English Language and Applied Linguistics PhD/MA by Research

We offer excellent candidates the opportunity to carry out research in one of the most dynamic institutions in Britain.

We specialise in, and welcome applications from prospective research students interested in the following areas: Corpus Research, Cognitive Linguistics and Psycholinguistics, Discourse Analysis and Stylistics, and Language Learning and Teaching.

We also offer an Applied Linguistics PhD via distance mode, in two formats: traditional and modular.

Shuangling Li

Shuangling Li

“At the University of Birmingham, we have the most supportive group of staff and PhD fellows and I have access to valuable resources for research. We also have a research community, PG Tips, which organises weekly seminars and conferences for us to participate in. We can hear about each other’s research project or talk about our own studies. Our department also organises seminars where we can hear from established professors or researchers in our area.”
Ask Shuangling a question

The MA by Research programme requires you to prepare a thesis 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 thesis of up to 80,000 words on a subject of your choice and under the expert supervision of an academic member of staff.

Our principal areas of research are:

Corpus Research - We are well known for our innovative approaches to the analysis of large corpora, which have had a strong impact on language teaching, dictionary development, and research into academic discourses. We are home to the Centre for Corpus Research (CCR), which supports the use of corpus analysis in research, teaching and learning. CCR provides access to a range of corpora and has a dedicated computer suite with specialist resources as well as an eye-tracking laboratory.

Cognitive Linguistics and Psycholinguistics - Our research in cognitive linguistics and psycholinguistics covers a wide range of areas including figurative language, idioms, embodied cognition, language and perception, sign languages, second language acquisition, and construction grammar. We have particular strengths in British Sign Language, Australian Sign Language and gesture studies.

Discourse Analysis and Stylistics - We are known for the development of several highly influential discourse analysis frameworks, and for our work on narrative, the discursive representation of inequality, new media, the language of politics, as well as new ideas on evaluation and phraseology. Our research draws on a variety of linguistic and theoretical traditions, including: systemic-functional linguistics; critical discourse analysis; corpus linguistics; multimodal analysis; narrative analysis; conversation analysis, and genre analysis. Our particular strength at Birmingham is that we combine discourse analysis with corpus analytic methods of research. 

Language Learning and Teaching - We research and publish in: academic literacies; phraseology; the teaching and learning of metaphor and other types of figurative language; applications of cognitive linguistics to second language learning and teaching; and the use of corpora in language teaching.

Profiles of our current English Language and Applied Linguistics doctoral researchers

At Birmingham you also have the option of studying languages, free of charge. Almost no other UK University offers you the opportunity to learn the intense graduate academic language skills which you may need to pursue your research.

Why study this course

  • The department celebrated excellent results in the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) results. 34% of research at the University of Birmingham for English Language and Literature was rated 4*, ‘world-leading’. A further 53% was rated 3*, ‘internationally excellent’.
  • Our English Language programmes benefit from the 450 million-word Bank of English corpus, an invaluable collection of authentic language data.
  • All students and researchers working within English Language also have free access a variety of language corpora, and, where necessary, training in how to use them.
  • The Main Library houses an extensive collection of books on English language and linguistics, including English language teaching, and subscribes to 250 periodicals in the fields of English language and literature.
  • The University of Birmingham was ranked 41st in the World for English Language & Literature by the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017. These rankings are compiled annually to help prospective students identify the leading universities worldwide in a particular subject.

Fees and funding

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

  • Home/EU: £4,195 full-time; £2,098 part-time
  • Overseas: £15,210 full-time

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.

Fee status

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

We can also confirm that EU students who are already studying at the University of Birmingham or who have an offer to start their studies in 2017-18 or 2018-19 academic years will continue to be charged the UK fee rate applicable at the time, provided this continues to be permitted by UK law. The UK Government has also confirmed that students from the EU applying to courses starting in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years will not see any changes to their loan eligibility or fee status. This guarantee will apply for the full duration of the course, even if the course finishes after the UK has left the EU.

Paying your fees

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

Funding opportunities

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate funding database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

Students applying for the MA by Research programme may be eligible to apply for a postgraduate loan to help finance their studies. For those starting in the 2017/18 academic year, these government-backed student loans will provide up to £10,280 for Masters courses in all subject areas. Criteria, eligibility, repayment and application information are available on the UK government website.

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.
  • Applicants for a PhD will also need to hold a Masters qualification at Merit level or above (or its international equivalent).

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.

Please note: Postgraduate research can start at any time during the year, but it is important to allow time for us to review your application and communicate a decision. If you wish to start in September, we would recommend that you aim to submit your application and supporting documents by the end of June.

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

We specialise in, and welcome applications from prospective research students interested in Corpus Linguistics, Cognitive Linguistics and Psycholinguistics and Stylistics and Discourse Analysis.

General queries which are not subject specific ( including fees, scholarship enquiries and paperwork) are best directed to the College of Arts and Law Graduate School.

You will find an introduction to each area below. Please click through to our staff profiles using the links provided to find academic expertise to support your research for each area.

Corpus Linguistics

The University of Birmingham is one of the world’s leading centres for research in corpus linguistics.

Our research is characterised by a strong cross-disciplinary reach with a particular focus on corpus-based approaches to literary stylistics, discourse analysis, critical discourse analysis, second language acquisition, specialised discourses, psycholinguistics, cognitive linguistics, historical linguistics and statistics.

Browse our staff profiles to find out more about our research expertise in Corpus Linguistics.

Cognitive Linguistics and Psycholinguistics

Our research expertise in cognitive linguistics and psycholinguistics includes figurative language, idioms, embodied cognition, language and perception, sign language, gesture, second language acquisition and construction grammar.

Our current research projects are designed to ensure that the work we conduct has a significant impact on the lives of people outside academia. This includes the role played by metaphor and other types of figurative language in advertising and the ways in which it is understood by people from different cultures. We are also working on a Global Challenges project which explores the use of metaphor by people who have experienced pregnancy loss or stillbirth (and those who support them).

Browse our staff profiles to find out more about our research expertise in Cognitive Linguistics and Psycholinguistics.

Stylistics and Discourse Analysis

Our research expertise includes the impact that gender, institution, and nationality have on the dominant patterns of form and function in various kinds of discourse. We have particular strengths in the analysis of academic, workplace and professional discourse and the application of this.

Our research often combines discourse analysis with corpus analytic methods. Ongoing projects reflect our interdisciplinary and intradisciplinary work, including research into language of the media, education, the language of evaluation and embodied interaction. We also have a long tradition of work in literary stylistics (especially of prose fiction) and narratology.

Browse our staff profiles to find out more about our research expertise in Stylistics and Discourse Analysis.

Related research

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University.

The University's Careers Network provides advice and information specifically for postgraduates that will help you to develop an effective career and skills development strategy, and to make the most of your time with us at the University. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated careers and employability team to deliver tailored programmes of careers events and local support.

You will have opportunities to: meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs; attend employer presentations and skills workshops; receive 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.

You will also be able to access our full range of careers support for up to two years after graduation.

Postgraduate employability: English Language and Applied Linguistics

Birmingham's English Language and Applied Linguistics postgraduates develop a broad range of transferable skills that are highly valued by employers, particularly in relation to verbal and written communication. They also develop crucial skills in organisation, time management, analysis and interpretation of information.

Over the past three years, 91% of English Language and Applied Linguistics postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Many of our graduates enter roles for which their programme has prepared them, such as teaching and lecturing; others use their transferable skills in a wide range of occupations including journalism, marketing and events.

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.

Accommodation

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.