Research Strategy

The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance (formerly the Irish World Music Centre) was established 21 years ago as a research centre.  Since then the Academy has grown into a large academic performing arts centre, offering degrees at all levels. However, research is still central and vital to its mission.  Currently the Academy is home to 20 faculty, actively engaged in research at every level and in many different contexts, in a new state-of-the-art building, designed for performing arts based research.  The Academy is entirely committed to the development of new knowledge – academic, performative and socially engaged. It is now the leading research centre for performing arts in Ireland, with a recognised significant international impact.  Since its inception, the Academy has been particularly successful in attaining significant resources for its development from institutional, governmental and philanthropic sources.

This research strategy is developed to highlight the relevance of the Academy’s research to the institutional research strategic plan Excellence and Impact 2020 – Research and Innovation Strategy for the University of Limerick (2015).  It proposes inclusive structures for the further development of innovation and research at the Academy, as well as the means to advocate for the Academy’s main practices as research.

Cornerstones of Research and Innovation

There are currently more than 20 permanent faculty at the Irish World Academy, all of whom are research active.  There are also 5 support staff, essentially involved in the support of research at the Academy (one is currently a PhD student at the Academy, while another is a recent PhD graduate from CSIS, Faculty of Engineering and Science).  The Academy has over 40 PhD students, housed in their own central space.  The Academy is committed to equal opportunity, with the majority of staff and students at nearly every level being female.  Staff are given substantial support towards creating research outputs, both traditional and performative.  All outputs, but most notably the latter, are facilitated by world class performing facilities, as well as a critical mass of performers and artists-in-residence.  The research activities of the Academy are intrinsically multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinary and multi-modal.  Current research specialisations include:

  • Arts and health
  • Chant studies and performance
  • Community music
  • Composition/choreography
  • Contemporary dance
  • Vocal practices
  • Musicology
  • Ethnochoreology
  • Festive arts
  • Historical keyboard studies and performance
  • Music therapy
  • Pedagogy
  • Performance studies
  • Popular music studies
  • Ritual studies
  • Traditional music and dance studies/performance
  • Dance studies
  • Contemporary practice
  • Cultural policy and performing arts industries


Current research collaborations include units from within all four faculties of the University of Limerick.  Recent cross institutional research initiatives have been developed with Mary Immaculate College, Limerick; Trinity College, Dublin; Burren College of Art, National University of Ireland, Galway; University College, Cork; Notre Dame University; Charles University – to name just a few.  The Academy has also engaged in research based activities with governmental organisations such as the Irish Arts Council and many professional organisations such as the International Council for Traditional Music.  Also, research is ongoing with several community organisations, such as Doras Luimní and the Irish Chamber Orchestra’s Sing Out with Strings programme.


Research Strengths – Critical Mass


As well as having a vibrant and active community of taught MA students, there are currently more than 40 research postgraduate students at the Academy.  Approximately half of these are on the structured PhD in Arts Practice programme, while the others are engaged in traditional thesis-based research.  The profiles of Academy research students reflect strong Academy specialisms.  Many PhD graduates have gone on to hold significant positions in diverse educational and artistic pursuits, including several working in third level institutions in Ireland and internationally (e.g., Department of Music, UCC; School of Creative Arts and Technologies, University of Ulster; Waterford Institute of Technology; St Patrick’s College, DCU; De Montfort University; Boston University; York St. John University; Newcastle University; University of Leeds; Cork Institute of Technology).

However, it is not just the quantity of research produced at the Academy that is significant – its quality, as well as its multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinarity is also noteworthy.  Academy faculty produce impact-focused research outputs, such as those associated with SAUL (the School of Architecture at UL) and the Kemmy Business School; and LimerickSoundscapes Project, involving academics from the Department of Sociology and Media and Communication Studies, Mary Immaculate College.  Niche and emerging areas, such as that promoted by the recently established TradSong cluster, involving both faculty and PhD researchers, are also supported by the rich research environment of the Academy.  Following on from its already considerable record with IRC scholarships, both for PhD and postdoctoral students, four doctoral students (2015) and two doctoral students (2016) were awarded Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarships by the IRC, including some of the first awardees in the area of the performing arts.

