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Art & Design: History, Practice & Theory (UOA32)

Meet the Institute of Arts

The University of Cumbria's historic legacy heralds from the Cumbria Institute of the Arts, which itself traces its origins to the formation of the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts in 1822, and the Carlisle College of Art, from 1950. The Carlisle campus of the Cumbria Institute of the Arts, joined with St Martin’s College and the Cumbrian campuses of UCLAN to become The University of Cumbria in 2007. Research within the ‘Institute of the Arts’ encompasses fine art, photography, visual arts, English literature and creative writing. It leans heavily on a common thread of ‘place’, rooted in the distinctiveness of Cumbria and the North West, but reaching to, and informing connected discourses on an international stage.

The Arts Research Initiative (ARI) facilitates research, and was established to “develop the profile, awareness and the understanding of arts, media and humanities scholarship, practice and research within the Institute of the Arts, the University and beyond”. Researchers are also members of the Centre for National Parks and Protected Areas. Collectively, research in this discipline is across five themes. 

Research Themes


Encultured and Political Landscapes

Speculative Mythologies of Spaces and Places

Human Non-Human Interactions

Cultural Landscapes


17% of our research outputs are ‘world leading’ (4*) and 50% are ‘internationally excellent’ (3*)

75% of our research impact is ‘internationally excellent’ (3*)

25% of our research is ‘internationally excellent’ (3*)

Impact Case Studies

Impact is integral to our research; ensuring that it delivers benefits beyond academia with a reach extending to international recognition. The location of the Centre for National Parks and Protected Areas in Ambleside offers a unique opportunity to explore cultural landscapes and the interactions between humans and nature. This enables public lectures on literary topics and contributions to major events, such as ‘Words By The Water’ literary festival, and engagement with an Arts Council funded ‘Changing Culture Programme'. Internationally, our work has been exhibited/screened at the UN Headquarters in New York, Fifth Annual Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival, Audrey Love Gallery, Miami, and has been featured in the Financial Times, BBC Futures, and on BBC Radio 4, ITV Border, and BBC Look North.  

Two ‘impact case studies’ were submitted to REF2021, with details below.

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Professor Robert Williams' artworks and associated exhibitions have influenced new policies and guidance on using arts to warn future civilisations of nuclear dangers. 

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Impact Case Study 1

Our Staff Continued

John Darwell - Reader, Photography

Jane Topping - Associate Professor, Fine Art

A student stands in front of their landscape photography.

Arts Research Initiative

Founded on a proud history stretching back almost 200 years, our Institute of Arts undertakes various research projects each year. 

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