Why study for an MPhil or PhD?

​On this page you will find information on:

– Why study for a research degree?

– Why Study at CSAD for a research degree?

– What’s the difference between an MPhil and a PhD?


​Why study for a research degree?

There are several reasons for wanting to study for a research degree:

1. You have a question or interest relating to art and design practice or theory which you want to explore, and it is something which you are passionate about.

2. You want to become familiar with and have experience of a range of research methods and critical thinking skills.

3. You want the degree as a qualification for working in higher education or conducting further research.

4. As an art or design practitioner, you want to develop your practice in relation to a particular interest or question, with the result that you not only make a contribution to the field but also find your practice enhanced and transformed by the enquiry and debate which accompany research.

5. As an art or design practitioner, you want to pursue your practice in an environment which allows your work to become known through networks other than (or in addition to) the conventional gallery or commercial sectors, such as conferences and research collaborations. For example, you may be an artist who wants to investigate the ways in which your practice can interact with or contribute to another academic subject. Or you may be a designer who wants to test a new solution to a problem or offer a brand new approach to a subject. A PhD gives you the opportunity to set out, examine and gain evidence in support of your idea and, perhaps most importantly, become known through conferences, publications, and other academic networks.

Of these three reasons, the first is arguably the most important, certainly at PhD level, for two reasons. Firstly, a PhD takes 3-4 years full-time, and 6-7 years part-time. Your passion for your subject will be one of, if not the, strongest force motivating you through the programme of research. But it is not all one way: there is a pay back too. And this is the second reason: The act of committing to a question makes research exciting. Research is like a microscope: the more you focus and look, the more you see. Commitment to a research question means you begin to see new possibilities in the territory you have defined. It is through bringing these possibilities to light, providing systematic evidence for them, and relating them to your subject as a whole, that new knowledge is generated.

In this respect, point 4 deserves some explanation. While the history and theory of art and design are well-established as areas of research, art and design practice as a form of research is a relatively new phenomenon, not just in the UK but also in Europe and the USA. There has been, and continues to be, much discussion on how art and design practice constitute research. One perspective adopted at CSAD is to recognise that all forms of art and design practice can be located in relation to one or more cultural, social, historical or philosophical debate(s). Far from ‘reducing’ or pigeon-holing practice, this act of locating it foregrounds the practitioner as a contributor to the field. Furthermore, it encourages new observations to be made which extend or transform the practice in unforeseen ways, where these transformations are vital for demonstrating the generation of new knowledge.

Why study at CSAD for a research degree?

CSAD has a long history in the generation of art and design research. It has an active and supportive research environment, and its supervisors have significant expertise in the various ways in which art, design and engineering theory and practice can contribute to knowledge. Furthermore, the School is a co-founding institution (with Newport School of Art Media and Design), of Wales Institute of Research in Art and Design (WIRAD), allowing the research experience of its students and supervisors to be enhanced through cross-School collaboration and exchange.

CSAD has a range of research specialisms, and is particularly keen to foster graduate research in the following areas:

ceramics / fine art / creative teaching / art history, theory and philosophy / creative digital technology / ecological building practices / embodied interaction / sensory design / advanced prototype research / art and science

Full details of CSAD’s research specialisms and supervisors’ research interests can be found on the Supervisors and areas of supervision page.

Training at Cardiff Metropolitan University (UWIC), School and WIRAD levels is provided in a range of research skills and methods relevant to art and design theory and practice, and to knowledge generation as a whole. All research degrees commence with the Postgraduate Certificate in Professional and Research Skills: Art & Design programme (CPRS). It offers a thorough and comprehensive introduction to the range of methods, strategies and debates which can apply to art and design professional practice and research. It is built around the four key areas of professional practice, research method, research design, and the criticality that is essential to the generation of knowledge. The programme is ideal for artists and designers who want to develop a research proposal or a professional intervention project based on their practice. Further details of CPRS can be found here.

Research training is enhanced through research groups and clusters to provide peer support and mentoring. Visit the WIRAD website for more information.

What’s the difference between an MPhil and a PhD?

The degree of Master of Philosophy by Research is awarded by Cardiff Metropolitan University (UWIC) in recognition of the successful completion of a course of study and research, the results of which are judged to constitute:

• a critical evaluation and analysis of a body of knowledge, or • an original contribution to learning or knowledge.

Whereas the requirement of making an original contribution to knowledge is optional with an MPhil, it is necessary with a PhD. There are also additional requirements. The degree of Doctor of Philosophy by Research is awarded by Cardiff Metropolitan University (UWIC) in recognition of the successful completion of a scheme of study and research, the results of which are judged:

• to constitute an original contribution to learning or knowledge, • to give evidence of systematic study, and • to give evidence of the ability to relate the results of such study to the general body of knowledge in the subject.