Search for courses or information

Prof Doc Fine Art (DFA)

Course overview

Start date

September 2020

Subject area

Art and Design





On campus

Course summary

Our Professional Doctorate in Fine Art (DFA) course is the longest-running, most developed of its kind, with a group culture and centralised structure that makes it unique.

It’s designed for artists from the UK and abroad who wish to make their practice the basis for doctoral study and can be undertaken over three years full time or five years part time.

It differs from practice-led PhDs in that you will arrive with an art practice to be analysed and developed rather than a 'project' to be carried out.

Students enrolled on the course are engaged in a wide range of practices, including painting, installation, film, video, performance, photography and printmaking.

Unlike a PhD, an exhibition of practice replaces the thesis as the main evidence of research. There’s a strong focus on professional practice and your body of work will represent an original contribution to fine art practice.

UCAS points


Course options

Professional Doctorate

UCAS code


Contact Us

If you have any questions, please contact our Applicant Enquiries team on +44 (0) 20 8223 3333 or email

Get in touch

Industry experts

You will study on an increasingly prestigious course under the supervision of some of the country’s leading fine artists, including Turner Prize-winning sculptor Grenville Davey.

Career prospects

Our doctorate has helped develop the work of internationally acclaimed artists such as Max Hattler, the renowned audio-visual artist and animator.

Work exposure

You will have excellent opportunities to exhibit your work and take advantage of our close relationships with many galleries and our regular engagement with professional venues and practices.

EnquireVisit UEL

Dr Max Hattler

world-renowned animator Doctorate in Fine Art at UEL

“The course had an immensely positive impact on my art practice and professional outlook. It provided me with critical context and support, which led to the creation of a new body of work, progressing from short film towards installation-based works including multi-screen setups and a water screen. The Doctorate has helped me steer my entire artistic practice towards a more considered, grounded, and unified expression, a solid foundation on which to build in years to come.”

Fees and funding

The Student Money Advice and Rights Team (SMART) are here to help you navigate
your finances while you're a student at the University of East London.

We can give you advice, information and guidance on government and
university funds so that you receive your full funding entitlement.


Phone: 020 8223 4444

Tuition fees
Course fees will be confirmed soon.

£10,280 to fund your Masters Programme under the Postgraduate Loans (PGL) scheme

Postgraduate Loans (PGL)

The Postgraduate Loan (PGL) provide non means-tested loans of up to £10,280 to taught and research masters students.  It will be paid to students as a contribution towards tuition fees, living costs and other course costs.

Applications are made directly through Student Finance England


Whether you qualify depends on:
•    if you’ve studied on a postgraduate course before
•    your course
•    your age
•    your nationality or residency status

Full eligibility can be found here 

Please take a look at the Postgraduate Loans for an overview of the new funding.

Apply for a 50 per cent discount on your tuition fees! You can get a 50 per cent discount on course fees through a UEL Postgraduate Scholarship.

The scholarship is open to full-time and part-time UK and EU students of taught postgraduate courses.

To see our full eligibility criteria and how to apply click here

Terms and conditions apply.

How we can help you

Did you know that with a postgraduate qualification you can expect to earn £200,000 more than someone who only holds an undergraduate degree*?

If you want to build new skills, change career paths, or further your career prospects, a postgraduate degree can help you. Our range of scholarships and bursaries will make financing your education that much easier.

*Sutton Trust Report 2013

Alumni Discount - 15 per cent

Early Payment Discount - 5 per cent

Part-time Postgraduate Fee-waiver - up to £500

Sport Scholarships – Up to £6,000

Terms and conditions apply.

There are a number of ways you can pay your fees to UEL
•    Online payment facilities
•    By telephone
•    In person at our Docklands or Stratford campus
•    Bank transfer Full information on making payments can be found here
If you wish to discuss payments to the University, please contact our Income Team on 020 8223 2030 or you can email

The Student Money Advice and Rights Team (SMART) are here to help you navigate
your finances while you're a student at the University of East London.

We can give you advice, information and guidance on government and
university funds so that you receive your full funding entitlement.


