Practice based PhDs at the School of Education

Pollock-Krasner House Studio Floor
Pollock-Krasner House Studio Floor

The School of Education welcomes practice based PhDs both at the stage of application, and later on in the course of a doctorate. These may involve the incorporation of film, music, poetry and prose, as well as graphic design and other visual media. To justify their inclusion in a practice-based doctorate, these methodologies must be either (a) strongly illustrative, or (b) fundamental to the study design.

Here are the two routes described in more detail:

a) The length of the thesis is slightly reduced (to around 50,000 words) to incorporate a practical component. In this case, the incorporation of practice-based methodologies should be fully justified in the study and should perform an essential illustrative function within the thesis. 

Please note: given that other materials (such as film or visual media) may be incorporated in a conventional doctorate (in the form of additional materials that are submitted alongside the full-length thesis), a strong argument is required for this practice-based alternative. In many cases a conventional thesis may still be most appropriate.

b) The length of the thesis is roughly halved (to around 30,000 - 40,000 words) to incorporate a practical component which holds equal weight. In this case it is expected that the practice-based component fully embodies the research methodology, and the epistemological foundation that is developed in the doctoral study. There will need to be a strong argument for why the thesis necessitates a different mode of presentation and embodiment, i.e. why a more standard academic style of delivery would be inappropriate. The more standard written component is likely to take the form of a critical commentary or exegesis.

In all practice-based doctorates the thesis and practical component must show coherence and originality, as required for all research submissions, and the practical component must demonstrate a high level of skill, or accomplishment, as judged within the norms of that activity. 

How to apply

Please see guidance on our how to apply page. You will be required to upload a Research Proposal that outlines your plans. You are also welcome to upload supplementary materials that might illustrate your potential as a practitioner in your chosen practice-based methodology. In your research proposal please clearly indicate if you are wishing to be considered under (a) or (b), as described above. As with all PhD applications, your chances of receiving an offer will be substantially increased if you align your proposed research proposal with existing research carried out in the school. Please spend time looking at our individual staff webpages. Information relating to some of our research themes can be found here on the Research pages. If you would like to seek further guidance before applying, please email the School at

Switching to a practice based PhD

Existing PhD candidates can switch to a practice-based PhD during their course of study. This will need to gain the support of the supervisor to ensure that (i) there is a strong basis to the practice-based component of the study, (ii) it falls within an area that the supervisor is prepared to support and (iii) there is sufficient time remaining to complete the thesis. Supervisors are also encouraged to communicate with potential examiners at an early stage of the project to see if they would be prepared to examine a doctorate that follows the proposed format.

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