The research portfolio of the Academy has expanded dramatically in recent years as the Academy continues to develop.  Its excellence in terms of research and innovation is internationally recognised.


Research Strengths – Addressing Common Research Questions

Culture of Inquiry

The Irish World Academy is informed at every level of teaching and research by a shared culture of inquiry. Working within different disciplinary perspectives – including, but not limited to, music therapy, ethnomusicology, music education, ethnochoreology and ritual studies – common research questions across the Academy include arts and health, questions of identity in a globalized and multicultural world, and innovation and development within creative practice. These shared research questions underpin and inform the disciplinary research culture within the Academy, facilitating the development of research outputs such as publications, performances and conferences. The importance of common research questions within the Academy also allows it to collaborate effectively on these questions with external stakeholders, evident in the strong research partnerships that currently exist in the areas of arts and health, and arts and human rights. As outlined below, this shared culture of inquiry also informs a culture of methodological innovation, explored and developed through teaching, learning and research practices.


Research with a global impact

The common research questions explored by faculty, staff and students at the Academy have a global impact. Issues of identity formation and expression, the function and processes of creativity, and human rights and health are deeply embedded within individual research practices, but engage with research and policy processes far beyond the disciplines represented within the Academy. The research resulting from this environment plays a necessary role within broader discourses of multicultural societies in a globalized world.  As such it can contribute to ideas of radicalized or connected identities, processes of improvisation and creativity in business and STEM developments, and policy formation addressing global human rights and health challenges. These connections are explicitly explored, welcomed and proactively developed by faculty, staff and student research at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance.


Driving Methodological Innovation

Further to addressing common research questions, the Irish World Academy is widely recognized as a leader in methodological innovation, advancing challenging and new perspectives on a range of subjects and research questions. Central to this culture of methodological innovation and advancement is the strong disciplinary research culture existing within the Academy, where common research questions are continually addressed and explored from a range of perspectives, across faculty, staff and students. Regular seminars, featuring visiting leading researchers from across the disciplines represented within the Academy, also support this vibrant research culture. The global reputation of the Academy for leading methodological innovation is evident in the fact that it established the first MA research programmes across a number of disciplines, including the MA in Irish Traditional Dance Performance, the MA Ritual Chant and Song, and the MA Festive Arts, as well as the pioneering undergraduate programmes in Irish Music and Dance, BA Voice and Dance and the new BA in Performing Arts. The structured PhD in Arts Practice is widely recognized as a leader within this sphere of research, and the impact of this shared, globally-connected and supportive research culture is evident across faculty research outputs, as well as in the MA and PhD theses and research work produced by students.


Research Strengths – A Significant and Sustained Body of Research Inputs and Outputs


The Irish World Academy has achieved more international and national funding than any other institute of performing arts education in Ireland.  Approximately €12 million from privately raised funding has been invested over the last 20 years in physical infrastructure, library and a/v resources, as well as specialist academic staffing to support research and teaching at the Academy.  The Arts Council has invested over €11.5 million in supporting artists-in-residence, an especially important investment for the development of arts practice research. Toyota Ireland invested approximately €6.5 million in commissions, compositions, choreographies, artists-in-residence and arts-based research. Approximately €0.5 million HEA funding for research based activities under the Nomad and Sanctuary initiatives  as well as c €100,000 for media-based promotion (eg. TG4 comisssions) and c €40,000 from Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for Academy publications and commissions have also assisted the production of research and an international profile for the Academy.



Research Outputs

A survey of the research outputs of the majority of faculty at the Irish World Academy in the period September 2015 to January 2017 indicates a broad and substantial range of outputs.

