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MPhil & PhD in Design

  • Length
    3-4 years full-time or 4-6 years part-time
  • Department
    Design
  • Funding available

Course overview

We welcome enquiries from anyone who would like to carry out research in any aspect of design or in technology in education.

Current studies include:

  • eco-design and forecasting trends
  • the design of multi-sensory retail environments
  • curriculum development in design
  • the role of awkward space in cities
  • pupil assessment in design and technology education
  • reflexive drawing and the connection between representation and creativity
  • social theory in a world of designed objects
  • harnessing memes to disseminate design ideas

Find out more about research degrees at Goldsmiths

Practice-based MPhil and PhD

Both the MPhil and the PhD can be linked to design practice.

A practice-based MPhil explores new approaches to, or applications of, existing knowledge by means of practice.

A practice-based PhD creates new knowledge by means of practice.

In either case, your final presentation will include both an original, creative practice component and a thesis that will contextualise this practice.

Since the practice component of your research constitutes a significant part of the final examination, the thesis requirement is reduced.

Assessment is by thesis and viva voce.

Design Star Centre for Doctoral Training

Goldsmiths is a member of the Design Star Centre for Doctoral Training, which brings the Department of Design together with other leading design departments at the University of Brighton; Loughborough University; The Open University; and the University of Reading.

It aims to develop future intellectual leadership in design: research leaders of the future who are equipped to make a difference to contemporary social concerns, knowledge production and creative practices. This requires an approach to research training that places diversity and interdisciplinarity at its core.

Design Star brings together world-class research in:

  • design for industry
  • interaction design
  • design process
  • communication design
  • sustainable design
  • design history
  • curation
  • creative practice.

Its spread of design disciplines is linked by a common approach to design that encourages the integration of history, theory and engagement.

Contact the department

If you have specific questions about the degree, contact the Department of Design

Department

Design at Goldsmiths is ranked:
1st in the UK**
11th in the world***

Design

We’ve also been ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top graduate universities for designers, because so many of our graduates go on to find jobs in the industry.

Critique the status quo

We want you to go on to have your own self-sustaining practice that can change over time, so you’ll learn about design not just as a commercial enterprise, but also as a way to question and critique the status quo. 

The freedom to experiment

You don’t have to know what kind of a designer you’ll be: we give you the time and the freedom to experiment, use tools, explore materials and discover different modes of making. Many of our students have already worked in the design industry and are keen to develop their theoretical understanding of the discipline, and have the opportunity to explore their practice without the confines of commercial restrictions.

Industry leaders

Our graduates are industry leaders: many have gone on to work at top organisations and design companies such as Pentagram, Dyson and Selfridges, while many others have set up their own studios and enterprises.

Find out more about the Department of Design.

**The Guardian University Guide 2016

***QS World University Rankings by subject 2016

Learning & teaching

Postgraduate Seminar Series

Design Matters is the Department of Design's postgraduate research seminar series that both compliments the Goldsmiths-wide research training programme and delivers design-specific support to postgraduate design students.

The seminars take place on a regular basis over the academic year and are designed to support the requirements of students studying for written and practice-based doctorates. As such, the seminar series includes a rich and relevant mix of sessions including the practical demands that student’s face, such as the craft of writing, presentation skills and examination expectations and procedures, as well as scholarly issues, such as the strategies for undertaking a literature review, the methodological assumptions and the theoretical challenges of design research.

The seminar series also includes invited speakers, ranging from recently minted doctors to eminent design scholars who are asked to reflect on their academic biographies and provide guidance and insights on careers with a doctorate in design.

Design Matters seminars have, in the past, been complimented by The Design and Social Seminar Series, namely the Data Practices seminars. Here, students were given the opportunity to engage with scholars and practitioners involved in various data related interests, from citizen science projects to new forms of coding.

PhD by Design

PhD by Design is a series of events that explore the messiness of practice-based research.

The first PhD By Design conference was organised by current and former PhD students in the Department of Design at Goldsmiths, University of London in November 2014. This was followed up with a one-day satellite sessions at Leeds College of Art in May 2015, which focused more specifically on issues raised at the first event.

The aim of these events is to vocalise, discuss and work through many of the topical issues of conducting a practice-based PhD in Design. They enable early career design researchers to explore a variety of aspects of knowledge production within an academic institution.

A secondary aim of the events is to share questions that emerge through doing practice-based research. Some of the questions they aim to tackle are:

  • What counts as practice-based research?
  • What are the politics of designing and conducting practice-based research?
  • Where are the boundaries of theory & practice?
  • How can we make practice-based research accountable?

Student profiles

Treechada

Treechada’s decision to return to Goldsmiths was, in part, due to her experience of the institution as a milieu that values interdisciplinary education and emphasises critical thinking in a uniquely friendly atmosphere.

Treechada completed a Masters of Research (MRes) in Design at Goldsmiths in 2008, where she explored issues of sustainability in Indonesian craft industries through ethnographic fieldwork in Java and Bali and drawing on postcolonial theory. She took this experience and knowledge to Thailand and worked for several years as a design educator specialising in sustainable design. Treechada returned to the Department of Design in 2013 as a PhD student in order to examine the shift towards sustainability in Thailand's design education.  By bringing ‘whole systems thinking’ (e.g. Fritjof Capra and Stephen Sterling), critical pedagogy and Thai education culture into focus together, she aims to create a transformative pedagogical model for teaching sustainability to undergraduate design students in Thailand. Treechada’s decision to return to Goldsmiths was, in part, due to her experience of the institution as a milieu that values interdisciplinary education and emphasises critical thinking in a uniquely friendly atmosphere.

Maria

Maria chose to conduct her research at Goldsmiths as it offers new methodologies and critical views drawn from a range of disciplines, including the social sciences as well as visual cultures.

