Why a new doctoral school?

The argument for developing an integrated Doctoral School expands across several dimensions. Firstly, as doctoral education and artistic practice expand into the academic locality in small departments, building a critical mass of students becomes crucial. Critical mass provides, as Henry Rogers and Inês Bento-Coelho argue (2021), a context for expanding ways of thinking outside one’s own disciplines. Secondly, as noted by students in the focus groups conducted as part of the research, a cross disciplinary context opens the potential for collaborations across departments, and brings ‘different voices different perspectives, different ideas’ (student FG1, 2021) into the thinking and making of students and staff alike. In Film, Music, and Theatre, there is a natural overlap, which ‘opens the possibilities for people to do more collaborative projects’ (student FG1, 2021). At UCC for instance, students not only have not met doctoral researchers in other departments, but also ‘don’t know how to know them’ (student FG1, 2021), which hinders the development of cross disciplinary collaborations. A Doctoral School would not only provide opportunities to connect, but also expand on potential collaborations across disciplines.  Thirdly, a Doctoral School has potential for high impact in the development of a doctoral community, particularly across disciplines, but most importantly, by fostering peer learning situations which enrich the doctoral experience. In fact, in their Advancing Supervision for Artistic Research Doctorates, Rogers and Bento-Coelho propose that doctoral education in artistic research integrates three strands to support student development: a supervision strand, a peer learning strand, and an exposition strand (2021). Student development takes place as much in a peer learning context as in a supervisory one, and a Doctoral School would support the enhancement of the peer learning strand, by providing a supportive umbrella structure which would not only bring students closer in terms of doctoral processes, but also in terms of training, events, and support. 

This reflective piece focus on the case study and experience of University College Cork (UCC), and is aimed at supervisors, PhD coordinators, Heads of Doctoral Schools and everyone interested in the development of doctoral supervision. Departing from our experience at UCC, we hope to inform, suggest, propose, and bring clarity to the challenges we faced and the proposed solutions we adopted. Across Europe and beyond doctoral programmes have been developing at distinct rates and in differing contexts, and we hope this reflective piece will afford you an oversight which will inform the development of your own research environments and the capacity building of student and staff, so crucial for enhancing doctoral education and for supporting the artistic researchers of the future. 

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