Digital Media Arts PhD

Why choose this course?

Our PhD in Digital Media Arts is an innovative programme that cuts across art, technology, and science, bringing together new forms of interactive storytelling and immersive experiences with contemporary film-making and game design, as well as film, media, and games history and criticism. The fast changing world of digital media means this study is more relevant than ever, with the video game and interactive entertainment industries expected to be larger than the film and television industries combined before the year 2020. 

Our Guildford home is one of the largest creative communities in Europe, with the Guardian referring to Guildford as the ‘Hollywood of video games’. The area is home to video game developers such as EA/Criterion, Epic, Supermassive, Media Molecule, nDreams and Hello Games, as well as Pinewood’s Shepperton film studios. We’re also less than an hour from video effects houses in London, and home to many music, audio and video production studios. As a digital media arts researcher you’ll have the opportunity to meet and work with local companies like these through the local G3 Futures Symposia and our 5G Digital Gaming Initiative. 

We have close links with the University’s electrical engineering, life sciences and performance studies teams, as well as with industry organisations such as the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE), the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and the Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques (SIGGRAPH). 

You could be supervised by former video game studio directors, technical directors, film and television directors, screen writers, composers, visual effects compositors and supervisors, technical artists, software developers, film and media theoreticians and historians of digital media. 

We’re part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council TECHNE PhD funding and training consortium, and could support your PhD with studentships and funding.

What you will study

Our PhD in Digital Media Arts draws together the study of contemporary film-making and game design, as well as film history and games studies into the broader study of culture and mass media. We also consider a wider context of contemporary screen and digital media related activity, including digital culture and multimedia production. 

As a student of our PhD in Digital Media Arts you will develop the ability to conceive, design, implement and adapt a substantial process of research with scholarly integrity. You will develop a substantial body of work through original research, which could potentially be published, exhibited, and/or performed nationally and internationally. You will engage with major developments in current and emerging media and technologies and demonstrate an awareness of the significance of work in digital media arts. 

As a student studying for a PhD in Digital Media Arts you will have two supervisors, who will guide you through your PhD. Your supervisors will be experienced with creative visual media and at least one will be a researcher in digital media arts. As a cross-disciplinary programme, the PhD in Digital Media Arts allows you to have a mixed supervisory team, with one supervisor from outside the Department of Music and Media. Your second supervisor could come from engineering, computer science, life sciences, or another part of the University. Your supervisor will help you refine your research, assist with your methodology, and be able to read your work. 

You will be required to present your research to your peers and our staff at least twice during your studies, normally once around your confirmation and again around the time of your viva. 

You’ll be able to join a wide-ranging programme of research and doctoral student training events throughout each year of your course, including conferences, visiting speaker sessions, research meetings, and training workshops. We’ll also provide you with training in research skills, including training provided by the TECHNE research consortium. You’ll also benefit from University-wide training offered by the Researcher Development Programme, which can benefit your personal effectiveness, research management and engagement with stakeholders.

Course facts

Qualification Study mode Course length Start date
PhD Full-time 48 months January
PhD Full-time 48 months April
PhD Full-time 48 months July
PhD Full-time 48 months October
PhD Part-time 96 months January
PhD Part-time 96 months April
PhD Part-time 96 months July
PhD Part-time 96 months October
Stag Hill

Additional costs

There are additional costs that you can expect to incur when studying at Surrey. Find out more.

Code of practice for research degrees

Surrey’s postgraduate research code of practice sets out the University's policy and procedural framework relating to research degrees.

The code defines a set of standard procedures and specific responsibilities covering the academic supervision, administration and assessment of research degrees for all faculties within the University.

Download the code of practice for research degrees (PDF).

Our students

  • Ashlee Lim, BA (Hons) Digital Media Arts

    "Since starting at Surrey I have learnt to step out of my comfort zone and try new things and meet new people. Ironically, being away from home in Malaysia has helped me learn more about myself and my culture."

    Read more

  • George Kroon, BA/BSc Film and Video Production Technology

    "I most enjoy the modules where we get to see crossovers between engineering and creative realisation. At those moments, you can really begin to see where you’d fit in in the industry."

    Read more


  • Find out how our Doctoral College can support your research career

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  • Stay up to date with our latest research news

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  • Explore how our research is making a difference to the world

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Research themes

  • Emerging media
  • Practice research
  • Creative production
  • Art, science and technology interactions
  • Virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality
  • New immersive experiences
  • Visualisation and serious games
  • Interactive storytelling
  • Virtual cinematography
  • Spectatorship, participation and play
  • Interactive cinema
  • Digital poetry
  • Narrative and character portrayal in video games and interactive media
  • Acting and performance for animation, games and film
  • Embodied media
  • Digital aesthetics
  • Post-narrative theory
  • Media psychology
  • Generativity

Our academic staff

Research facilities

As a Digital Media Arts PhD student, you’ll gain access to a wide range of professional audio, video, and interactive production facilities, including: 

  • Multiple state-of-the-art motion capture facilities
  • Film studios with 4K cameras from Varicam, Sony, and Panasonic
  • Games labs running Autodesk, Adobe, Unity and Unreal
  • Physical Computing tools including Kinect, Raspberry Pi, Arduino
  • Edit suites running Avid, ProTools, Logic, Pyramix, ADR
  • Lighting and sound-recording equipment
  • Electronics workshop
  • Foley suites 

In addition, you’ll be able to request access to facilities in other departments at the University, including within engineering, life sciences, veterinary sciences, and so on, on a project-by-project basis.

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to hold a good honours degree and usually a MA in a relevant Arts subject or appropriate professional experience.

Candidates submitting proposals that include practice-based research will be required to provide evidence of appropriate experience and expertise.

View entry requirements by country

English language requirements

IELTS Academic: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category.

We offer intensive English language pre-sessional courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.

Selection process

Selection is based on applicants meeting the expected entry requirements, assessment of application, successful interview and suitable references where required.


Study mode Start date UK/EU fees Overseas fees
Full-time October £4,260 £16,000
Full-time January £4,195 £16,000
Full-time April £4,195 £16,000
Full-time July £4,195 £16,000
Part-time January £2,100 £8,000
Part-time April £2,100 £8,000
Part-time July £2,100 £8,000
Part-time October £2,130 £8,000

For fees payable in 2018/19, these will increase by 4 per cent, rounded up to the nearest £100 for subsequent years of study. Any start date other than October will attract a pro-rata fee for that year of entry (75 per cent for January, 50 per cent for April and 25 per cent for July).

Overseas students applying for 2018 entry should note that annual fees will rise by 4% rounded up to the nearest £100.

View a complete list of all fees for our research programmes.

Funding and studentships

Doctoral College Studentship Award

Supervisor(s) To be confirmed
Application deadline 17 April 2018

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Studentship

Supervisor(s) To be confirmed
Application deadline 18 March 2018
Opportunities across all subjects

January applications for 2018 entry now closed

All applications made for a January start date are for 2019 entry exclusively.

Contact us

Admissions enquiries

+44 (0)1483 682 222

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