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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.


PSL University, Paris, France




Research Policy & Strategy

With more than 70% of its students at the Master’s or PhD level and an exceptional student/faculty ratio, PSL is the ultimate setting for breaking down walls between education and research across the board, based on excellence in science and in teaching. Member institutions share the values associated with education through the development of new knowledge, and many of them have already implemented innovative teaching methods that take advantage of students’ current skills to meet their needs and realize their aspirations. The university is building on this dynamic by developing a Graduate Program (GP) ecosystem inspired by the graduate schools that can be found in most of the world’s top universities. These GPs will implement research-based learning at the Master’s and PhD levels of the university and fit tightly into the existing framework of PSL member institutions and research units: students may have the option of a 5-year program that includes both a Master’s and PhD. These Graduate Programs represent the pillars of PSL’s graduate research and education strategy, which also aims to promote the emergence of bold new scientific topics via IRIS initiatives, support the university’s major strategic efforts in terms of scientific equipment and recruitment, and support novel educational programs at PSL via targeted initiatives at the Master’s and PhD levels. This strategy relies on the significant accomplishments and expertise PSL has acquired since its creation, which demonstrate the university’s ability to shape its research and education landscape by energizing the teaching and scientific activities of its member institutions, associate institutions, and entities that support the undertaking. In this Research Strategy, the SACRe PhD programme is the keystone for the development of practice-based research in the master of arts in each school via the Graduate Program in the Arts.

Mission Statement

The PSL University defines itself as an Intensive Research University and is building Graduate Programs in order to prioritise research overall the disciplines. One Graduate Program in the Arts was launched in September, 2020.

Awards Offered

  • PhD – validated by PSL
  • Full-time – 8 years (since 2012, and since 2016 with a laboratory)


Public defence
Depending on the discipline, the public defence can happen where the exhibition takes place, or a performance can be executed.

Sometimes, the jury discovers the exhibition(s) or the performance(s) before the day of the public defence.

The public defence lasts between 2 hours and a half to 4 hours.

The jury can be composed from 4 to 8 people. There are normally between 2-6 external examiners and 2 – 4 internal examiners. Half of the jury must be composed of external examiners.

Forms of Output

Dissertation and Practice
Exposition/Exhibition (including performance)

What is presented is dependent on the PhD student, his/her supervisors and the School where she/he prepares her/his PhD. There is no dissertation requirement.

Programme Structure

The programme structure includes methods training but no ethics training is provided. The programme and peer learning are also supported by group research seminars, teaching, symposia and workshops. There is an annual progress review.

Undergraduate & Masters Research

• Research training is embedded at Masters level study.
• Research training is embedded at BA level study.

Qualification Framework

  • National Framework
  • Florence Principles

Quality Assurance & Enhancement

There is no QAE policy and strategy. There is no identifiable metrics for evaluating 3rd Cycle arts programmes.

Evaluation is based on the number of PhDs, number of applicants per year, types of recruitment, number of PhD candidates working between academic and artistic research, types of relationships between PhDs and PhD candidates.


The supervisory team is identified in consultation with the PhD candidate. Either the PhD candidate identifies his/her supervisor(s), or s/he is helped by the Head of Research of the School to identify suitable supervisors who will support his/her PhD.

The usual and optimum number of supervisors is 2: the HDR (habilitation to supervise PhDs) and one artist. When the PhD is very interdisciplinary, a third PhD supervisor can be associated.

There is no specific time allocation for supervision. It is decided between the PhD candidate and the supervisor. The supervision of PhD is included in what a HDR and/or second supervisor has to do in their existing contracted time. Sometimes the HDR and/or the second supervisor receives a bonus for this work but there is no precise allocated time for this.

SACRe does not provide supervisor training per se. Nevertheless, SACRe organizes between one and three meetings per year for the supervisors of the SACRe PhD candidates. The goal of this type of meeting is to get direct feedback, promote exchanges between the wide range of the disciplines (only some of which have practice-based research in common) and answer questions.


Since SACRe is gathering 6 different schools, it is very hard to get this number.

However, at the ENS, it is 100% and in the School of Art, it is between 5 to 10%.

90% of staff are research active. There is no time allocation for research in arts academic contracts. No arts academic staff are undertaking 3rd cycle awards.

Overall responsibility for managing your 3rd cycle programme resides with:

  • The Director is Emmanuel Mahé, Head of the Research of the Ecole nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs (Paris).

In each of the six institutions of the SACRe programme, there is a Head of the Research for the 3rd cycle, and each one has a seat to the Board of the SACRe programme.

Student Admissions

The doctoral programme is advertised internationally.

Applications consist of:

  • Research proposal
  • Portfolio
  • CV
  • Interview

Approximately 9 students join the programme biannually.

Currently there are 48 registered students in the PhD programme in artistic research.

To date 35 students have graduated from the programme.

Student Funding

Students are either State-funded or self-funded.

For those with state-funding: this consists of a stipend including a doctoral contract and a grant for the creation expenses.

Support can also be accessed by both self-funded and state-funded students via ANRT (Agence nationale Recherche Technologie).

Student Support

Doctoral students have access to facilities in the institution, including:


  • Specialist technical facilities
  • Specialist archive/library facilities
  • Studio space
  • Digital resources
  • Workshops


Access to other facilities is dependent on the School (within PSL) where the PhD is prepared.

Additional financial support is provided to:

  • Support for realisation of projects/artworks/publications
  • Travel in support of research, conference attendance/presentation

These expenses may be funded by the grant they receive if they have State funding. Otherwise, students can apply to a funding coming from the laboratory.

Doctoral students teach at BA/MA levels, but there is no systematic process for this and it may vary between Schools.


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.