Blending creativity and academic practice Blending creativity and academic practice

In the late 1980s UEA pioneered in the UK a new type of creativity PhD, which can blend academic study into a creative discipline or theme, with the actual creation of a work of art or literature. This is now available at UEA in the form of a PhD by Professional Practice. This will provide postgraduate students or those with substantial existing creative experience with the opportunity to study and research at doctorate level film and TV theory and practice within a critical-creative research framework, at one of the first British universities to develop the study of film and television. 

University Academic Regulations

A substantial part of the PhD by Professional Practice thesis may be creative, or film archival / curatorial, or film educational in content. This will be represented in the thesis submission by a substantial dossier of practical film and / or video and / or transmedia work, presented in an appropriate, accessible and enduring format (following the published guidelines on digital material submission).

This will be analysed in and complemented by a written commentary, normally of between 40,000 and 50,000 words. The purpose of the commentary is to show a critical understanding of professional practice, to set the material in the dossier in a broader historical and theoretical framework, including the context of the film and TV industry and media marketplace, and draw attention to its originality and utility.

Instructions to Examiners

In addition to the usual requirements of a PhD the examiners must satisfy themselves as to:

  • the quality of the candidate's practice as submitted
  • the merit of the associated written commentary
  • the candidate's critical understanding of wider contexts for their practice, including creative, curatorial, educational, media studies, or film and TV business contexts; whether contemporary or historical.
  • the original contribution made by the submission both to an enhanced professional practice by the candidate and to its wider context in practice-based research and theory.


The substantial dossier of practical film and / or video and / or transmedia work may be either or both of the following:

  1. a body of quality work built up through professional practice over many years, especially if such practice can be shown to be thematically coherent or show a consistent contribution to or original and creative departure from the body of work in that field or genre.
  2. a new piece of creative work or works carried out during the PhD period and designed and created to be part of the research project to explore and test the stated research questions of the dissertation; in which case the new piece of work should be of sufficient quality and professional craft, and demonstrably an original contribution to the chosen field, in order to satisfy the examiners under the guidelines above. Note that the entire cost of production (including development, production and post production) is the responsibility of the student and not the University. No production or studio resources will be provided. It is a pre-requisite of the course that applicants intending to create a new piece of work will have access to the technical and financial resources to create and complete it. The University will provide the academic supervision and the opportunity to self-reflexively research the creative process or craft techniques. The University will not provide technical craft supervision.

Duration: 3 years of supervised study (or part time equivalent).

Original and / or adapted film and television screenplays are considered to be included in the definition of "practical film work," in which case the historical and theoretical framework may include screenplay studies and creative writing, as well as film and TV studies.

Art installations involving a large part of video art are considered to be included in the definition of "practical film work," in which case the historical and theoretical framework may include video art.

We will only accept PhD applications that can be realistically and coherently supervised, however we may jointly supervise some PhDs with colleagues from other relevant Schools in the Humanities Faculty, including for example LDC.

If deemed suitable, some conventional PhDs may convert to this course at the end of year one.

Creative Quality:  The creative work will be an original artistic work or works of high standard either as part of a coherent portfolio of ongoing practice or created specifically for the degree. 'Original' here does not simply mean 'of the author's own making': the work also must be deemed a significant contribution to the art or craft of the work's particular artistic discipline for the degree to be awarded. Furthermore since many disciplines including film and TV production and script development are collaborative art forms it is expected that the author will work as part of a team, but that the author takes prime responsibility and authorial control over the work being submitted for assessment. The thesis as a whole will demand the full exercise of both the technical skills of the craft and a critical knowledge of the chosen genre, or convention, or form, both past and present. The creative work should be consciously setting itself against / alongside related examples and making a place for itself in a tradition or in the intentional subversion of that tradition. It is in the nature of creative projects to test the limits of their forms, so these guidelines are advisory and not expected to cover all eventualities. Note that there are no awards for creative work alone: it has to be part of a creative – critical interaction.

