Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies

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The School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies is an internationally recognised leader in research and research-led teaching in the history of art, museum studies, cultural studies and fine art.

We offer a unique combination of supervision strengths centred on the encounter between historical, cultural and theoretical analysis, museum and heritage studies and fine art practice. Our broad range of supervision areas incorporate both the research expertise of individual academic staff and the collaborative work done by our Research Centres and areas of research strength.

The research focus of the School allows us to offer expertise in a wide range of interdisciplinary fields, including world-wide art history, critical analysis and theoretical cultural studies, as well as fine art practice in all media.

The unique configuration of fine art, museum studies, histories of art and cultural studies mark all levels of teaching and research in the school, fostering the singular development of each discipline in the constant trans-disciplinary stimulation from and conversation with practice, theory and history. Regular research events allow for exchange of research theory, method and practice.

The current research groupings in which research is undertaken and supervision offered include:

  • Art markets
  • Artists’ writings and publications
  • Continental cultural theory
  • Critical curatorial practices and contemporary art
  • Critical heritage
  • Critical humanities
  • Critiques of capitalism (aesthetics-politics)
  • Cultural politics
  • Feminist theory, gender and visual studies
  • Fine art practice
  • Global perspectives of art/history
  • Heritage, museums and galleries
  • Jewish art and visualities
  • Medieval and early modern art worlds
  • Postcolonialities
  • Psychoanalysis and aesthetics
  • Social histories of art
  • Sound, voice and technology

Please see here for further information about our Research Centres.

As a postgraduate research student in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, you will find yourself in a research-intensive, dynamic environment, located in the heart of the University campus. You will become part of a lively postgraduate culture which attracts researchers from all over the world. Our postgraduate researchers organise groups, workshops and conferences across the year, and edit the internationally renowned journal parallax.

What is involved?

The PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) is the highest degree programme available. It involves three years of independent research under the guidance and expertise of the School. It is aimed at those who already have proven ability in their chosen field and wish to continue their study at the most advanced level. It is also a necessary qualification for anyone seeking a research or an academic career.

A PhD involves researching and writing a research thesis of up to 100,000 words on a topic of your own choice under the guidance of expert academics. The thesis should make an original contribution to knowledge through, for example, gathering and analysing new facts or by interpreting existing information in an important new way.

Practice-led PhD

A practice-led PhD will produce a body of work demonstrating an original contribution to knowledge and scholarship, which comprises of a substantial body of creative practice produced by the candidate in pursuit of the degree, displaying critical understanding and being worthy of public presentation, together with a written submission, which provides an exploration of the research question(s) and indicates the manner in which the research is embodied in the practice. A minimum word limit of 15,000 and maximum word limit of 50,000 for PhD is applicable to all practice-led PhDs across all Schools.

How you study

A PhD here involves independent study under the guidance of a supervisor who is an expert in your field. This is not a ‘taught’ degree, and so does not involve coursework, but you will follow a programme of PhD research training, and be expected to participate in the intellectual life of the School through research seminars, conferences and other events.

PhD students must also pass a rigorous upgrading process at the end of their first year before they can proceed to doctoral level.

PhD by Distance Learning

The School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies now also offers PhD by Distance Learning. For further information please contact Dr Mic Spencer, Head of the Graduate School: m.spencer@leeds.ac.uk

How to Apply

How to Apply

You must first make an application through the University’s online application process

Initial Research Proposal:

Before you submit an application, you should consider how your proposed research fits with the research interests of staff. In order for your application to be progressed you must identify potential supervisors on the application form. It is strongly recommended that you contact preferred supervisors before submitting an application and well in advance of scholarship deadlines (see below and Fees and Funding). A list of the academic staff and their research interests can be downloaded here. Please also see the People section of the School website.

You need to present your prospective supervisors with a clear initial research proposal. This should be done at the point of first contact. A well articulated proposal is the basis upon which, if appropriate, a dialogue can proceed; a short email or half-conceived idea is not a helpful start. As a primary demonstration of suitability for higher-level study, you need to demonstrate your ability to formulate a competent research proposal. This should be a minimum of 1000 words and should address the following:

A research proposal:

  • Clearly outlines your intended project;
  • Maps out where the project is located in its field (or overlapping fields); shows who, to date, has contributed to the field (or to closely related or cognate questions); and thus can show an understanding of the contribution that will be made by the doctoral project to existing research;
  • Shows awareness of your intended methodological approach(es);
  • Explains how the project relates to the supervisors’ area(s) of research expertise and/or the School’s broader research strands;
  • Includes a bibliography.