Maria began her postgraduate studies in the Design Department at Goldsmiths in 2012. She is pursuing practice-based research on visual production, inside and outside the Design field, and its migration and democratisation within a digital and political frame. In this context she is exploring how individual citizens can interfere and extend the production of design towards re-politicisations and political alienation during the current Portuguese financial (and social) crisis. Maria chose to conduct her research at Goldsmiths as it offers new methodologies and critical views drawn from a range of disciplines, including the social sciences as well as visual cultures. Previous to her studies at Goldsmiths, Maria worked as a designer and completed her Masters in Urban Space at the School of Arts and Design in Oporto, Portugal. Here, she investigated contemporary approaches to experience and social participation within suburban systems. Maria continues to work as a freelance designer with academic communities and collaborative projects focusing on communication and isolation in the city of London.

Enza

Enza came to the Design Department at Goldsmiths as a Visting Researcher having attended the PhD by Design conference in 2014.

Design and Innovation, DIcDEA, Second University of Naples

Enza’s research – entitled ‘Porositivity: From Porous Material to Porosity Process Through Design-Driven Materials Innovation’ – investigates the relationship between design and materials science. Her research focuses on the properties and capacities of materials in terms of porosity and how design can inform both the development of future applications as well as scientific knowledge associated with material science. Here, Enza’s research aims to link materials science with social and cultural research, including approaches to the understanding of everyday life. Her approach is practice-based, including mixed methods (including, but not limited to user-centered design, experiments with material properties and dissemination). Enza is collaborating with Hypucem, a spin-off of the Italian National Research Council, which is investigating foams and composite materials through chemistry and engineering. Enza came to the Design Department at Goldsmiths having attended the PhD by Design conference in 2014. Here, she became aware of the richness of dialogue centering on practice research in design as well as the research expertise of the department. Notably, Martin Conreen, a Senior Lecturer in Design, has provided Enza with guidance as well as the opportunity to engage with the Institute of Making and its Materials Library.

See more profiles for this programme

Entry requirements

You should normally have (or expect to be awarded) a a good 2:1 or 1st class honours degree, and 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 7.0 (including 7.0 in the written test)

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

You apply directly to Goldsmiths using our online application system. 

Before submitting your application you'll need to have: 

  • Details of your education history, including the dates of all exams/assessments
  • The email address of your referee who we can request a reference from, or alternatively an electronic copy of your academic reference
  • Contact details of a second referee
  • personal statement – this can either be uploaded as a Word Document or PDF, or completed online

          Please see our guidance on writing a postgraduate statement

  • 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)
  • A visual portfolio if relevant (see below for details) 
  • Details of your research proposal

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

Before you apply for a research programme, we advise you to get in touch with the programme contact, listed above. It may also be possible to arrange an advisory meeting.

Before you start at Goldsmiths, the actual topic of your research has to be agreed with your proposed supervisor, who will be a member of staff active in your general field of research. The choice of topic may be influenced by the current research in the department or the requirements of an external funding body. 

If you wish to study on a part-time basis, you should also indicate how many hours a week you intend to devote to research, whether this will be at evenings or weekends, and for how many hours each day.

Visual portfolio

For the purpose of the initial application it is recommended that you prepare a portfolio of material documenting your previous work. We typically ask for a ten-page annotated portfolio in the form of a PDF file which you can upload when you apply.

Research proposals

The proposal should be between 1,500 and 3,000 words in length (not including references). The key consideration in drafting the proposal should be clarity. 

Your research proposal should be organised using the following headings: 

  • Title: be concise and explicit;
  • Introduction: introduce the questions and issues central to your research / identify the field of study in broad terms / indicate how you expect your research to contribute to the field;
  • Research background and questions: expand on your introduction – look at key sources, texts and approaches in the field / consider how your proposal differs from and contributes to existing work / consider how it extends our understanding of particular questions or topics / also briefly indicate how your previous studies, professional and/or other experience contributes to your understanding of the field and your preparedness for undertaking research training;
  • Research design: outline the methodology you will employ / consider resources and facilities needed / forms of analysis;
  • Schedule of work: how you plan to complete the project within the period of the award – this could include a timetable for researching and writing; 
  • References: a list of works cited in your proposal, such as: books, journal articles, web sites and prior art and design. 

For more detailed information, please read our Design MPhil PHD guidelines or contact the Design department by email: design@gold.ac.uk

The level of detail required under each heading will depend on the specific project. The key requirement is that the proposal communicates a clear programme of enquiry and investigation. It should demonstrate that you are capable of framing your own agenda for research and that you have a sense of the larger field to which you wish to make a creative and critical contribution.

Supervisors

An initial suggestion of who you think might be an appropriate supervisor for your research is useful both for directing your application to appropriate members of staff and in determining a good match between your research and the Department. Please see the description of Design staff research interests for details.

When to apply 

You can make an application to study for an MPhil or PhD with us at any time of the year, for the academic starting the following October.

We encourage you to complete your application as early as possible, even if you haven't finished your current programme of study. It's very common to be offered a place conditional on you achieving a particular qualification. If applying for a Design Star studentship, please note applications typically close in February. 

If you're applying for external funding from one of the Research Councils, make sure you submit your application by the deadline they've specified. 

Selection process 

Admission to many programmes is by interview, unless you live outside the UK. Occasionally we'll make candidates an offer of a place on the basis of their application and qualifications alone.

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.

Scholarships

Studentship

Students on this course are eligible to apply for one of 12 PhD studentships offered each year by the Design Star Consortium doctoral training centre. These studentships cover:

  • Tuition fees for each year of supervised study
  • A tax-free maintenance grant
  • Access to a research training support grant
  • Financial support to attend specified events and placements, visits or training

Find out more about applying for this studentship

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