Postgraduate study

Design PhD, MPhil

Awards: PhD, MPhil

Study modes: Part-time, Full-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Design

We provide a dynamic and supportive research environment for our graduate community. You will be an important part of a vibrant community of world-class research, with research activity growing significantly over the last few years.

You will benefit from an interdisciplinary research environment. We attract postgraduate researchers across a number of fields and engage in collaborative exchanges with colleagues across the University, in the creative professions, the public sector and industry.

This approach has attracted funding from major providers, including:

  • the UK Research Councils
  • institutions from the public, private and not-for-profit sectors in the arts, humanities, science and medicine

Design research integrates practice and theory. It connects across disciplines and research initiatives to support doctoral study in:

  • design anthropology
  • design history and theory
  • methodological development
  • design informatics
  • design for healthcare and wellbeing
  • design management
  • craft studies
  • service design
  • design for change (transition and transformation)
  • cultural and heritage studies
  • sustainability and the circular economy

You will also be supported through our practice specialisms in:

  • animation
  • fashion
  • film and television
  • glass
  • graphic design
  • illustration
  • interior design
  • jewellery
  • performance costume
  • product design
  • screen studies (film and animation)
  • silversmithing
  • textiles

All of our research students benefit from ECA’s interdisciplinary approach.

You will be assigned two research supervisors. The second supervisor may be from another discipline within ECA, from the wider College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences, or even from elsewhere within the University, according to the expertise required. On occasion, more than two supervisors will be assigned, particularly where the degree brings together multiple disciplines.

In Semester 1, you will take a research methods course (20 credits). This will provide you with:

  • an overview of methodological discourses and approaches
  • the chance to develop and critique a personal research methodology alongside other students
  • the opportunity to meet other Art and Design students

The Institute for Academic Development (IAD) supports all staff and students at the University through a range of training opportunities, including:

  • short courses in compiling literature reviews
  • writing in a second language
  • preparing for your viva

The Scottish Graduate School in the Arts and Humanities (SGSAH) offers further opportunities for development. You will also be encouraged to refer to the Vitae research development framework as you grow into a professional researcher.

Research groups and reading groups across ECA are also available to doctoral candidates to extend your thinking and practice speaking about your work.

Where you are proposing practice-based research, you will be supported in navigating technical resources, while studio space is for the most part managed through online bookable systems.

The University collections and the Talbot Rice Gallery form an important part of the rich landscape of resources open to our community as part of this creative city.

You will benefit from opportunities within the vibrant studios and workshops at ECA's historic Lauriston Place campus, as well as University-wide resources, such as the UCreate Studio in the Main Library.

You will also have access to the extraordinary range and quality of exhibitions and events associated with a leading college of art situated within a world-class research-intensive University.

Together there is an extensive range of student support facilities provided, including:

  • libraries
  • student societies
  • support services
  • accommodation

The PhD by Distance is available to suitably qualified applicants in all the same areas as our on-campus programmes:

  • Art
  • Design
  • History of Art
  • Music
  • Architecture
  • Landscape Architecture

The PhD by Distance allows students who do not wish to commit to basing themselves in Edinburgh to study for a PhD in an ECA subject area from their home country or city.

There is no expectation that students studying for an ECA PhD by Distance study mode should visit Edinburgh during their period of study. However, short term visits for particular activities could be considered on a case-by-case basis.

These entry requirements are for the 2023/24 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2024/25 academic year will be published on 2 October 2023.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent. We will also take any professional experience into account.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.0 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 59 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about our language requirements:

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhDDesign by Distance6 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
PhDDesign by Distance3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhDDesign3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhDDesign6 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
MPhilDesign2 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
MPhilDesign4 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Edinburgh College of Art Postgraduate Office
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • Evolution House, Grassmarket
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH1 2LE
Programme start date Application deadline
8 January 2024 1 November 2023

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

You must submit two references with your application.

You should submit a research proposal that outlines your project's aims, context, process and product/outcome. Read the application guidance before you apply:

Your project can be fully theoretical, however, when appropriate, we encourage you to submit a proposal that challenges and expands traditional approaches to research in creative practice and design, through innovative theoretical and/or practice-led methodologies.

If you wish to undertake research that involves practice, please also provide a portfolio with examples of your previous practical work.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Edinburgh College of Art Postgraduate Office
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • Evolution House, Grassmarket
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH1 2LE