Prof Doc Fine Art (DFA)
Arts and Digital Industries
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.
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.
Our doctorate has helped develop the work of internationally acclaimed artists such as Max Hattler, the renowned audio-visual artist and animator.
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.
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.”
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.