Examining Artistic Doctorates

A core thing for me though in terms of a good examining experience, are ideas coming from what the candidate is offering (…) the examiner being able to put their own agendas aside and let go of that academic ego thing that comes out quite often. To really say ‘well where is this research and what is it doing and how do I come to it and how does it come to me’ in a very generous way. And caught within that is recognising the plurality of forms that it might take, and that they all have equal weight if they are well positioned by the candidate in the examination process: the totality of the different linguistic forms as well as the different creative outputs that might be there and how do they all beautifully interrelate. (Vida Midgelow, Artistic Research Doctorate Examination, Visioning the Future Seminar, 2020)

If you are invited to be an External Examiner for an Artistic Research PhD, the following key points can help you ensure you are fully prepared:

  • Is the request being made within your field of expertise?
  • Have you been given a copy of the institution’s regulations, or are you aware of the examination / doctoral framework this exam takes place under? 
  • Are there any potential conflicts of interests?
  • Will you be experiencing the practice and in what context? Do you foresee any challenges here? 
  • Is the submission a coherent body of work?
  • Has the student articulated fully the scope of the practice in relation to the writing? 
  • Is the student well aware of the intrinsic unique contribution of their practice? 
  • Has the student adequately addressed the role of the audience in the context of the research as appropriate? 

Put aside any bias and personal aesthetic views:

The ways that we are conservative in terms of our thinking and engaging with practice, vary enormously because our aesthetic languages and value systems vary enormously. So we can find ourselves attached to ideas we don’t realise we are attached to. And we need to get beyond that in examination. (Yvon Bonenfant, Artistic Research Doctorate Examination, Visioning the Future Seminar, 2020)

Finally, how are you engaging with the practice? Consider which aspects of the practice need further clarification, how you might interrogate it, and how you might bring the practice to the Viva discussion. Vida Midgelow articulates this clearly below: 

Something fundamental is, how open are we to different models of Artistic Research or practice research? And how ready are examiners to take on board where the candidate is positioning their approach rather than imposing some sort of model, especially across territories and disciplines? The candidate’s job is to do that positioning but as examiners, how open are we to the range of ways a practice-based PhD might be presented? And how does that play out in terms of regulations? And are those regulations inclusive of the kinds of outcome coming forward – outcomes that don’t fit in the ‘normal’? (Vida Midgelow, Artistic Research Doctorate Examination, Visioning the Future Seminar, 2020)



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