Research Degrees (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.


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 a professional development sessions for careers in and out of HE. Our industry-specific facilities, which support practice research, are at the forefront of what is available in the university sector. In addition to providing opportunities for teaching on Central's 35 MA and BA courses, we also offer professionalization through paid editorial work (Theatre Times; Contemporary Theater Review; and the Theatre Matters blog); administrative work (Ethics Committee; Institutional Repository); social media engagement; and event production. As a member of the AHRC-funded London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP), our PhD candidates are able to take part in training opportunities across the consortium.

We have extensive connections with all sectors of the theatre industry, as well as expanding international links. Some of our candidates are also funded by Collaborative Doctoral Agreements, including with the Association of British Theatre Technicians, the National Theatre, and the State Archive/Musalab (Italy). 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. 

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 Joshua Abrams, SB, SB, MA, PhD, SFHEA

Director of Learning & Teaching

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

Professor of European Theatre

Prof. Ross Brown, BA, FHEA

Interim Co-Principal

Dr Selina Busby, BA, PGCE, MA, PhD

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

Broderick Chow, BA, MA, PhD, FHEA

Deputy Director of Learning and Teaching

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

Dr Jessica Hartley BA, MA, PGCE, PhD, SFHEA

Lecturer, Theatre and Performance Studies

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

Course Leader, MA/MFA Advanced Theatre Practice, Reader in New Theatre Practices

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)

Naomi Paxton

Knowledge Exchange Fellow

Duška Radosavljević, BA, PhD, PGCHE, FHEA

Reader in Contemporary Theatre and Performance

David Shearing

Lecturer in Performing Arts

Farokh Soltani

Lecturer in Writing for Broadcast Media and Performance

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, and our industry connections.
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;
  • 6 performance studio theatres;
  • 16 rehearsal studios and movement rooms;
  • 9 music practice rooms;
  • specialized technical workshops including a full theatre craft studio (with a costume archive of 500 original items); a scenic workshop for scenic construction and art; a props studio; a puppetry studio; experimental lighting studio; and a media/CAD suite
  • 4 digital media editing rooms.

As well as these in-house resources, we access a number of external venues and festivals for specific projects (as with the The Pleasance; Theatre Peckham; Curve, Leicester; Queens Theatre, Hornchurch). Our Technical & Production department comprises 15 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.


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. Visiting doctoral researchers can benefit participate in graduate events, attend the training sessions, and gain from the wider opportunities that come with being part of the University of London and the London Arts and Humanities Partnership.

In 2015-16 we hosted a visiting doctoral researcher from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile; in 2017-18 visiting doctoral researchers from the Universities of Brasilia, Valencia and the Complutense Madrid; in 2018-19 visiting doctoral researchers from VSMU (Academy of Performing Arts) Bratislava, and University of Valencia; and in 2019-20, Monash University, Central Academy of China, and Jawaharlal Nehru University.

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

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