Research Training in the Creative Disciplines: The ‘Double Doctorate’, the ‘Clayton’s PhD’, or ‘a New Kind of Practice’?

Professor Jen Webb, Professor Donna Lee Brien, Dr. Sandra Burr
2012 Conference

This paper emerges out of our recent OLT-funded project into an examination of creative doctorates; some recent ALTC-funded projects on the same topic (Webb and Brien, on creative writing, 2008; Philips, Stock and Vincs, on dance, 2009; Baker, Buckley and Kett, on visual art, 2009); and a handful of investigations conducted in the UK (Wisker et al., on doctoral learning, 2010; Hefce, trends in doctoral education, 2011; AHRC, research review, 2007). These official reports are supported by a body of research publications covering the same issue: what it means to conduct research in and through creative practice, and what constitutes a doctorate in this mode.

While the creative community has built knowledge on this topic over the past decade, the information we have gathered from our respondents makes it clear that, whether in policy, practice or discourse, there is considerable uncertainty about this area of research training. Comments offered by our respondents present three distinct perspectives on the creative doctorate, identifying it variously as a ‘double doctorate’, a ‘Clayton’s PhD’, or as ‘a new kind of practice’. None of these epithets reflect the picture of creative doctorates presented in the policy documents that govern research training in the arts in Australian universities; but they provide a very clear picture of the experiences of individual candidates, supervisors and examiners in creative disciplines. We suggest a way of reading the gap between policy and practice, and how that gap might provide a way of re-thinking this aspect of contemporary art and design education.

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About the author

Jen Webb is Professor of Creative Practice at the University of Canberra. As well as investigating research training in creative practice, she is also researching the role of poetry in generating thought and the possibility of ‘knowing’. Her recent book-length publications include Understanding Representation (Sage, 2008), and – with Tony Schirato and Geoff Danaher – Understanding Foucault: A critical introduction (2012, Allen & Unwin). Her exhibition of visual poetry, ‘What we forget’, was presented in the Belconnen Arts Centre group show, ‘Creative Practice’ in 2011.

Donna Lee Brien is Professor of Creative Industries at Central Queensland University. Donna has an MA and PhD in creative nonfiction, is Past President (and current Executive Member) of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs, Special Issues Editor of TEXT: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses, and a Founding Editorial Board Member of Locale: the Australasian-Pacific Journal of Regional Food Studies. She has most recently co-edited the ‘Food’ themed special issue of the Australasian Journal of Popular Culture (June 2012)

Sandra Burr has a doctorate in creative writing. She is an Adjunct Professional Associate in the Faculty of Arts and Design at the University of Canberra where she also teaches creative writing and cultural research. She is a member of the Faculty’s Writing Research Cluster, a member of the editorial panel for the new online journal Axon: Creative Explorations, and a regular reviewer for M/C Reviews and TEXT: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses. Her research interests include human-animal relationships and animal representations in urban environments.