Ph.D. Research Programme in the Arts and the Humanities

The information below addresses the most frequently asked questions about the Ph.D. programme. This page has been updated last on 7 May 2015.
a pdf (complete page)

Institution profile

NGL – SAA Neue Galerie Luzern – Swiss Academic Association
P. O. Box 3501, CH-6002 Lucerne – Switzerland
Correspondence: P. O. Box 330, CH-6356 Rigi Kaltbad – Switzerland
President: Dr. phil. René Stettler
Vice-President: Simon Berther
Advisor, Vice-President: Dr. rer. nat. Ulrich Claessen
Tel.: +41 (0) 41 370 38 18 (Office)
E-Mail: info at a Institution profile

The Planetary Collegium and the NGL-Node

22The Planetary Collegium is an international research platform that promotes the integration of art, science, technology, and consciousness research at the doctoral and post-doctoral level. It was established by Roy Ascott at Plymouth University in 2003, building on the earlier Centre of Advanced Inquiry in the Interactive Arts (CAiiA) at the University of Wales. The Planetary Collegium established 4 physical research centres: the CAiiA-Hub at Plymouth, with Nodes in Zurich (Z-Node), Trento, Italy (T-Node), and Cephalonia, Greece (I-Node).

The Neue Galerie Luzern – Swiss Academic Association (NGL – SAA) has created a new Node constituted as the NGL-Node of the Collegium. The NGL-Node is based on the educational model of the Planetary Collegium that has proven its potential and efficacy in producing excellent research outcomes. In 2012 the Collegium won the a World Universities Forum Award for Best Practice in Higher Education. The United Kingdom’s QAA (Quality Assurance Agency) code of practice is an integral part of the NGL research environment and a key measure of its quality in maintaining the high academic standards practised for 20 years in the Collegium.

2NGL – SAA is an academic association and network founded and initiated by the Neue Galerie Luzern and its founder. With three people currently on the Board (Dr. René Stettler; Simon Berther; Dr. rer. nat. Ulrich Claessen, Director Research & Development, Maxon Motor AG, a Swiss-based leading provider of precision drives such as those that drive NASA’s 2004 Mars Exploration Rovers), the NGL – SAA promotes and realises cultural, scientific and future-oriented projects. The association creates thinking and working spaces in order to facilitate the exchange of ideas between science and the arts, and humanities. NGL – SAA is a qualified tax-exempt organisation according to the law of the Canton of Lucerne / Swiss Federal Legislation (§ 70, 1, h, StG / § 56, g, DBG). Donating to NGL – SAA is deductable from the income and corporate income tax respectively (§ 40, 1, i, and § 73, 1, c, StG / § 33a and 59, 1, c, DBG).

The Swiss Biennial on Science, Technics + Aesthetics

The Neue Galerie Luzern presents world class science, arts and cultural events. For over 20 years, the Neue Galerie Luzern and the Swiss Biennial on Science, Technics + Aesthetics have provided a unique interdisciplinary environment for the pursuit of excellence in the sciences, visual arts and the humanities.

The Biennial has been a forum for discussions of major topics such as ‘Brain–Mind–Culture’ (1995), ‘Liquid Visions’ (1997), ‘Frontier Communication: Human Beings, Apes, Whales, Electronic Networks’ (1999), ‘The Enigma of Consciousness’ (2001), ‘Consciousness and Teleportation’ (2005), ‘Consciousness and Quantum Computers’ (2007), and ‘The Large, the Small and the Human Mind’ (Part I in 2010 and Part II in 2012). Among the over a hundred invited speakers were the Austrian-American ecologist Fritjof Capra, the German physicist Hans-Peter Dürr, the Irish-American philosopher Ernst von Glasersfeld, the French sociologist Bruno Latour, the Austrian non-dualist philosopher Josef Mitterer, the British mathematician Sir Roger Penrose, the Austrian-American neuroscientist Karl H. Pribram, the German chaos theorist Otto E. Rössler, and the Austrian quantum physicist Anton Zeilinger.

