Research Degrees in

Art, Design and Architecture

in the Manchester School of Art


Do you want to advance or change your career, deepen your expertise in a topic, or expand your research and practical skills?

With a PhD or other postgraduate research degree in the areas of Art, Design and Architecture you will:

  • Work with renowned experts in the field. In the most recent national evaluation of research, two-thirds of our research was rated as world-leading or internationally excellent (REF2014).
  • Join a well-established and thriving research community. Since 1968, Manchester School of Art has pioneered practice-led research degrees alongside traditional approaches to research. Today we provide a nationally and internationally recognised environment for postgraduate research.
  • Choose from our flexible study pathways. You can undertake theory- or practice-led research as a full-time or part-time student. We offer PhD, MPhil and MA by Research programmes, which can be studied on campus or as a distance learner.
  • Use our outstanding facilities and equipment. We have invested significantly in our multi-million pound facilities, which are distinctive in allowing you to combine both state-of-the-art and traditional techniques.
  • Benefit from our close links with the cultural and creative industries. We have long-standing relationships with galleries, museums and archives in the North West region and beyond.
  • Engage in innovative public engagement programmes. RAH! (Research in Arts and Humanities) is a curated programme of public lectures, performances, film screenings, fairs, interventions, discussions, artist happenings and augmented reality.
  • Undertake tailored personal and professional development training. The Postgraduate Arts and Humanities Centre provides a comprehensive development programme for research students.

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Areas of supervisory expertise

We can supervise projects on the practices, professions, histories and theories of art, design, media and architecture. We have particular strengths in:

  • Interdisciplinary and collaborative industry approaches to practice
  • Histories and theories of fine art
  • Visual cultures
  • Heritage
  • Cultures of conflict
  • Socially and politically engaged cultural practices
  • Architecture and Urbanism
  • Arts for health
  • Asian cultures
  • Curatorship
  • Urbanism
  • Design innovation and design futures
  • Digital arts and design
  • Visual social media
  • Short film
  • Photography
  • Contemporary ceramics and textile practice
  • Drama, dance and performing arts.

We particularly welcome projects that cross disciplines and approaches.

Find out more about our staff’s expertise

Research culture

Research is an integral part of the School of Art and our thriving community of researchers consistently demonstrate how innovative research can engage with the major cultural and social issues of the day.

More about our research culture

You will join a creative team of researchers who are practising professionals within their fields: exhibiting in major galleries worldwide; engaging with communities to enrich their lives; influencing national policy; and exploring new ways of expression through digital technologies.

Our postgraduate researchers are a key part of our social and intellectual environment. You will be a member of our Postgraduate Arts and Humanities Centre (PAHC). PAHC is a dedicated forum for postgraduate students in the Arts and Humanities. It provides:

  • HARTS Online, an online community, news and events portal
  • A thorough research development programme
  • A space for cross-disciplinary discussion, support and experimentation
  • Hive, an academic e-journal, edited by current students
  • RAH!, an innovative programme of socially and culturally engaged public engagement events.

Courses offered, duration, and start dates

Programmes offered

  • PhD (3 years full time, 6 years part time)
  • PhD by Published Work or Professional Practice (course duration varies by route taken and candidate's background)
  • Master's by Research (1 year full time, 2 years part time).

Find out more about the different research degrees we offer

Start dates

The majority of our students enrol in October. We offer further enrolment points in January and April.

Distance learning

Research degrees are available to study on-campus or through distance learning.

Career prospects

Postgraduate research allows you to enhance your own professional practice, or to develop the skills and expertise to pursue new creative pathways.

Our research programmes also equip you with advanced research skills and a deep understanding of how society and culture work. These skills and expertise enable you to pursue senior roles in academia, the cultural industries, the creative sectors, or a range of areas. 

Course structure

This course is research based. You will independently conduct research into your own topic or a topic that we advertise. Your supervisory team will offer expert guidance throughout your studies and review work in progress.

Each year, you will follow a programme of training and development to enhance your research methods, subject-matter expertise and professional skills.

Fees and funding

Find out more

Postgraduate Research Degrees Fees

Please refer to our Fees page for more information about tuition fees.

Loans for research degrees

Many of our PhD and Professional Doctorate programmes are eligible for the government's Doctoral Loan Scheme. MPhil and MA/MSc by Research degrees are eligible for a Postgraduate Loan.

Find out more about tuition fees and financial support


Each year we offer a number of competitive scholarships to support high quality research projects. Current scholarship opportunities in Art, Design and Architecture are advertised on our site.

Sign up to be notified when relevant scholarships are advertised

North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership

We are a member of the North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership which allows us to offer fully funded scholarships in the Arts and Humanities. Contact us for more information.

Entry requirements

Find out more

You should, as a minimum, have a first or 2.1 honours degree or an equivalent qualification.

International students must demonstrate a sufficiently high standard of English language ability.

We welcome interest from applicants from non-standard backgrounds. We will take subject knowledge, professional experience, publications, or other appropriate evidence of accomplishment into consideration.

See more about our standard entry requirements.


Before applying for a research degree, you should have a preliminary discussion with a member of staff about your project and ideas. To arrange this, please email:

For further information on the application process, contact the Faculty’s research degrees administration team:, +44 (0)161 247 5412.

How to apply

Apply now

The quickest and most efficient way to apply for this course is to apply online using the link below. This way, you can also track your application at each stage of the process.

Before you apply, you should discuss your project with a member of academic staff. You should also complete the Postgraduate Research Degree Supplementary Information form which you will then upload to the ‘Student documents’ section of the application form. This collects key information about your research application and there may be delays if you do not submit this document.

Apply now
Postgraduate Study