Funded (UK/EU and international students)

Project code



School of Art, Design, and Performance

Start dates

October 2023

Application deadline

6 April 2023

Applications are invited for a fully-funded collaborative four-year PhD to commence in October 2023. 

The PhD will be based in the School of Art, Design and Performance and will be supervised by Professor Deborah Sugg Ryan, Professor Trevor Keeble and Emily Worsdale (Curator of Art, Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery). 

Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for four years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£17,668 for 2022/23). Bursary recipients will also be able to claim up to £1,500 p.a. for project costs/consumables.

The work on this project will:

  • Explore Betty Joel’s collaborative design and making processes, with particular reference to the roles of named furniture makers and clients.
  • Identify the materials used by Joel in the construction of her furniture and interiors.
  • Explore how the styles in which Joel worked can be located in relation to existing theorisations of Modernisms and Art Deco.
  • Offer a placement with Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery and opportunities for others elsewhere.

This collaborative PhD with Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery (PMAG)  will uncover and critically examine the career and works of Betty Joel (born Mary Stewart Lockhart) (1894-1985), a Hong Kong born designer of Scottish heritage. It will focus on the furniture company she formed with her husband David Joel in the wider context of a reassessment of the history of ‘modern’ furniture and  interior design and the role of women designers in Britain. It will be centred on holdings at PMAG and Portsmouth History Centre (PHC), along with the Stewart Lockhart Collection, an archive of her family deposited in the National Library of Scotland containing hitherto unexplored personal and business papers and photographs, together with collections at other international, national and local museums and in private collections.

The project will provide the foundation for a new body of scholarship on Betty Joel and her career by focusing on her design and making processes, use of materials and style. It will equip the post-holder for future curatorial research and make a major contribution to design history by creating a digital catalogue raisonné of Joel’s work. This will identify the whereabouts of objects and papers relating to her collections, including those held by private individuals and dealers, as well as mapping her clients, collaborators, and commissions, many of which have only left traces in the design press or the archives of more famous male architects and designers.

In addition to the PhD thesis, the project will result in a collection of new oral histories stored and made accessible at PHC, and a future exhibition devoted to Joel at PMAG (with potential for touring), to which the student will contribute curation, interpretation, and public engagement events. Placements will also be offered by PMAG and sought elsewhere to enhance the student’s continuing professional development.

Entry requirements


You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

We welcome candidates with a background in: Design History; Architectural History; Art History; Social, Cultural, Public and Women’s History. Experience of working with museums and archive collections and/or oral history would be especially welcome. 

Candidates invited for interview will be expected to submit a sample of written work.




How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Professor Deborah Sugg Ryan ( for further particulars and to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code AD&P8020423 when applying.