Academic journal article Nebula

Putting the Doctorate into Practice, and the Practice into Doctorates: Creating a New Space for Quality Scholarship through Creativity

Academic journal article Nebula

Putting the Doctorate into Practice, and the Practice into Doctorates: Creating a New Space for Quality Scholarship through Creativity

Article excerpt

There is much debate in an environment of Quality Assurance, vocationalism and research impact about the diverse modes of doctoral education. Traditional models, methods and protocols have been challenged, transformed and shaped by professional and practice-based candidatures. Yet the key problem and issue is often unspoken: can the international academic community create a culture of equivalence between the diverse doctoral forms? How are the very specific regulations for PhD by prior publication aligned in standard and quality with professional doctorates that often involve coursework? Similarly, how are newer modes of credentialing aligned with the ideologies of artistic quality that often infuse practice-based doctorates? How do the diverse doctoral forms effect the enrolment and examination of the "traditional" thesis?

When discussing the specific challenges of practice-based research in the portfolio of doctorates, a Times Higher Education article conveyed concerns with existing academic protocols.

Practice-based PhDs, where doctorates are awarded for "non-textual" submissions such as a work of art, are becoming more common. Yet researchers in the creative fields still lack a "properly developed language" to describe what they are doing. (2)

To create, discuss and apply this language, a conference was held at Northumbria University bearing the title "All Maps Welcome: doctoral research beyond reading and writing." The goal was to investigate "non-textual" forms of communication in scholarly processes. Unaddressed in such a title was whether doctoral education should welcome 'all maps' and indeed if there are consequences when decentring 'reading and writing.'

Our paper acknowledges these difficult questions, enabling a language to explore the pathways, benefits and difficulties emerging through practice-based doctorates. The writers of this paper were a research team of supervisor and student. A film-based doctorate was submitted by Zeynep Dagli with the title The eyes of death: the visual movement from witness to spectator. Four films were examined alongside a seventy thousand words exegesis of print-based doctoral research. Considered attention was placed on the relationship between the visioning of film and print, through the development of a new theory of grief. Problems emerged through the supervisory process and management of the candidature. When Tara Brabazon took over supervision, the doctorate had passed through many years of enrolment, many supervisory hands and many (often negative) judgements about quality and scholarship." The supervisory file was bursting with personal statements from research managers questioning the calibre of the "art" being produced. A complex series of debates ensued about the "correct" matrix of examiners. Ultimately, Zeynep Dagli submitted the completed thesis to a different university than the one in which the research had been commenced, to ensure an independent examination. The doctoral thesis then passed through international examination protocols with great success and the films have been exhibited in a range of film festivals. She is now Dr Zeynep Dagli.

From this experience, our article probes the process of practice-led research from a supervisory team that had to manage diverse and often unsubstantiated statements about art, quality and--most significantly--research. A gratifying conclusion to this doctorate was reached, but it involved the candidate moving institutions to overcome the conflictual interpretations of cultural value and research expertise. The first section of this article learns from this experience to reflect on the process to assist other supervisors and doctoral students. We investigate the distinctions between the production of media artefacts inside and outside a university, inside and outside a doctoral programme. The second part works within these contextual considerations, offering perspectives from the position of a supervisor and student who have had to negotiate the tussle between art and research. …

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