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Designing a New Design PhD?

Date Published: 02 September 2014


By Dr. Emma Murphy and Dr. Naomi Jacobs

The higher education sector in the UK is currently undergoing rapid change, and design education is no exception. Higher fee levels, limited grants and self-funding PhD study is becoming more common. Furthermore, there is increased demand for non-traditional modes of study such as part-time provision and flexible learning – especially relevant to designer-practitioners. A greater number of mature students are also entering higher education, many of whom will have significant industry experience. But the design student dynamic isn’t the only change we are seeing – the remit of design academics is changing too. There is now an increased emphasis on the economic and social benefits that academia can contribute, and the ‘impact agenda’ requires research councils (and therefore academic researchers) to show that their work has a wider societal impact in order to sustain funding. Furthermore, design is an ever expanding and changing interdiscipline, and so the make up and shape of the Design PhD is frequently in question.

But what do all these changes mean for doctoral design education? Is the traditional PhD model still fit for purpose, or are we changing this beyond recognition to accommodate design? Do we need a new Design PhD? In this paper, we examine approaches in both mainstream design research training (adaptations of the traditional model) and more novel PhD programmes, which could form the grounding for curriculum design experts to further question and develop the notion of the new Design PhD.


Design Management Institute Academic Conference

Publication Date

2nd of September 2014


Article PDF [1MB]


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