We will also require:

  1. A Curriculum Vitae
  2. Two academic references
  3. Transcripts of your marks for your undergraduate degree and postgraduate (masters) degree

If you are an international student we will require a certificate of English language proficiency (no more than 2 years old) in IELTS (6.5 overall score with no less than 7.0 in writing and no less than 6 in any other skill area)


With an initial research project proposal prepared, and having made informal contact with your prospective supervisor/s to consider the viability of your proposal, once agreed you should make a formal application via the Faculty Graduate School Manager Kim Broughton-Roe at fineartphd@leeds.ac.uk

Early application is especially important if you plan to apply for a scholarship for two reasons:

  • Time needs to be allowed for interviews, dialogue with and agreement from supervisors, refinement to the proposal, as well as for formal application and administration at both Faculty and University levels. Obtaining the supporting documents for your formal application – references and transcripts of former university study – can be a lengthy process. Applicants whose first language is not English may also need to allow time to take, and receive the results from, IELTS tests.
  • You must have a formal offer of a place from the University before you can enter scholarship competitions. Competitive scholarship applications benefit from dialogue with supervisors, the refinement to your research project that comes from this liaison, and the ability to articulate how your research complements the School’s research strands.

Optimal Timeframe (a year ahead of proposed commencement of study, based on the typical start-date of 1 October):

–    October (if not earlier): contact prospective supervisors with your initial research proposal and an overview of your academic performance to date (e.g. BA and MA grades)

–    Early December (if not earlier): submit your formal application to the University, along with supporting paperwork (references, transcripts, etc.)

–     January: the first deadlines for scholarship competitions.


Competition for scholarships is very high. A First-class BA and/or MA Distinction are typically required to be competitive, although alternative experience can sometimes count in lieu.

Possible scholarships are listed on the University’s main pages: http://scholarships.leeds.ac.uk/

Advice to current MA students wishing to progress to PhD study:

Due to scholarship deadlines sometimes falling early during your Masters programme, it can seem difficult to strategize application for a PhD whilst still pursuing your MA. However, with the School’s support successful applications for funding are regularly awarded and we encourage all candidates to make submissions whenever they feel ready. Ultimately it is the quality of your proposal that will be crucial to success, so working on this carefully, and with support, is essential – as outlined above.

MA students are routinely invited to the Faculty Open Day, which usually falls in Semester 1, and all PGT students and prospective PhD candidates are encouraged to attend. This will give invaluable advice and details of scholarships, deadlines, the application process and framing your proposal. If you are outside of the School and wish to be invited please contact Richard Borowski at fineartphd@leeds.ac.uk

If you wish to discuss any aspects of progressing to PhD whilst still pursuing your MA please contact the School’s Postgraduate Research Tutor Dr Eva Frojmovic at E.Frojmovic@leeds.ac.uk


Fees and Funding

Fees and Funding


Details of fees for PhD study and a guide to accommodation costs can be found on the Research Student Administration website.


The School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies have a number of scholarship opportunities available including:

China Council – University of Leeds Scholarship

Leeds Doctoral Scholarships (UK/EU/International)

Faculty Interdisciplinary Research Scholarships

Amanda Burton Research Scholarship

Montague Burton PhD Fee Bursary in Jewish Studies

For details of all scholarships and application forms please visit the scholarship website.

To be considered for a scholarship you must have completed an application for PhD study and have received an official offer from the University, secured in advance of the scholarship deadline.

Any scholarship application which does not have an official offer included will be automatically rejected.

Exceptions to this are as follows:

  • Missing one reference/document
  • Interview has taken place/imminent within a week of the deadline for school recommendations to the Postgraduate Scholarship Office.
  • Full supervisory team in place but missing documentation.

Exceptions can also be made with cold applications (no official offer, no contact with the school or supervisors prior to application) as follows:

  • Full application is received on the scholarship deadline, with no missing documentation
  • The application will go out to review but there must be a response from the school within 2 working days, this must include a decision and authorisation from the PGRT (Postgraduate Research Tutor) and the approved supervisory team.

It is also strongly recommended that you contact preferred supervisors before submitting an application and well in advance of scholarship deadlines. This helps the School identify potential scholarship candidates, recommending other funding opportunities that you may be eligible for. Supervisors will also be able to prepare school supporting statements that are well informed and tailored to each candidate and funding opportunity.

Please note that a scholarship application form will be required for each scholarship.

The following paperwork will be required:

Scholarship Application PhD Application
  • Scholarship Application Form
  • Two Academic References
  • Transcripts and Certificates including grading system of your undergraduate and postgraduate degrees
  • PhD Application form
  • Formal offer letter
  • IELTS certificate (where appropriate)
  • CV

  • PhD Application form
  • Two Academic References
  • Transcripts and Certificates including grading system of your undergraduate and postgraduate degrees
  • IELTS certificate (where appropriate)
  • CV
  • research proposal (1000 word minimum)

References must be submitted using the University template, available here. It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure the references are provided within the deadline.

Scholarships office

For details and guidance please contact the Graduate School Administrator

Contact details

For queries relating to your research proposal or subject area, please contact the Director of Postgraduate Research Studies, Dr Eva Frojmovic: E.Frojmovic@leeds.ac.uk

For general enquiries and details regarding the application process, please contact the Postgraduate Secretary: fineartpgr@leeds.ac.uk

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