MPhil/PhD Arts & Humanities

Research is at the heart of the School of Arts & Humanities and our large body of MPhil and PhD students play an important role in the School’s activities.  Our research interests are wide ranging and reflect the expertise of our staff, focusing around arts, humanities and material practices, their scholarship and dissemination. The School’s distinctive research culture is based upon a dynamic interplay between theory and practice, and encompasses highly individuated scholarly and creative enquiry to projects concerning public policy and evaluation; from collections-based research to speculative practice-focused enquiry.

Our MPhil/PhD Programme

The School welcomes applications for both full and part-time MPhil and PhD study, providing expert supervision across the spectrum of art and writing practice, art and design history and theory, curating and criticism. We welcome proposals for theoretical and practice-led projects, industrial collaborations and technologically focused research.

Research takes place within an environment that is ambitious to generate new methods and insights. We thrive on interaction across the broad areas of fine and applied arts and the humanities, through School-wide lectures, workshops and tutorials delivered by key contemporary artists, writers, curators and thinkers, many of whom form part of our permanent staff base. The broad base of expertise offered by the School means we can support research interests across a large range of disciplines; moving image and sound, painting, performance, photography, printmaking and sculpture as well as jewellery, metal, ceramics, glass, curating, critical and theoretical writing and design history. The School embraces its cross-disciplinary perspective and celebrates the deployment of diverse and original methods of research and production.

In addition to critical support from world-leading artists, academics, historians, theorists, curators and critics, the School’s MPhil/PhD community offers a rich and stimulating range of doctoral training,  including the College-wide Research Methods Course (mandatory for all first-year research students), the School-based Research Groups (themed clusters that include seminars, workshops and crit sessions open to all Arts & Humanities research students) and opportunities for exhibiting and publishing research in student-led group exhibitions and symposia and in Prova (the School’sSoAH annual research journal). New student-led initiatives are encouraged and facilitated by the School. Public engagement is a vital part of our practice and we are keen to support interdisciplinary studies and dynamic and innovative projects that expand the potential for arts and humanities research both within the academic context and the wider cultural community

Students are taught through Research Groups, where staff and students cluster around an idea or issue. These change yearly and for 2017-18 are; Entanglement, Fiction, Absurdity, Disorder, Writing, Documents and Politics. Students will select a group based on their own research interests and attend weekly sessions led by a number of research-active staff.  These groups are also closely linked to our Visual Culture series, public events with guest speakers and performers, devised by the Research Groups. Additionally, students may attend twice termly themed research symposia examining the platforms and interfaces for their research, as well as having the opportunity to present their research formally within the School. The year culminates with an exhibition, conference, event or publication.

Our Students

There are currently over 100 full-time and part-time research students, and together they form a lively community of artists, writers, thinkers and makers. Public engagement with arts and humanities communities is a vital part of our practice and students are encouraged to engage with activities within the School, across the College and beyond.

Our Collaborations

We have close working relations with many international institutions and other university partners, including a long-established partnership with the Victoria and Albert Museum. Other current key partners include Tate, the Science Museum, the Arts Council, the London Postal Museum, Ambedkar University, India and the Bard Graduate Center, New York.  We have a proven track record of research engagement with funding bodies such as the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy, the Getty Foundation and the Leverhulme Trust.

Our partnerships have resulted in many shared research projects, staff and student exchanges, publications, exhibitions and studentships. This active engagement with our international networks is essential to the health and vitality of our research culture.

Our Staff          

Our research supervisors and their current areas of supervisory interest include:

Dr Jesse Ash (Collage, painting, image making, politics, rumour, gossip, language, composition, editing (political/social/material), writing)

Felicity Aylieff (Ceramics, large-scale ceramics; tactility: perception and interaction with form and surface through touch; writing)

Rut Blees Luxemburg (Photography, public urban spaces, iconoclasm, installation)

Jonathan Boyd  (Language and object, jewellery as an art form, narrative and environment, material processes)

Dr Heike Brachlow (Glass, cast glass sculpture; interaction of colour, form and light in transparent solids; polychromatic colours; movement and transformation)

Mel Brimfield (Theatre, historiography of performance,  large-scale performance)

Dr Steve Brown (Image, form, materials; digital ceramic printing; hybrid print forms; novel restoration techniques)

Dr Sarah Cheang (Fashion, the body, cultural exchange between East and West)

Dr Nicky Coutts (Mimesis (ritual, repetition, copying), animals in art, art and writing, publishing, hierarchies of power and their methodologies, research that prioritises the moving image or performance.)