Articles 25
Books 3
Edited Collections 3
Recordings 3
Research Led Performances 79
Film 4
Curated performances / exhibitions 4
Compositions / choreographies 18
Reviews 8
Conference papers 22
Exhibition Catalogues / performance paper 2
Total 171


Additionally, these faculty directly support and supervise the body of over 40 curent PhD students, all of whom are creating research outputs across just as broad a spectrum of modes.  Many of these research outputs have direct and immediate translational impact across a number of local, national and global contexts.


Research Strengths – Irish World Academy Research Strategy

Attracting International Students

The Irish World Academy has a global reputation. This has been achieved by producing unique world class programmes, and by the commitment, research excellence and pedagogical skills of the Academy’s internationally recognised faculty to provide an outstanding student learning experience.  This combination contributes to attracting an international and domestic student body.  Approximately one quarter of Academy’s research graduates are from outside Ireland, as are nearly half of its current research students.


Unique Programmes

Many of the programmes at the Irish World Academy are the first of their kind in the world and are therefore attractive to many international students. These include the Masters programmes in Irish Traditional Dance Performance, Irish Traditional Music Performance, Irish Dance Studies, Irish Music Studies, Community Music, and Festive Arts. The Academy’s two undergraduate programmes – Irish Music and Dance and Voice and Dance, are also both unique within a global context, as is the new BA in Performing Arts, in vision structure and content. Other niche programmes include the MA Ethnochoreology, MA Ethnomusicology, MA Ritual Chant and Song, MA Contemporary Dance Performance, MA Classical String Performance, MA Music Therapy, and a Professional Masters and MA in Education (Music). All these programmes make the Academy a world class centre of excellence for learning, research and performance, where scholars and performers, performing scholars, and scholar performers, are equally respected and nurtured. The Academy promotes a culture of creative exploration and innovation, while also honouring music, song and dance practices of the past. This ethos continues to attract an international and domestic student body.


Irish World Academy Faculty

The faculty at the Irish World Academy attract international and domestic students. The faculty are committed to research, informed and creative innovation, and teaching.

The ethos of the Academy, to develop academic and practice-based research, has enabled faculty to produce research of international standing. The dissemination of this research has assisted in establishing a culture of excellence and impact for the Academy . The faculty are experts in their respective fields and are open and committed to creative innovation, to multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinary collaboration and to providing outstanding student learning experiences.

Student Learning Experiences

Many opportunities are offered to students to engage in their field and gain valuable insights and experience.  One example is the opportunity for students on the MA Ethnochoreology to participate in a 10-day intensive Erasmus programme at the University of Trondheim, Norway, from 2003 to 2013.  On completion students were awarded 7 ECTS credits. These students engaged with Masters and Doctoral students from ten other European universities and were taught by international professors and lecturers. Also, students on the undergraduate programmes have the opportunity to learn from, and to perform with, world class performers. These unique opportunities provide memorable pedagogical and performing experiences and assist in enhancing the leading reputation of the Irish World Academy, as well as in attracting international students.

Irish World Academy International Student Body

Together with the international student body in the undergraduate and Masters programmes, the Irish World Academy is attractive to doctoral researchers – academic and practice-based in music, song, dance and other performance practices.  These doctoral students seek out the Irish World Academy because of its global reputation as a leader in these fields and because of the expertise and international reputation of its faculty. The ethos of the Academy, and its  extra-curricular opportunities – weekly seminars, lunchtime concerts, and engagement and collaboration with other postgraduate students from multidisciplinary fields – together with artists-in-residence and visiting professors and tutors, makes it a unique and exciting environment for international doctoral students.

Irish World Academy Visiting Scholars and Performers

The Irish World Academy, since its inception, has always sought to integrate its activities into a global research community.  Weekly research events such as the series of Tower and Logos seminars have brought several researchers from across the globe to the University of Limerick.  Performance events, such as the three weekly lunchtime concerts, have also brought a world of peformance practice to UL.  These events, built into curricula throughtout the entire spectrum of Academy programmes, have played a significant role in the creation of an international culture of research at the Academy, where staff and students evaluate and measure their outputs in a global context.

