1. General

Within The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the School of Design offers positions for candidates who wish to obtain doctoral degrees in design. Operating within a leading design school in Asia, the PhD programme aims to advance knowledge by producing high-quality research. Situated in Hong Kong, the School brings together Asian and Western knowledge to inform scholarly, technical and critical enquiry. As a centre for both design research and design education, the School of Design welcomes diverse approaches within each of these themes, with various methodologies, practices and theoretical positions, through hypothetico-deductive, interpretive, constructive and artistic research. The PhD programme draws together global scholars to generate, exchange and discuss knowledge and ideas on contemporary questions within the pursuit of advanced academic work.

2. Research Themes

Research at the School of Design is grounded in an understanding of design as a social activity that: [a] involves collaboration and sharing among diverse people, [b] is embedded in societies and cultures, [c] gives expression to ideals and values of society, [d] critically explores and interrogates issues in society and [d] goes beyond the design professions.

Moreover, the School research has gravitated towards exploring these social dimensions of design within three distinct realms:

[a] Design Social (設計社會學): collaborative design with communities to improve their lives through participatory, theoretical and critical approaches

[b] Design Economies (設計經濟學): collaborative design that enhances the role of design in innovation and value creation in the private sector

[c] Design Making (設計製造學): user-centred design investigations with communities and practices of making, such as the “maker movement,” with technological, organizational as well as sociological facets.

This work happens in the School’s research labs:

Asian Lifestyle Design Lab

Asian Ergonomics Design Lab

Creativity and Design Education Lab

Digital Entertainment Lab

Information Design Lab

Interaction Design Lab

Public Design Lab

Each theme is based on the established experience and expertise of the School of Design and its researchers. Each embraces an essential facet of relevant contemporary design research approach.

3. Current PhD Work

Presently the School of Design has around 50 PhD students in the process of conducting research and completing various PhD dissertations. Project titles and focus vary in scope, range and methods used. Descriptions of individual projects can be found here.

4. Period of Study

The PhD track is a 3-year full time [6 years part-time] program. All PhD candidates are expected to fulfil minimum university and faculty requirements, through both required and elective coursework, the completion of original research and the presentation (defence) of an approved dissertation. The process itself involves a supervisory team guiding and assisting PhD students for their entire research process, assessment meetings and scheduled research gatherings facilitated by the School.

Taught coursework consists of two compulsory subjects and one elective subject, each carrying 3 credits. In addition, the PhD requires students to complete 3 Design Seminars (1 credit each), 2 Design Training (Practicum) subjects (1 credit each) and 1 Design Ethics subject (1 credit). Completion of the PhD track requires 15 credits in total (3-year track of PhD study).

For candidates with less experience in design research or who do not hold a postgraduate degree with a significant research component, a 4-year full-time [8 years part-time] period of study is required, with a minimum of 22 credits. For the 4-year track, taught coursework consists of two compulsory subjects and three elective subjects, each carrying 3 credits. In addition the PhD requires students to complete 4 Design Seminars (1 credit each), 2 Design Training (Practicum) subjects (1 credit each) and 1 Design Ethics subject (1 credit).

Indicatively, overall the full-time PhD track is structured in the following manner:

Month 2:  Formal enrolment, first proposal review, feedback, and formal 
appointment of supervisor
Months 12-18:  Completion of required coursework, Confirmation of registration 
Month 36: Thesis submission
Month 42: PhD defence meeting

5. Financing, Supervision and Support

Multiple PhD financing options are possible, as outlined below. Each type of funding has specific application criteria, funding support structures, and submission deadlines. Candidates are advised to study the possible funding schemes in detail and determine what suits their personal situation best. All questions regarding these schemes are to be directed to the funding organization, except where mentioned otherwise.

Funding Scheme 1: University Grants Committee [UGC] Funded Support is a fully funded scheme and includes:

  • Monthly stipend of HK$17,400
  • Allowances for research-related activities. 
  • Students are required to dedicate 6 hours per week in service of the School, for teaching and other scholarly support activities. 
  • More information available at:
  • Starting from 2018/19 academic year, the Government would provide tuition waiver for all local students enrolled in UGC-funded RPg programmes. All local students enrolled in UGC-funded RPg programmes will be provided with tuition waiver. More details available at:

Funding Scheme 2: Hong Kong PHD Fellowship Scheme:

  • Monthly stipend of HK$25,800, based on School Research Committee’s discretion and approval. 
  • Allowances for research-related activities. 
  • [Pre-application requirements: 1 September – 30 November: Applicants should first submit initial applications via RGC’s system to obtain a HKPFS reference number] 
  • More information available at:

Funding Scheme 3: Teaching Postgraduate Studentship (TPS):

  • Monthly stipend of HK$17,400, for a 9-month appointment period. 
  • Half-half financial scheme where half the tuition fees for the first year are covered by the student with the remaining half covered by the School / University.
  • Reviewed for the 2nd and 3rd year of study, based on the availability of funding in line with the research and teaching performance of the candidate. 
  • Inclusive of both limited funds and allowances for research activities. Students may be required to dedicate 17 hours per week for teaching and administrative duties. 
  • More information available at:

