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Fees and Funding

Here's the fees and funding information for each year of this course


The Professional Doctorate in Fine Art has been running at UEL for over 20 years. It is designed for artists working across a range of media and methodologies who wish to make their practice the basis for doctoral study. 

Unlike a PhD, an exhibition of artworks replaces the thesis as the main evidence of research, supported by a 15,000 - 20,000-word written report.  The programme is designed for artists from the UK and abroad and is undertaken 3 years full time and 5 years part-time. 

Students are engaged in any of the forms of contemporary art, including painting, printmaking, sculpture, film, installation, photography, text-based and digital work.  They arrive with a creative practice to be analysed and developed rather than a research question or a project to be carried out. Work-in-progress seminars are the backbone to the programme, building critical, creative and presentational skills and peer support. 

Along with twice-yearly exhibitions within and outside of the university, students are given the support to develop their creative practice, professional practice and theoretical research to a doctoral standard. 

What makes this course different

Artists at work

Industry experts

You will study on an increasingly prestigious course under the supervision of some of the country leading fine artists and theorists including Michael Pinsky, Debra Benita Shaw and Karen Raney.

Woman laughing at a table

Career prospects

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

People looking at artworks on a table

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.


The Professional Doctorate in Fine Art is practice-based and industry-facing, attracting mid-career artists and artist-academics.  The DFA aligns with the institutional vision to bridge the divide between industry and academia.  Its success as the UK's longest running and largest DFA is evidence of the viability and relevance of its model. The academic rationale for the DFA stems from debate since the 1990s about the status of art practice as research.  Practice is put at the centre of doctoral study, fed by research into contemporary art and theory, and professional exhibiting and curating. 

Employability outcomes are strong, with graduates progressing to be artists or artist-academics in the UK and internationally.  The DFA also serves as Professional Development for qualified UEL staff who wish to develop their art practice and critical analysis, and to enrich their teaching. 

The re-validation of this programme proposes a simplified modular structure that more closely represents the Doctorate as it has been refined over many years.  Removal of level 7 modules and making all credits D-level (8) is essential both to accurately reflect the level of study being undertaken, and to ensure that students are eligible for new government postgraduate loans.   

The DFA leads the way in UEL in Creative Practice doctorates and will inform and share resources and teaching with other doctorates undergoing validation - Performing Arts, Film, Fashion, Creative Writing in ACI, and Art and Architecture in ACE. 




This programme is the UK's longest-running Professional Doctorate in Fine Art and is equivalent to a PhD. The full-time model is 3 years, part-time is 5 years.  The doctoral programme has three strands - creative practice, professional practice and theoretical research - and it is designed to follow, within academic parameters, the organic, foraging, unpredictable nature of art practice. 

This distinguishes it from the more academic Fine Art PhDs. For our students, the proposal is not a project outline to be carried out, but a starting point from which their work can, and does, move in unforeseen directions.  Students are supervised by the programme team and by dedicated supervisors drawn from Art and Design and related areas, who have relevant research and expertise.

Guided independent study 

After writing and registering their proposal, students work with allocated supervisors, and a core staff team provides continuity and integration. A strong group dynamic and exhibition culture are central to the programme. Work in progress is aired through regular seminars attended by all year groups. Interim shows take place each year, with critics, curators and artists from outside the university invited in to critique the work.  Students are encouraged to seek out and curate their own external exhibitions. 

Academic support 

Our academic support team provides help in a range of areas - including learning and disability support 

Dedicated personal tutor

As a researcher your personal tutors are the programme team and two, or sometimes three, doctoral supervisors.


Six work in progress seminars are scheduled per semester, with individual tutorials and feedback sessions in addition.  The first semester of the programme is devoted to writing the doctoral proposal, supported by the programme team.  All students exhibit their work at the yearly showcase exhibition.

Your timetable 

A detailed timetable is given out to incoming students prior to the start of term, and is explained fully during induction.  Thursday is the day when DFA seminars and proposal tutorials take place.  Supervision can be arranged individually on other days.

Class sizes

There are between 20 and 30 researchers on the Doctorate Fine Art across all years.  Work in progress seminars are attended by all year groups.  Supervisory tutorials are individual.


