The Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts Course of Study

The Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts course of study has 3 academic programs: Topological Studies, Seminars, and Independent Studies.

IDSVA offers a low-residency PhD in art theory, philosophy, and aesthetics to visual artists, architects, curators, and creative scholars.


Course of Study

The IDSVA course of study is made up of three interrelated academic programs: Topological Studies, Seminars, and Independent Studies. Each of these programs focuses on the historical relation between art and ideas. Over the three-year course of study, the programs overlap and intersect, illuminating from three blended perspectives the ever shifting, ever volatile relations between art and ideas.

The coursework blends distance learning with intensive residencies at Spannocchia Castle in Tuscany, the Venice Biennale, Paris, Athens, New York City and Berlin. IDSVA students work directly with internationally renowned artists and thinkers. One self-designed independent study and one seminar course per semester comprise the three-year curriculum. Independent studies are faculty directed. Seminar courses commence in residency and continue online. Online coursework and independent studies are pursued through fall and spring semester and include online seminar videoconferences, one-on-one faculty/student conferences, study group discussion and collaboration, and project research conducted through IDSVA’s virtual library. 

The Course of Study is 60 credits over three years. At the end of the third year, candidates are required to pass the oral and written qualifying exams, and receive permission to start writing the dissertation. The dissertation is submitted within two years following completion of the Course of Study. The PhD degree is granted upon successful defense of the dissertation. Total time to complete the degree is about five years.

Each cohort is made up of approximately fifteen students, for a total of 45 students in the course of study, and 30 additional students writing dissertations. 

IDSVA grants the Master of Philosophy (MPhil) to students who complete a minimum of 40 credits and do not go on to receive the PhD. This degree will be made available to students who enrolled in the PhD program, and who successfully completed the first two years of coursework (40 credits) with an average of B or better. The Director of the School, in consultation with academic advisors and core faculty members, will determine which students should be advised to consider the MPhil instead of proceeding to the PhD.

Howard Caygill

IDSVA: The World-Class Low-Residency PhD in Visual Arts