PhD with integrated study in Shakespeare and Creativity

This programme, delivered by and taught at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, combines taught modules with a full-length doctoral thesis.

With a unique focus on Shakespeare and Creativity, it allows you to combine theatrical and academic study of Shakespeare’s life and work through a series of taught modules, assessed by both written work and performance pieces, with the full research training and experience of the traditional PhD.

It makes the most of the unrivalled resources of Shakespeare’s Stratford and involves expert tuition from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the new Library of Birmingham. The programme is particularly enhanced by the Institute's collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) at The Other Place, offering unique and extensive opportunities to work on its premises with RSC artists.

Please note, applications for this programme are currently closed.

Sara Marie Westh

Sara Marie Westh

“One of the most important things about the Shakespeare Institute is the community it fosters. Whether you see it as networking or making friends, it is the ideal springboard for anyone interested in pursuing a career in the many Shakespeare industries both in and outside academia.”

This programme brings together academic, theatrical and civic interests in Shakespeare and creativity, generating a comprehensive and forward-looking conversation about what Shakespeare is and can be in today's world.

You will produce traditional academic written work as well as creative work, all of which will explore Shakespeare’s potential in the modern world.  You will make new creative work with and at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and benefit from unique and exciting access to the RSC's studio theatre, The Other Place.

You will complete 120 credits of taught modules, including four core modules as follows:

  • Shakespearience
  • Shakespeare and Theatre Practice (formerly Shakespeare and Creative Practice)
  • The Shakespeare Ensemble
  • Shakespeare and Society

Your remaining 40 credits – equivalent to two taught modules – can be chosen from a range of Shakespeare Institute modules.

Shakespearience and optional modules are each assessed by one 4,000-word essay; Shakespeare and Theatre Practice is assessed by either two performance assignments and a 2,000-word research paper, or a 4,000-word research paper; Shakespeare Ensemble and Shakespeare and Society both combine shorter written assignments with creative work.

In addition to the 120 credits of taught modules you will then spend May to September of the first year working on a 15,000 word pilot study.  The pilot study will not bear credit as coursework, but will contribute to the thesis.  Full progression on to the PhD thesis in the second year will depend on you achieving a minimum mark of 65 in each of the taught modules and, also in the pilot study .On meeting the required level on the taught modules and pilot study, you will produce a supervised 80,000-word PhD thesis. For your thesis, you will have the chance to work intensively on an RSC project at The Other Place theatre.

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.

Explore the Shakespeare Institute

Why study this course

  • Location – studying at the Shakespeare Institute in the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon offers you an academic experience unequalled by any other university. You will study within walking distance of Shakespeare's birthplace, school and grave, and the theatres of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
  • Shakespeare Institute and Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) collaboration – you will benefit from our exciting five-year collaboration with the RSC at The Other Place which has seen the reinstatement of the iconic studio theatre. Opened in 2016 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, The Other Place is the RSC’s creative hub for rehearsal, training, learning and research.
  • Research expertise – in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, 87% of English Language and Literature research at the University of Birmingham was rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent.’
  • Access to fantastic resources – the Institute boasts a world-class specialist library: its 60,000 items include the archives of honorary fellow Sir Kenneth Branagh’s theatre and film projects, among many other unique resources. In conjunction with the nearby archives of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the rare book holdings of the Cadbury library on the main Birmingham campus, Institute students have access to the most comprehensive Shakespeare studies collection in the UK.
  • Research culture – the Institute, as a single specialist unit full of scholars and students comparing notes about different aspects of closely-related topics, boasts an unmatched research culture. Its activities include weekly seminars and play readings, an annual international conference organised by students for students, and regular interactions with senior RSC personnel.

Modules

You will study the following four core modules:

Shakespearience

This module considers the ways in which Shakespearean language and drama bears on experience, with a view to making the experience of Shakespeare more available to contemporary Shakespeare scholarship and creative practice. It is, above all, a shared experiment in experientially alert and susceptible close reading. In a series of intensively collaborative workshops, on the special course blog and in seminars, it will dwell and linger in Shakespeare’s language and stagecraft in order to explore how its complexity produces experiential meanings, in readers, audience members and in characters. “Shakespearience” will be about reading as process rather than product, and as such, at least potentially, experientially exciting and adventurous.

Shakespeare and Theatre Practice

This module will provide you with experiential knowledge that will inform the way that you interrogate and interpret performance evidence in a variety of media. Through a series of workshops and performance assignments, you will explore three different systematic approaches to performing the language of Shakespeare: the first approach is rooted in the verse and text work of John Barton, Peter Hall, Cicely Berry and Patsy Rodenberg; the second approach explores the legacy of Stanislavski in the Shakespearean work of 20th/21st century practitioners including Katie Mitchell and Mike Alfreds; the third approach brings the devising techniques of prominent physical theatre practitioners to a creative examination of Shakespeare’s text.

