School of Society and Culture

PhD Performing Arts

We welcome proposals for both practice-led and more traditional forms of doctoral research in performer training, live art, site-specific performance, experimental theatre, interdisciplinary creative practices, intercultural performance, somatic practice, performance and religion, and popular performance (including stand-up comedy and burlesque). We also have expertise in supervising co-authored and collaborative research projects.

Course details
  • Overview

  • This full time or part time doctoral programme is suitable for people who have a particular research question or topic in mind, and wish to explore this through independent study in order to produce an original contribution to the subject. If you aspire to a research career this is the most appropriate research degree to undertake. 

    You will be guided by a small supervisory team of academic experts under the direction of a Director of Studies and will be expected to fully engage with skills development and training and to present your research in a range of scholarly contexts.

    Your PhD will be assessed via submission of either a written thesis (approximately 80,000 words), or one that combines critical writing with artistic, creative and/or professional practice, and a viva voce (an oral examination).

    If you do not already have a masters degree, you may be interested in one of our masters level research degrees – for instance, our ResM in Theatre and Performance (which enables a transfer directly into the PhD programme if you are making excellent progress), or else an MPhil degree. For further details about the University’s different types of research degrees, please visit this page.

    For full details of what doing a PhD entails at the University of Plymouth, please visit our postgraduate research degrees pages.

    Core modules

    • Research Skills in the Arts, Humanities & Business (MARE707)

      This module provides students with research skills training and a critical awareness of different methodological approaches in the arts, humanities, business, education, social sciences, law and associated fields, to enable them to make appropriate choices in their own research. It is designed to complement and support individual research projects carried out by students.

  • Year 2

  • Core modules

    • Research Performing Arts (GSRPERA4)

  • Year 3

  • Core modules

    • Research Performing Arts (GSRPERA5)

  • Year 4

  • Core modules

    • Research Performing Arts (GSRPERA6)

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.
Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to have completed a masters level qualification to a high standard (e.g. at 'merit' or 'distinction' level) as well as either a good 2:1 or first class honours undergraduate degree in an area of study appropriate to your project proposal (e.g. theatre and performance, drama, dance, live or fine art, performance writing, etc.). We are happy to consider equivalent qualifications (for instance, you may have studied different subjects at undergraduate and masters level but have established an artistic practice since then).

If you do not have a masters level qualification, we recommend you consider applying for our ResM Theatre and Performance programme. Students who are making exceptional progress in a ResM programme, may progress directly into our PhD programme without having to complete the masters.

You will also need to provide evidence that you are ready to pursue the project you propose in your application. This will take the form of a sample of critical writing, and if relevant, documentation of relevant creative or professional practice.

If English is not your first language, you must have proficiency in written and spoken English (normally a minimum test score of 6.5 for IELTS, or equivalent). Given the nature of the programme, you’ll be expected to read and engage with complex theoretical texts and debates for which fluency in English is essential.

For more general guidelines and application requirements, please visit the research degrees applicants page.

Fees, costs and funding

The UK is no longer part of the European Union. EU applicants should refer to our Brexit information to understand the implications.

Please visit tuition fees for postgraduate research for information about fees. PhD Performing Arts is in Band 2 for fees purposes.

If you are a full time student, you will pay full time fees for three years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional one year writing up period.

If you are a part time student, you will pay part time fees for four years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional 'writing up' period of up to two years.

You are responsible for meeting all of the costs related to your own research project, beyond the resources available in the department.

Please visit our postgraduate research money matters page to find out more about issues related to fees, funding, loans and paying for your programme of study.

How to apply

In addition to completing the online application form (which includes space for a personal statement), you must also upload a research project proposal. Your research proposal should outline your research topic, your key aims and the research question/problem you are addressing, a brief literature review, your proposed methodology, and an explanation of why this topic is significant or important.

Your personal statement should briefly explain why you have chosen to apply to our programme and what you feel you can offer our research community.

Submitting your application

Complete your application and upload supporting documents to the Doctoral College by completing our online application form.

Questions on the application process?

We're here to help. Please contact the Doctoral College team and we'll be happy to assist you.

You can view or download our postgraduate research admissions policy.

If you have a disability and would like further information on the support available, please visit our Disability Services website.

International Student Advice (ISA) provides support for our international students.

Find more information about how to apply for a research degree.

Performance. Experience. Presence (P.E.P) research group

Sharing interests in embodiment, training and cultural representation, our research focuses on creating and analysing performance in all of its forms. This group includes researchers of theatre, dance, live art and interdisciplinary performance practices.

Our PEP Talks series of research seminars is scheduled throughout the academic year and research students organise their own conferences and events.

Learn more about the work carried out by PEP, our theatre, dance and performing arts research group

Visit the PEP Facebook group | Follow us on Twitter @PlymUniPEP

The House

Experience our stunning resources for students and researchers in the performing arts building, The House.

Benefit from our £7 million dynamic four-storey production house and specialist learning and research environment.

Explore the House

Dr Dani Abulhawa – PhD in Performing Arts

I would recommend Plymouth because there is a really strong culture of research and creativity. The lecturers are extremely supportive and the standard of course organisation seems excellent to me.

Find out more about Dani's experience

Recent PhD completions include:

Dr Helen Billinghurst: “Ways of Making: Producing Artworks in the Studio in Response to Experiential Walking” (Director of Studies: Dr Phil Smith)

Dr Alan Butler (AHRC-funded): “Performing LGBT Pride in Plymouth 1950-2010” (Director of Studies: Prof Roberta Mock)

Dr Mark Flisher: "Masculinity, the abject and live art practice" (Director of Studies: Dr Lee Miller)

Dr Maggie Irving (AHRC-funded): “Toward a Female Clown Practice: Transgression, Archetype and Myth” (Director of Studies: Prof Roberta Mock)

Dr Steven Paige (AHRC-funded): “Art-making and the archive” (Director of Studies: Prof Roberta Mock)

Dr Natalie Raven (School studentship recipient): “Bodycloth: Adornment in Live Art Practice” (Director of Studies: Prof Roberta Mock)

Dr Beth Emily Richards (University studentship recipient): “Artist-led and fan approaches to collective representations of histories” (Director of Studies: Prof Roberta Mock)

Dr Tiffany Strawson (School studentship recipient): “Gender, Interculturalism and Balinese Topeng Performance” (Director of Studies: Dr Victor Ladron de Guevara)

Current research student projects include:

Katerina Athanasopoulou: Virtual reality and animation (AHRC funded)

Laura Cantliff: Neurodiversity and performer training

Toby Chanter: Digital immersion, embodiment and medical encounters (AHRC funded)

Mo Cohen: Solo autobiographical performance and transformation

Teri Harper-Bailie and James Harper-Bailie (co-authored PhD): Collaboration, performativity and the domestic (recipient of Doctoral Teaching Assistantship)

Beth Heaney: Graphic Memoirs and healing

Katheryn Owens and Chris Green (co-authored PhD): Precarity and performance writing practice

David McLellan: Performing arts and robotics (AHRC funded)

Amble Skuse: Feminist composition for disabled performers (AHRC funded)

Robyn Thomas: Painting, play and personas

Maxwell Wazsak: Sustainable theatre education

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