Defining a North American Doctorate in Studio Art and Design.

by Mark Angelo Cela

Post-secondary educators in North America continue to debate the standards by which a terminal degree in art or design may be defined. The purpose of this research is to discover what a North American doctorate in studio art or design might entail, and if the research and writing intensive nature of a current doctorate is necessary to maintain the integrity of the degree. A Masters of Fine Arts is currently the terminal degree for North American art and design students focused on studio work. The North American MFA has traditionally been awarded to those who possess extensive study in art and design principles, culminating in an exhibition of artifacts and a short thesis. However, in the United Kingdom, Australia, and many fine art schools throughout Europe, such study is awarded a doctorate degree. Those in favor of redefining what a doctorate is for art and design feel North American post-secondary educators are following antiquated standards with regard to doctorates. More conservative opinions view retaining the status quo as upholding important educational guidelines that reserve the doctorate for research-heavy work.

Traditionally, North American studio-focused art and design students are not trained in research and writing skills for doctorate-level work. This brings into question whether or not the standards for a North American doctorate in these disciplines should be re-defined to European and Australian definitions of doctorate-level work, or if a restructure of art and design undergraduate education is necessary to prepare students for a possible future in research-heavy academics. Findings from this study indicate current research-heavy MFA’s that include studio components would fulfill the same educational requirements as doctorates which are exclusively research-based. If widely accepted, doctorate work may have a place in the studio arts, and a definition of research at the doctorate-level may include studio components.