Critical Quality:  The critical discussion must address the context of the creation of the work and/or the tradition or discipline to which the work belongs, and may also discuss the creative process itself. The standards of the academic argument, research, originality, scholarship and presentation are the same as those required of any other critical thesis. UEA staff have already supervised and awarded many Critical-Creative PhDs by Practice, including many in the field of literature, and this PhD in Film and TV builds on this existing reputation and experience.

The definition of creative works in the regulations is intentionally as wide as possible, so please contact us to discuss your proposals. 

Employability:  As a partly-practical PhD this new course will enable students to develop practical skills and techniques in their discipline, undertake formal academic independent research, develop independent thought and confidence in their practice, and be prepared for potential employment either in the business of film and TV or as a teacher / academic researcher at other universities and film schools. Furthermore they will be part of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities Graduate School Training Scheme. This future employability is part of the course offer, especially for postgraduate students as opposed to existing practitioners.

Film and TV PhD by practice students have the opportunity to take relevant MA level modules, for example Creativity and Development in Film and Television Production and Adaptation and Interpretation, although these modules will not count towards their formal mark. Places on these modules are dependent on demand, or may have to be taken in any one of the years of study.

It is intended that this PhD scheme should build on the University's reputation for the creativity research and teaching, and there may be opportunities for AHRC Collaborative PhD by Practice applications with broadcasters, studios, archives, and production companies. Film schools do not usually do PhDs, so UEA can provide a next step for either practitioners leaving film school, or practitioners who have developed their careers and wish to return for further study and qualification. 

Delivery requirements

The guidelines refer to "an appropriate, accessible and enduring format." All moving picture material must be delivered as follows, and for the avoidance of doubt will be kept (potentially in perpetuity) as a record of the PhD on the data storage devices of the East Anglian Film Archive or UEA or their successors (although such possession does not necessarily imply ownership of copyright of the material). (Discussions may be entered into with the supervisor about the possibility of different formats for some media):

 A master copy of all the screen material being considered as part of the PhD in an open source digital format (not a proprietary format, such as Apple Quicktime, WMA, etc.), that is capable of being read by most popular digital codecs; and in the format as ordinarily used for archiving purposes by the East Anglian Film Archive or its successors at the date of submission of the PhD. At the time of writing this is Black Magic digital format - PAL AVI 10 bit YUV, or Black Magic HD equivalent, however it is the candidate's responsibility to ensure that delivery is in the open source digital format ordinarily used by the East Anglian Film Archive for archiving at the time of submission, and to cover any deliver or conversion costs that are required. It should be delivered on a suitable hard drive or memory stick, or current hardware device for digital storage as in use by or readable by the East Anglian Film Archive at the time.

Two DVDs (or further copies as requested to a maximum of six) for ordinary viewing purposes in the conventional domestic format at the date of submission (one with burnt-in time code, the other without), both mastered and encoded directly from the Master copy, and identical in content to it.

All the written elements of the PhD dissertation should be delivered as per the University standard PhD delivery requirements.

Predicted Entry Requirements (Guidelines Only)


MA level qualification in film and / or television and / or media studies, at a reputable international University or comparable college;


reputable international Film School practical qualification of MA-type status and duration;


a substantial portfolio of relevant creative film or video work of at least five years duration and preferably ten years or more.

Demonstration of experience of independent academic or non-academic research and / or publication may also be taken into account.

Entry will be subject to UEA norms concerning English language proficiency.


Applicants should submit a proposal form, setting out the research questions and/or aesthetic and creative issues that the PhD will address; a summary of the academic/creative field/context to which their work will make a contribution; and a clear indication of the methodological and practice procedures likely to be adopted.

The proposal must include a portfolio of existing work, in an appropriate, accessible and enduring format, and the perceived quality and disciplinary context of this portfolio will be taken into account when assessing the overall proposal.

For more information on PhDs at AMA and on how to apply for this PhD please contact Dr Rebecca Fraser. For specific advice on the academic context of the UEA PhD by Professional Practice, and what is meant by a Creative / Critical PhD, then please contact  Dr Peter Bloore, Senior Lecturer in Creativity.