Expressions of Interest and the admissions process.
Doctoral / PhD study at Central provides the opportunity to engage with an area of drama, theatre, scenography or performance in depth and at the highest level of scholarship. Research at Central takes place in a lively and rigorous environment where advanced thinking, laboratory-style exploration and cutting-edge practice all go hand-in-hand.
Central’s research culture is one of enquiry, innovation and experimentation. Staff and students alike are engaged with new and pioneering ideas and practices; we seek to understand these within a wider field of performance and cultural production.
We believe that research into our disciplines often involves exploration in, and through, the media with which we are concerned. Central’s academic staff are expert in drawing connections between exploratory practice, process and product, making and articulating. We also have a strong tradition of text-based academic scholarship in drama, theatre and performance.
Your eventual PhD submission may be a single and sustained written thesis, or it may feature practice-based projects alongside a written component to the thesis.
Those thinking about a research degree, but who are unsure if they are ready, should consider undertaking an MA or MFA course first, if you do not already have that level of qualification.
"a community not a programme" - Joe Parslow, PhD candidate
Central is pre-eminent in the UK with regard to research through practice. At the last Research Excellence Framework (2014), over two-thirds of the research submitted by Central was judged to be ‘internationally excellent’ or ‘world-leading’. The School has been described as an example of ‘the emergence of a new kind of research institution in the performing arts, bridging the creative industries and the academy’ and as ‘world-leading in practice as research’. Our industry-specific facilities, which support practice research, are at the forefront of what is available in the university sector. Central is an obvious home for such research. We have extensive connections with all sectors of the theatre industry, as well as expanding international links.
Central is also committed to enhancing the professional development of its researchers as future academics, researchers and practitioners in the field. In addition to seminars on research skills and methods, we offer both a series of professional development sessions and a pedagogies unit that teaches the core skills needed for careers in HE, as well as providing opportunities for teaching on MA and BA courses.
In the space of less than a decade, Central has built up a unique culture of postgraduate research with students working closely with expert supervisors across its range of specialist areas. The first PhD was awarded in 2010 and, since then, 19 further students have graduated from the doctoral programme, many of whom have taken up academic posts in the UK or work as innovative practitioners both internationally and in the UK performance and theatre industries.
With thirty students currently registered, Central holds one of the largest postgraduate research programmes in Drama and Theatre Studies in the UK. In the space of less than a decade, Central has built up a unique culture of postgraduate research with students working closely with expert supervisors across its range of specialist areas. The first PhD was awarded in 2010 and since then nineteen further students have graduated from the doctoral programme, many of whom have taken up academic posts in the UK or work as innovative practitioners both internationally and in the UK performance and theatre industries.
As a PhD student at Central you will be welcomed into our community of researchers – comprising both staff, post-doctoral investigators and postgraduates – who contribute to the vibrant intellectual life of Europe’s most pre-eminent theatre-research conservatoire. You will benefit from the comprehensive support package that we offer all our postgraduate researchers: students are supported through close individual collaborations with their supervisors – drawn from Central’s large pool of specialist staff, which includes some of the UK’s leading researchers in theatre, drama and performance. With professional expertise in all aspects of theatre-making and world-class facilities, Central is also uniquely equipped to support researching practitioners. Our library boasts an extensive range of theatre publications and electronic resources as well as specialist collections.
You will participate in our systematic research training and methodologies programme and participate in our visiting guest speaker’s series – in collaboration with Theatre Workings and Practices & Processes – with internationally recognised scholars and artists. Students also benefit from Central’s public engagement and external partnership activity (both within and beyond the creative and cultural sector), and the additional support offered by the Theatre Applied Centre for Research in Performance and Social Practice which currently has seven PhDs attached to it with the aim to promote new forms of knowledge in the applied field, as well as to work closely with industry partners.
As an integral part of the institution, postgraduate researchers enjoy many teaching opportunities across our undergraduate and postgraduate taught courses, supported by an accredited pedagogies unit. They contribute to the intellectual life of the school further by organising an annual post-graduate conference, Intersections, and our festival of practice-based work, Collisions. Beyond Central, our PhD students contribute to the discipline through their participation in conferences – both in the UK and internationally. Students have presented regularly at conferences such as IFTR, TaPRA and PSi, all supported by Central’s research office. Our students have published in peer-reviewed journals, and also performed work in internationals venues. Visiting Associate Students are also accepted to join the PhD cohort and we also offer international exchange opportunities.