Phone: 020 8223 4444

Tuition fees
Course fees will be confirmed soon.

At UEL, we understand that studying in another country is a big financial commitment. If you apply early for an postgraduate course, you may be entitled to a scholarship of up to £4,000. You can find out more about the international scholarships here. In addition to this, we offer a five per cent early payment discount and 15 per cent alumni discount.

The Student Money Advice and Rights Team (SMART) also run an Emergency International Fund to assist international students in hardship.

You can contact our SMART team on 02082234444 or

As part of the Tier 4 student visa requirements, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) estimate that you will need £1265* per month to cover your living costs. It includes expenses for accommodation, food and drink, travel within London, text books, entertainment, clothing, toiletries and laundry. Most Tier 4 students are required to show they have sufficient funds to cover the first nine months of the course before they start- a total of £11385- in addition to the tuition fees. You can find more information about the specific requirements of the Tier 4 student visa here. The amount that you will spend can vary depending on your lifestyle. The UKCISA International Student Calculator can help you plan and manage your money.

* Please note the Immigration Rules are subject to change and this figure is likely to be increased by UKVI year on year. Please therefore check our ISA pages ( for more information at the time of preparing your visa application.

Deposits and paying by instalments

International students are required to pay a deposit prior to being issued a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS).

Your remaining balance will be paid in five monthly instalments over your first term. The first of these instalments must be paid when completing your enrolment on arrival at UEL. Please follow the payment instructions here.

After the required payment has been made, you will be asked to complete the online International Student Reply Form to confirm your acceptance of our offer and of our terms of admittance and fees policy.

Our International team at UEL are available for advice and guidance on studying in London, fees, scholarships and visa requirements.


Tuition fees
Course fees will be confirmed soon.

What we're researching

We have maintained an international reputation for artistic innovation and research excellence due in large part to the work of our world-leading practitioners in sculpture and installation,

Among our renowned academic team are Senior Lecturer Faisal Abdu'Allah, whose extraordinary work crosses the borders of photography, the printed image and lens-based installation. He has exhibited at Tate Britain and the National Portrait Gallery.

Senior Lecturer Susan Stockwell has also enjoyed critical acclaim for her elegant drawings, sculptures and installations, which have been exhibited all over the world from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum to the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern to China’s Shenghua Art Centre.

Susan was commissioned by the National Army Museum to lead a two-year research project exploring the interconnected themes of the Army, conflict and rehabilitation.

Working in workshops with soldiers from two UK recovery centres, encouraging them to use drawing, sewing and quilting to unlock their memories, the collaboration led to the creation of a remarkable patchwork quilt, entitled Peace Makers – a symbolic flag for peace, justice, equality and humanity.

Professor Grenville Davey, the Turner Prize-winning sculptor who leads our MA course, has produced a number of high-profile public art projects, including Well, which was commissioned by Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and Inter Alia – a commission for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The latter was an installation reflecting human presence in the form of a series of hand prints cast in aluminium bronze

Making a difference

UEL is one of the UK’s leading modern research universities. In the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF), 17 per cent of our overall research submission was classified as ‘world-leading’ for its quality and impact – almost double our previous REF score. A further 45 per cent of our work was considered ‘internationally excellent’.

What you'll study

We consistently review and develop our courses and modules to ensure they are up-to-date with sector and industry graduate skills demands. Course structure, modules and options are subject to change.

  • Critical Concepts (core)
  • Professional Practice (core)
  • Fine Art Research Methodologies (core)
  • Advanced Professional Practice (core)
  • Research module (core)

How you'll be assessed

Your tutors, course leader and supervisors monitor your progress throughout the course. We’ll assess you through a combination of essays, written reports, oral presentations, portfolios and your final exhibition.

Course specification

How you'll learn

The strength of our course lies in the rare quality of those artists who will help oversee your work after you’ve completed your proposal.

Staff and supervisors include Grenville Davey, the Turner Prize winner who also heads UEL’s MA Fine Art course, leading filmmaker John Smith, brilliant installation artist Faisal Abdu’Allah and award-winning painter Alexis Harding.

