of landscape with a design-led and conceptual approach providing insight, strategy and design ideas for large-scale landscape and infrastructure initiatives. Supervisors: Mersha AftabJemma Browne, Sandra Costa, Colette JeffreyMatthew Jones, Maria Martinez Sanchez, Kathryn MooreRachel Sara, Jieling Xiao.

Get in touch

For further information on the Art and Design PhD programme at Birmingham City University, please contact Dr Sian Vaughan

See our PhD course page