Advisory board of the Ph.D. programme

Dr. Mark Banks, The Open University, Milton Keynes
Dr. Bob Bishop, President and Founder, ICES Foundation, Geneva
Dr. Fritjof Capra, Center for Ecoliteracy, Berkeley
Stuart Hameroff, M.D., Center for Consciousness Studies, University of Arizona
John Horgan, Center for Science Writings at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken
Prof. Dr. Christina Ljungberg, University of Zurich
Dr. Angela McRobbie, Goldsmiths College, University of London
Dr. Uli Sigg, Sigg Collection, Switzerland
Margaret Wertheim, Institute For Figuring, Los Angeles

a Advisory board

Who does the Ph.D. programme attract?

2Embedded in the quality of the educational work achieved by the Planetary Collegium, Plymouth University, and the objective to promote knowledge of and deep engagement with all aspects of the arts, society and culture, the programme attracts scholars from different fields of cultural practice:

• Curators, art educators, artists, scientists, cultural activists, cultural intermediaries, change agents, designers, and policy-makers in an international context.

• Cultural workers who work as academic experts in science and governance and related areas of philosophy, sociology, geography, cartography, policy analysis and law, as well as stakeholders from the public cultural sector or art and media institutions.

• Artists and mediators who are directly involved in the composing, designing, imagining, interpreting, or manipulating of signs and symbols in order to create music, television programmes, films, art, clothing, graphic designs, images, and other forms of texts.

• Researchers in the arts and social sciences, cultural practitioners from public, profit-oriented or non-profit cultural institutions, cultural networks, galleries, museums and theatres, the performing arts, architecture, and educational institutions.

• Researchers who are interested in the production, spatialisation and dissemination of knowledge which includes ecological, ethical as well as practical philosophical approaches to the risks and opportunities that science and technology entail.

What are the benefits of earning a Ph.D. in the NGL-Node?

2Do you ask yourself: what are the advantages for spending the time and money to earn this advanced degree? We believe that a Ph.D. is more than an earned degree. It is a particular challenging and intellectual engagement. The Ph.D. degree in the Arts and the Humanities from the University of Plymouth, UK, and the Planetary Collegium, is highly valued in all the professional worlds our students move into, and we offer an experience that we believe is real value for money.

• The NGL-Node offers you different advantages. It is not only the natural and quiet environment in the Swiss Alps that you will benefit from as a student and researcher (photograph right: Rigibahnen, View from Rigi Kulm, Mt. Rigi, Central Switzerland). But it is also the intellectual support and hands-on writing advice that we offer you during your studies in this prestigious Ph.D. programme.

• You will start your doctoral work with the goal to engage in a meaningful discourse with like-minded students in order to broaden and deepen your knowledge. As a doctoral candidate you will complete your degree in about four to five years. In order to support you in that progress, we help you to develop your thesis. The NGL-Node practises a style of research that relies on dialogue and discussion with you and your colleagues in the programme. Your insights and the knowledge that you bring into the Node will be further refined in these intellectual encounters.

• Your thesis research progression will be reflected in the Composite Sessions, which are the Sessions of 10 days at regular intervals (3 times/year) when you present your research updates. At the end, as a recipient of the doctoral degree, you will stand out from others because of your research abilities and for being an expert in your field. This field may be the Arts, the Humanities, or the Sciences. In whatever field you will work (in the future you might work for a public or private project, for an NGO or as an activist or change agent), you should be able to articulate and practise what you have learnt.

• The NGL-Node offers you to deepen your knowledge, but it also requires you to learn how to develop solutions and new knowledge for some of the world’s significant problems. Such expertise gained from successfully earning the degree adds credibility to your work. Others will perhaps seek your advice in the future, you will validate their work, or write a book or an article concerning a specific aspect of your area of expertise.