There are many other research strengths promoted and displayed by the Academy.  These include, but are not limited to, faculty involvement with:

  • Extensive utility of Erasmus/teaching mobility opportunities
  • National and international networking and associated posts
  • National and international Editorial Board membership
  • Company Boards
  • Various state, semi-state and private evaluation panels
  • Arts Council Peer Review Panels
  • Invited Policy Consultation with institutions such as the Dept of Education & Skills
  • International External Examination
  • Invited performances/lectures – Visiting professorships & lectureships


Irish World Academy Strategic Supports for Research

The Irish World Academy provides solid and consistent support for a culture of enquiry amongst faculty and research students.  It provides budgetary supports for developing research through the following devices:

  1. An annual budget of €500 to Academy staff to promote their research activities (subventing cost for attending conferences, symposia etc., as well as publication)
  2. An annual budget of €300 to Academy research students to promote their research activities (subventing cost for attending conferences, symposia etc., as well as publication)
  3. Budgetary support for faculty of up to €500 per event for the organisation of research seminars at the Irish World Academy (Tower and Logos series)
  4. Support for practice based research through the Academy Artist initiative
  5. Academy Building as a physical resource is a vital strategic support for research, providing a phsyical and technological intrastructure at a world-class standard.



Research Strengths – National and International Reputation


Faculty, artists and students at the Academy are internationally recognised as world leaders on a global stage. Artists-in-residence, the Chieftains, have won six Grammys over the course of their career; two doctoral students from the Academy have been involved in productions nominated for a Grammy and a Tony award; three of the lead dancers in Riverdance have conducted postgraduate research at the Academy; the undergraduate cohort includes the current World Champion Irish Dancer; a faculty member was recently elected an Honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music.

On a national level, an Academy composer-in-residence was elected a member of Aosdána; the Founder-Director of the Academy has served as Chair of Culture Ireland for nine years, with a budget of over €40 million for Irish arts abroad; a member of faculty has served as Chair of the Arts Council Working Group on Arts and Education and another has served as Founder-Chair of the National Dance Archive of Ireland.

The Academy’s reputation has led to one of the highest proportions of international students in UL, as well as in performing arts nationally, attracting students from over 50 countries worldwide. The Academy has also achieved the highest national level of Irish Research Council funding for arts practice research to date.


The Academy has contributed to the development of performing arts programmes (particularly in the traditional arts) at the University of Newcastle, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Aberystwyth University. It has also contributed to the development of traditional arts education globally, through its contributions to ASEF (Asia-Europe Foundation) for culture and PASMAE (Pan African Society for Musical Arts Education).


Maintaining and Developing Research Activities

The Irish World Academy is determined to maintain and develop its own traditions and activities, supporting and developing research.  It will continue to host large numbers of academics, performers and research events (conferences, symposia, festivals, etc.) of local, national and international significance.  It will continue to promote itself as one of the key centres of research excellence in the areas of music, dance and festival, nationally and internationally.  It will also continue to engage in, and strengthen, research with translational impact in areas of arts and society, arts and health, and creativity and innovation, and use methods such as artists-in-residence, artistic commissions, and community engagement, to build on its reputation as one of the most internationalised units at the University of Limerick.


The Academy is actively building an infrastructure for research through the recognition and institution of research clusters. It is also committed to the creation of cross-campus aligned research clusters where the Academy is a partner or lead-partner, particulary in the development of translational ethical research outputs.  Current initiatives founded, chaired or engaged by Academy faculty include:


  • Arts and Health Research Cluster
  • ETHNOS Research Cluster
  • Immigration and Integration Research Cluster
  • Ionad na Cruite – Irish Harp Research Cluster
  • Irish Traditional Dance Research Cluster
  • Performing Arts Practice Research Cluster
  • Singing and Social Inclusion Research Cluster
  • TradSong Research Cluster
  • Popular Music and Popular Culture Research Cluster
  • Soundscapes


University Vision / Academy Goals

Excellence and Impact 2020 states:

