A history of doctoral studies in Scandinavia


until the 1970’s: research education revolved around phd projects in which students derived their subject of research from their professional or pedagogical practice. the motivation was to conclude a professional career by reflecting one’s own interests. supervisors were most often non scholars, but highly esteemed practitioners with very little experience of research. the format was master-apprentice/ research was a marginal phenomenon while practice was dominant. 

beginning of the 1970’s: pressure was put for the development of a more academic profile in educational programs. sciences with more theoretically developed foundations, offered models that could influence arch programs. “normal research” was imitated. arch and urban design studies were considered as applied science and phd students of that time were asked to renounce their prof backgrounds as designers.arch research lacked awareness of its own intellectual identity in the dialogue between arch and various other disciplines. academics discussed the idea of developing a field-specific academic identity and epistemological basis more founded on the specific knowledge modes of arch. up until the 90’s the formats were two: the apprentice-master relationship and those who tried to extend curricula with new ambitions of introducing knowledge based on research

early 1990’s: the challenge was to legitimize the phd as ‘academic enough’, attempts were made to formulate frameworks for what practice-embedded issues were legitimate topics for research. critique on modernism brought influences from other fields outside arch

late 1990’s: the ‘from outside’ tendency was criticized. in 1992 a Nordic network of collaboration was established to determine national contexts, possible contents and methods of research in the fields of making knowledge. since then research education at several Scandinavian schools of architecture has been focusing on developing field-specific design scholarship

1996: TU Delft organized the conference entitled ‘Doctorates in Design and Architecture’. it was noted that both the academic and professional worlds were too conventional in their view of design and too limited by traditional preconceptions of the divisions between science and art

1997: Christopher Frayling led a group and issued a report entitled ‘Practice-Based Doctorates in the Creative and Performing Arts and Design‘. They concluded
that “there is already a continuum from scientific research to creative practice”

2000: TU Delft organized the second international conference entitled ‘Research by Design’. it was a milestone as it elucidated the issues of scientific research, design and research by design. the profiles of architecture and design faculties began to be more nuanced than the traditional division between practitioners and theoreticians. The format still relied on the master-apprentice relation between teacher-practitioners and students, but those educators who were interested in research no longer appeared to represent an opposite pole in education, as their understanding of research came ever closer to practice amidst increasing attempts to develop field-specific scholarship

after 2000’s: research was directed to fields of research that were either SUPRA-DISCIPLINARY or SUB-DISCIPLINARY. It was through the now-canonical work “The New Production of Knowledge” by Michael Gibbons et al. that the notion of transdisciplinarity became widely spread. This transdisciplinary knowledge production also used methods and tools from practice, not least including design thinking and tools, and the authors called this mode of knowledge production Mode 2 in relation to the traditional, academic Mode 1. The founders of the Mode 1 / Mode 2 movement emphasize that in order to master the tasks of Mode 2, one has to get through an apprenticeship in Mode 1. the concept of transdisciplinarity also began to be discussed in the international field of architectural theory.

2003: Bologna-Berlin policies recognized doctoral studies as the third cycle in European higher education

2013: three conferences were held at Sint-Lucas School of Architecture. the latest in 2013 was entitled ‘Knowing (by) Designing‘. The proceedings of this series of conferences from 1996 to 2013 can be regarded as documenting the growing awareness among practitioners, teachers, and researchers that field-specific design scholarship should more self-consciously and more courageously seek its own, more field-specific mode.

2010’s: From dyadic to triadic identities and exchanges between education, practice, and research. research program under the name of Architecture in the Making aims to develop theories and methods from the perspective of, and in collaboration with, arch practice to strengthen arch research. Research within this environment includes doctoral projects, post-doc projects, and projects for senior researchers.



Halina Dunin-Woyseth, Fredrik Nilsson, 2014.  Design Education, Practice, and Research: On Building a Field of Inquiry. In STUDIES IN MATERIAL THINKING, Vol 11, Paper 01, ISSN: 1177-6234

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