MPhil & PhD in Curating

Mike Cooter, The Thousand Eyes (installation detail), 31st Biennial of Graphic Arts, Ljubljana, 2015

Course overview

Our research programmes are designed for curators seeking to pursue research through creative practice and, in so doing, to contribute to the wider cultural context through original critical work.

In all Art research subjects, whether you specialise as an artist, a curator or a writer, you may either register for practice-based research or register to undertake research leading to a thesis submitted in accordance with the normal provisions of the University.

At research level the Department of Art’s aim is to support the development of original arts research in the form of artworks, curatorial production and writing. As an artist registered for either practice-based research or by written thesis only, you will work participate in our rich critical research environment.

You will normally work with two supervisors, one of whom may be outside of the discipline of Art. You will meet regularly with your supervisory team to discuss the development of your research project. You will also have the opportunity to organise and participate in training workshops, seminars, screenings, displays and research symposia.

We consider all elements of the PhD - the written element and the artistic or curatorial production for practice-based research - to be sites of rigorous formal experimentation. Throughout your period of study you will be expected to articulate the shape and form of your research and the relation between its elements and to discuss them in research fora on a regular basis.

Find out more about research degrees at Goldsmiths. 


You will apply with a well-developed idea for an individual research project that you have begun to plan artistically as well as to contextualise with reference to contemporary and historical examples of artworks, exhibitions, designs, social, political and philosophical ideas, etc.

See the section ‘How to Apply’ below for full details about our applications process, including key dates and deadlines.

International students

If you are an international student and would like to study a 'tailor-made' programme (for up to a year), you may be interested in applying as a Guest Research Student.

Contact the department

If you have specific questions about the degree, contact our Research Admissions Tutor, Professor Michael Newman

Modules & structure

If you are registered for a practice-based research project, you are expected to produce a series of artworks and/or documentation of a series of exhibitions or events developed whilst on the programme as well as a dissertation of 20,000 words (MPhil) or 40,000 words (PhD). If you are registered according to the normal provisions of the University your final text has a target of 40,000 words for an MPhil and 80,000 words for a PhD. All research students are registered first for an MPhil then may either transfer registration to PhD following the successful completion of an upgrade exam or finish their study at this stage by submitting their research for an MPhil exam.

We provide full-time practice-based research students with studio or office accommodation as appropriate; we expect part-time students to have their own studio or office as appropriate, which is subject to the same conditions as for part-time MFA in Fine Art students.

Assessment is by either:

  • Thesis, including practice; viva voce
  • Thesis and viva voce

Please note that due to staff research commitments not all of these modules may be available every year.


We have a world-leading reputation that brings together
students and researchers from all over the globe


We specialise in making, curating and writing about contemporary art in a dynamic, critical and interdisciplinary environment.

And we work with a network of artists, curators, galleries and museums in both London and internationally to create an inspiring and dynamic place in which to study and develop an artistic practice.

Our alumni go on to do great things. Many of them are among the most recognised names working in art today, and since 1990 they’ve been nominated for the Turner Prize more than 30 times, winning the prize on seven occasions.

Find out more about the Department of Art


Core team

We have a dedicated team of staff who work on the PhD Programme, including:


All members of Staff in the Department of Art are available to supervise PhD’s. Please see our Departmental Staff Page for more information about individual staff and their research interests. You may also seek second supervision in other Departments at Goldsmiths.

You will be asked to add names of potential supervisors to your application form. You may also send through your research proposal to any potential supervisors in the first instance to gauge interest in the project. However, please do not expect any specific feedback on your proposal in this early stage (see the section on ‘Look for Potential Supervisors’ in the tab for ‘How to Apply’ below). If shortlisted, we will also suggest possible supervisors.

Skills & careers


Our Art programmes aim to equip you with the necessary skills to develop independent thought and confidence in your practice. In addition, these skills are of use in other career paths you may wish to follow.


Our students have been successful in many fields including media, museums, galleries, education, the music business and academia. Many have continued to be successful, practising artists long after graduating, and have won major prizes and exhibited around the world.

Entry requirements

You should normally have (or expect to be awarded) a taught Masters in a relevant subject area. 