By 2020, the University of Limerick will be internationally recognised as a research-led institution that delivers excellent research with impact, fosters a research ethos that provides an outstanding student learning experience and is globally connected in addressing societal and economic challenges. (2015, p.12)

To this end, the University characterises this strategy with these strategic goals – Research Excellence; Impact; People and Ecosystem; International Reach.  This document up to now has demonstrated how the research activities of the Academy have excelled and flourished and it is  anticipated that the Academy will continue to develop these activities.  The Academy will launch new initiatives to realise and concretise the goals of Excellence and Impact in the following ways.

Research Excellence

  • Provide supports (training, information) for effective dissemination of research in high-ranking and prestige publications
  • Develop appropriate and genre sensitive methods of evaluating research that strays from University norms, looking to international standards and models
  • Provide training for performing arts specific research productivity
  • Identify inhibiting factors for research quantity and quality throughout the Academy and develop strategies to diminish their effect
  • Develop inclusive research clusters that encourage engagement across the Academy, as well as within the University and wider research communities
  • Develop mechanisms for seed funding / financial support
  • Develop mechanisms for grant application support
  • Develop mechanisms for teaching and administrative support for faculty in critical periods of research output development
  • Provide training for capacity building in multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinarity
  • Develop a three-year funding plan for postgraduate research scholarships. Build on the distinctiveness of the Stepping Stones initiative (supporting students from culturally rich but economically poor areas) to increase support for students from parts of the world under-represented in Irish higher education
  • Develop strategies and supports for faculty to engage in research enhancing projects (eg. international conference organisation, editorial work, etc.)
  • Evaluate multi-modal research that is redefining university norms, in dialogue with and leading in generating, international standards and norms.



  • More strategically align Academy research activities with the wider arts world, in particular government and international agencies
  • Develop the relationship between research activities and Academy outreach
  • Develop the presence of research activities on the web
  • Develop data-bases of impact case studies for multi-modal research practices
  • More actively present Academy activities as research and research outputs, where appropriate
  • Develop strategies for translating community engagement through research, whose impact can be disseminated beyond the immediate project
  • Develop strategic, publishable opportunities to highlight the impact of this approach to research on teaching and learning at the Academy
  • Develop strategic, publishable opportunities around teaching methodologies and performing arts and creative research
  • Continue to engage in, and strengthen, research with translational impact from the Academy in areas such as arts and society, arts and health, and creativity and innovation.
  • Advocate for the recognition of Performing Arts and Arts Practice research within the University, nationally and internationally.

People and Ecosystem

  • Promote diversity and equality as key priorities, indicators of success and positive development within the research environment of the Irish World Academy
  • Encourage the development of new research PhDs, postdoctoral and research fellow positions within the Irish World Academy through funded research projects at national and international levels
  • Continue to attract high calibre Masters students to taught Masters programmes through funded or partially funded scholarships
  • Invest in the continuous professional and scholarly development of faculty through targeted supports by applying for appropriate research schemes, fellowships, residencies and funds, and by providing adequate administrative and teaching support in order to facilitate ongoing development
  • Continue to invest in and host national and international symposia/conferences across the fields of research represented at the Academy, and on methodologies emerging through this research
  • Develop on-line streaming and an on-line archive of audio and audiovisual material emerging from research activities at the Academy, making this available to a wider audience, nationally and internationally
  • Proactively create space for reflection and writing/ performing/ recording within the work environment of the Academy, and to privilege research time and space within the structures and systems of the academic year
  • Actively link teaching and research, to promote a vibrant research environment that connects undergraduates with faculty research, and explores the resulting teaching practices and innovation in teaching methodologies, as a key field of research
  • Further foster and support the inception of research clusters and centres within the Academy and their engagement with multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinary collaboration.


