Skip to content


The Department of Art and Design provides a supportive environment for students who wish to undertake postgraduate research leading to the award of MPhil or PhD. Research Degrees can be pursued either through conventional text-based studies or through a combination of studio-based activity where individual creative practice forms a significant part of the intellectual enquiry supported by a critical commentary. The creative work can take any form but it must be clearly presented in relation to the argument of the thesis and demonstrate an understanding of the appropriate theoretical / historical / critical / contemporary context of the research.

Research Areas

Research in the Department encompasses a broad range of media interests, practical approaches and historical and theoretical perspectives. A key aspect of both teaching and research at Chester is the notion of interdisciplinarity and dialogue between disciplines and practices is something that is of interest to many of the researchers working within the Department. Areas of research interest that extend across disciplinary boundaries include:

  • The legacies of modernism and their reinterpretation through contemporary practice
  • The role of materiality and embodiment in thinking, making and knowing
  • Themes of time, place and cultural memory
  • Participatory practice
  • Areas of communication, cultural awareness and identity within digital environments

The ‘expanded field’ of textile practice and the critical discourses which surround the positioning of traditional textile materials and processes within the broader realm of contemporary visual culture, is an area of research activity that is also particularly distinctive to the Department.

Design thinking is emerging as one of the most valuable approaches to problem solving and opportunity creation. Developed from human centred design processes and fronted by understanding and empathy it provides tools to support communities, organisations and business in positively addressing some of the most pressing issues we currently face.

Design research at Chester has two connected strands. The selection, application and facilitating of design thinking approaches, including co-design and inclusive design, in collaborative research projects with local government, communities and business to tackle specific problems and the development and dissemination of new design thinking tools matched to industry and societal needs.

Another significant aspect of research activity is drawing, particularly in the context of Narrative Drawing. The Department aims to support, challenge and develop synergies between the study and practices of storytelling, material culture and depiction. We invite proposals for both theory and practice-based postgraduate and doctoral research in the fields of, but not limited to, visual narrative, drawing, embodiment, performance, material culture, production cultures, media, literature, illustration, graphic design.

The Department 

We are keen to hear from students who would wish to pursue their research across a broad spectrum of fine art, photography and design, as well as welcoming proposals in these interdisciplinary areas. The Department has seen considerable expansion over recent years with an increasing proportion of staff with practice-based PhDs, and a corresponding widening portfolio of research interests; all of which makes for an exciting and rapidly developing research environment. The particular strength of the Department lies in the supportive environment that it provides for students at every level of study and in the facilitating of dialogues between researchers across a range of subject specialisms.

View information relating to our recent Research Excellence Framework [REF2021] submission and links to research outputs.

Take a more detailed look at our research activity and research active staff.

Entry Months

These Research Degrees usually commence annually in October, February and May.


If you are considering studying for an MPhil or PhD and would like to discuss the process and the availability of appropriate supervision, please contact our Department Research Coordinator Dr Tom McGuirk.