PHD in Studio Art

For me the PHD at the Burren College of Art was incredibly challenging, rigorous and also transformative. Living in the Burren for 4 years has been an unparalleled experience, and has significantly influenced my artistic practice.
Eileen Hutton, PhD

The PhD can be taken as a Full-Time, Part-Time, or Hybrid (Part-Time with Full-Time Periods of Study) Programme:

Full-Time Programme (4 years)
A Full Time PhD is taken at Burren College of Art, with each student having their own dedicated studio space at the college and use of other campus facilities including the library and labs for 12 months each year.  Students also have use of the National University of Ireland, Galway library and student facilities, located an hour away on the Galway campus.

Part-Time Programme (6 years)
A Part Time PhD student is required to have their own studio space away from BCA and to attend BCA for some supervision sessions and group events. Supervision also takes place via Skype and by email.

Hybrid (Part-Time with Full-Time Periods of Study) Programme
The Hybrid programme is of variable duration depending on a student’s capacity for taking Full Time periods of study.  A Hybrid student registers as a Part Time student and takes some Full Time study.  The maximum duration is 6 years, and this period may be reduced by taking Full Time study to a minimum of 4 years.  It is strongly recommended that students spend as much of the first year on the BCA campus as possible. Students are required to have their own studio away from BCA when in Part Time mode and to attend BCA for some supervision sessions and group events. Supervision also takes place via Skype and by email. Hybrid students will be provided with dedicated studio space at BCA when in Full Time mode.

PhD in Studio Art students receive training in studio and other research methods and complete a research project based on a key research question. Students are expected to:

  • Identify a field of study and a research question within it;
  • Pursue a defined key research question through studio research;
  • Investigate cognate studio research undertaken by others internationally;
  • Explore the theoretical and historical dimensions of the enquiry through scholarship;
  • Collaborate with others, as appropriate, to extend the range of the enquiry;
  • Produce a body of work that embodies or represents a new contribution to understanding, in response to the key research question;
  • Write an account of the contribution to understanding that includes a reflective analysis of the theoretical and historical context of the research, a critical review of the process of the research, and a brief summary of the project and its outcomes;
  • Successfully defend the outcomes of the research in a viva voce examination and exhibition.

Programmes of Enquiry

We welcome proposals for studio based PhDs in the following aspects of art practice:

  • Drawing and painting as processes of enquiry;
  • Creative methods and methodology in art;
  • Public, site-specific, social and relational aspects of art;
  • Performance, video and live art;
  • Art and Ecology;
  • Feminism in art;
  • Interdisciplinary art research that promotes collaboration across academic boundaries, with potentially any college or school of NUI, Galway.
This list indicates our main areas of expertise, and applicants may also propose research projects outside these criteria, while recognizing that no art school is likely to have the expertise to supervise every good quality proposal.

A proposal for a research project should outline the field of enquiry and the key research question, together with an indication of the research methods envisaged. We welcome informal enquiries in advance of a formal application, and we will assist shortlisted applicants to develop their proposals.


Supervision is undertaken by a team with a primary supervisor and one or more co-supervisors for each student. Each supervision team includes at least one member who has previous experience of completing PhD projects to successful completion. BCA faculty available for supervision include:

• Dr. Eileen Hutton, Lecturer in Art & Ecology
• Conor McGrady, Dean of Academic Affairs
• Dr. Áine Phillips, Head of Sculpture
• Dr. Ruby Wallis, Lecturer in Photography

Other members of BCA faculty may be available to PhD students by arrangement. A supervision team may also include faculty from NUI Galway or another university as appropriate.

The frequency of supervision meetings with supervisors will normally be as follows:

  • Meetings with the primary supervisor take place weekly in semester time and monthly in the summer for Full-Time students, and monthly all year for Part Time students. Breaks for holidays/vacations in the summer will take place by agreement between the student and their supervisor.
  • Meetings with internal co-supervisors will be at least once per month in semester time, and any external supervisors once per semester.  The frequency for Hybrid students will follow from these norms pro-rata.
  • Students meet with their supervisors as a group once per semester. Meetings for Full-Time students will be in person at Burren College of Art. Those for Part-Time students will be in person at Burren College of Art once each semester, and otherwise by Skype, supported by email communication.
  • Supervisors have discretion to vary the frequency of meetings as appropriate.  Additionally, all PhD students take part in the mid-semester group critiques once per semester.

Each student meets with a Graduate Research Committee that does not include their supervisors once a year to monitor progress and to report to the university accordingly.  These meetings take place at Burren College of Art.


There are two types of assessment: annually by the Graduate Research Committee to determine eligibility for progression; and the final examination at the end of the programme of research by at least one External and one Internal Examiner, to examine the outcome of the project.


The final examination comprises:

  • the submission of a body of work that embodies the contribution to knowledge and understanding, normally by exhibition;
  • a written reflective analysis of the theoretical and historical context of the research subject to a maximum word count of 20,000 words and a minimum of 10,000 words;
  • a written critical review of the process of the research subject to a maximum word count of 20,000 words and a minimum of 10,000 words;
  • a 500 word summary of the contribution to knowledge and understanding together with documentation of the work;
  • a viva voce examination.


All elements of the examination must be passed. The submission is examined with reference to the initial aims of the research project.

Student Progression
If a student fails to meet the criteria for progressing at the annual GRC review meeting the GRC may recommend:
• continuation with further review necessary;
• leaving the PhD programme.

Please note that In the event of a failure to progress, or a voluntary withdrawal from the program, tuition is non refundable.


The PhD is awarded by the National University of Ireland, Galway within the regulations and terms for the PhD degree and subject to the guidelines and protocols of the University, as published in the General Calendar of the University, and other sources as may be in place from time to time.

Zoom OuT: BCA PhD Symposium 2021

On March 10, the 2021 Burren College of Art practice-based PhD Programme hosted Zoom OuT, a symposium dedicated to our current doctoral research students who presented short PechaKucha talks on their projects. The event was moderated by BCA faculty Dean Conor McGrady and Dr Áine Phillips. Rod Stoneman, Emeritus Professor, Huston School of Film & Digital Media, NUI Galway was invited discussant.

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