Professor Susan Orr

Dean of Learning, Teaching and Enhancement and Professor in Creative Practice Pedagogy

University of the Arts London


Professor Susan Orr is Dean at University of the Arts London. Prior to this, Susan was an Assistant Dean for the Faculty of Arts, Computing, Engineering and Sciences at Sheffield Hallam University. Susan has recently been appointed as a Visiting Professor at Bournemouth University (Centre for Excellence in Media Practice).

Susan studied at University College London and completed a Doctor of Education at the University of London’s Institute of Education. Her thesis Making Marks: the Artful Practice of Assessment in Fine Art explored fine art lecturers’ studio based assessment practices. She has written extensively on the subject of art and design assessment and her more recent work explores various aspects of art and design pedagogy in higher education. Susan is editor for the journal Art, Design and Communication in Higher Education, and on the editorial board of three further journals: Teaching in Higher Education, Writing in Creative Practice and Media Education Research Journal.

Susan is on the Executive of CHEAD (Council for Higher Education in Art and Design) and GLAD (Group for Learning in Art and Design). In 2010, Susan was awarded a Higher Education Academy National Teaching Fellowship. This was awarded in recognition of her teaching, leadership, research and contribution to art and design HE pedagogy.

Research interests

Art and Design teaching and learning, creative practice pedagogy, Higher Education, assessment, collaborative assessment.

Research statement

My doctoral research grew out of my interest in communities of practice in fine art education. I noted that attention was often given to the artefacts of assessment (the learning outcomes and marking criteria) at the expense of understanding or addressing the ways these reified elements were used in practice. As a result, my work offers a close analysis of the assessment practices as lived by its key actors (lecturers and students).

Working from a social constructivist perspective and employing Bourdieu’s work as a theoretical lens I explore narratives of subjectivity and objectivity. My research identifies that lecturers’ assessment discourses interlock and enmesh narratives of identity, process, product and connoisseurship. I offer an account of assessment rigour in Fine Art assessment. 

More recently my interests have widened in scope and I have researched the assessment of creative collaborative group work, the role of reflection in creative practice education and the problematics of the National Student Survey in Art and Design. I have collaborated with Professor Mantz Yorke, Professor Sue Bloxham and others. Underpinning my work is a commitment to researching the pedagogy of ambiguity that lies of the heart of art and design education in HE.

Selected research outputs