School of Humanities and Performing Arts

MPhil/PhD Performing Arts

We welcome applications for both practice-led and more traditional forms of doctoral research in performer training, live art, dance-theatre, site-specific performance, experimental theatre, interdisciplinary practices, intercultural performance, somatic practice, popular performance, performance and religion, performance and medicine/therapy, and physical theatre. We also have expertise in supervising co-authored and collaborative research projects.

Course details

  • Overview
  • This full time or part time doctoral programme is suitable for people who have a particular research question or topic in mind, and wish to explore this through independent study in order to produce an original contribution to the subject. If you aspire to a research career this is the most appropriate research degree to undertake.

    You will be guided by a small supervisory team of academic experts under the direction of a Director of Studies. Even if you already have a masters degree, you will normally be registered as a ‘MPhil/PhD’ candidate and may apply to transfer to ‘PhD’ status around 10–22 months after registration, based on your progress to date. 

    You will be expected to fully engage with skills development and training and to present your research in a range of scholarly contexts.

    Your PhD will be assessed via submission of either a written thesis (approximately 80,000 words), or one that combines critical writing with artistic, creative and/or professional practice, and a viva voce (an oral examination).

    For full details of what doing a PhD entails at the University of Plymouth, please visit our postgraduate research degrees pages.

    Core modules
    • GSRPERA4 Research Performing Arts

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to have completed a masters level qualification to a high standard (e.g. at 'merit' or 'distinction' level) as well as either a good 2:1 or first class honours undergraduate degree in an area of study appropriate to your project proposal (e.g. theatre and performance, drama, dance, live or fine art, performance writing, etc.). We are happy to consider equivalent qualifications (for instance, you may have studied different subjects at undergraduate and masters level but have established an artistic practice since then).

If you do not have a masters level qualification, we recommend you consider applying for our ResM Theatre and Performance or ResM Dance  programmes. Students who are making exceptional progress in a ResM programme, may progress directly into our PhD programme without having to complete the masters.

You will also need to provide evidence that you are ready to pursue the project you propose in your application. This will take the form of a sample of critical writing, and if relevant, documentation of relevant creative or professional practice.

If English is not your first language, you must have proficiency in written and spoken English (normally a minimum test score of 6.5 for IELTS, or equivalent). Given the nature of the programme, you’ll be expected to read and engage with complex theoretical texts and debates for which fluency in English is essential.

For more general guidelines and application requirements, please visit the research degrees applicants page. 

Fees, costs and funding

Please visit tuition fees for postgraduate research for information about fees. PhD Performing Arts is in Band 2 for fees purposes.

If you are a full time student, you will pay full time fees for three years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional one year writing up period.

If you are a part time student, you will pay part time fees for four years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional 'writing up' period of up to two years.

You are responsible for meeting all of the costs related to your own research project, beyond the resources available in the department.

Please visit our postgraduate research money matters page to find out more about issues related to fees, funding, loans and paying for your programme of study.

How to apply

In addition to completing the online application form (which includes space for a personal statement), you must also upload a research project proposal of no more than 1000 words in total. Your research proposal should outline your general topic, your key aims and the research question/problem you are addressing, your proposed methodology, key definitions/thinkers/discourses/practitioners you are drawing upon and an explanation of why this topic is significant or important.

Your personal statement should briefly explain why you have chosen to apply to our programme and what you feel you can offer our research community.

You will also need to submit a sample of your critical writing (3000 words maximum) and, if relevant, evidence of your ability to undertake the practice-led research you are proposing (e.g. a DVD, portfolio, links to website, reviews, catalogue, etc.). It should take no longer than 30 minutes to view all the visual material that you provide.

For more general guidelines and application requirements, please visit the research degrees applicants page.

Performance. Experience. Presence (P.E.P) research group

Sharing interests in embodiment, training and cultural representation, our research focuses on creating and analysing performance in all of its forms. This group includes researchers of theatre, dance, live art and interdisciplinary performance practices.

Our PEP Talks series of research seminars is scheduled throughout the academic year and research students organise their own conferences and events.

Learn more about the work carried out by PEP, our theatre, dance and performing arts research group

Visit the PEP Facebook group

The House

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Dr Dani Abulhawa – PhD in Performing Arts

I would recommend Plymouth because there is a really strong culture of research and creativity. The lecturers are extremely supportive and the standard of course organisation seems excellent to me.

Find out more about Dani's experience

Recent PhD completions include:

Dr Dani Abulhawa: “Tricks, Myths & Markings: Performative Explorations of Gendered Play in Public Urban Space” (Director of Studies: Dr Lee Miller)

Dr Alan Butler (AHRC-funded): “Performing LGBT Pride in Plymouth 1950-2010” (Director of Studies: Professor Roberta Mock)

Dr Andrew Cope (AHRC-funded): “Challenging Fragmentation: Overcoming the Subject-Object Divide through the Integration of Art-Making and Material Culture Studies” (Director of Studies: Professor Roberta Mock)

Dr Mark Flisher: "Masculinity, the abject and live art practice" (Director of Studies: Dr Lee Miller)

Dr Maggie Irving (AHRC-funded): “Toward a Female Clown Practice: Transgression, Archetype and Myth” (Director of Studies: Professor Roberta Mock)

Dr Tiffany Strawson (School of Humanities and Performing Arts studentship recipient): “Gender, Interculturalism and Balinese Topeng Performance” (Director of Studies: Dr Victor Ladron de Guevara)

Current research student projects include:

Teri and James Harper-Bailie: collaboration, class and the domestic

Helen Billinghurst: walking and the performance of painting

Mo Cohen: solo autobiographical theatre practice

Katheryn Owens and Chris Green: intersubjectivity, performance and precarity

Steven Paige: digital archives and re-enactment practice (AHRC funded)

Natalie Raven: body and cloth in live art practice (School of Humanities and Performing Arts studentship)

Beth Emily Richards: artistic re-enactment practice (Faculty of Arts and Humanities studentship)

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