Research Overview » Austria
In Austria, the six largest HAE institutions have independent university status since 1998, hosting philosophy and humanities research. In 2002 the art universities were implemented as completely analogous to the scientific universities within the Austrian Universities Act. Since then, the art universities have full degree awarding power, also in the third cycle. They grant doctoral degrees in many scientific disciplines (doctor of philosophy Dr.phil., doctor of natural sciences Dr. rer.nat., etc.). In the field of arts-based research three art universities have implemented doctoral degrees: the University for Art and Design Linz; the Art University Graz; the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.
These degrees are – by law – scientific degrees and not artistic degrees.This means that the dissertations completed for these degrees are to be scientific dissertations, following the conventions of philosophical doctoral degrees. This speaks to one of the major discussions within the Austrian art universities at the moment, concerning the introduction of a doctoral degree which is solely artistic (as opposed to scientific). The current norm does not allow for dissertation projects that are not written academic papers. An artistic doctorate which grants the possibility to achieve a PhD by an artistic work (or a portfolio) needs as a prerequisite a change of the law. Several art universities in Austria have started to lobby for this change.
Working within the current legislation to expand options for 3rd cycle degrees, In 2009 the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz (KUG) inaugurated an Artistic Doctorate Program – in addition to a Scholarly Doctorate Program, which is equivalent to a Ph.D. The conception of the Doctor of Arts program (Dr. artium) is unique in the German-speaking world and is based on the view that artistic activity generates knowledge. The doctoral work itself consists of two parts: the artistic part, consisting of demonstrated proof of artistic presentations, and the scholarly part, i.e. a written part of about 80-100 pages (dissertation) which is scholarly connected to the artistic part. The doctoral work has to be defended in a rigoriosum, both in an artistic and scholarly way.
FundingFees are nil for EU students within set study time. However, the legislature concerning student fees in Austria is at turning point, and it is altogether possible that in the near future there will be a different situation. There is no national regulation for funding of arts based research doctoral degrees. The funding situation differs from university to university, several art universities offer a limited number of stipends for doctoral researchers while others have no such stipends available. The funding situation coming from outside the universities is difficult for doctoral researchers in the field of arts based research, as most stipends are only available for purely scientific researchers.
There is, however, the possibility for doctoral researchers to be part of a research project granted by the Austrian Science Funds (FWF) within the program PEEK which was designed for research projects (basic research) in the field of arts-based research (in German: Programm zur Entwicklung und Erschließung der Künste). Two million Euro each year are designated by the Austrian government for these projects. Another fund, the Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF) also regularly publishes calls in the area of art(s) and science, enabling research projects in the area of arts based research.
In 2009, the Austrian Science Council published the report Empfehlung zur Entwicklung der Kunstuniversitäten in Österreich, stressing that doctoral programmes are needed to keep and attract artistic talent.
AdmissionAdmission to doctoral studies is handled by the universities themselves. On the basis of the law, the completion of a relevant diploma or master degree program is defined as the university entrance qualification for doctoral programs in Austria. If this qualification level is given, the university has to register the applying person as a doctoral student. This means that in programs offering scientific doctoral degrees the universities cannot “chose” their doctoral researchers.
However, in case a doctoral program awards a PhD degree, the respective curriculum may define additional requirements for the admission to the PhD program. If the doctoral program is e.g. in English only, the number of students can be restricted as well and students can be selected by means of a – usually competitive - admission procedure.
This implies that – though art universities have established admission procedures for the undergraduate studies – they have to provide free access to their doctoral studies awarding e.g. a Dr.phil, Dr.tech. as long as the general entrance qualification is met. Defining a PhD curriculum is thus often considered a way out.
Arts-based research doctorates in Austria - Three examples
Current Debates and Issues
• No legal basis for artistic doctorate
From the perspective of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, an art university which offers 4 doctoral programs (Dr.phil., Dr.tech., Dr.rer.nat., PhD in practice), the profile of a doctoral degree in the area of arts based research must be sharpened in relation to scientific, philosophical degrees like the Dr.phil. on the one hand and solely practice-based artistic degrees (not yet possible in Austria) on the other hand. The PhD in practice program at the Academy with its high concentration in contact hours (“focus weeks”), its intense supervision resources (3 members of staff exclusively for the PhD in practice researchers) and its firm interrelation of theory/epistemology and artistic practice is a best practice model: the supervision ratio in a structured PhD program like the one we have in Vienna is quite unique by international standards. But although the university provides much reseources for the program in terms of personnel costs, there is no funding for the PhD researchers. This situation, quite common in the German speaking academic world, needs to be changed. But considering the debates about university funding in Austria, the prospect of change in this scenario is dim.