Academic board

2Dr. René Stettler. ED of the NGL-Node and Director of Studies; Supervisor; Director of the Neue Galerie Luzern since 1987; Founder of the Swiss Biennial on Science, Technics + Aesthetics (since 1994). In 2003, he received the Swiss Art Award, Eidgenössischer Wettbewerb für Kunst, from the Swiss Federal Office of Culture. Stettler received his Ph.D. from the University of Plymouth for the thesis The Politics of Post-Industrial Cultural Knowledge Work (2011) under the guidance of Roy Ascott and David Turnbull. His research interests include the theory of cultural work, cultural and scientific learning, the spatialisation and dissemination of knowledge, the construction of public spaces of knowledge for civic reflection, cultural policy, and knowledge politics. His areas of interest are the sociology of knowledge, the socio-epistemological-political responsibility of cultural work, and the social and educational challenges in the face of industrial society’s logic of accumulation, market rationality and instrumentalism. In the past Stettler has supervised many bachelor and master theses at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Lucerne, Switzerland. His book The Politics of Knowledge Work in the Post-Industrial Culture was published in 2014 by Ambra-Verlag, Vienna.

2Prof. Dr. Christina Ljungberg. Supervisor of the NGL-Node; Professor and Lecturer at the University of Zurich. She studied first at Lund University and later at the University of Zurich, where she received her Ph.D. in 1998 and her Habilitation in 2008. She has worked in Cultural Programming with Swedish and Canadian Television and has been teaching English literature at the University of Zurich since 1995 as well as giving workshops to Ph.D. students in writing and publishing in the Humanities at the University of Zurich Graduate Campus. She is the coordinator of the Iconicity Research Project ( together with Prof. Dr. Olga Fischer from the University of Amsterdam, a research partner in the project A Literary Atlas of Europe ( Ljungberg is a member of the Expert group at the Forum for Intermediality Studies, Linnaeus University (, and General Editor of the series “Iconicity in Language and Literature (ILL)” (John Benjamins). She was recently named a Fellow of the Myrifield Institute for Cognition and the Arts ( Her book Creative Dynamics. Diagrammatic strategies in narrative was published in 2012 by John Benjamins Publishing Company, Amsterdam/Philadelphia. Co-Editor with Mario Klarer of Cultures in Conflict / Conflicting Cultures published in 2013 by narr Verlag, Tübingen.


2The Neue Galerie Luzern and the Swiss Biennial on Science, Technics + Aesthetics are distinct cultural Institutions which attract acclaimed scientists, artists and researchers on an international level. Their location is in the City of Lucerne. The NGL-Node is physically located on Mt. Rigi near Lucerne with excellent hotels, for example the Rigi Kulm Hotel on 1752 m (5748 ft) above sea level, the Hotel Edelweiss and the Hotel Rigi Kaltbad. These hotels offer ample space for reunions, sessions, workshops as well as conferences. The NGL-Node’s small institutional setting has great potential to exchange ideas, knowledge and experiences among its students. The Node’s natural environment on Mt. Rigi and the geographical location in the heart of the Swiss Alps provide an exclusive opportunity to work under special conditions surrounded by a spectacular mountain panorama and nature. An exceptional environment for research, contemplation, advanced academic inquiry and dialogic exchange. The name “Rigi” comes from Riginen which is the stratification that is clearly visible on the north-side of the mountain and is one of the identifying characteristics of Mt. Rigi.2 During the early days of tourism in the Alps, it was said that the name came from the Latin Regina montium “Queen of the Mountains”. This is not accurate, however, since the first known use of Riginen dates back to 1384. The oldest known naming of the mountain at all is from 1368: in pede montis riginam (“at the feet of mount Rigina”). Mt. Rigi offers an area for recreation and sports measuring approximately 90 square kilometres (35 sq mi) providing a variety of well-maintained walking trails or mountain hikes with a panoramic view of 150 km (93 mi) from various marked points. dMt. Rigi has been featured in many works of art, including both paintings and literary publications. Perhaps the most famous paintings of the Rigi were by William Turner (1775 – 1851), including “The Blue Rigi, Lake of Lucerne, Sunrise” (Fig. right). Mark Twain also visited Mt. Rigi during his tour of Central Europe in the late 1870s, and wrote about his travels in his “A Tramp Abroad”. Goethe visited Mt. Rigi in 1775. An entry in his diary reveals his enthusiasm: “All around, the splendour of the world”.