Funding Option 4: Self-financed Applications: 

  • Student with adequate funds can apply under the ‘Self financed’ track, within deadline each year. 
  • More information on self-financed application is available at:

Funding Option 5: Other Funding Sources:

  • Depending on their circumstances, applicants may be eligible to apply for sponsorship from other governmental and private scholarships and other funding schemes. Students should inform themselves about what potential schemes might be applicable for them.
  • For application purposes, such students are considered as self-financed (please indicate in the application what governmental / private scholarships / other funding scheme will be used to support your studies)

6. Application Deadlines for the following Schemes: 2 December 2019 (via:

  • Self-financed applications
  • University Grants Committee [UGC] **
  • Hong Kong PHD Fellowship Scheme [submitted to POLYU]
  • Teaching Postgraduate Studentship (TPS)
  • (** All applicants who apply for the PhD UGC-funded study are highly recommended to apply for the Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme which opens for application in September, annually).

7. English Language Requirements for PhD Admission

Applicants who have completed a certified English taught program are eligible for applying for PhD admission without retaking IELTS or TOEFL tests. Applicants falling outside of these requirements should submit all IELTS and TOEFL results with their application.

The requirements for those who do not have a degree for which English was the language of instruction at a recognised university are:

  1. An overall score of at least 6.5 in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS); OR
  2. A Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score of 80 or above for the Internet-based test or 550 or above for the paper-based test.

All English language test scores are considered valid for two years after the date of the test.

8. Getting Started


PhD candidates are advised to identify and contact appropriate PhD supervisors in the School of Design, and discuss intended research proposals before submission of their documents via the online registration process. Potential candidates can expect a first round of feedback as part of this process. Research in the School of Design focuses on specific areas based on existing expertise, per academic discipline, as summarized earlier. Although candidates can express preference of supervisors, the School Research Committee reserves the right to allocate other qualified academic staff members as supervisors based on background, experience, expertise and as a result of a personal interview with the candidate.

Eligible chief supervisors (Aug 2019)



Bruyns, Gerhard

Urban environments, architecture, theory

Bühring, Jörn

Luxury, strategic management, design foresight

Chow, Kenny

Interaction design, design emotion, persuasive design

Choy, Clifford

Interactive technology, systems engineering, human-computer interaction

Coppoolse, Anneke

Everyday life, visual culture, qualitative research

Gutierrez, Laurent

Urban environments, architecture, art

Hasdell, Peter

Urban environments, architecture, social design

Ho, Jeffrey

Human-computer interaction, virtual reality, information architecture, interaction design, digital games

Hoorn, Johan

Social robotics, artificial creativity, affective computing

Lau, Newman

Interaction, UX design for wellbeing, healthcare, sports

Lee, Brian

Product and service design, interactive and tangible experience, intergenerational design, public furniture

Lee, Kun-Pyo

UX design, user-centered design, service design, interaction design, design methods

Lee, Vincie

Advertising design

Liu, Sylvia

Entrepreneurial design management, ecosystem for disruptive innovation, design policy

Luximon, Tina

Ergonomics, product design, human-computer interaction

Ma, Henry

Design education

Maximo, Tulio

Inclusive design, assistive technologies, social design, mobility, service design, ergonomics

Ng, Sandy

Art & design history and theories, visual and cultural studies

Oh, Jae-Eun

Design education, creativity, students’ motivation, animation, animation storytelling, nostalgia, theme park studies

Siu, Michael

Universal design, public facilities, design education

vE, Cedric

Time-based media, sound and music, storytelling

Wei, Huaxin

Interaction design, interactive storytelling, human-computer interaction

Yu, Gino

Digital technology, entertainment, creativity and consciousness

Writing a proposal:

A proposal should consist of no more than 5,000 words (excluding bibliography) structured under the following sections:

  • Project title;
  • Project objectives - no more than 250 words (aims);
  • Main topic and goals (what?);
  • Methodology (how?);
  • Relevance (why?) and co-relations - societal or political relevance; relevance to scholarship, relevance to other disciplines and fields of study;
  • Working plan - 36-month work plan after completion of electives, demonstrating the feasibility of the proposed research;
  • Bibliography;
  • Details of possible external collaboration.

Other supporting documents:

A number of application documents are to be submitted during the official application process as follows:

  • Certificate of the award of Bachelor's degree / Master's degree;
  • Transcript of studies;
  • English language test result;
  • Full Academic Resume;
  • Reports from 2 academic referees (to be submitted by the referees). Please see:

9. Further Information and Enquiries

Students are encouraged to peruse the Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s e-prospectus on Postgraduate Research at

Please direct all questions about PhD education to:
Chair, School Research Committee, c/o Anita Chan, Tel: (852) 3400-8261, via email:

A document about the guidelines on research proposal writing is available on request. Please contact Anita Chan, via email:

Coordinator PhD Intake: G Bruyns, email:

Teaching staff


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