You might also be considered for some programmes if you aren’t a graduate or your degree is in an unrelated field, but have relevant experience and can show that you have the ability to work at postgraduate level.

Equivalent qualifications
We accept a wide range of international qualifications. Find out more about the qualifications we accept from around the world.

English language requirements
If English isn’t your first language, you’ll need to meet our English language requirements to study with us.

For this programme we require:

IELTS 6.5 with a 6.5 in writing and no element lower than 6.0

If you need assistance with your English language, we offer a range of courses that can help prepare you for postgraduate-level study.

How to apply

Before you apply

Good applications take time, and there is lot of work to be done before you submit a formal application. You should bear this mind if you are thinking of applying, ensuring that you allow yourself enough time to craft a solid and considered application.

Here is what to do before you apply:

Consider the Research Environment

When thinking about doing a PhD, it is important to consider carefully the research environment where you place yourself. The Art Department supports a broad range of research-intensive Fine Art, Curating and Art-Writing practices. The Department itself is part of an important and vibrant research university.

We encourage you to explore the web pages for the Department of Art and for Goldsmiths College. If you are able, we invite you to come visit the campus in order to see what we have to offer. It is important to determine early on whether you think Goldsmiths will be the best research environment for your project and to consider what it is that you, in turn, can contribute to this environment.

As you explore the Department, specifically, and Goldsmiths, more broadly, we encourage you to consider whether your research project would benefit from support across disciplines. Many of our Researchers have their Primary Supervisor in the Department of Art and a Secondary Supervisor in another Department. (Please see the section ‘Look for Potential Supervisors’ below.)

Write a Research Proposal

You will need to complete a research proposal at the earliest possible stage, and before you begin the official applications process.

It is important to note here, for those whose research involves practice, that the MPhil/PhD is not an extension of the MFA. The MFA in Art is a professional degree geared specifically at the development of your art practice. Distinct from this, the MPhil/PhD in Art Research is a 3-4 year (full-time) or 6-8 year (part-time) research project, the pursuit of which may involve your already-established practice, or require the development new modes of practice specific to the research project.

Your Research Proposal will offer an indication of your research project, method, context and anticipated outcomes. The proposal itself should be no more than 2,500 words and include the following information:

  • Title of project.
  • Indication of whether you are applying for the option of 'Thesis by Dissertation', 'Thesis by Practice and Dissertation' or 'Thesis by Practice' (see section on 'Degree Structure' above for distinction).
  • Abstract (200 words). This should be a concise description of the project.
  • Research context and background. Here you should identify the broad field of study, your intervention into this and how your proposal will contribute originally to Art and a wider research context. You should also identify how your previous experience prepared you for this research. 
  • Research questions. You should clearly set out your research questions. Identify any deep concern or problem driving your research and why it is important to pursue this.
  • Research methods. Here you should consider how you will pursue your research. In doing so, you should consider the role of your practice as research and outline the relationship between your practice and the written component, if applicable.
  • Schedule to completion. This should include plans for the completion of artworks, exhibitions, written works, etc.
  • Short bibliography or list of relevant sources.

See here for general advice on writing a Research Proposal.

Write a Personal Statement

In addition to your Research Proposal, you will be asked to submit a Personal Statement at the time of your application. The Personal Statement allows us to gauge your ability and commitment to undertaking a long-term research project.

The statement itself should be no more than 1500 words and contain the following information:

  • A short biographical statement (100-150 words)
  • A description of your background and interests leading up to the PhD
  • If your proposal involves practice, a description of your practice and how you understand this to relate to research
  • A brief account of your personal investment in this project. Why do you believe that his work needs to be done?
  • Evidence of your ability to undertake a long-term research project
  • A brief statement about your capacity to undertake a long-term research project and your willingness/ability to contribute fully to the research environment of the Department and beyond

See here for Goldsmiths general advice on writing a Personal Statement.

Look for Potential Supervisors

Before you apply, you should look at our Departmental Staff Page to see if your project can be supported by our range of Supervisors. If your project warrants it, you should also look at Departments across Goldsmiths for any potential second supervisors. Should you eventually decide to go through with the formal application process, you will be asked to indicate any potential supervisors on your application.