Prof. Dr. Christina Ljungberg and Dr. René Stettler conduct the yearly three Composite Sessions. They develop and administer the session programmes, the progression and welfare of the students, and the supervision as required by the University of Plymouth. They act as principal Supervisors. Both are approved by the University of Plymouth. Second Supervisors are appointed from the staff of the University of Plymouth.

All part-time doctoral candidates attend the mandatory ten-day face-to-face Composite Sessions annually over a continuous three-year period. Each session involves three days of individual research updates presented for discussion by the group, a three stage critique by all members of the group in respect of each other’s work, and individual supervisory tutorials. At the conclusion of each Composite Session, candidates submit a Research Update and a Critical Response. Composite Sessions include workshops given by PD Dr. Ljungberg on the subject of Writing and Publishing Research in the Humanities.

Doctoral students are required to submit progress reports to the University of Plymouth, Research Committee, at regular intervals. The NGL-Node implements the Planetary Collegium’s curriculum by maintaining the academic standards, values, principles and the regulations of the University of Plymouth.

A Transfer Report (5,000 words) accompanied by the independent expert commentator’s report, is submitted to support the transfer from M.Phil to full Ph.D. status. After a minimum of four years of research, a candidate is eligible to submit a thesis for final examination, which includes a viva voce examination.

The final submission may consist in either a written thesis of 80,000 words, or a thesis consisting of two parts: a digital portfolio of practical work which has been initiated, researched and developed exclusively within the candidate's registered research period, and a linked narrative of no less than 35,000 words.

Composite sessions and 2015/16 - Application deadlines

The NGL-Node conducts the Composite Sessions currently scheduled for Mt. Rigi near Lucerne in Central Switzerland. The following Sessions are scheduled:

Session Spring 2015 18 – 28 May (Application deadline: 15 March 2015)
Session Fall 2015 21 September - 1 October (Application deadline: 31 July 2015)
Session Winter 2015/16 11 - 21 January 2016 (Application deadline: 15 November 2015).

Admission policy

Admission decisions are subject to the approval of the Academic Board of the University. Applicants should submit a statement of purpose based on individual research interests. Applicants eligible for admission to the NGL-Node meet the following requirements stipulated in the Planetary Collegium’s regulations:

• mid-career artists, educators, cultural intermediaries and scientists whose work and curriculum have a distinctive, transdisciplinary inquiry-based focus
• relevant professional and research experience
• an articulate personal statement
• the ability to submit a written thesis proposal demonstrating the capability of undertaking scientific research
• excellent skills in the English language (written and oral)

The Ph.D. Programme is committed to considering a broad diversity of disciplines in the Arts, the Humanities and the Sciences. It provides an educational environment that not only leads to the accumulation of knowledge and intellectual skills, but also shapes the personality of the individual leading to a change of attitude and judgment.

There are currently 57 part-time M.Phil./Ph.D. students enrolled with the Planetary Collegium and Plymouth University. 34 students have received a Ph.D. from the University of Plymouth with the Planetary Collegium since its inception in 1994.


The NGL-Node accepts applications any time during the year. Each applicant is required to submit the application form to both the NGL-Node and Plymouth University. The application form can be downloaded here a.

You will first need to write a statement of purpose of no more than 600 words in length. The Academic Board is interested in your statement of purpose. You are asked to write a short essay and provide a clear sense of your intellectual and academic background/plan as well as preparation for doctoral study.

