RMIT's practice-based PhD research program, which focuses on research in the medium of design practice itself, is in its tenth year of success in Europe.
Marcelo Stamm, head of the program in Europe, said the achievement is a result of a global shift in education and research that completely rethinks the value of practice.
"This radical 'practice-turn' across all major disciplines is one of the reasons why RMIT's postgraduate innovation has significantly expanded since its inception in Europe," Stamm said.
"It means we have leading design practitioners across Europe, in addition to those within the same program in Australia and Asia, completing PhDs within their practice.
"This PhD process involves reflection upon the nature of creative practice within a critical framework, articulation of its contribution to a community of practice and then speculation on future practice – all conducted through design projects."
Stamm, who also leads Research and Innovation for RMIT's School of Architecture and Design, said that it allows venturous practitioners to leverage their practice while tacit dimensions of the design process are made explicit.
"It also enables practitioners to be recognised and invited into the program as 'researchers'," he said.
"The industry workshop, lead by the practitioner-researcher, then turns into a fascinating practice-based research laboratory.
"And the fundamental value of this research model is evident when you consider the importance of the design and construction industries for future global and fundamental changes across cities, climate and advanced economies."
"But think also of the impact of this new form of research and practice-based knowledge on the academy and received research models – it's a fundamental innovation of the tertiary sector."
RMIT's practice-based PhD program differs from conventional PhD formats and industry embedded research – and its innovation and impact was acknowledged in 2012 through the award of European funding.
Through the EU Marie Curie ITN ADAPT-r grant (Architecture, Design and Art Practice Training-research), the funding enabled RMIT's practice-based research program to be extended to six universities across Europe.
The program recently held its Practice Research Symposium (PRS) in Barcelona, a twice-yearly public event.
The event saw a collaboration between the School of Architecture and Design, RMIT Europe and Bau Design College of Barcelona for PhD candidates and visitors from across Europe to gather for presentations, book launches, keynote addresses and social events.
The PRS is set up to facilitate collective learning and a process of enquiry that opens up the candidates’ research to interrogation and explication through group discussion, involving peers, supervisors and other experts.
The recent PRS also included examination presentations and exhibitions by London-based architect Alan Higgs and Dublin-based architect Andrew Clancy at Fundació Palo Alto.
Story: Sigrid Ehrmann