Applying to study for a PhD

Central has a two stage application process. Applicants should make contact with the School as far as possible in advance of their desired start date using our expression of interest form.

Application Process

Central has introduced an online, two-stage application process:

The History of the ABTT - Collaborative Doctoral Project

The Association of British Theatre Technicians and The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London invites applications for entry in September or January of the 2017/8 academic year. This Collaborative Doctoral Award offers an exciting opportunity to pursue a fully funded PhD at a leading centre for research in theatre and performance together with one of the earliest organisations to represent the interests and needs of theatre designers and technical practitioners.

Project Description

The ABTT was founded in 1961 “to provide a forum for discussion among theatre technicians, and through this, and the collection and dissemination of information, to raise the technical standards in the Theatre.” The stimuli to the foundation of the ABTT were the desire for a social network, the perceived need for the creation of an advisory body and the challenges and opportunities presented by huge advances in technology. The ABTT was registered as a charity in 1981. It now operates through a series of committees to promote best practice and respond to the adoption of new technologies into live performance, providing guidance - an original intention of the organisation - and setting standards for practice. The ABTT is also involved in mounting conferences, an annual trade show, training and non-statutory regulation.

The thesis will examine the historical context of the establishment and development of the ABTT, as well as its impact on the evolution of theatre design and standards of architectural, engineering and stage arrangements for places of entertainment. It will also consider the organisation's influence on the development of standards for operational and working practices in the technical roles required for the presentation of live performance and how this led to the establishment of recommendations for safe and compliant practice, including new industry training and the publication of a code of practice for the theatre industry incorporating guidance in the form of Technical Standards for Places of Entertainment et al.

A key aspect of the project is assessing the influence that ABTT activity has had on the practice of British theatre as a whole. In particular to assess whether the work of the ABTT  influenced contemporary theatre design and the development and promotion of safe working practices and if this helped to maintain the fundamental nature of theatrical performance while responding to parallel developments in the legislative framework to which it must comply and to the available technologies.


Click here for the full specification of the Doctoral Award


Amount of Award
Home and EU students are eligible for a full award. This amounts to the total value of tuition fees plus a £15,500 maintenance grant, matching a fully funded AHRC studentship, offered for up to three years for new first-year students. The award for overseas students is a 50% fee waiver and a £15,500 maintenance grant. All students will also be eligible for an additional £500 annual research budget for conference attendance and specialist training. 

All applicants need to prepare an Expression of Interest form in advance of preparing a full proposal. This can be downloaded from within the online application, following links on the left. The deadline for the receipt of online applications is Friday 28 April, and invited full proposals by 5 May 2017. Interviews are expected to be scheduled for the week beginning 15th May 2017.

For enquiries, further information, or a preliminary discussion about making an application, please contact Please note: applications sent directly to Research Services or to potential supervisors by post or email will not be considered.

Application Stage One

For the first stage, applicants should follow the online guided process by clicking the relevant 'Apply online' link located in the left-hand column of this page.

Applicants will be required to:

  1. complete a series of short online forms to provide the Admissions Office with your details. These will be held confidentially, and not used by the Research Degrees Team who will assess your project for suitability to Central’s specialisms;
  2. upload a completed Expression of Interest form, detailing the project;
  3. a one-page CV.

The Expression of Interest form asks for short answers to the following areas:

  • Proposed year and term of entry (i.e. October or January)
  • Mode of study: Full time/Part time
  • Funding: Do you intend to apply for funding? (If so, which funding sources would you be applying for?)
  • Proposed project title
  • Keywords (up to 5)
  • Description of your research topic (300 words)
  • Key research questions
  • Practice research: Please delineate whether you see your practice as part of your research methodology and/or output, and what this would involve. (You may include a URL link to practice of up to 15 mins)
  • Indicative sources: Please list key books, articles, and performances already consulted, which have informed the conception of your project
  • Possible supervisors: Please name at least two possible supervisors
  • Have you spoken to anyone at Central about this project? (If so please provide their name)

Please note that Central no longer accepts Expression of Interest forms submitted via email; they must be uploaded as part of the online process when prompted. CVs of more than one page may be returned, which can delay the processing of an application.

The Association of British Theatre Technicians

Application Stage Two

The Research Degrees Team will review your Expression of Interest form and provide feedback as appropriate.

Applicants with projects that demonstrate an alignment with Central’s specialisms, and supervision availability, will be invited to proceed to the second stage of the application process. Research Services will write to such applicants to request a full proposal and personal statement, which will be considered by a minimum of two senior members of staff and/or proposed project supervisors.

Full Proposal and Personal Statement


No more than 2,000 words and covers the following:

  • Overview of the project (approx. 350 words)
  • Key research questions (approx. 150 words)
  • Research context (literature and performance review) (approx. 400 words)
  • Methodologies (please include details of any other archival or practice resources that you will wish to draw on (approx. 300 words)
  • Timeline (approx. 300 words)
  • Indicative bibliography (approx. 400 words)                                                                      


No more than 1,300 words and covers the following:

  • Why do you wish to undertake this project at Central?
  • Practice – if appropriate to your application please provide details of qualifications and previous experience in the fields relevant to your proposed practice. You may provide a url link to 5 mins of your current practice. (approx. 400 words)
  • What training you envisage needing to realize this project? Please delineate any specialist technical equipment or software needs or other resources that you have identified. (approx. 400 words)
  • Ethics: what kind of ethical issues merit consideration in undertaking this research? (approx. 300 words)

Please be aware that you may be asked to provide further information during the admissions process.


Research Services will collate and provide feedback on full proposals.

Applicants who have viable projects will be called to interview, which will normally be held with the proposed potential supervision team. Interview panels may, on occasion, also include a member of the Research Degrees core academic team. Interviewees will be notified of all panel members in advance.

Studentship interviews will be held in April, after all offers of a place on the programme have been made, with the Director of Research and members of the core team.

Receiving Decisions for PhD Applications

Applicants will receive written confirmation of the final decision from Central’s Admissions and Student Recruitment Office.

If you are offered a place, the formal offer will lay down the framework within which you will be conducting research.

For example:

  • whether you will be full-time or part-time
  • the annual fees you will be required to pay in the first year, including information about whether there are any additional charges (e.g. for materials, production support, etc.)
  • the outline of the proposed research programme, the normal length of study and the facilities which will be made available
  • the names of your allocated supervisors.

Your topic for research will normally have been agreed at the interview stage and will be included in the offer letter. Where this is not the case, it must be formalised by the Research Degrees Committee no later than one month after registration.


Candidates register initially for the MPhil (unless you are transferring research begun for a PhD elsewhere).

To transfer to the PhD, you will submit a substantial piece of work-in-progress around nine months after you have begun your MPhil for full-time students; this time is pro-rata for part-time students. Details on length of format, time required and assessment of work, can be found in the programme specifications for each postgraduate course in the prospectus.

When to Apply

You are advised to apply as far as possible in advance of your desired start date.

The School has two start dates for the programme, in October and January.

Should you be transferring your PhD from another institution, you will need to follow the same application procedure.