Annual written reviews serve as an ongoing record of doctoral work and research, and are the basis on which students pass and progress to the next year of the programme, through an annual review panel decision. The doctorate itself is awarded on the basis of the written report that accompanies the viva voce examination, and the final major showcase of work.

Detailed feedback is given, verbally and in writing, on drafts of proposals, reviews and reports.  Feedback on creative practice is continuous through the supervision process.


Docklands Campus

Docklands Campus, Docklands Campus, London, E16 2RD


The teaching team includes qualified academics, practitioners and industry experts as guest speakers. Full details of the academics will be provided in the student handbook and module guides.

Michael Pinsky

Dr Michael Pinsky MA(RCA), BA(Hons), AdDip (ArtEd), Dip A&D. Dr Pinsky is an artist with a significant international career.

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Karen J Raney

Programme Leader for the Professional Doctorate in Fine Art.

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Dr Debra Benita Shaw

Debra teaches history and theory on undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Visual Arts and Architecture and supervises PhDs in Fine Art.

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Dr Antigoni Memou

Dr Antigoni Memou is Senior Lecturer in Visual Theories at the School of Arts and Creative Industries.

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“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.”

Dr Max Hattler

world-renowned animator Doctorate in Fine Art at UEL

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 high-profile art practitioners and researchers in related fields.

Reader Michael Pinsky is a British artist whose international projects have created innovative and challenging works in galleries and public spaces. He has undertaken many residencies that explore issues which shape and influence the use of our public realm.

Taking the combined roles of artist, urban planner, activist, researcher, and resident, he starts residencies and commissions without a specified agenda, working with local people and resources, allowing the physical, social and political environment to define his working methodology.

His work has been shown at TATE Britain; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chengdu; Saatchi Gallery; Victoria and Albert Museum; Institute for Contemporary Art, London; La Villette, Paris; BALTIC, Gateshead; Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow; Modern Art Oxford, Milton Keynes Gallery, Cornerhouse, Manchester; Liverpool Biennial, Centre de Création Contemporaine, Tours; Armory Center of the Arts, Los Angeles and the Rotterdam International Architectural Biennial. His most recent solo exhibition was at Somerset House, London.

DFA Programme Leader Karen Raney is an academic, former editor, painter and writer whose novel All the Water in the World was published in the US and UK, translated into five languages, and was shortlisted for a Costa Book Award 2020. She was winner of the 2017 Pat Kavanagh Literary Prize. From 2000-2015 she was editor of Engage journal of international visual art and gallery education. Her academic research includes: theories of creativity, contemporary art, gallery education, fictional representations of death, and art practice as research.

Debra Benita Shaw is Reader in Cultural Theory and co-Director of the Centre for Cultural Studies Research. She is known internationally as a critical posthumanist interested in urban studies, feminism and science fiction criticism, and has gained considerable recognition in the fields of architecture and critical geography. Her textbook, Technoculture: The Key Concepts (2009) is used on science and technology studies courses around the world and she is regularly invited to address symposia on approaches to urban change, posthuman theory and literary criticism. With Jeremy Gilbert, she organises the yearly seminar series Culture, Power & Politics.

Senior Lecturer Antigoni Memou is the author of Photography and Social Movements (2013). She has published in the academic journals Third Text, Photographies, Philosophy of Photography and Ephemera and has presented her research in numerous international academic conferences.

Her research includes: the history and theory of photography; the politics of contemporary art; digital image and social media; visual activism and tactical media; art institutions and issues in contemporary display; Latin American photographic practices; the impact of globalisation on art, photography and culture; cultural and critical theory; cross-disciplinary approaches to art history.

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'.


The Doctorate in Fine Art (DFA) leads to employment outcomes by requiring students to engage with the art industry of galleries, critics, publications, and artist-run spaces outside of the University. 

The 60-credit taught module in year 1 includes seminars in art writing and publication, funding and exhibiting.

Many doctoral students are already in employment as academics, teachers, curators or artists, and the DFA often leads to extension of their professional roles or to new employment. 

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