Dr Ben Cranfield (Contemporary curating, archival practice, post-war to contemporary art, cultural studies)

Michaela Crimmin (Culture, conflict and conflict resolution)

Professor Juan Cruz (Contemporary art, art and text, exhibitions)

Barry Curtis (Visual, material and spatial cultures)

Dr Brian Dillon (Contemporary art, literature and philosophy)

Dr Chantal Faust (Art writing, contemporary art, mechanics of vision, digital practice, absurdity, pleasure, haptic aesthetics, scanning, subjectivity)

Professor Rebecca Fortnum (Painting, drawing, artists’ processes and their documentation, fine art pedagogy, women artists and feminist art practices)

Professor Johnny Golding (Radical Matter; intra-disciplinary contemporary art, philosophy; wild sciences, electronic/digital poetics; logics of sense, meta-mathematics and modern physics; practice-led enquiry via installation, moving and still image, art writing)

Professor Rebecca Harvey (social history of objects, implications of the domestic, decorative language as cultural coding)

Graham Hudson (Sculpture, installation)

Dr Mel Jackson (Modes of non-fiction storytelling, multidisciplinary approaches to research, science and technology, anthropology and archaeology, gender, animal-human encounters, capital extraction, sculpture, moving image, artists books)

Sarah Jones (Photography, representing the vernacular)

Dr Mel Jordan (Art and the public sphere, politics, art, Frankfurt school, Marxist art history, conceptual art, socially-engaged practice, art in the public realm)

Dr Jaspar Joseph-Lester (Art, urbanism, moving image; non-relational regimes of urban modernization, the city guide as methodological research tool)

Professor Peter Kennard (Photography, politics, climate change, protest)

Dr Pil Kollectiv (Art and politics, music, film, post-Fordist labour, irony, art and democracy)

Bob Mathews (Communal practice and alternative communities, environment/anthropocene, landscape and sublime, methods of exhibition, print technologies)

Jonathan Miles (Continental philosophy; aesthetics)

Jeremy Millar (Contemporary criticism and curating)

Dr Tim O’Riley (Art and research; science, digital media; speculation, narrative and serendipity in art practice; overlapping spaces between art, science and literature; modelling and animation; lunar exploration and narratives; scales and timescales of science)

Dr Francette Pacteau (Photography, psychoanalysis, film, visual representation, violence and image)

Dr Peter Oakley (materials, fieldwork, ethnography, consumption, luxury)

Dr Livia Rezende (History of design, material and visual cultures of nationalism, world fairs, modernity and modernism)

Professor Olivier Richon (Allegory; word and image; critical theory and history of photography; photography and literature)

Professor Nigel Rolfe (Performance, duration, somatics)

Michael Rowe (Contemporary studio metal; morphology of generic silver and metalwork forms; logical, abstract space of Cartesian geometry; experiential ‘geometry’ of space perception and visual orientation)

Dr Aura Satz (Film, sound art, experimental music, early silent film, abstract film/visual music, history of technology, media archaeology)

Tai Shani (Performance, installation, writing, mythology, envisioning post patriarchy, epic form)

John Slyce (Contemporary practice; legacies of conceptual art; painting in the expanded field)

Professor Martin Smith (Ceramics; formal language of the vessel; architectural language; poetic geometry; materials and process; hybrid digital and silkscreen printing; furniture; tableware design; exhibition design)

Sarah Staton (sculpture, public realm sculpture, consumerism, utilitarianism and display)

Professor Jo Stockham (Material/digital relations, temporality and the digital, site-specific installation, digital/analogue space, feminism and technology, and use of museum collections)

Dr Shehnaz Suterwalla (Gender, subcultures, embodied dress)

Emma Talbot (Autobiography, contemporary narratives, intimacy, painting, drawing, installation)

Dr Joanne Tatham (Institutional and epistemological negotiations within and through contemporary art practice; contexts of production, exhibition and dissemination; contemporary art practices; curatorial and publishing practices)

Finlay Taylor (landscape, natural history, curating, print and book arts)

Dr Sarah Teasley (Design, technology, and society, Asian studies)

Edward Thomasson  (Performance, Song, Identity, Collectivity, Public and Private )

Milly Thompson (Feminist art, curatorial practice as art/multimedia projects, institutional critique)

Dr Nina Wakeford (inventive methods, voice, feminism and queer identity)

Professor Victoria Walsh (Exhibition-making since 1945; curating and the postcolonial; practice-led research)

Dr Grant Watson (Contemporary curating and the transnational)   

Hermione Wiltshire (Photography, feminism, the politics of birth)        

Apply for a Research Degree

We welcome applications to undertake original research by project or thesis. You must have a clearly defined research project and be able to demonstrate your ability to engage in research at the appropriate level. 

Follow these links for more information and guidance about Applying for a Research Degree at the RCA, the College's MPhil/PhD Application Process, including research proposal requirements and portfolio requirements (if applicable), and for full details of cross-college MPhil/PhD Entrance Requirements.

See Open Days for upcoming opportunities to visit the College and meet with our staff.

Fees & Funding

Follow these links for further details on Tuition Fees and Funding for Research students, including details of studentships, AHRC awards and doctoral loans.