We offer excellent candidates the opportunity to carry out research in one of the most dynamic institutions in Britain, while remaining in your resident country.
Our principal areas of research expertise are Cognitive Linguistics, Corpus Linguistics, Stylistics and Discourse Studies, and Language Learning and Teaching.
We also offer a campus-based PhD in English Language and Applied Linguistics.
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Gordon Myskow, Modular PhD student based in Japan
“I cannot say enough about how satisfied I was with the modular PhD program. As I work full-time, I was worried how I could find the time to complete it. But the modular structure allowed me to work at my own pace depending on how busy I was at work. The modular structure was very motivational. It helped me to divide up the workload into manageable chunks. Receiving feedback from the examiners after each module reassured me I was on the right path.”
Doing a PhD in English Language and Applied Linguistics via distance learning allows you to study while remaining in your resident country, keeping in contact with your supervisor via email and skype.
This is a perfect way to study, especially if you are interested in relating research work to your current professional environment.
Extensive online research training is provided in the first year of the programme and, whilst there is no requirement to spend any time in Birmingham, you are encouraged to visit for short periods, if possible. These visits provide valuable opportunities for face-to-face supervision, to meet other PhD students and to make use of the library and other research and training opportunities.
There are two distance learning PhD programmes in English Language and Applied Linguistics. Both programmes involve regular contact with a supervisor by email and/or Skype. There is no assessed taught component, but students follow online research training modules.
The standard programme requires a traditional 80,000-word thesis. The work is examined at the end of the programme, as with other PhD programmes. Students identify and refine a thesis topic and research design in consultation with their supervisor and send drafts of the various chapters for comment as they work through the programme.
As with all PhDs, progress is monitored throughout the registration period.
Distance Modular PhD
The modular programme requires three modules: two shorter research papers (Module 1 - 12,000 words, Module 2 - 20,000 words) and a final thesis of 50,000 words (Module 3). The work is examined in three phases, at the end of each module. The final product (in terms of total quantity and quality of work) is therefore similar to the standard PhD; however the modular option provides an incremental, continuously assessed route allowing students to progress through explicitly marked stages to a PhD. Students identify a topic they wish to work on and to which all their written work should be related; the nature of the assessment means however that the topic may not be as tightly focused as that in a traditional PhD.
- The department celebrated excellent Research Excellence Framework 2014 results. 34% of research at the University of Birmingham for English Language and Literature was top 4* rated ‘world-leading’. A further 53% was rated 3* ‘internationally excellent’.
- The department has many years of experience in delivering high quality distance learning programmes at postgraduate level, and staff with expertise in supervising doctoral research at a distance
- While the programmes are rigorous in their standards and expectations, they also provide excellent support and a high degree of flexibility
- Students have electronic access through the University library to a wide range of applied linguistic research journals and e-books
Content and assessment for the Modular PhD
Module 1 - Subject-focused work, to include some research training and preparation related to the subject, such as empirical work, literature searches, and research methodology.
The 12,000-word assessment may be divided into 3 x 4,000 papers or combinations amounting to the total (60 credits). Pass/Fail.
Module 2 - Structured research and writing on the research topic. It may be linked in a linear way to Module 1, or the connection may be looser.
The 20,000-word assessment may be divided into one or two papers amounting to the total (120 credits). Pass/Fail
Module 3 - The thesis (maximum 50,000 words - 360 credits). Pass/Fail
The assessed work from Modules 2 and 3 should be of publishable quality.
Each assessment (i.e. each module) is submitted and passed before the student can proceed to the next. One re-submission of each module is permitted. The external examiner is consulted when each module is completed. Like all PhD theses at Birmingham, a Modular PhD is examined in a viva voce examination which takes place after the submission of Module 3.
For the 2016/2017 session the annual fee will be £6,840 for both Home and International students.
Tuition fees will be payable each year for between four years (minimum registration) and six years (maximum registration). Students who go into Writing Up after four or five years will pay a nominal continuation fee (the same as for the full-time PhD).
Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuition fees and funding.
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.
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:
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
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
Before contacting members of academic staff, please make sure you are familiar with the application process.
Any questions about fees, scholarships, paperwork etc. are best directed to the College of Arts and Law Graduate School.
You may also be interested in browsing our English Language and Applied Linguistics staff profile pages to find additional research expertise.
Dr Joe Bennett - firstname.lastname@example.org
I would be interested in supervising research into relationships between discourse – taken in its most general sense to include not just language but also other semiotic modes, especially images and sounds – and social power relations. Of particular interest to me at the moment are the ways in which features of contemporary British life are semiotised – the ways in which, for example, social class differences are talked about by politicians, or the ways in which different organisations with different political interests visually represent British cities. Any work related to these themes, including that relating to other cultural/national contexts, is likely to be of interest. In terms of methodological frameworks, I am interested in work that draws on Halliday’s Social Semiotics, including later developments in that area, and in Critical Discourse Analysis.