During this early stage, it is not expected that you will have much, if any contact with any potential Supervisors. This is because, for the purposes of the applications process, it is important for us to see how you develop a research proposal independently in the first instance, prior to working with someone. Only after you are accepted onto the programme, and particularly if you are shortlisted for external funding (e.g. through the CHASE award system, see also the main web page under ‘Fees, Funding and Scholarships’), would you and your Supervisor begin working together to hone and refine your research proposal.

Please note that Supervisors have a limited capacity to take on new research projects, so it may not always be possible to work with your first choice of Supervisor. Please also note that applications decisions in the Department of Art do not rest with potential Supervisors alone; rather, decisions involve a number of different staff members, including potential Supervisors, at various stages of the selection process (see ‘Selection Process’ below).

Ask Questions

If you have questions about the applications process, or wish to send through your Research Proposal in order to gauge whether it can be supported by the Department, you should get in touch with the Research Admissions Tutor, Professor Michael Newman ( 

Please note that, as we receive a high number of applications, neither the Research Admissions Tutor nor the Programme Director will advise on potential supervisors or discuss with you the research proposal itself prior to you submitting an application. If your application is shortlisted and you are invited for interview, it will then be possible to discuss possible supervisors for your project.

Formal Applications Process

You will apply directly to Goldsmiths using the online application system.

Follow the instructions for the online application, adding information as appropriate into the following sections:

  1. Personal Details
  2. Residential Details
  3. Equality/Diversity
  4. Qualifications
  5. References - here you should provide the contact details of at least two referees
  6. Personal Statement - here you should upload your pre-prepared personal statement
  7. Additional Details
  8. Research Proposal and Supporting Material - here you should upload the following materials under ‘Other Documents’:
  • A. Research Proposal.
  • B. Personal Statement (as per Section 6)
  • C. Sample of academic wirting, such as an essay or extract from your MA dissertation, or a substantial peice of published writing.
  • D. If your research involves practice, examples of your recent work in an appropriately documented form, which may be done by providing a link to a website.
  • E. Full CV, including classes of degrees.
  • F. If available, an electronic copy of your educational transcript (this is particularly important if you have studied outside of the UK, but isn’t mandatory).


You will be able to save your progress at any point and return to your application by logging in using your username/email and password.


Applications Deadlines

We have two rounds of applications for the MPhil & PhD Programme in Art 2017-18. During the first round we consider applicants for CHASE funding. During the second we consider applicants for Departmental Bursaries. 


Key dates and deadlines are as follows:

Round 1: Deadline: Monday, 13 November, 2017 at 5.00pm

Where applications are to be considered for CHASE funding (see section on ‘Fees, Funding and Scholarships’ on main web page).

Round 2: Deadline: Monday, 26 March, 2018 at 5.00pm

Where applications are to be considered for Departmental Bursaries (see section on ‘Fees, Funding and Scholarships’ on main web page).

(Please note that applicants who were interviewed and successful in Round 1, but not put forward for CHASE funding, will automatically be considered for a Departmental Bursary in Round 2.)


Selection Process

Successful applications are selected on the basis of application and interview. There are three stages to this selection process:

Stage 1: Applications - Long List

All applications received by the respective application deadlines are placed on a ‘long list’ for consideration. Here they are evaluated by a Research Applications Panel consisting of the Programme Leader, Research Admissions Tutor, and members of the PhD Staff Team and Postgraduate Research Committee, as available.

At this stage, the overall quality of each application is considered, based on the following criteria:

  • Does the research proposal demonstrate a clear and definable research project that can be realised within 3-4 years (full-time) or 6-8 years (part-time)? 
  • Does the project demonstrate the ambition to identify and address a deep concern or problematic?
  • Is there a good supervisory match for the research project (i.e. can we support the project with expert supervision within the Department/across Departments)?
  • Will the proposed research make an original contribution to knowledge and/or will it challenge existing knowledge formations? Does the project demonstrate the ambition to identify and address a deep concern or problematic?
  • Are the examples of practice and the written sample of high quality?
  • Is there a good supervisory match for the research project (i.e. can we support the project with expert supervision within the Department/across Departments)?
  • Is the proposal in keeping with the research ethos of the Programme, which supports a broad and diverse range of interdisciplinary thinking and practice and encourages researchers to consider all elements of their PhD project as sites of rigorous exploration and experimentation?
  • Is it evident that the applicant is capable of undertaking a long-term research project and willing/able to contribute fully to the research culture of the Department and beyond?

