Two silhouetted figures looking at an artwork on the wall of a gallery, glowing orange and green colours in a circular target-shaped form

Photo © Rikard Österlund

Application deadline: 11 June 2021
Start date: 1 October 2021
Supervisors: Professor Ben Walmsley (Director of Centre for Cultural Value), Dr Sarah Feinstein (School of Performance, University of Leeds) and Jude Comyn (Head of Audience Insight, Tate)

Through an in-depth case study of Tate, this research project will explore what it means to be an online/digital visitor to, and audience member of, an art gallery or museum in the 2020s.

This project will be jointly supervised by Professor Ben Walmsley (Director of Centre for Cultural Value), Dr Sarah Feinstein (School of Performance, University of Leeds) and Jude Comyn (Head of Audience Insight, Tate) and the student will be expected to spend time at both the University of Leeds and Tate, as well as becoming part of the wider cohort of CDP funded students across the UK. The studentship can be either full or part-time.

Project overview

The aim of this project is to explore the benefits and challenges of engaging audiences of 21st-century museums with art via digital technologies, specifically the potential of digital technologies to deepen and diversify audience engagement. Through a comprehensive literature review and an extended case study of Tate, this project will address issues such as the current difficulties visual arts organisations face in deploying digital engagement to facilitate networked or many-to-many engagement. This project defines ‘digital’ as the variety of remote channels (website, social channels and e-comms) and the variety of digital content that is disseminated through these channels, whether that be digitised archives, digitised artworks, events or docu-films of exhibition walk-throughs, for example.

The project will explore the competing notions of the role of the digital to impact on the audience experience. It will do this through developing a better understanding of Tate within the digital realm and its role in the lives of visitors, potential visitors and cultural consumers who cannot visit. This studentship would work closely with the Audience Insight and Digital teams to review all existing ‘desk’ insight into the cultural digital realm. This would build on the dedicated research which has been conducted on Tate Kids, Uniqlo Tate Lates (digital version), Late @ Tate Britain (digital version) and some insight gathered about Tate Collective/16-24 use of digital cultural consumption and historic digital segmentation.

Potential research questions include:

  1. What particular qualities of engagement with the visual arts leave a positive and enduring impression on a visitor? How are these impacts affected by digital platforms and engagement?
  2. What are the differences between live and digital engagement with art and what constitutes impactful digital engagement?
  3. What are the implications of this for audience engagement practice and income generation in contemporary galleries and museums? What are the specific implications for Tate?

How to apply

Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through Leeds University’s website. Please state clearly in the research information section that the research degree you wish to be considered for is Digital Engagement with Visual Art in the 21st-century Museum: A Case Study of Tate as well as Professor Ben Walmsley as your proposed supervisor.

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University's minimum English language requirements (below).

We welcome applications from all suitably qualified candidates, but UK Black and minority ethnic (BME) researchers are currently under-represented in our postgraduate research community, and we would therefore particularly encourage applications from UK BME candidates. All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit.

Entry requirements

Applicants should ideally have or expect to receive a relevant Master’s-level qualification or be able to demonstrate equivalent experience in a professional setting. Suitable disciplines are flexible, but might include Art History, Arts Management, Museum Studies or Data Analytics.

Applicants must be able to demonstrate an interest in the visual arts and museums sectors and potential and enthusiasm for developing skills more widely in related areas, such as audience engagement, digital heritage, social media analysis and other forms of data analytics.

As a collaborative award, students will be expected to spend time at both the University of Leeds and the Tate.

Please note, all applicants must meet UKRI terms and conditions for funding. For more information, please see

English language requirements

The minimum English language entry requirement for research postgraduate study is an IELTS of 6.5 overall with at least 6.0 in each component (reading, writing, listening and speaking) or equivalent. The test must be dated within two years of the start date of the course in order to be valid. Some Schools, such as the School of Media and Communications, have a higher requirement.

Funding on offer

CDP Doctoral Training Grants fund full-time studentships for 45 months (3.75 years) or part-time equivalent. The studentship has the possibility of being extended for an additional 3 months to provide professional development opportunities, or up to 3 months of funding may be used to pay for the costs the student might incur in taking up professional development opportunities.

Awards will pay fees at the full University rate and a maintenance grant (£15,609 in 2021/22). The award also provides a £1,550 annual CDP enhancement. Awards may be taken up on a part-time basis if a student is eligible to undertake part-time study; international applicants may be required to study full-time by the terms of their visa.

The award pays tuition fees up to the value of the full-time home UKRI rate for PhD degrees. Research Councils UK Indicative Fee Level for 2021/22 is £4,500.

Further details can be found on the UKRI website

The student is eligible to receive an additional travel and related expenses grant during the course of the project courtesy of Tate worth up to £1,000 per year for 3.75 years (45 months).

Contact details

For further information please email the Leeds University Graduate School Office at