Architecture (Practice-based)

Qualification(s) available: PhD

6 years
Start date
1 January, 1 April, 1 July or 1 October
UK fee
To be confirmed
International fee


One of four Royal Academy of Engineering designated Centres of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design, the School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering is home to a thriving community of over 60 academic staff, 40 technical and clerical support staff and over 240 active researchers that include fellows, associates, assistants, engineers and doctoral students.

This PhD programme is tailored for practitioner architects wishing to explore an original research topic while remaining in practice. Unlike some practice-related PhD models, our programme does not involve the submission of an extended piece of self-reflective commentary by an architect on their previous built work and designs. Instead of this passive approach, we take an active one, which involves:

  • an architect creating new, research-led work while in practice
  • critical reflection and analysis of this in written and practical form
  • presentation and defence of this work via the ‘design critiques’ typical of architectural pedagogy and practice.

This approach reflects the close alignment of theory and practice in LU-ARC, Loughborough's new architecture division and also reflects changes in RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) expectations, whereby practices are encouraged to build upon their design intuitions with original research that facilitates evidence-based design approaches.

The PhD will take the format of a written thesis of 40,000 words, as well as a substantial practical component. The practical component might take the format of contributions to the completion of a building project, hand-drawn or computerised visualisations (plans, elevations, sections, axonometrics, etc), virtual spaces, traditional hand-made models, 3D printed models, structural and material prototypes, mock-ups and installations. It is expected that a semi-public exhibition and discussion of the work should take place towards the end of the period of study. The formal examination, however, will consist of analysis and interrogation of the practical and written components in line with the standard viva-voce regulations and practise, and this will be conducted jointly by an internal academic referee, as well as an appropriately qualified external practitioner.

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Why you should choose us

Our research

Research within LU-Arc is aligned under three main headings: Architectural Legacies, Architectural Tectonics and Digital Architecture.

Within these are a range of research specialities and strengths reflecting the interests of academic staff. We welcome practice-based research proposals across this range.

Specific research areas might include:

  • Building structures and materials
  • Building performance and systems
  • Digital fabrication
  • Automated and AI design
  • Human robot co-creation
  • XR architecture
  • Adaptable architecture
  • Design pedagogy
  • Architectural history and theory
  • Socio-behavioural impacts of architecture
  • Built environment heritage and legislation
  • Urban morphology and mapping
  • Architecture as social mediator

We are not limited to these topics however, and would invite practicing architects with new and exciting research agendas in any area to contact us for discussion.

Your development

Undertaking a practice-based PhD will give you the opportunity to develop new and highly sought-after skills which you will be able to bring directly back into your professional practice but which will also allow you to branch out towards academia and other areas of industry.

You will make a novel contribution to knowledge and become an expert in your field while further developing your transferable skills, such as in research methods, time and project management, networking and relationship building.

Throughout your research your primary and secondary supervisors will provide academic and pastoral support in line with the school’s PhD support structures and milestones. Our extensive training provision, supported by the Doctoral College, will also enhance your skills and experience as a researcher. These include PhD seminars and workshops with your peers and modules in advanced research methods.

Entry requirements

Our entry requirements are listed using standard UK undergraduate degree classifications i.e. first-class honours, upper second-class honours and lower second-class honours. To learn the equivalent for your country, please choose it from the dropdown below.

Entry requirements for United Kingdom

You will need to be a qualified practitioner architect with a minimum of three years practice-experience. Applications will proceed via submission of an outline of the topic and methodology, a digital portfolio of design work, as well as interview.

As the PhD will be situated in practice, several formal commitments will be required from the practice concerned.

These include:

  • a commitment to allow you to work on your research for a minimum of 500 hours per annum
  • a commitment to release the candidate for regular tutorials and crits
  • safeguards on the IP (intellectual property) of the resulting research if that research is done in collaboration with others in the practice.

You will also need to formally agree with the School on any extra financial contributions that might be required to deliver on the PhD, for example materials required for manufacture or access to specialist laboratories or computation, and these will be decided on a case-by-case basis depending on topic.

English language requirements

Applicants must meet the minimum English language requirements. Further details are available on the International website.

Fees and funding

UK fee

Full-time degree per annum
To be confirmed

International fee

Full-time degree per annum

Tuition fees cover the cost of your teaching, assessment and operating University facilities such as the library, IT equipment and other support services. University fees and charges can be paid in advance and there are several methods of payment, including online payments and payment by instalment. Fees are reviewed annually and are likely to increase to take into account inflationary pressures.

Find out more about research degree funding

How to apply

To find out more about Architecture and to explore the research expertise of staff, please visit our website or speak to Dr Simon Richards.

Apply now