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Designing a New Design PhD?

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Emma MURPHY and Naomi JACOBS


The higher education sector in the UK is currently undergoing rapid change,

and design education is no exception. Higher fee levels, limited grants and

self-funding PhD study is becoming more common. Furthermore, there is

increased demand for non-traditional modes of study such as part-time

provision and flexible learning – especially relevant to designer-practitioners.

A greater number of mature students are also entering higher education,

many of whom will have significant industry experience. But the design

student dynamic isn’t the only change we are seeing – the remit of design

academics is changing too. There is now an increased emphasis on the

economic and social benefits that academia can contribute, and the ‘impact

agenda’ requires research councils (and therefore academic researchers) to

show that their work has a wider societal impact in order to sustain funding.

Furthermore, design is an ever expanding and changing interdiscipline, and so

the make up and shape of the Design PhD is frequently in question.

But what do all these changes mean for doctoral design education? Is the

traditional PhD model still fit for purpose, or are we changing this beyond

recognition to accommodate design? Do we need a new Design PhD? In this

paper, we examine approaches in both mainstream design research training

(adaptations of the traditional model) and more novel PhD programmes,

which could form the grounding for curriculum design experts to further

question and develop the notion of the new Design PhD.


PUBLISHED: Proceedings from the The 19th DMI: Academic Design Management Conference, 2014


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