7.6.1Research between academy and academia

The Bologna Process formally introduced artistic research to many European higher education systems, but its implementation was subject to variation. Flanders did not opt for a full integration of higher art education into the university, nor did it effectuate the creation of a separate space wherein artistic research would develop as an autonomous circuit. Instead, the organization of artistic research involves collaboration between Schools of Arts – the former academies of higher arts education now constituting semi-autonomous departments of university colleges1 (cf. the Hogescholen) – and the universities they are associated with (see Figure 1). Their special position in the academiseringsproces [Academization Process] – which took place between 2010 and 2013 and distinguished ‘professional’ (cf. practice-oriented) from ‘academic’ (cf. research-oriented) programs – is highlighted by their status as the only institutions other than universities to offer master’s degrees. Today, these institutions function as the primary sanctioned space for research in the arts. But due to the integration of design sciences and architecture into university faculties on the one hand, and the existence of specialist postgraduate institutions devoted to particular artistic disciplines (cf. Orpheus Institute for Music; P.A.R.T.S.2 for (contemporary) dance and HISK3 for the visual arts), artistic research does take places outside of the Schools of Arts too.

Figure 1: Flemish Schools of Arts, universities and associations

Even though Schools of Arts now award MA degrees, granting doctoral titles remains a university monopoly. PhD researchers in the arts enrol in a Schools of Art and collaborate with staff members who act as artistic supervisors, but are also join the associated university – which provides academic supervision for the doctoral trajectory. With artistic and academic input structurally embedded in artistic researchers’ formal training, research in the arts happens on a threshold between the academy and academia, and is evaluated by artistic and academic assessors. Unsurprisingly, this situation can and sometimes does lead to friction, mostly about expected realizations of PhD trajectories and their final outcome – which differs across associations. All Flemish universities formally require a dissertation to be submitted in fulfilment of the doctoral program, but its status is subject to variation. Some allow doctoral candidates in the arts to submit artistic realisations as the primary outcome of their PhD research (e.g. exhibitions; operas; screenplays) and give less priority to written theses, requiring academic assessors to adopt alternative conceptions of excellence. Others require written dissertations as a discursive supplement to artistic outcomes, demanding artistic researchers to balance their art-based inquisitive practices with traditional scholarly reporting.

Artistic research happens outside of PhD trajectories too (e.g. postdoctoral fellowships), but doctoral projects do form the bulk of  formal arts-based inquiry in Flanders. This prominence of doctoral work reflects artistic research’s relatively recent introduction to the university sector, but also Schools of Arts’ pragmatism: funding PhD projects allows balancing research ambitions with financial limitations. In comparison, post-doctoral and professorial research demands more resources from already strained budgets – a consideration exasperated further by the inclusion of doctoral titles delivered as a parameter in the allocation of research funding for the Schools of Arts.


1 This is not the case with LUCA School of Arts, which constitutes a standalone university college in the ‘Associatie KULeuven’ (see Figure 1).

2 The ‘Performing Arts Research and Training Studio’, based in Brussels since 1996.

3 The Hoger Instituut voor Schone Kunsten [Higher Institute for Fine Arts], based in Ghent since 1997.