Many other major names in British art act as visiting lecturers too, including Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry and world-renowned sculptor Richard Wilson – both of whom are former UEL visiting professors – the abstract painter Basil Beattie and Bob and Roberta Smith.

Your course is led by Karen Raney, who, as well as being a painter, lecturer, writer and editor of Engage, the international journal of visual art and gallery education, is also a supportive and friendly supervisor. The course tutor is the artist Eric Great-Rex.

Seminars, tutorials, workshops and technical demonstrations from artists all support your independent research and development of critical theory and practice. Yet a strong group dynamic and exhibition culture is also central to the course.

Your work in progress is aired through regular seminars which all year groups attend and interim shows take place each year when critics, curators and artists from outside the university are invited in to critique your work.

You will also have access to a full range of our outstanding facilities at the university, including workshops for woodwork, sculpture, printmaking, digital and analogue photography and film, as well as Mac and PC labs.

What you'll learn

Our doctoral course has three strands: creative practice, which is developing your art work; professional practice, which involves exhibiting, curating, teaching and commissions; and theoretical research.

You will spend your first six months developing your proposal, with the aim of locating your work in relation to contemporary art and developing critical habits.

You will make explicit the strategies already in use and open up new ones that will allow theory to inform, but not prescribe, your creative work.

The course is designed to accommodate the organic, foraging, unpredictable nature of art practice. So, for doctoral students, the proposal is not a project outline to be carried out but a starting point from which your work can move in unforeseen directions.

Your annual written reviews will serve as an ongoing record of your doctoral work. A showcase exhibition takes place each year when critics, curators and artists from outside the University are invited to critique the work.

Your doctoral thesis is your final exhibition of work, supported by a written report of 15,000 to 25,000 words.

Your future career

Our course has attracted global attention, with students coming to study with us from as far afield as China, Nigeria, Taiwan, Brazil, Korea, Pakistan, Malaysia, Canada, Russia and Japan.

We are proud that this course has helped propel so many of them into successful careers all over the world as gallery directors, deans, professors and teachers of art, as well as becoming renowned exhibiting artists in their own right.

Among our nine students who were awarded the Doctorate last year was the acclaimed artist, Max Hattler. The work of the German video artist and experimental filmmaker has been exhibited and admired at hundreds of film festivals as well as in museums and galleries.

His is just one of many success stories. Professor Murtaza Jafri is now the Principal of the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan, while Young-Gil Kim is Professor in Art at Kongju National University in South Korea.

Rebecca Thomas is the Course Leader in photography at the University of Hertfordshire while UEL’s own Hedley Roberts, the painter who is head of Art and Design at the University, was awarded his Doctorate here in 2011.

Barbara Nicholls, who was awarded her Doctorate in 2006, has gone on to exhibit internationally. Teresa Witz, who is one of UEL’s fine art lecturers, was appointed as one of the official artists for the 2012 Olympics.

Explore the different career options you can pursue with this degree and see the median salaries of the sector on our Career Coach portal

You may also be interested in

  • Why study at UEL?

  • Open Evenings

  • Accommodation

  • Applying to UEL

  • Your offer

Meet us in your country

Our international team travel overseas regularly to meet prospective students and attend recruitment fairs. Our academics also give regular lectures overseas and are happy to speak to prospective students. In addition, we have a large worldwide network of advisors who can provide guidance and support with applying to study at the University of East London.

Visit Country Pages
Global scholar students

Course Enquiry Form

Enquiry Details
Study Interests
Personal Details
Contact Details
Communications Consent

Please tell us how you would like to receive information relating to this enquiry and applying to study at UEL.

Terms and Conditions

The information you provide may be used by the University of East London to contact you regarding any enquiries you make, the University, courses you may be interested in and events you may wish to attend. Your information will not be disclosed to external organisations other than those acting as agents for the University of East London for the purpose of providing the University's customer relationship management service. It will be processed securely and in full accordance with the UK Data Protection Act 1998 at all times.

Please see our Data Protection Policy