International Journal of Art & Design Education

The Doctorate in Fine Art: the importance of exemplars to the Research Culture

Volume 23.2   2004



The doctorate in Fine Art has had a troubled history in the UK. Although there are growing numbers of doctorates being undertaken and over forty institutions, which offer doctoral study, there is still little understanding of this research culture. There is a developing literature, but it remains curiously focused on research methods and protocols rather than on establishing the character of the culture through what is being produced by doctoral students. Macleod and Holdridge have produced an AHRB funded study of selected exemplars of doctoral submissions. The study seeks to make both a practical and strategic intervention in the ongoing ‘making/writing’, ‘theory/practice’ debate. It also seeks to clearly demonstrate how artist researchers have dealt with the academic requirements of the PhD and how the production of a substantial written text (generally 30,000 words plus) showing a keen knowledge and criticality of the subject field has been achieved. The exemplars demonstrate both the distinctive and the normative character of the PhD in Fine Art. However, the underpinning empirical research for the study (1996- ) has also demonstrated the critical independence of such exemplars within the broader field of academic research. Through a brief analysis of three doctoral submissions selected from the study, the paper seeks to draw out some of the more important findings and their implications for the developing research culture.