University of Limerick
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The visual arts practice PhD in Ireland: an interpretative phenomenological analysis

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posted on 2022-11-03, 11:14 authored by Susan Halvey
The Visual Arts Practice PhD (VAP PhD) has emerged during the last few decades in part due to the assimilation of autonomous art schools into the fabric of the bigger Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) (Baker, 2009; Candlin, 2001; Kälvemark, 2010; Biggs & Büchler, 2007). Several commentators have indicated that the VAP PhD, is pervaded by a high degree of uncertainty, where anxieties go beyond the personal doubts of students and are shared by examiners and supervisors (Macleod & Chapman, 2014; Solleveld, 2012a; Webb & Brien, 2015; Candlin, 2000a). Internationally a modest number of empirical studies have attempted to shed light on experiences of the VAP PhD (Hockey & Allen-Collinson, 2000; Hockey & Allen-Collinson, 2003; Hockey & Allen-Collinson, 2005; Holbrook, et al., 2008; Webb & Brien, 2015). Most of the literature on the subject takes the form of abstract, speculative debate. Taking a hermeneutic phenomenological approach, this Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) (Smith, et al., 2013) investigated 13 participants' experiences of VAP PhDs in Ireland. The inquiry revealed ideological dilemmas and ontological paradoxes which characterised the VAP PhD experience. As a consequence of the research, a model of the VAP PhD research journey is proposed. The study found that the VAP PhD experience was typically marked by five distinct phases: intrepid embarking; wandering and epiphany; resistance, aporia and evading capture; rationalisation and assimilation; accomplishing and arriving. This model serves to illuminate understanding of the VAP PhD experience and increases potential for effective intervention in the process, directed toward amelioration of problems, and the anticipation of pitfalls. In addition, it was found that the application of the Aristotelian rhetorical concepts of aporia and aposiopesis have emerged as useful concepts for understanding several characteristics of the VAP PhD.



  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Phelan, Helen Frances

Second supervisor

Parker-Jenkins, Marie





Department or School

  • School of Education

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