To find out more about what we offer and what it means to be part of our community of postgraduate researchers at Central, as well as how to apply please click on the following links or contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please click below to find out more about the staff supervisors at Central.
Central’s Library holds a world leading specialist collection of 46,000 drama and theatre practice resources in printed and audio-visual format. Our eResources include over 900 international drama related journals together with databases. Core strengths of the collection include acting, costume, directing, drama therapy, dramaturgy, movement, performance studies, plays and puppetry.
In a learning environment that is supportive and inspires creativity, staff will help you to discover information and resources to succeed and achieve as a researcher. The Library offers tailored training sessions which will help you find and evaluate resources within Central and externally.
We also provide a gateway to a host of other specialist resource providers. As a federal member of the University of London, you are entitled to join Senate House Library which holds over three million items of national significance. Membership of SCONUL gives you access to the libraries of 175 UK universities. Our Inter-library loan service retrieves resources worldwide including the British Library, an internationally recognised collection of over 58 million items. London also offers many other specialist libraries and collections including the Victoria & Albert Theatre Collection, National Theatre Archive, Live Art Development Agency and British Film Institute Library.
Central’s Archive draws on a series of specialist collections that chronicles the history of Royal Central School of Speech and Drama since inception in 1906. As well as artefacts relating to corporate business, we hold correspondence, costumes, ephemera, magazines, newspaper cuttings, newsletters, photographs, posters, programmes and publicity. Our archive documents the history of Royal Central but we also hold specialist collections donated by performers and individual collectors such as the Beatrice Lillie Collection and the Bruce Kirle Collection. Access to the collection is by appointment during Library opening times. For further information contact Collections@cssd.ac.uk
Our academic staff base is supplemented by approximately 350 authoritative visiting lecturers and professional practitioners annually, bringing further industry expertise and academic knowledge into Central. Over 20 large scale public performances a year take place in the building, a range of smaller events (as with new writing rehearsed readings from MA and MFA students) as well as an abundance of external performances and outreach work all form part of the broad environment from which all PhD students benefit.
In addition, PhD students can all draw on Central’s industry-standard physical resources. These include: the Embassy Theatre, a licensed proscenium arch theatre seating 234 with full flying and sub-stage facilities; 5 performance studio theatres; 12 rehearsal studios and movement rooms; 9 music practice rooms; a full theatre wardrobe department (with a costume archive of 500 original items); a puppetry studio; several specialist workshops (e.g. props, experimental lighting, scenic construction); and 4 digital media editing suites. As well as these in-house resources, we access a number of external venues and festivals for specific projects (as with the Camden’s Roundhouse, the Fortune Theatre, the Minack Theatre, Kent’s Fuse Festival). Our technical support department comprises 11 staff to support these facilities and to train students in their use.
Central is minutes away from the theatres, museums, libraries, galleries and clubs of London, one of the unequalled resources in the world for theatre-related study. We share specialist expertise with industry through staff and student collaboration (puppetry students collaborated with Handspring and the National Theatre to develop Warhorse, with students then joining the professional company as trainers and performers after graduation). Central students collaborate with industry in modelling new work (Royal Court scripts; Complicite movement laboratory; creating applied theatre projects for high level community theatre organisations in India). Industry practitioners come into Central to see work (as with the annual Scenography exhibition; acting showcases) and perhaps most notably, we have around 375 industry placement hosts including commercial and subsidised sectors, theatre and production service companies, schools, community arts organisations, NGOs, charities, museums and even stores (prop-making students have worked on window displays in Harvey Nichols). This comprehensive relationship between academic discovery and professional exchange offers many opportunities for PhD students to situate their studies in relation to both scholarly and practical contexts.
Find out more about what it means to study at Central by reading our Student Stories below.
View profiles of the students on this course. Click on each student to find out more about them.
PhD graduate, research practitioner and lecturer. Jo’s PhD involves an investigation of live intermediality in performance.
When I finished my MA Performance Practices and Research at Central, I was much too immersed in the world of practice-as-research and my own research interests to consider leaving, so I went on to explore further through a practice-based PhD in new forms of live intermediality in performance. Central is a unique hybrid institution, where all the elements of creating performance and academic study bump against each other in fascinating ways. I enjoy the dissonance and find it a vibrant and stimulating environment to make work and pursue research.
PhD Candidate and teacher with a research interest in drag performance and the ways in which queer communities emerge in contemporary London.
