The Nordic Model

The Nordic Model emphasises what Henk Borgdorff calls a ‘sui generis perspective’; it stresses ‘artistic values when it comes to assessing research in the arts’. Programmes in Norway and Sweden follow this model, which is based on the idea that what counts as ‘research’ in the arts should proceed according to the properties of visual art; in that sense, this engages Christopher Frayling’s original concept of ‘research for art’, which he described as being not about ‘communicable knowledge in the sense of verbal communication, but in the sense of visual or iconic or imagistic communication’. 


The Continental Model 

The Continental Model is found in continental Europe, especially Scandinavia, along with some institutions in the UK, Central and South America and Southeast Asia. It is also the centre of a certain type of research. In literature like Henk Slager’s The Pleasure of Research, the concept of 10 The Contexts of Artistic Research Education research is aligned with a post-structuralist critique of institutions; it becomes partly a matter of mobile, oppositional spaces and of intellectual freedom. Research is less the institutionalised, science- based practice of hypothesis, deduction, experimentation and falsification and more a set of strategies for reconceptualising art in relation to existing academic structures. 


The UK Model 

The UK Model is practised in the UK, Australia, South Africa, Uganda, Canada and other Anglophone centres including Malaysia and Singapore. There are many overlaps with the Continental Model, but there are also significant differences. The UK was one of two places in the world (along with Japan) to develop the studio-art PhD in the 1970s. The UK Model involves sizable bureaucratic and administrative oversight, sometimes including structures for the specification, assessment and quantification of learning outcomes. It remains closer to the scientific model of research than the Continental Model. Because of Herbert Read and Christopher Frayling, the UK is also the origin of the discussions about how research might be conducted ‘in’, ‘for’, ‘as’ and ‘through’ art. 


The Japanese Model

In terms of the length of their tradition and their independence (if not in terms of international influence or number of students), Japan and the UK are the co-founders of the studio-art PhD. Most Japanese institutions take their cues from Tokyo University of the Arts. Japanese dissertations are based on studies of natural, technological, scientific and artistic precedents that are then applied to the students’ practices. In this sense, the Japanese system is not yet participating in the debates about research ‘in’, ‘for’, ‘as’ and ‘through’ art. 


The Chinese Model 

China has a much shorter, more modest, tradition of PhDs. There are only three PhD-granting programmes. Part of the reason for the PhD not expanding is administrative; the degree is awarded under an administrative research heading, which does not exist in all academies. This means that a change will be required at the Department of Education in order for other academies to offer the degree. Because the degree began in a university (Tsinghua), it was based on the concept of the university PhD in general rather than international studio-art programmes. 


The Lack of a North American Model

Rather than a model, this last entry represents a lack, because there is no consensus in North America about how the PhD should look. There are currently [only] seven institutions in the US that grant the PhD while Canada has five programmes. 

Extracted from Mick Wilson and Schelte van Ruiten, eds. SHARE handbook for artistic research education. ELIA European League of Institutes of the Arts, 2013.



Mick Wilson and Schelte van Ruiten, eds. SHARE handbook for artistic research education. ELIA European League of Institutes of the Arts, 2013.