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Conference paper

What is/could/should a design PhD be?

This workshop will investigate the possibilities for design PhDs and their relevance to the future of design education and the design professions. Studied through a range of doctoral models, this workshop will explore the potential benefits of having design PhDs.

This workshop grew from a series of conversations between various participants regarding the possibilities for design PhDs and their relevance to the future of design education and the design professions. Consequently, a concern for the relevance of design PhD programmes has become apparent, especially as our understanding of design and its social, cultural and economic contributions, both within and beyond the design professions, is evolving. The participants in this workshop will represent a range of doctoral models, as they have experience in supervising, designing, assessing and undertaking doctoral studies in design from a range of educational models and contexts.

Tensions around the PhD prospect vary: What is the importance of a PhD when the MFA is a terminal degree? Do design faculty need to have PhDs if they are to work within the university sector, and what does this mean when there may be a greater academic emphasis on design practice and making than theory? Are PhDs only for future academics? That is, are potential PhD candidates only those who aspire to work in the education sector, or are they future design researchers or practitioners whose research will feed into industry, government and community sectors? How do design PhDs relate to funded research projects and university requirements for research outcomes, income and outcomes for the public good?

Put simply, how can we use Frayling’s (1993) three categories (through, for or about) as a framework through which to consider, critique and challenge current conventions, and the above questions, as we work towards the evolution of dynamic design PhD programmes that both reflect the needs and expectations of various educational systems and the domain of design itself?

Vaughan, L.Morrison, A., & Mainsah, H. 2013. 'What is/could/should a design PhD be?'. In Proceedings of DRS / CUMULUS 2013 Oslo: The 2nd International Conference for Design Education Researchers. Oslo: 14.05.2013–17.05.2013. Available: http://www.hioa.no/eng/content/view/full/21070