Doctor of Philosophy

PhD in Arts Education

Method of delivery:
Applications open:
October 1, 2023
Applications close:
December 1, 2023
Next start date:
September 2024

Develop a career as an educator in the arts, and gain a PhD in Education. Combine critical arts studies and arts educational theory, while developing an arts specialization and building a broad interdisciplinary knowledge across the arts.

Program Overview

Designed For

MA holders who want to deepen their knowledge of education theory, while specializing in arts education.

Program Format

  • 20 units of coursework plus Doctoral exam and thesis
  • In-person classes, typically at the Burnaby campus
  • Late afternoon or evening classes

Intake Schedule

Applications are accepted biennually.

Next Start Term
Fall 2024

Program Design & Courses


Our Arts Education PhD program:

  • is firmly grounded in critical arts studies and educational theory affecting arts education
  • allows for specialization in a particular arts area while maintaining interdisciplinary across the arts
  • ensures links between arts students and other doctoral students


Students are required to complete a minimum of 20 units of course work and the successful completion of both the Doctoral Comprehensive Examination and the Doctoral Thesis.

Courses in research methodology may be required depending upon the student's research interests.


EDUC 901A-3 - Seminar in the History of Educational Theory A

The historical roots of educational thought are examined from a broad cultural perspective. Major works in disciplines such as philosophy, psychology and sociology which have had significant impact on educational theorizing will be studied. Special attention will be paid to the relationship between theory and educational practice. Corequisite: EDUC 901B.

EDUC 901B-3 - Seminar in the History of Educational Theory B

A further consideration of concepts explored in the EDUC 901 "A" course, with a view to providing students with opportunities to apply these ideas within their own educational settings. Corequisite: EDUC 901A.

EDUC 902A-3 - Interdisciplinary Seminar in Contemporary Educational Theory A

Contemporary educational theories and theories from supporting disciplines (e.g., psychology, sociology, philosophy) will be examined and analysed. The relationships among contemporary theories, current practice and educational change will be focal. Corequisite: EDUC 902B.

EDUC 902B-3 - Interdisciplinary Seminar in Contemporary Educational Theory B

A further consideration of concepts explored in the EDUC 902 "A" course, with a view to providing students with opportunities to apply these ideas within their own educational settings. Corequisite: EDUC 902A.


EDUC 943-5 - Arts-Based Inquiry in Educational Research

This doctoral seminar will explore modes of inquiry through the arts that are important for education. Participants will be introduced to, and learn to practice, various arts-based methods including narrative, performative, poetic, autobiographical and living inquiry.

EDUC 944-5 - Aesthetic Ways of Knowing and Education

This course explores, critically, the historical and emergent role and responsibility of the arts in human development, learning and personal transformation. Aesthetic ways of knowing with a focus on metaphor, imagination and archetype are examined together with various Indigenous and cultural perspectives. The course will consider how differing conceptions of arts and the work of artists can influence and have value for education and society, and in particular for arts education and educational researchers.

EDUC 945-5 - Doctoral Seminar in Arts Education

The course provides a broad theoretical overview of problems and ideas associated with the nature and provision of arts education in the schools.

EDUC 983-5 - Doctoral Comprehensive Examination

The examination is graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis.

Normally, the comprehensive examination is completed in the term in which course requirements are completed, or the term immediately following.


A major part of this program is original research. A thesis describing this is submitted and defended. Normally, before the fourth course a thesis research plan is presented to the supervisory committee. Upon entry to the program, every term students enroll in EDUC 899-15 Doctoral Thesis.

**Effective January 1, 2018, the unit value of EDUC 899 increased to 15 units from 10 units.


At SFU, campus life is rich with opportunities to engage with people, ideas and activities that contribute to personal development and a better world.


Perched atop Burnaby Mountain, Simon Fraser University's original Arthur Erickson-designed campus includes more than three dozen academic buildings and a flourishing sustainable residential community.

Simon Fraser University respectfully acknowledges the unceded traditional territories of the Coast Salish peoples, including the səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations, on which SFU Burnaby is located.


Our Surrey campus is a vibrant community hub in the heart of one of Canada’s fastest-growing cities. With easy access to transit, the modern campus is conveniently situated between Metro Vancouver and communities south of the Fraser River.

Simon Fraser University respectfully acknowledges the unceded traditional territories, including the Semiahmoo, Katzie, kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), Kwantlen, Qayqayt and Tsawwassen Nations, on which SFU Surrey is located.


Our Vancouver campus transformed the landscape of urban education in downtown Vancouver. The campus comprises multiple facilities clustered in the core of one of the world’s most liveable cities.

Simon Fraser University respectfully acknowledges the unceded traditional territories including, the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations, on which SFU Vancouver is located.


The non-departmental structure of this faculty makes it relatively easy for students to take advantage of a wide variety of faculty expertise, and for students to develop a view of arts education which encompasses the curriculum as a whole.

Future Pathways

Where can this program take you? The world is changing rapidly and so is the full range of career and academic opportunities that await.


  • Faculty members at universities and colleges
  • District arts leaders for school boards
  • Leaders in arts education at the provincial ministry level
  • Community arts workers
  • Performers and artists
  • Educational consultants
  • Researchers

Student Experiences

Meet some Arts Education PhD alumni.

  • "Each faculty member I have encountered thus far has been generous with their time and supportive in their roles."

  • "I was attracted to SFU by the way in which the creative and interdisciplinary aspects of my research were embraced."

  • "Having worked with the PDP program, I was aware of Simon Fraser University's excellent reputation in the field of education. So much innovative thinking has come out of this faculty and it is a true honor to be a part of it."

"Follow your heart and your path will be revealed as you walk it."

Shannon Leddy, 2018 Graduate


Curious to know more about the program?