Film Studies PhD/MA by Research (On-Campus or by Distance Learning)

The Departments of Film and Creative Writing and Modern Languages offer promising candidates the opportunity to carry out research in one of the most dynamic institutions in Britain.

We give all possible support to our researchers, developing the resources available at the University and encouraging an active postgraduate environment for the exchange of information and ideas.

You may also be interested in comparing this programme to the Film Studies Audio-Visual PhD which allows students to produce a 30,000 word thesis and a 60 minute documentary film.

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Michael Burns

“The University of Birmingham gave me a strong moral compass and the confidence to create projects, in my case films, geared toward social change. Many academic institutions can give you a degree, but what Birmingham gave me was a world-class academic experience that allowed me to research and teach amongst students, faculty, and staff who care about learning.”

The Departments of Film and Creative Writing and Modern Languages share a vibrant and fast-growing postgraduate community that is closely associated with B-Film: The Birmingham Centre for Film Studies.  

This offers an exciting and eventful research environment for postgraduate students.

The Departments draw on the research interests and projects of our staff in postgraduate teaching and on contributions from staff in allied Departments at the University of Birmingham.

The MA by Research programme requires you to prepare a dissertation of up to 40,000 words on a topic of your choice, for which an academic staff member will provide expert supervision.

The PhD – the most advanced research degree - leads to a dissertation of up to 80,000 words on a subject of your choice and under the expert supervision of an academic member of staff.

Distance learning

You can study an MA by Research or PhD programme on campus or by distance learning. Please note that if you are studying with us by distance learning, the programme includes a fully-funded annual visit to campus for each full year of your programme (every two years for part-time students).

For more information on distance learning including answers to frequently asked questions, student experiences and funding opportunities, please see our distance learning website

We also offer an Audio-Visual PhD which allows suitable students to gain a doctorate by the production of a 30,000 word thesis and a 60 minute documentary film on a subject of their choice and under the expert supervision of academic staff.

Why study this course

  • We have internationally-recognised research expertise in the fields of European, American and World Cinema, film theory, ethics and aesthetics, queer theory, television studies, children’s media, film and television authorship, performance and audience studies, documentary, digital media, social action filmmaking, film festivals, film production and screenwriting.
  • Staff contribute to joint initiatives in the presentation of research, notably through the B-Film research centre and via international and online projects. We work with staff in allied departments across the University so that you benefit from an interdisciplinary approach to teaching, supervision and research.
  • We have a thriving community of research students, browse our Facebook group to find out more.
  • Doctoral researchers have gone on to forge successful careers in a variety of industries, including the media, and over the past five years, over 92% of our research masters and PhD students have been in work and/or further study six months after graduation.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2017/18:

  • Home / EU £4,180 full-time; £2,090 part-time*
  • Overseas: £15,210 full-time

* For UK/EU postgraduate research students the University fee level is set at Research Council rates and as such is subject to change. The final fee will be announced by Research Councils UK in spring 2017.

The above fee quoted is for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students.

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuition fees and funding.

Entry requirements

Our requirements for postgraduate research are dependent on the type of programme you are applying for:

  • For MRes and MA by Research programmes, entry to our programmes usually requires a good (normally a 2:1 or above) Honours degree, or an equivalent qualification if you were educated outside the UK.
  • If you are applying for a PhD then you will usually also need to hold a good Masters qualification.

Any academic and professional qualifications or relevant professional experience you may have are normally taken into account, and in some cases, form an integral part of the entrance requirements.

If you are applying for distance learning research programmes, you will also be required to demonstrate that you have the time, commitment, facilities and experience to study by distance learning.

If your qualifications are non-standard or different from the entry requirements stated here, please contact the admissions tutor.

International students

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

How to apply

Before you make your application

Please refer to our six step process on applying for PhD, MA by Research and MRes opportunities for Arts subject areas.

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Additional Guidance for applicants to the PhD Distance Learning study mode.

Making your application


When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

The following summary indicates our principal areas of research expertise.

Please view our staff profiles (and those of Modern Languages) for further possible research topics.

Film studies; queer theory; ethics and spectatorship; Jewish cultural studies; identity and representation; social action cinema; representations of death

Contact: Dr Michele Aaron - Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5750; Email:

European and American cinema; Spanish, Basque, Cuban and Latin American cinema; film theory and the politics of aesthetics; Modernism, Cubism and Surrealism; Basque cultural and visual studies; American television drama; short films and video essays. 

Contact: Professor Rob Stone - Tel: +44 (0)121 414 8597; Email:

Film production; documentary; digital media; audio-visual academia; social action filmmaking

Contact: Dr Richard Langley - Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5745; Email:

Film aesthetics; television studies; Hollywood cinema; authorship; fantasy and fictional worlds; performance; production communities; children's media

Contact: Dr James Walters - Tel: +44 (0) 121 414 8333; Email:

Screenwriting; adaptation; theories of screen practice

Contact: Dr Richard House - Tel: +44 (0)121 414 7964; Email:

The University has been recognised for its impressive graduate employment, being named ‘University of the Year for Graduate Employment’ in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by the employability skills training offered through the College of Arts and Law Graduate School. The University also offers a wide range of activities and services to give our students the edge in the job market, including: career planning designed to meet the needs of postgraduates; opportunities to meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs, employer presentations and skills workshops; individual guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique; and access to comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.

University of the Year for employability

Doctoral researchers have gone on to forge successful careers in a variety of industries, including the media, and over the past five years, over 92% of our research masters and PhD students have been in work and/or further study six months after graduation. 

Birmingham has been transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Get involved

In addition to the student groups hosted by the Guild of Students, each school runs its own social activities, research fora, seminars and groups for postgraduates.


Coming to Birmingham to study might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

Support in your studies

We offer an Academic Writing Advisory Service, which aims to help your transition to postgraduate research. The service offers guidance on organising your ideas and structuring an argument, referencing and avoiding plagiarism, being clear and coherent and editing your work for academic style and linguistic accuracy. Individual support is provided by a professional academic writing advisor via tutorials or email, as well as through the provision of online materials.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and cultures, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work. Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.