Qualification: PHD
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Programme overview

Our research, which encompasses traditional and practice-based forms, addresses the past, present and future of performance, in history and in contemporary culture. It ranges from Shakespeare to applied performance and includes work in theatre history, contemporary dance, actor training, musical theatre, performance and cognitive science, mental health and disability arts, with a particular emphasis on pedagogic research.

PhD researchers on all programmes in GSA can expect three levels of research training and support:

  • University-level training provided by the Researcher Development Programme and the University Library, including a PhD induction, workshops on writing skills and preparation for the confirmation and viva. There is also an annual student-led University Postgraduate conference.
  • School-level training is offered in the form of interdisciplinary seminars, reading groups, visiting speaker events and conferences.
  • PhD researchers will also receive subject-specific training through regular reading groups or research seminars. We also host PhD researcher presentations that allow you to share and develop ideas in a supportive environment.

As a research conservatoire, we are fully equipped to offer dedicated time and support to practice research experiments and practical modes of knowledge enquiry. We welcome proposals that will result in a c. 80,000-word thesis or a practice research curated portfolio.

Selected areas of current staff research are outlined below, but supervision of other subjects may be accommodated – please enquire with the Director of Postgraduate Research:


  • Actor training
  • Disability and performance
  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the arts
  • Musical theatre
  • Pedagogic research
  • Performance and cognitive science
  • Shakespeare
  • Sustainability and performance

Our conservatoire facilities include a 200-seat theatre, 15 rehearsal studios, six performance studios, an art gallery, a design studio, digital media labs, and high-quality recording facilities. The University Library also hosts the longstanding and internationally renowned National Resource Centre for Dance.


Programme details

Programme length

Full-time: 30-48 months

Part-time: 60-96 months

Start date

October, January, April, July


Postgraduate Admissions Enquiries

+44 (0)1483 686 509


Movement Direction and Choreography pathway

Students on this pathway follow and practically investigate a number of techniques and ideas dealing with onstage physicality.

The focus is also on the development of movement language, through the investigation of the ideas and practices of seminal dance-based ideas (Laban, Bausch, Cunningham, Fosse, Graham, Horton, etc.) and methods for working with music and sound.

Directing pathway

This programme is a practice-led pathway incorporating methodologies and techniques that focus on approaches to theatre directing, dramaturgy, collaboration with other practitioners.

Musical Theatre Creation pathway

This pathway is designed for those who wish to study writing, and creative roles specifically in Musical Theatre. These might be as a director, choreographer, composer, librettist, musical director or creative producer.



For all our research degrees in performing arts, entry is on the basis of a good honours degree and usually an MA in a relevant arts subject or appropriate professional experience.

Candidates submitting proposals that include practice-based research will be required to evidence appropriate experience and expertise in the relevant area of practice. Students are initially registered for a PhD with probationary status and, subject to satisfactory progress, are subsequently confirmed as having PhD status.


Non-native speakers of English are required to have IELTS 6.5 or above. Auditions will be held for entry to some programmes.

We offer intensive English language pre-sessional courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.

Find out all about fees and funding here.

Visit our Scholarships and Bursaries page for more details.

Thinking of continuing your education at Surrey? As an alumnus of Surrey, you may be eligible for a ten percent discount on our taught Master's programme fees. Learn more about discounts for Surrey graduates

Our researcher development programme provides a range of workshops and support mechanisms for our postgraduate researchers.

Discover our researcher development programme


Surrey’s postgraduate research code of practice sets out the University's policy and procedural framework relating to research degrees.

The code defines a set of standard procedures and specific responsibilities covering the academic supervision, administration and assessment of research degrees for all faculties within the University.

Download the code of practice for research degrees (PDF).


As a member of the TECHNE Doctoral Training Partnership, our highest quality students may be eligible to apply for Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) studentships (stipend and fee waiver).

Faculty studentships are also available for top-quality students, covering tuition fees and maintenance at current research-council rates for full-time or part-time study. Please see the Faculty studentships webpage for further information.


Before you submit your formal application form, please contact a potential supervisor or our Director of Postgraduate Research.

Once you have found an appropriate supervisor, please make contact with them to discuss your proposal. You should then proceed to completing and submitting your formal application form.