Research Degrees (MPhil/PhD) | The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Research Degrees (MPhil/PhD)


3 years F/T min. registration period; 4 years, normal max. (exc. agreed interruptions)/6 years P/T min. registration period, 8 years as normal max. To transfer from another institution min. length of study is 1 year F/T or 2 years P/T.


Master of Philosophy / Doctor of Philosophy

Research Degrees

"a community not a programme" - Joe Parslow, PhD candidate

As a doctoral student at Central, you will be fully immersed in our research culture, which is one of enquiry, innovation and experimentation. You will be engaged in exploring new and pioneering ideas and practices under the supervision of research active staff, many of whom are the leading scholars and practitioners in their fields.

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 have a strong tradition of text-based academic scholarship in drama, theatre, dance, and performance, and we are also ‘world-leading’ in researching 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.’

Central is committed to enhancing the professional development of its PhD 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. Our industry-specific facilities, which support practice research, are at the forefront of what is available in the university sector, making Central an obvious home for such research. We have extensive connections with all sectors of the theatre industry, as well as expanding international links.

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 international venues. Visiting Associate Students (see below) are also accepted to join the PhD cohort.

Find out more

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.

Why do a PhD at Central?

Benefits for a research student studying at Central include:

  • Central offers a wide choice of potential supervisors with the largest grouping of drama/theatre/performance specialists in the UK
  • the opportunity to participate in Collisions, Central’s annual practice-based research festival, presenting work in a variety of formats to peers
  • developing and sharing work in a supportive, high-level academic environment that is also equipped for practice research
  • being located close to the British Library and the University of London’s Senate House Library, to which Central students have access
  • having easy access to the cultural centre of London with its performance venues, archives, museums and theatres.

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 led by Central’s research active staff as well as guest-speakers – many of whom are 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), as well as 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. You will 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

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.

Staff Supervisors

Please click below to find out more about the staff supervisors at Central.

Dr Nicola Abraham, BA, MA, PhD, PGCert TLHE, FHEA

Lecturer, Applied Theatre Practices

Dr. Joel Anderson, BA, DEA, PhD

Senior Lecturer, Course Leader MA Theatre Criticism and Dramaturgy

Dr Sylvan Baker MA, PhD, FRSA

Lecturer Community Performance Applied Theatre

Prof. Paul Barker, PhD, MMus, GGSM

Course Leader, MA Music Theatre

Prof. Peter M. Boenisch, M.A., PhD

Professor of European Theatre

Jane Boston, BA, MA, ADVS, DLT, SFHEA

Principal Lecturer, Course Leader MA/MFA Voice Studies, Head of The International Network for Voice

Dr. Experience Bryon, BA (Hons), PhD

Senior Lecturer, Course Leader MA/MFA Performance Practice as Research

Dr Selina Busby, BA, PGCE, MA, PhD

Principal Lecturer, Course Leader MA Applied Theatre, Course Leader PG Cert Applied Theatre with Young People.

Dr. Tom Cornford, BA (Hons), PhD, FHEA

Senior Lecturer, Theatre and Performance

Dr. Diana Damian Martin BA, MA, PhD, AFHEA

Senior Lecturer, Performance Arts

Dr Kate Elswit, BA, BS, MA, PHD, FHEA

Reader in Theatre and Performance

Dr. Stephen Farrier, BA, MA, PhD, FHEA

Reader in Theatre and Performance

Dr. Tony Fisher, BA, MA, PhD

Reader in Theatre and Philosophy, Associate Director of Research (Research Degrees)

Dr Sarah Grochala, MA Oxon, MPhil(B), PhD, AFHEA, FRSA

Senior Lecturer, Course Leader MA/MFA Writing for Stage and Broadcast Media

Prof. David Harradine BA, MA, PHD

Professor of Interdisciplinary Practice

Richard Hougham, MA

Principal Lecturer, Course Leader Drama and Movement Therapy

Dr. Lynne Kendrick, BA, MA, PhD, FRSA

Reader in New Theatre Practices

Brian Lobel

Knowledge Exchange Fellow

Dr. Katharine Low, MA (Hons), MA, PhD

Senior Lecturer, Community Performance and Applied Theatre

Prof. Sally Mackey, BA, PGCE, MA, PhD, FRSA, FHEA

Professor of Applied Theatre and Performance; Associate Director (Research and Projects)

Peter McAllister, BA, PGDip, MA

Senior Lecturer, Acting

Naomi Paxton

Knowledge Exchange Fellow

Dr Dani Ploeger

Research Fellow

Duška Radosavljević, BA, PhD, PGCHE, FHEA

Reader in Contemporary Theatre and Performance

David Shearing

Lecturer in Performing Arts

Dr Amanda Stuart Fisher, BA, PGCE, MA, PHD

Reader in Contemporary Theatre and Performance, Course Leader Writing for Performance

Dr. Gareth White, BA, PhD, FHEA

Reader in Theatre and Performance

Our resources and facilities

There are many resources that postgraduate students can count on at Central. These include our staff base, our events, our facilities and location, our specialist library, and our industry connections.

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);
  • 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, 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.

Our Library

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.

Our Archive and Specialist Collections

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

See some of our facilities in this video

Meet Our PhDs

Visiting Associate Students & International Exchanges

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


Lisa Woynarski: Student Exchange at the University of Melbourne, Australia, 2014

'TranPlantable Living Room, 2013, World Stage Design. (Photo by Mike Medaglia)

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. 


Tanja Beer: Student from the University of Melbourne – Exchange at Central, 2013

Christina Kapadocha in Strung by Tanja Beer (2013). Photo by Alex Murphy

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. 

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