Applications that meet these criteria are placed on the ‘shortlist’.

Stage 2: Applications - Shortlist

All shortlisted applications are circulated to members of staff in the Department of Art who supervise PhDs for feedback in order to find an appropraite supervisory match.. If an appropriate supervisory match can be found, the applicant is invited for interview.

Stage 3: Interview

Interviews are held in person or by Skype, if necessary. Each interview is 40 minutes in total, including a short presentation by the applicant (10 minutes) followed by questions  from the Research Interview Panel and discussion (30 minutes).

The presentation should include an overview of your research proposal, emphasizing how you understand this as a ‘research project’ that addresses a question, deep concern and/or problematic. Some discussion of how you understand the role of practice in forwarding your research as well as how this relates to the written component, if applicable, is also welcome. You may also speak to how you research will communicate and contribute more widely to a research context.

Although it may vary, the Research Interview Panel will generally consist of:

  • Director of Research Programmes
  • Research Admissions Tutor
  • Member(s) of Research Team
  • Head of Department OR Head of Research OR Member of Research Committee
  • Potential supervisor AND/OR area specialist

If your interview is successful, you will be accepted onto the Programme.

In certain cases, unsuccessful applicants will be invited to re-apply after having gained more experience, or with a more developed proposal.

Find our more about applying.

Find out more about applying.

Fees, funding & scholarships

Find out more about tuition fees.

Find out more about funding opportunities for home/EU applicants, or funding for international applicants. If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline.


CHASE Doctoral Research Scholarships three-year award for PhDs starting in September 2017. We are looking for exceptional research projects proposed by practicing artists, curators and writers wishing to base their PhD research in the Department of Art to nominate for the 2017-18 CHASE award competition.

Deadline: Monday, 28 November 2016

CHASE is a consortium of seven members: the Courtauld Institute of Art, Goldsmiths, University of London, the Open University and the Universities of East Anglia, Essex, Kent and Sussex. CHASE is one of 11 Doctoral Training Partnerships in the UK funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). A studentship is worth approximately £19,000 per year for maintenance and tuition fees. CHASE AHRC studentships are open to UK and EU students who meet the residency requirements set out in the AHRC Guide to Student Funding.

Applications are open for practice-based research and written-thesis-only PhD proposals. To be considered, applicants should complete Step 1 and Step 2 of the applications process by the Departmental Dealine of 28 November 2016.

See ‘How to Apply’ (above) for full details of Step 1 and Step 2 of the applications process.

We will hold interviews for CHASE applicants in January 2017. If shortlisted by the Department, applicants will then write a CHASE application in consultation with their proposed supervisor that will be entered into the CHASE competition. Successful candidates will be notified of decisions in April 2017.

**Please note that applicants who were interviewed and successful in securing a place on the Programme in Round 1, but not put forward for CHASE funding, will automatically be considered for a Departmental Bursary in Round 2.**


Departmental Doctoral Research Bursaries one-year award for PhDs starting in September 2017.

We offer a number of bursaries of £5,000 each for first year students. These are awarded by competition only after applicants have received an unconditional offer for either the MPhil/PhD Art or MPhil/PhD Curating programmes.

Deadline: Monday, 6 February, 2017

Applications are open for practice-based research and written-thesis-only PhD proposals. To be considered, applicants should complete Step 1 and Step 2 of the applications process by the Departmental Dealine of 28 November 2016.

See ‘How to Apply’ (above) for full details of Step 1 and Step 2 of the applications process.)

We will hold interviews for Departmental Bursaries in March 2017.

**Please note that applicants who were interviewed and successful in securing a place on the Programme in Round 1, but not put forward for CHASE funding, will automatically be considered for a Departmental Bursary in Round 2.**


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