Search for courses or information

Prof Doc Fine Art (DFA)

Course overview

Start date

September 2018

Subject area

Arts and Digital Industries





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.

Contact us

If you have any questions, talk to a member of 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

Fees for this course will be confirmed soon

Tuition fees are subject to annual change. Fees for future years will be published in due course.

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

Fees for this course will be confirmed soon

Tuition fees are subject to annual change. Fees for future years will be published in due course.

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


Tuition fees

Fees for this course will be confirmed soon

Tuition fees are subject to annual change. Fees for future years will be published in due course.

Entry requirements

Minimum 2.1 Honours in any discipline
We would normally expect you to have Grade C in GCSE English and Maths. All applicants are required to attend an interview and submit a portfolio of their work.


(Including European Union)

We accept a range of qualifications from across the world. Please see our country pages for information on specific entry requirements for your country.


Your portfolio should contain between ten and fifteen works in any medium, e.g. drawing, painting, video, sculpture, installation, etc – that demonstrate your interest in developing as an artist.

Large or site-specific works should be represented photographically.

You should include some preparatory work, e.g. drawings or sketchbooks, as well as completed pieces. In addition to questions about your portfolio you will be asked about artists who interest you and exhibitions you have visited.

    • Applicants are required to provide evidence of a proven commitment to professional, personal and intellectual development

    • Submit a proposal of study

    • Submit a portfolio and attend an interview.

    Overall IELTS 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in Writing, Speaking, Reading and Listening (or recognised equivalent).

    As an inclusive university we recognise that applicants who have been out of education for some time may not have the formal qualifications usually required for entry to a course. We welcome applications from those who can demonstrate their enthusiasm and commitment to study and have relevant life/work experience that equips them to succeed on the course. We will assess this from the information provided in your application (particularly your personal statement) and may ask you to attend an interview or submit a piece of work to help us decide on your eligibility for the course. Our pre-entry Information Advice and Guidance Team are able to provide further advice on entry requirements and suitability for study.

    You can speak to a member of our Applicant Enquiries team on +44 (0)20 8223 3333, Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. Alternatively, you can visit our Information, Advice and Guidance centre. Please click here for details.

    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

    • 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.

    You may also be interested in

    • Why study at UEL?

    • Open Evenings

    • Accommodation

    • Applying to UEL

    • Your offer

    Related courses

    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