• 6 februari
  • Talentgericht

National Professional Doctorate pilot: Emily Huurdeman first candidate within Fontys

Lector Falk Hübner and PD candidate Emily Huurdeman

In the academic world, there are several degrees: bachelor, master and PhD (Doctor of Philosopy). Universities of applied sciences are now getting their own third-level variant: the Professional Doctorate (PD). A national pilot for this, in which Fontys is participating, is currently in progress. Emily Huurdeman is the first PD candidate there. Falk Hübner, lector in Artistic connective practices, supervises her.

In foreign countries, promotions in higher education have existed for some time. In our country, they are new. The main difference between a PD and a PhD is that it involves applied research and a PD does not require the publication of a dissertation/thesis or articles only.

In the national pilot across seven different domains, universities of applied sciences are now investigating how to design such a PD trajectory and whether there is room for PDs in universities of applied sciences. Fontys is participating in the domains Arts and Creative, Health and Welfare and Learning and Professionalisation. In this, Emily Huurdeman has the honour of being the first PD candidate at Fontys.

Emily Huurdeman is an artist, active in performance art, a researcher (she studied artistic research at the University of Amsterdam, among others) and a lecturer at the Fontys Master of Education in Arts. 'Last year, Falk's lectorate called for a proposal for research that would lead to a professional doctorate. I responded to that.'

Artistic Research

Emily will be doing practice-based artistic research over the next four years, with her own art practice being the subject of the research project. 'Ultimately, my research will lead to a portfolio that looks different from a traditional thesis or dissertation. I will keep the amount of text limited. Possibly one or more lecture performances - a kind of cross between a lecture and a performance - or installations will also be part of the portfolio with which I complete my promotion. A hybrid, in other words.'

The fact that the form in which she will report on her research is still open, does not make her uneasy. 'On the contrary, I like the idea. I am writing and giving interactive lectures, and so I am researching what works and what does not. That is not to say that I don't have any direction yet. For example, I have already formulated a central research question.'

Essay in a new form

Emily is conducting research on "essaying as a collective and performative practice". What does that entail? 'We know the essay as a written form, but nowadays you also have video and audio essays. My research focuses on the question of what one does when one is essaying a topic while the final product is not yet fixed. What performative ways emerge then?'

'Furthermore, I am exploring how we can make the process of essaying, traditionally done by people working on their own, collective. Can you essay together too, and if so, how? And does essaying together, where you explore a topic from multiple perspectives, produce new insights? I'm curious about that.'


Although it is a pilot, Emily feels privileged to be one of the first in the Netherlands to go for a professional doctorate. 'What I think is cool, is that I am in a group of PD candidates from all the other art academies and their lectors. This creates a strong network that we can enjoy a lot later on.'

Falk, too, is delighted. 'Rightly so, I think, because what happens in the arts is not inferior to what happens at universities in terms of complexity. The fact that now, there's a third-level track for the arts, I consider as appreciation and recognition for our field.'

Broad development

Emily hopes her PD will take her further in all three areas of her professional activity: as an artist, a researcher and a teacher. 'Until recently, these were three mostly separate pursuits. Within my PD path they come together, allowing me to further develop myself in each of the three disciplines.'

Falk: 'When Emily completes this path, the world will be open to her. Not only because she will have gained a lot of knowledge and skills, but also because she will have built a huge network - and so will her employer, Fontys. People who have obtained doctorates in the arts in recent years have ended up in very nice positions.'

Author and photo: Martin van Rooij