The SCA’s PhD in Contemporary Arts is a research-intensive program focused on interdisciplinary approaches to the fine and performing arts. The program supports both scholarly and practiced-based research, with students tailoring their degrees to their specific research interests.

Students pursuing primarily scholarly approaches to visual culture, media arts, sound studies, and performance studies will take existing graduate seminar courses and produce a substantial written thesis under the mentorship of leading scholars in their chosen field of study. Practice-based artist-scholars or researchers with a curatorial, programming, or public-facing practice will take a mix of seminars and studio-based courses and directed studies, resulting in the creation of an original artwork or a public presentation supplemented by a substantial written body of work incorporating students’ reflection and commentary.

In all cases, students will be interacting within a lively intellectual and creative environment, in which the exchange of ideas and methods will encourage and enrich both discursive practice and research-creation.

For information about applying to the program, please follow the links at the Future Students section of our site, or scroll to the bottom of this page.

Program Information

Students pursuing the PhD in Contemporary Arts are expected to complete the program in 12-15 semesters (4-5 years). Each student is matched with a potential supervisor, normally upon admission, and the supervisory committee should be formed during the first year.

The program consists of course work, qualifying examinations, a thesis prospectus, and a thesis (scholarly or practice-based), for a minimum of 35 units.

Students complete:

  • CA 890 – Professional Practices Seminar I (0)
  • CA 891 – Professional Practices Seminar II (0)


  • CA 821 – Research Methods in Contemporary Arts (5)

And at least three of:*

  • CA 811 – Interdisciplinary Graduate Seminar I (5)
  • CA 812 – Interdisciplinary Graduate Seminar II (5)
  • CA 813 – Interdisciplinary Graduate Studio (5)
  • CA 823 – New Approaches to Visual Art and Culture (5)
  • CA 824 – New Approaches in Moving-Images Studies (5)
  • CA 825 – New Approaches in Digital Art Studies (5)
  • CA 826 – New Approaches in Performance Studies (5)
  • CA 828 – New Approaches to Sound and the Arts (5)
  • CA 877 – Selected Topics in Fine and Performing Arts (5)
  • CA 883 – Studio in Fine and Performing Arts I (5)
  • CA 885 – Studio in Fine and Performing Arts II (5)
  • CA 887 – Selected Topics in Fine and Performing Arts (5)
  • CA 889 – Directed Study in Fine and Performing Arts (5)


  • CA 892 – PhD Qualifying Examinations (0)


  • CA 895 – PhD Thesis Prospectus (0)


  • CA 899 – PhD Thesis (15)

* coursework may be substituted in consultation with the supervisor or Graduate Program Chair.

Visual Art Studios at 611 Alexander St.


1. Online Application for Graduate Studies.


If you have not submitted the online application, you will not be considered for the program. All graduate program applications are processed through Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. In order to use the online application system, you will need to pay an application fee of $90 CAN (students with Canadian transcripts) or $125 CAN (students with international transcripts) by credit card (MasterCard or Visa). The online application includes a checklist of the documents that you will need to submit to us to support your application. This checklist will be updated online as we receive your documents. Please refer to the online checklist to ensure that all documents are received. NOTE: Due to the number of applications, it is not possible for us to monitor every applicant's checklist closely.

2. Official sealed Transcripts of all post-secondary education. Sealed transcripts should be sent directly to the address below by the academic institution. Non-English language transcripts must include an official English translation. (For the purposes of lowering costs, unofficial transcripts may be uploaded to an application for review. If an offer of acceptance is given, all official sealed transcripts will be required.)

Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies
Maggie Benston Student Services Centre 1100
Simon Fraser University
8888 University Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia
Canada V5A 1S6

3. A Curriculum Vitae.

4. A Research Statement. This two-page document should indicate your academic/artistic background, the nature of your scholarly and/or creative practice, and the faculty members in the School who might supervise your work. It should also include an outline of the doctoral research you wish to pursue in our program, the significance of this research, and the contexts (artistic/scholarly/other) through which you are framing this research.

5. A sample of Academic Writing. Acceptable samples include MA or MFA papers or other academic writing, catalogue essays, published articles, and grant applications.

6. For students pursuing the practice-based PhD option: A Portfolio of your work, including a list which prioritizes the viewing/listening order of materials. You may upload video, audio, images, or PDF documents (less than 10 Mb each). Unfortunately, we are unable to accept physical media (DVDs, CDs, etc.). For works that involve a creation and production team, please make your role (Director, Choreographer, Curator, etc.) clear.

7. Three (3) Letters of Reference from (preferably) academic or professional sources. Letters can be uploaded online directly by each referee. Your referees will receive login information and instructions for uploading their letters once you have named them as a reference. We do not have a template for reference letters; your referees can use their preferred format.

9. International students: English is the language of instruction and communication at SFU. The School for Contemporary Arts requires English proficiency as outlined on the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website. Please note that we must receive test results directly from the testing agency. Copies of documents sent directly by students will not be accepted.

Main dance studio at 149 W. Hastings st.