Introduction to Postgraduate

The Ruskin DPhil programme includes two strands: the theoretical DPhil (by thesis only) and the practice-led DPhil (which also includes a substantial thesis component).

In the case of the theoretical DPhil (by thesis alone) the Ruskin can offer supervision across a wide range of research projects. These may include aspects of exhibition curating and organisation, problems of conservation, art theory and criticism, as well as the historiography of twentieth century art and the theorisation of contemporary artistic practices. (For an indication of the range of theoretical topics that are currently in progress or reflect the broad theoretical interests of the School, please have a look at the programme of the ‘Contemporary Art and Theory’ seminars which take place every Hilary Term.)

In the case of the practice-led DPhil, studio work will be undertaken as part of the registered research programme, and will be presented in relation to the argument of a written thesis setting it in its relevant theoretical, historical, or critical context.

The Ruskin is, first and foremost, an art school, and in saying this we would stress that the prime focus of the department is on sustaining a broadly inclusive and inquisitive space in which to practise, and to test attitudes towards, contemporary art. Those applying to spend time here may therefore come from a wide variety of backgrounds and have experience of a number of different avenues within the contemporary art world.  Through formal and informal arrangements, and through furthering the projects of many individual staff and students over the years, the school has made connections with departments throughout the University.  Links of this kind suggest that interdisciplinary and collaborative work at DPhil level could well be a feature of research for some students.

Fine Art candidates are initially admitted as Probationer Research Students. Depending on which strand of the DPhil programme they are interested in following, candidates should support their application with:

(A) For the thesis-only DPhil:
1. a sample of recent written work (4,000-6,000 words), preferably but not necessarily related to the proposed topic or area of research, such as an undergraduate or Master’s dissertation (or part of it) or a substantial essay;
2. a proposal for a research topic or area (about 1,000 words), which should include a statement why this work should be carried out at Oxford.

(B) (For the practice-led DPhil:
1. a sample of written work (2,000-3,000 words);
2. a portfolio of recently completed studio work with slides or other documentation of work not available for inclusion;
3. a plan of work to be completed in Oxford.

All candidates should expect to attend for interview. Additional supporting materials may be requested at the interview stage.

It is important to bear in mind that the written component of the practice-led DPhil consists in academic writing. Since reflections on practice or pieces of creative writing do not offer extensive evidence of academic writing skills. You may wish to take this into account in selecting the strongest pieces of written work to submit with your application.

Portfolios may be in digital format in the first instance, although you may be asked to bring along originals at the interview. If you submit original artwork, we ask that you make arrangements for its collection once the application process has been completed. Portfolios may be delivered directly to the Ruskin.

Digital content, including any links to external internet based work, must be provided on physical media such as USB sticks and DVD/CDs.  For example, include a text document listing all external internet work on the USB stick.  We will not accept any portfolios submitted via email.

Digital submissions should be in one of the following formats and readable on Apple Mac Systems :

Quicktime format for video
TIFF or JPEG format for still images
Youtube and Vimeo links are also accepted, as are links to internet based work

It is preferred that content on a DVD is burnt as data rather than as a stand alone DVD.  For specific enquiries, please contact Jon Roome, the Ruskin’s Digital Media Specialist, at: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Part-time study
The Ruskin offers the possibility to pursue a DPhil on a part-time basis. In assessing applications from candidates seeking to undertake a research degree through part-time study, the Committee shall have regard to evidence that:
(i) the candidate is suitable to undertake research at doctoral level;
(ii) the candidate’s personal and professional circumstances are such that it is both practicable for him or her to fulfil the requirements of the course, and necessary for him or her to study on a part-time basis;
(iii) if appropriate, the candidate has the written support of their present employer
for their proposed course of study and its obligations;
(iv) the candidate’s proposed topic of research is suitable for part-time study;
(v) the candidate can meet the attendance requirements relating to part-time study.
Attendance requirements for part-time study
Part-time students are required to attend for a minimum of thirty days of university based work each year, to be arranged with the agreement of their supervisor, for the period that their names remain on the Register of Graduate Students unless individually dispensed by the committee. Supervisors will normally require that attendance takes place during full-term rather than over the vacations so that students can benefit from seminars, lectures and the research activity of the School. All students, full-time or part-time, are required to attend the ‘research methodology’ seminar which takes place every Michaelmas Term.

The course requirements can be downloaded as a PDF file ( see ‘degree regulations’ above ). In addition, you may like to consult the DPhil Handbook (also available above as a pdf) which gives further details on the structure of the course, supervisions arrangements, staff research interests, ongoing research projects, facilities etc.

Applicants would normally be expected to have completed, or to be about to complete, a Master’s course, either in Fine Art or in theoretical discipline related to the research project. It is worth noting, however, that both the practice-led and the theoretical DPhil are demanding academic degrees that presuppose a high level of academic ability.

For general enquiries (incl. arrangements for the delivery of portfolios or visiting the School), please contact the Ruskin’s Administrative Assistant, Dobrochna Futro, via email at: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

For enquiries regarding the process of admission (online applications, supporting documentation, references etc.), please contact :
the University Admissions Office following the links at

For academic enquiries (if you would like to discuss possibilities for supervision of your research proposal), please contact the Director of Graduate Studies, email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

You are very welcome to visit the School and meet informally members of staff and current students.  The interview (post-application) offers the most constructive opportunity to meet the Director of Graduate Studies and discuss your research project in detail. You will also have an opportunity then to explore potential supervision arrangements, and ask any further questions about the programme.

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