International Reach

  • Develop funding initiatives such as Stepping Stones to attract more international students to the Academy from under-represented parts of the world
  • Actively seek to host international conferences at the Academy
  • Encourage networking and international consortia
  • Support faculty in exploring international funding opportunities
  • Proactively support international research collaborations within the Academy
  • Actively support the presentation of research from the Academy in a wide range of international contexts.

Manifesting and Supporting the Strategy

  • Develop an Academy infrastructure for research; develop and protect the role of Chair of RAP as an advocate for research at the Academy
  • A bi-annual series of events, seminars, lectures supporting research at the Academy which will strategically target University, national and international initiatives and resources for Academy researchers
  • Develop a research Sharepoint portal for resources and information
  • Replacement of current automatic entitlements for research support for a more competitve system with larger rewards
  • Develop an extra budget for research development
  • Develop structual links with the Research Office and Graduate School.
  • Greater faculty engagement with University research structures (ULRIS etc.).
  • 6-month strategy for a draft document evaluating research at the Academy
  • Develop pathways to research among undergraduate and taught Masters students
  • Promote research Masters as a pathway into further research
  • Ensure that research remains a primary element of all Academy activities
  • Actively target at least one international event in the core research strengths listed for the Academy in the next three years




The preceding goals will inform all aspects of the proposed timeline for the development of the Academy research strategy as outlined below.

Year 1 (2017-18)


–       Establish a competitive and outcome-focused system of applying for research funding at the Academy (Action: DG)

–       10% increase of accountable staff research outputs (Action: Faculty)

–       Establish a centralised support mechanism for PhD students and early career researchers, to assist them in publishing (Inbhear)

–       Host one major international conference (ICTM World Conference).

–       Promote research clusters (web etc.) (Action: RAP, Performing Arts Coordinator)

–       Promotional strategy for research at the Academy (web, paper etc.) (Action: RAP, Performing Arts Coordinator)

–       Formalise and promote research student scholarships and fee-waivers (Action: DG)

–       Faculty engagment with ULRIS (Action: Faculty)

–       Establish a working group for the accountable, structured and comprehensive recognition of Arts Practice research outputs (Action: DG, Programme Coordinator Arts Practice PhD)

–       Develop further structured PhD programmes (Action: Faculty / DG)

–       Academy engagement with UL Engage in presenting Academy outreach as research where appropriate (Action: Faculty)

–       Implement a policy for teaching and admin support for faculty in critical periods of research output development (Action: DG)

–       Represent research clusters as entities on Academy website.

–       Establish annual ‘Themester’ event, i.e. one theme per semester – an interdisciplinary, collaborative pilot event with a focus on legacy (action: RAP)

–       Develop a structure for short impact appraisals for Academy outputs.

Year 2 (2018-19)


–       Further 10% increase of accountable staff research outputs (Action: Faculty)

–       Establish further support systems within the Academy, facilitated by RAP, including targeted information sessions (Academy ‘Away-Days’, CoG etc.) and peer reviewing for applications (Action: RAP)

–       Further develop  a centralised support mechanism for PhD students and early career researchers, to assist them in publishing (Inbhear)

–       Host one major international conference (Action: Faculty).

–       Report of the working group for Arts Practice research outputs (Action: DG, Programme Coordinator Arts Practice PhD)

–       Commence a structured PhD Programme (Action: Faculty / DG)

–       Establish an online Academy archive, integrated with University, national and international Academy energies (Action: RAP, Technical Officer)

–       Realisation of a research Sharepoint portal for resources and information (Action: Staff)

–       Establish a three year PhD scholarship scheme through engagements with philanthropic funding. (Action: DG)

–       Actively develop an independent resource and financial sources for research clusters.

–       Full implimentation of a structure for short impact appraisals for Academy outputs.


Year 3 (2019-20)


–       Further 10% increase of accountable staff research outputs (Action: Faculty)

–       Review of research strategy (Action: RAP)

–       Further develop a centralised support mechanism for PhD students and early career researchers, to assist them in publishing

–       Host one major international conference

–       Commence an international  joint structured PhD Programme (Action: Faculty / DG)

–       Institute two Academy led research centres