[iDC] The Future of the Humanities

Simon Biggs simon at littlepig.org.uk
Thu Jul 14 08:57:44 UTC 2011

Hi Florian

I assume when you say that practice based PhD's do not legally exist you are
restricting your comments to certain countries. They certainly exist in the
UK and elsewhere, especially in English speaking countries where the only
legality binding institutions is their right to award degrees. Once the
Crown gives the right to an institution to award degrees it has no
governance over that (other than removing that right). The degree
classifications themselves do not exist within the legal system. This is
devolved to the individual institutions, who will benchmark against one
another and external bodies standards, but are not required to.

The PhD is a less formalised programme within the British system than
elsewhere and does not include the concept of the habilitation, which adds
another level of complexity. In the USA PhD's are often taught - unheard of
in the UK where it is definitively an individual programme of research. The
UK PhD can exist as the traditional DPhil but also a DMed, Professional
Doctorate, DTheology, DEng and DArts. However, the DPhil is flexible enough
to accommodate these variations so most institutions do not bother to
discriminate. A few institutions do accept practice as the only outcome of
the PhD but most require a hybrid of thesis (30-40k words) and a
professional body of practical work, publicly presented within a critical

As the ability to award PhD's is at the heart of any academic research
capacity these are important issues. If a creative arts department is unable
to award its own PhD's then it is going to struggle to sustain a viable
research culture. Once sustainable PhD programmes are established in
departments, with cohorts contributing to the development of a research
culture, then you have an important component of the platform you need to
build a practice based research culture.

I accept your "bottom line" to some degree but would be cautious with the
word "new". If new means the last few years then this is not the case in the
UK where the practice based doctorate has been in development for over 20
years. However, bigger picture, I accept that this is a recent development,
given that other doctorates have been around for centuries. As for the
experimental part - one would hope that all research and associated degrees
are experimental.



On 13/07/2011 18:57, "Florian Cramer" <flrncrmr at gmail.com> wrote:

> Just a short remark:
>> programmes within humanities departments, as does the UK. Austria is
>> starting up creative arts PhD programmes.
> Only in art schools, not in regular universities.
>> The Swiss have been at it for a
>> decade. Holland has initiated its first practice based PhD programme.
> As a joint-venture of an art school and a university, with the idea
> that the university humanities department provides the academic
> research part and conducts the actual Ph.D. exam. The notion of a
> practice-based PhD does legally not exist, on paper all PhD candidates
> need to be enrolled in the traditional universities humanities
> program. (The few art schools offering these programs are not quite
> open in their public communication about the fragile constructs being
> used here.)
> What I was more broadly referring to is the broad integration of arts
> and humanities in the U.S., in the sense that university campuses
> provide the kind of cultural infrastructure which in continental
> Europe is provided by public institutions.
> Well, bottom line of Simon's and my posting is that for Europe, the
> formula "arts & humanities" is not self-evident. Where it exists, it's
> rather new and experimental.
> -F

Simon Biggs | simon at littlepig.org.uk | www.littlepig.org.uk

s.biggs at eca.ac.uk | Edinburgh College of Art
www.eca.ac.uk/circle | www.elmcip.net | www.movingtargets.net

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