Dr Gareth Carrol - email@example.com
I am keen to hear from students interested in research on idioms and formulaic language, as well as other aspects of phraseology. This includes processing and representation in first and second languages, and also amongst disordered populations. Please contact me to discuss any ideas you may have.
Dr Nick Groom - firstname.lastname@example.org
I am interested in supervising PhD students who want to use the tools and methods of corpus linguistics to address problems, questions and issues in Discourse Analysis, Critical Discourse Analysis and Second Language Acquisition research. I am also interested in supervising PhD projects that focus on applications of corpus linguistics in TEFL/TESL.
Professor Susan Hunston - email@example.com
My main areas of research are corpus linguistics, especially investigating the lexis-grammar interface, and discourse, especially evaluative language and academic discourse. My more recent work combines and extends these areas.
Dr Suganthi John - firstname.lastname@example.org
My main areas of research are in academic discourse and the teaching of academic writing. I am keen to supervise research which investigates aspects of academic discourse – for e.g. argumentation in academic discourse, comparative studies on the features of academic discourse in different disciplines, academic style etc. Of particular interest is research which aims to illuminate aspects of academic discourse which are challenging for second language writers. Equally, I would be keen on supervising research which evaluates classroom techniques for the teaching of academic writing and materials development for academic writing. I would also be happy to supervise writing (not academic but general or creative writing) for EFL learners.
Professor Jeannette Littlemore - email@example.com
I am interested in supervising PhD theses on the acquisition and use of metaphor and other types of figurative language by second language learners. I would particularly welcome proposals that focus on the acquisition of metonymy, humour and irony, and the use of verbal and gestural metaphor in cross-linguistic communication or communication between members of different discourse communities. I am also interested in supervising research that explores other applications of cognitive linguistics (such as construal) to second language learning and teaching.
Professor Michaela Mahlberg - firstname.lastname@example.org;
My main research interests are in corpus linguistics and contextual approaches to meaning. In my current work I am particularly interested in the development of tools to support innovative research questions in the Digital Humanities and new developments in Big Data. In the field of corpus linguistics I have published on the relationship between lexis and grammar and the way in which phraseology contributes to cohesion in texts. A major focus of my research is corpus stylistics, where I have worked extensively on Dickens's fiction and proposed a lexical approach to body language presentation in fiction. I welcome Ph D applications from those interested in any of the above topics.
Dr Ruth Page - Pagere@adf.bham.ac.uk
My research interests bring together feminist narratology and the analysis of narratives in digital contexts. My work is integrative in nature and seeks to open up dialogue between literary-critical and sociolinguistic traditions of narrative research. I would welcome postgraduate students (MA or PhD) with interests in any of the following areas of research: Narrative theory; Stylistics; New media texts; and Discourse Analysis.
Dr Paul Thompson - email@example.com
I have research interests in linguistic aspects of human-computer interaction, in uses of educational technologies in language learning, and in the exploitation of corpus resources and methodologies in learning about language. I have worked on large scale academic corpus development projects, and am keen to supervise doctoral research which explores specialised language use, particularly in academic discourse, through corpus analysis, or which develops innovative approaches to corpus studies.
Professor Michael Toolan - firstname.lastname@example.org
I am interested in supervising PhDs in all areas of Literary Stylistics, Narrative Analysis, and Discourse Analysis. Having recently completed two monographs using corpus stylistics to explore narrative structure, my major current research interest is a corpus linguistic study of UK news media representations of wealth (in)equality over the past 40 years.
Dr Crayton Walker - email@example.com
My own research interests are associated with the study of collocation and other phraseological aspects of English. I am currently using corpus-based techniques to investigate the phraseological behaviours of high frequency nouns and verbs and looking at how these are represented in mainstream EFL coursebooks.
I am particularly interested in supervising MA and PhD research in the areas of
- collocation and other phraseological aspects of English
- the pedagogic application of corpora
- vocabulary and the teaching of vocabulary
Dr Adam Schembri - firstname.lastname@example.org
My research and teaching experience has encompassed a number of areas in sign language linguistics, including work on aspects of the lexicon, grammar and sociolinguistics of Auslan and British Sign Language (BSL). I have worked in a number of institutions in Australia and England. I am interested in supervising suitable PhD topics on all aspects of Australian and British Sign Languages.
Dr Petra Schoofs – email@example.com
My main interest lies in bilingualism and bilingual education. An additional research focus and the topic of my PhD was first language attrition research: what happens to your mother tongue when you have been living in other language environments for a lengthy period of time. I am interested in supervising doctoral research in the above areas and related topics.
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