Central’s PhD course provides a collaborative and supportive process that guides candidates through research whilst cultivating a space for the independent study required to produce cutting edge work. I have been frequently surprised by the vibrant research culture at Central, which has given me the opportunity to present my developing research to fellow research candidates, other postgraduate students and staff throughout the school. Most importantly, I have felt part of a PhD community, belonging to a network of peers with which I can share my research, my problems, and my ideas. In particular, the support for and accommodation of research into queer studies and queer performance has been extremely valuable, giving me the critical space in which I can engage in creative and alternative forms of research and practice which have challenged my own assumptions of what a PhD candidate should or could be.
Exploring the placemaking possibilities offered through urban-art inspired applied performances devised with young people in Singapore, Adelina is also a teacher and TaPRA postgraduate representative.
In Central I found myself in an environment that believes in me (sometimes more than I believed in myself) and encourages me to put myself up for opportunities that scare me. I think I'm very lucky to be surrounded by good people. My supervisors are at the cutting edge of research in their field but they are also very intellectually generous, sharing emerging ideas with me and in doing so, making this PhD journey exciting and enjoyable. My peers are supportive and constructively argumentative, keeping me grounded whilst pushing me to develop my arguments. The research seminars and conferences organised at Central have been formative, particularly in terms of preparing me to present at conferences and chair panels. I am also inspired by The Theatre Applied Centre for Research in Performance and Social Practice which organises stimulating research events, encouraging development of new practices and thinking.
Amelia is a blind theatre practitioner, teacher and consultant with experience in various styles of performance including but not limited to: acting, music, burlesque and aerial circus.
The PhD programme at central immerses each individual into a network of researchers who are keen to share, support and collaborate. This sense of camaraderie is something that is unique to central's research community, and is vital when taking on such a mammoth task. It is also a programme that is continually growing while staying visibly engaged with wider research communities both at and outside of Central. The staff are highly knowledgable, exciting researchers who are keen to support and nurture aspiring academics. There are also multiple events held throughout the year for candidates to present research and engage critically with the work of their peers. Each event offers opportunities to gain knowledge in organizing performance events and conferences. Central also presents opportunities for candidates to make early steps towards an academic career, whether that be teaching, publishing written work, presenting papers or promoting practice as a theatre maker. It's an exciting atmosphere that just gets better and better.
Central offers the opportunity for suitably qualified students registered for doctoral study at a university or conservatoire outside the UK to spend a period of up to six months with us. They can benefit from our specialist library and resources, participate in graduate events, attend the training sessions and gain from the wider opportunities that come with being part of the University of London.
In 2015-16 we hosted an Associate Student from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. In 2017-18 we host students from the Universities of Brasilia, Valencia and the Complutense Madrid.
We also offer the possibility of exchanges with and residencies at other international universities, where Central students can spend a discrete period consulting a particular archive, collection or body of work.
For further details on both these options, contact email@example.com
As part of my doctoral research on ecological performance, I spent time at the University of Melbourne in 2014. I was immersed in the faculty of architecture, where I able to expand my research through gathering Australian practice case studies. Ecologically-engaged performance is a growing area within the country and I helped to facilitated an expanding international discourse in this area, connecting UK scholarship with the work happening in Australia. I also researched ecological design theory under Dominique Hes, one of the leaders in the field. During my time at the University of Melbourne, I attended research seminars given my PhD candidates, gave a seminar on my own research at the Victorian College of Arts and presented a paper at the Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies annual conference. The exchange gave me an opportunity to collaborate with eco-scenographer Tanja Beer. Part of our collaboration included a community-engaged growing performance project, Trans-Plantable Living Room, at World Stage Design 2013 in Cardiff, Wales.
In 2013, I received a University of Melbourne Norman McGeorge Scholarship to undertake a five month student exchange at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama for my research on ecological design for performance. Sally Mackey was my exchange supervisor and her specialised knowledge in the area of performance and ecology offered great insight into my work in the early stages of my candidature. During my time at Central, I especially enjoyed tapping into its thriving PhD community who welcomed me with open arms and gave me a wonderful five months of PhD life. Collaborating with Lisa Woynarski also gave me a unique opportunity to tap into the UK’s thriving eco-theatre scene. My short time at Central was very productive. I developed a work for Collisions (Strung) as well as designing and hosting the Collisions Bar with Lisa (which also included a performance of our collaborative work, The Trans-Plantable Living Room). Another highlight of the residency was developing an exhibition of Strung for Green Week.