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3rd Cycle in the Arts

This is an international database of 3rd cycle awards in the European Higher Arts Education Area, developed within the Creator Doctus project (2018-2021), to identify possible examples of practice in developing and supporting artistic research.


Glasgow School of Art (GSA), Glasgow, United Kingdom

Research Policy & Strategy

Glasgow School of Art’s (GSA) mission statement includes the goal of providing ‘Global Leadership in Creative Education & Design’. GSA’s official research strategy specifically includes postgraduate research students but does not provide definitions relating to 3rdcycle provision. Growing the postgraduate community at GSA is one of the themes of the institutional research strategy which aims, overall, to build and maintain effective and productive research cultures and infrastructure.

GSA is comprised of 5 distinct Schools: Fine Art, Design, Innovation, Simulation & Visualisation, and the Mackintosh School of Architecture. Each of these Schools has research strategies particular to them and a Research Committee which supports and monitors research activity at a disciplinary level. GSA engages with national and international research councils as a recipient of grant-funding, but also through the process of peer review, representation on advisory boards and working groups.

In relation to 3rdcycle awards, the School of Fine Art’s strategy includes a commitment to explore the potential of networked and international PhD cohorts with partner institutions.

Awards Offered




PhD by Research Project / Thesis / Published Work

Degrees are validated by the University of Glasgow.


PhD by Research Project – Portfolio of Practice + Thesis (25,000 – 40,000 words)

PhD by Thesis – Thesis (70,000 – 100,000 words)

PhD by Published Work – Portfolio or record of original research + Statement (2000 – 5000 words)


Doctoral submissions are examined by an Internal Examiner, an External Examiner and a Chair.

Forms of Output

Portfolios which may encompass performance, software, exhibitions, artworks, writing-as-studio-practice etc.

Programme Structure

Full-time 3 years

Part-time 5 years

All students undertake a 12 week Research Degrees Training Programme in their first year. This consists of weekly 3 hour seminars/workshops and introduces students to research methodologies and ethics. Further training on ethics is provided through ‘refresher’ sessions and resources are available through the Virtual Learning Environment.

Each 3rd Cycle student must undertake an Annual Progression Review with feedback from a Critical Friend/Independent Assessor.

The nature of work submitted as part of Annual Progression Review is decided by individual supervisory teams, but is likely to include a short presentation, a substantial written submission and a plan for progress and work to be undertaken.

Undergraduate & Masters Research

Research and research methodologies are assessed as a core component of BA and MA level study.

At BA, this is through dedicated Learning Outcomes.

At MA, this is through School-specific research methodology courses.

Qualification Framework

Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework

Quality Assurance & Enhancement

QAE is supported through GSA’s Learning & Teaching department and all GSA programmes are subject to a 4-yearly Periodic Review. Periodic Review includes an external assessor.

GSA also undertakes Enhancement Led Institutional Review.


Students work with 2-3 supervisors.

Primary Supervisors are annually allocated 36 hours per full-time student (9 admin, 27 direct/indirect contact) and 22 hours per part-time student (5 admin, 17 direct/indirect contact).

Co-supervisors receive the contact allocation only.

Ideally, full-time staff in supervisory roles work with no more than 6 PhD students at any one time.

Co-supervisors may be academics from other HEI institutions.


Staff engaged in PhD supervision must either hold a PhD; a PG Cert in Supervisory Practices in the Creative Disciplines (in-house training), or have co-supervised a PhD student to completion.

In supervisory teams, with Early Career Researchers are paired with more experienced supervisors who thereby function informally as mentors.

They may also benefit from briefing and training sessions both in-house and as part of the cross-institutional consortium, the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities (SGSAH).

Approximately 40% of academic staff are actively engaged in research (equivalent to 80 FTE)

Research time is allocated annually through an Annual Research Plan Process. Competitively awarded research funding is available internally to support conference attendance, research development, publications and equivalent, small projects. Staff may also apply annually for 3-4 research leave awards (covering up to 10 weeks). There is no sabbatical scheme.

Student Admissions

Prospective students may apply at any time by completing and submitting a standard application form and a research proposal.

Applications are reviewed by the Head of Doctoral Studies and relevant PhD coordinator. Candidates successful at this stage are invited to interview with the PhD Coordinator, potential Primary Supervisor and another experienced academic.

There are currently approx.60 PhD students.

Student Funding


State Scholarships – the key funder is the SGSAH (which administers funds from the UK Arts & Humanities Research Council)

Private scholarships

Government sponsorship for international students (eg CAPES, Brazil; SSHRC, Canada)

Funding attached to specific projects

Student Support

Every student has access to a £400 Research Training Account per year which can be used to cover e.g. conference participation, study visits, archival research, external training.

GSA Student Association provide some competitively assigned funding for projects.

Students may all also apply to the SGSAH to fund self-initiated, cross-institutional projects and training events. SGSAH also organise doctoral residency and internship opportunities.

After their first year, PhD students may apply to work as paid Graduate Teaching Assistants on some UG and PG programmes.


3rd Cycle in the Arts

This is an international database of 3rd cycle awards in the European Higher Arts Education Area, developed within the Creator Doctus project (2018-2021), to identify possible examples of practice in developing and supporting artistic research.