The Shakespeare Ensemble

In this module you will work as part of an ensemble of creative artists – actors, directors, writers, designers – exploring and testing the theory and practice of performing Shakespeare today. You will participate in workshops with key RSC practitioners, and produce an assessed performance of a re-imagined Shakespearean text, in The Other Place theatre. The module seeks to equip students with a range of skills pertaining to creating a new piece of work - creative dramatic writing, devising as an ensemble and music in the ensemble as well as including sessions with the RSC on new writing, the ensemble, design and lighting.

Shakespeare and Society

Featuring tuition from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the new Birmingham Library (which has an important civic Shakespeare collection and premises), this module explores and tests the scope for bringing Shakespeare into the world beyond the academy and the theatre. You will undertake focused study of Shakespearean civic creativity from Garrick's 1769 Jubilee onwards before producing your own piece of civic creativity inspired by Shakespeare at the RSC.

You will also choose two optional modules from the following:

History of Shakespeare in Performance

This module will consider trends of acting and directing Shakespeare from the Restoration to the present day, and will exploit the Stratford archives to undertake studies of individual actors and directors from the eighteenth century onwards. Subjects of study might include Colley Cibber, David Garrick, Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, Laurence Olivier, Peter Brook, John Barton and Sam Mendes. There will be opportunities to analyse and interpret primary evidence and to consider the cultural context(s) of performance. Plays studied include some or all of Richard III, Hamlet, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Shakespeare’s Legacy

This module considers the adaptation and appropriation of Shakespeare’s plays, persona, and possessions from the seventeenth century to the present day. It pays special attention to how changes in theatre practice, aesthetic tastes, politics, and commercial markets have shaped the history of Shakespeare’s ‘afterlife’. Plays studied include some or all of King Lear, The Tempest, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and Measure for Measure.

Shakespeare’s Craftsmanship

This module is intended to convey, from a variety of standpoints, a sense of how Shakespeare worked. We will explore a selection of plays from across his career in order to highlight the fluidity of his creativity in terms of such elements as language, structure, mood, adaptation of source material, and how they are made to function in innovative ways alongside the more pragmatic considerations of live performance in the early modern theatre. Alongside these historical, textual, and dramaturgical issues we will also consider how such questions of craft may influence performance practice today.

Shakespeare’s Text

The module will develop a critical awareness of the textual foundations of Shakespeare's plays. Topics covered include: the relationship between a modern edition of a play and the earliest printed texts, the nature of the printing process that first made the plays available to readers of books, the characteristics of Shakespeare's dramatic composition, the treatment of the text in the theatre (including censorship, revision and adaptation), and Shakespeare as a collaborator. Plays studied include some or all of Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida, Sir Thomas More, Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, King Lear, Measure for Measure, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Timon of Athens.

Fees and funding

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

  • Home / EU: £4,695 full-time
  • Overseas: £15,710 full-time

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.

Entry requirements

We ask that you supply evidence of either:

  • A bachelors degree (2:1) in a relevant field

OR

  • Relevant professional experience.  This should be demonstrated in a portfolio which catalogues and contextualises your work in a relevant field (e.g. catalogue of a recent art installation, actor’s CV, transcript giving indication of professional training, web-based archive of recent work, folio of published poems, etc)

In addition to the usual supporting documents, all applications must also be supported by:

  • Two letters of recommendation
  • A cover letter which indicates your creative potential, either proposing specific creative projects you intend to pursue on the MA or reflecting on your existing creative work.  In particular, the cover letter should address the following research questions:
    • What were/are the objectives of the piece, and why?  What obstacles did you/might you encounter?  How might these have been/be avoided?
    • To what tradition does this piece belong? To what critical conversations or bodies of practice does it contribute?  What does it contribute to them?
    • What are its implications for future work?  What does/might your work initiate in the field of Shakespeare studies more generally?

Learn more about entry requirements

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

Applications for this programme are currently closed.

This programme will make use of the unrivalled resources of Shakespeare’s Stratford, involving expert tuition from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and Library of Birmingham.  

It also particularly benefits from the Institute's new collaboration with the RSC, offering unique and extensive opportunities to work with the company and at The Other Place. Students will also have access to the Shakespeare Institute Library, the Library of the Shakespeare Centre that curates the archives of the RSC, and the Shakespeare Collection held at the Library of Birmingham.