Two letters of recommendation from persons familiar with your work and your capacity to do doctoral study in the Arts and the Humanities are also required. In your curriculum you should list your educational background and the colleges or universities you have attended. International students must present authoritative evidence of competence in the English language to pursue a course of doctoral study.

We also need a writing sample of 2,500 words, for example a research paper reflecting your scholarly and critical abilities. It should show how you address and resolve an intellectual problem using either your own research data or other sources. None of these requirements can be waived.

Important: Please send your statement of purpose (pdf) and writing sample (pdf) before the full application form to the Director of the NGL-Node at stettler at We will contact you within 10 days by e-mail.

Applicants will be contacted by the Director of the NGL-Node in order to conduct an oral conversation via skype. You will be notified by e-mail as soon as the Academic Board reaches a decision.

As a future student of the NGL-Node you will be a fully Plymouth University registered student. Plymouth University has been ranked among the global elite of higher education for the quality of its research across a number of scientific fields. The 2014 QS World University Rankings by Subject show Plymouth among the top 100 universities in the world for the quality of its Geography research, in the top 150 for Earth and Marine Sciences and in the top 200 globally for the Environmental Sciences. a Plymouth University Research Degrees Handbook

Tuition and costs

2The NGL-Node is financed through Bench Fees which Ph.D. candidates pay together with the regular yearly University of Plymouth tuition fee (see right). UoP tuition fees can be seen on this page. Doctoral students will register for the Plymouth Ph.D. at an agreed date (normally, January, April or October of any given year).

UoP tuition fees will be 4 years of fee and then 2 years of writing-up fee (if required). For EU and Swiss students, this amount will increase a little each year. It is currently GBP 2,420 for the 2014/15 academic year.

2For an International / Overseas student the fee for the first 4 years will remain the same each year as the fee level is pegged at the year of entry for International / Overseas students. At present this is GBP 7,000 per year and the writing-up fee is GBP 250 per year charged by UoP as well as CHF 350 per year charged by the NGL-Node (for Swiss / EU and International / Overseas students).

For post-docs joining the Ph.D. programme, UoP currently charge a flat-rate of GBP 1,500 per year and CHF 2,900 per year is charged by the NGL-Node regardless of whether the person is Swiss / EU or International / Overseas.

Because NGL – SAA is a public institution, the Ph.D. programme is not able to offer financial aid. The NGL-Node can provide a list of funding opportunities upon request. The Director of the NGL-Node should be addressed directly to obtain the list.


The students cover the accommodation costs and travelling expenses for the sessions in Switzerland on their own. Reasonably priced group bookings are negotiated by the ED of the NGL-Node. In the Hotel Edelweiss accomodation amounts to CHF 150 for a single room, and to CHF 130 for a double room per person including a rich Swiss breakfast and dinner (half-pension). The Hotel Edelweiss serves excellent high-quality Swiss food from the region of Mt. Rigi and Lucerne. The food comes from nearby farms which produce under organic and sustainable conditions. dIn 2the village of Rigi Kaltbad, there is a number of rooms available for CHF 60 per night and person (bed and breakfast), for example in the Hostel Be und Mee. Be und Mee rents out an apartment (photograph left) with a kitchen for 4 people (4 beds) located in the Hostel. The apartment costs CHF 437 for one student and the entire Composite Session (10 days) including breakfast under the condition that 4 students will rent the apartment together.

Global interdisciplinary relationships

2The Myrifield Institute for Cognition and the Arts promotes collaboration among researchers engaged in exploring the role of the arts in the development of human cognition. The Institute invites inquiries from small groups of scholars and artists pursuing research in human cognition and the fine and performing arts who seek a secluded setting for discussion of issues, problems, and future directions.

Bank details

Verein NGL – SAA
Luzerner Kantonalbank
Pilatusstrasse 12
CH-6002 Luzern – Switzerland
IBAN CH54 0077 8194 2357 1200 1
Clearing-Number 00778