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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.


Royal Academy of Fine Arts (AP University College), Antwerp, Belgium

Research Policy & Strategy

As one of the first art academies in the world, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp is internationally acknowledged for its educational programs in fine arts and design. The mission statement of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts comprehends education, research, cultural/social services and development of the arts. Research is seen as an important and integral part and task of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and interacts with the other tasks (education, cultural/social services, development of the arts).

The Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp and the Royal Conservatoire Antwerp (both AP University College) develop their research policy and strategy together. They share one common Research Council and organise research together. Specifically, for PhD research, a collaboration with University of Antwerp has established a Research Institute for the Arts, focussing on PhD research in visual arts, music, dance and performing arts.

At the policy level, ARIA represents the unique scientific and societal position of arts research in platforms such as Research Foundation – Flanders, the European Research Council and the Flemish government. ARIA encourages research that: is founded on artistic practice; is rooted in the unique character of the arts; seeks to achieve both disciplinary depth and interdisciplinary breadth; puts research centre stage in education; makes a meaningful contribution to professional art practice; and takes a critical stance towards society. The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp is a co-founder and member of  ARIA. Royal Academy of Fine Arts is involved in Flemish research in the arts working group (Vlohra).

Awards Offered

PhD in the Arts

(validated through the University of Antwerp as part of the ARIA Faculty)

The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp does not have the authority to grant 3rd cycle awards. All 3rd cycle projects are carried out with partners in ARIA and in collaboration with the University of Antwerp and therefore must meet the requirements of the university’s regulations for doctoral study.


Practice-based/practice-led submissions

Thesis only submissions

Viva – PhD defence

Annual progress reports

The defence of the work presented takes place in front of a doctoral jury comprising the doctoral committee with invited specialists and external examiners.

Forms of Output

Practice-based; practice-led; collaborative; thesis; placement; portfolio; enterprise;

knowledge-transfer consultancy; patents, etc.

Programme Structure

PhDs require 4 years of full time study, 6 years part-time study.

Research methods are embedded in undergraduate and postgraduate levels with increasing complexity. There are seminars organised on research methodology specific to PhD students.

With regard the ethics the academy follows the guidelines of ALLEA. This ethical framework was discussed and approved by our Research Council.

Annual research progress report evaluated by the doctoral committee of each PhD student. Doctoral programme progress report evaluated by a peer review committee.

Undergraduate & Masters Research

Undergraduate and postgraduate courses introduce research methods. Ethics training is part of M level research training and in their 3rd cycle proposals students have to elaborate on how they will deal with ethics during their research.

Qualification Framework


Reference is made to the ‘The Florence Principles on the Doctorates in the Arts’. These Principles were discussed and approved by the Research Council.


Quality Assurance & Enhancement

The Royal Academy of Fine Arts is funded by the Flemish Government for research.The ARIA consortium organises and supervises research and PhDs in, with and for the arts. As a part of ARIA the institute safeguards the special character of research in the arts and fosters collaboration and knowledge exchange with other artistic and scientific disciplines. It achieves this through unique partnerships among theAntwerp Schools of Arts and the University of Antwerp, in which the partners’ autonomy and integrity come first. ARIA creates local, national and international collaborations with artists, professionals, research institutes and artistic organisations.


Students work with 2 supervisors (one of the university and one of the school of arts) and a PhD committee of four persons/experts. Each PhD-researcher is also part of a research group with peers and is part of the research community of the Royal Academy and of ARIA (University of Antwerp). 


There are no separate training methods for PhD supervisors. Research is an integral part of both the undergraduate and postgraduate curricula of the Royal Academy of Fine Art, Antwerp. 100% of staff teaching theory hold 3rd cycle qualifications in our institution, with and increasing but smaller number of those teaching practice. About 50% of staff are engaged in research. 

Researchers are supported through the covering of replacement for teaching tasks and there is a substantial budget for travel, for the purchase of materials and for the reimbursement of invited experts (artists, researchers) that contribute to the debate and deliver specific expertise on research-related topics. There are no institution wide regulations defining the time allocation (hours) given to staff involved in 3rd cycle supervision. It depends on other responsibilities and tasks within the total package, and is often a combination of being chairperson of a research group, membership of research council etc.

Student Admissions

Candidates can apply for a PhD in the Arts via at the ARIA Faculty (University of Antwerp). The Faculty decides on the selection of the candidates. Prospective students must have a Masters’ degree and the application is accompanied by a research project description (including context, research questions, methodology, milestones, expected outputs), a portfolio and CV. An external committee of experts ranks the applications and formulates advice. The Research Council decides on funding based on this advice.

There are currently 12 PhD students studying in the arts programme at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp.

Over the past 5 years, 12 students have successfully achieved 3rd cycle awards.

Student Funding

Annually, scholarships for doctoral students are available for students studying part-time (50% of time) over 4 years. More information.

Student Support

There is an annual budget to invite experts, to travel, to buy materials and to organise events.

Student Experience

A number of initiatives have been developed to enhance a research culture in the institution including:

  • introduction of research master classes for master students – in which PhD researchers introduce their research project;
  • series of lectures based on research in the arts, by researchers/artists;series of informal “gatherings” with researchers to talk about research projects and exchange experiences;
  • series of research seminars together with ARIA/university of Antwerp;
  • the organisation of research-based summer schools;the organisation of a yearly research festival ARTICULATE

Additional Information

In 2008, a specific publication platform for research in the arts was established within the Academy under the name TRACK REPORT. Track Report is the publication channel for research in the visual arts at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp. It presents a selection of our current and past research projects and in this way wants to report on the ‘track’ on which the academization at the Royal Academy enters. The research process, rather than the research results, is central to these research publications.

You can find a selection of our publications here  or follow us on Instagram


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.