Postgraduate students carrying out research in the creative and performing arts and design (CPAD) find themselves isolated and lacking role models and precedents.
A report produced by the UK Council for Graduate Education says research in these areas has been underfunded and investment is needed to build up a research culture. Students and their supervisors find they lack suitable role models.
Elaine Thomas, chair of the UKCGE working group and director of the Surrey Institute of Art and Design University College, said: "Students deserve better support from their institutions and better funding from research funders."
She said there was no critical mass of researchers, which had led to severe underfunding. Consequently, many students carried out their research part-time.
The report called for institutions to strengthen their research environments, to provide opportunities for student contact between different disciplines and to establish formal collaborations between institutions.
There are as yet very few PhD students in CPAD. Of the 69 institutions that responded to the survey, less than half had more than 11 postgraduate research students.
Howard Green, chair of the UKCGE, said the report was timely as there was much debate on research training programmes and the PhD. The working group also called for a full Arts and Humanities Research Council.