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.