Where are all the creative arts PhDs?

If the conspiracies are true, and the Westminster government really want to wipe out creative arts provision in English higher education, all it needs to do is wait.

David Kernohan is an Associate Editor of Wonkhe

Of the 24,000-odd PhDs awarded in 2019-20, just 600 were in creative arts and design. Loughborough University, which awarded 35 of them, is the UK’s biggest provider of the qualification that tends to land academic jobs (though all of these are focused on the design end of the spectrum).

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If you explore the chart a bit you’ll note that there were just 100 other postgraduate research qualifications awarded in this subject area in 2019-20.

With the expansion in the English system to new styles providers and new models of higher education, and a continued emphasis on skills for employment – you could be forgiven for thinking that if there ever was an era in which the PhD was the dominant qualification for academic staff, it was passing. But the data suggests otherwise.

Fully 65 per cent of all full time academic staff hold a PhD in 2019-20, up from 63 per cent in 2014-15. In arts based providers, the proportion with PhDs is lower (for example: currently 14.29 per cent at the Arts University Bournemouth, 14.50 at the University of the Arts, up to 53 per cent at the Royal College of Art) but these proportions are growing over time.

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In other words, there is a demand within the sector for staff with creative arts PhDs, but what looks to be an undersupply.

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