University of Sydney Handbooks - 2017 Archive

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) (Sydney College of the Arts)

The Doctor of Philosophy is a University degree governed by Resolutions set down by the Academic Board. You should be familiar with the Academic Board documents: University of Sydney (Higher Degree by Research) Rule 2011 and Thesis and Examination of Higher Degree by Research Policy 2015 available at

At SCA, the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program constitutes independent research in an aspect of the visual arts. The degree is awarded for the successful completion of an approved program of supervised advanced research, which makes an original contribution to knowledge.

The PhD candidature represents an opportunity to explore a single research topic reflecting a critical exploration of the history, theory and practice of art; the development of new materials or technologies; the relationship between visual art and society, and/or the relationship between visual art and other disciplines. A PhD provides you with an opportunity to explore career and research options beyond studio practice.

Duration of the degree is three years to four years full time or six to eight years part time. You are expected to study full time in your first year of candidature unless there are exceptional circumstances, such as major personal hardship or health problems.

At the beginning of your course you are required to nominate one of the following methods of candidature:

  • a thesis comprising a substantial body of creative work plus a written text examining the histories and theoretical underpinnings of the creative work, both of which demonstrate an original contribution to knowledge or
  • a substantial written thesis that, through a sustained investigation, demonstrates an original contribution to knowledge in the field of the history and theory of contemporary art.

In Option (1), the creative work must represent a significant and coherent solo exhibition. You need to obtain a pass for both the written text and creative work for the degree to be awarded.

The length of the written thesis is agreed through consultation between you, your supervisor and the Graduate School Director. Any changes would have to be approved by the supervisor and the Graduate School Director. The expectations for Option (1) are in the vicinity of 40,000-50,000 words, and in the vicinity of 60,000-80,000 words for Option (2).

PhD Seminar Program

All PhD candidates must complete CART7005 Art as Research in their first year.

Graduate School Forum

All PhD candidates are required to attend the Graduate School Forum once they have completed the first semester of their candidature, and must present a paper each year on the current state of their research. Each presentation session is chaired by a fellow candidate.

PhD Program

Please refer to the SCA Graduate School website for the course structure and particular requirements for PhD study at SCA.

For information on supervision, annual progress reviews and examination procedures please refer to the Higher Degree by Research administration Centre website.