Interviews with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the Library of Birmingham and the Royal Shakespeare Company

Research interests of staff

Shakespeare in performance; Shakespeare in culture since 1623; Shakespeare and opera; the writings, representation and reputation of Elizabeth I; notions of authorship and nation; the representation of Shakespeare
Contact: Professor Michael Dobson
Director of The Shakespeare Institute and Professor of Shakespeare Studies
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 9508
Email: m.dobson@bham.ac.uk

Bibliography, editing, textual criticism, textual theory, Renaissance theatre culture and print culture, and Shakespeare’s contemporary dramatists
Contact: Professor John Jowett
Deputy Director and Professor of Shakespeare Studies
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 9507
Email: j.d.jowett@bham.ac.uk

Literature and experience, religion, philosophy, and creativity; aesthetics; Shakespeare and poetry; Shakespeare in conjunction with great art and thought from other times and places
Contact: Professor Ewan Fernie
Professor of Shakespeare Studies
Tel: + 44 (0) 121 4149506
Email: e.fernie@bham.ac.uk

The full corpus of dramatic works written in the British Isles, and by ‘British’ authors overseas, between the English Reformation and the English Revolution, including both commercial and literary plays, masques and entertainments, and drama in Latin, Greek, Cornish, and Welsh
Contact: Dr Martin Wiggins, Senior Scholar
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 9514
Email: m.j.wiggins@bham.ac.uk

Medical and religious beliefs in early modern England, in particular their intersection. The body and metaphor, illness narratives, early modern life writings, the history of human experience. Shakespeare’s cultural legacy.
Contact: Dr Erin Sullivan
Tel: +44 (0121) 4149513
Email: e.sullivan@bham.ac.uk

Theatrical practice and stage history; verse-speaking; Shakespeare for young people; Shakespeare and adaptation; Shakespeare’s language

Contact: Dr Abigail Rokison-WoodallTel: +44 (0121) 4149511; e-mail: a.rokison@bham.ac.uk

Shakespeare’s Elizabethan and Jacobean playhouses; Renaissance anatomy and dissection; the early modern cultures of melancholy and funeral; witchcraft, ritual and superstition; literature and the visual arts

Contact: Dr Chris Laoutarise-mail: c.laoutaris@bham.ac.uk

Associated Members of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies:

Ben Jonson and his contemporaries; The relationships of Renaissance and Romantic writers; The relationships of manuscript and print; Early modern poetry and drama.
Contact: Dr Tom Lockwood c/o Department of English
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 2763
Email: t.e.lockwood@bham.ac.uk

Women's writing in the 17th century; Manuscript Studies; History of Translation.
Contact: Dr Gillian Wright c/o Department of English
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5671
Email: g.wright@bham.ac.uk

Associated Member of the History Department:

Cultural history, visual arts and material culture of early modern Britain; Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture.
Contact: Dr Tara Hamling c/o Department of Modern History
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 9510
Email:t.j.hamling@bham.ac.uk

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

Postgraduates at the Shakespeare Institute are able to develop a broad range of creative, research and theatre skills, as well as in-depth subject knowledge.

Over the past five years, over 97% of our postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation.

In recent years, our postgraduates have successfully entered a variety of sectors from teaching in secondary and higher education to performing arts, publishing, museums and library and archive work. Employers that graduates have gone on to work for include: National Trust; Royal Shakespeare Company; Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; Shakespeare?s Globe, University of Birmingham and University of Oxford.

The Shakespeare Institute is situated in the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon, giving you an opportunity to study within walking distance of Shakespeare’s birthplace, school and grave.

Students outside the Shakespeare Institute

Learning resources are all around you: the Shakespeare Institute library; the outstanding picture collections, records and library holdings of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; and the archives of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). We also have the theatres of the Royal Shakespeare Company on our doorstep.

The Shakespeare Institute at The Other Place

Shakespeare Institute students benefit from our exciting five-year collaboration with the RSC which has seen the University become a Founding Partner of The Other Place. The theatre closed in 2006 but has been redeveloped in Stratford-upon-Avon, home of both the RSC and the Shakespeare Institute. Opened in spring 2016 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, The Other Place is the RSC’s creative hub for rehearsal, training, learning and research. Our students are able to access creative and teaching spaces at The Other Place, as well as the expertise of RSC artists and practitioners.

University of Birmingham students working with an RCS practitioner at The Other Place

Living in Stratford-upon-Avon

Most of our campus-based students choose to live in Stratford, rather than Birmingham, and we would recommend that choice as it facilitates participation in all the activities of the Institute.

Stratford-upon-Avon is an attractive market town with more than 800 years of history located in the heart of England. It blends heritage, culture, theatre, arts and gardens along with a thriving community offering a wide variety of leisure and shopping experiences all within walking distance. The Shakespeare Institute itself is only seven minutes from the Railway Station and five minutes from the town centre.

The Shakespeare Institute does not have its own accommodation so students are responsible for making their own living arrangements for the duration of their study at the Institute. There are, however, many sources of accommodation in Stratford-upon-Avon and we give as much assistance as we can to help students find somewhere to live.

Professor Ewan Fernie giving a presentation

Virtual tour of the Shakespeare Institute

Use the interactive virtual tour below to move around the Shakespeare Institute today. Drag the image below to rotate your view and click on doorways to change rooms. Navigate through the library, gardens, music hall, seminar rooms and main hall. A full screen version is available on Google maps.