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

The Shakespeare Institute offers promising candidates the opportunity to carry out research in a dynamic environment in the very place where the great playwright is so closely associated, Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Situated within walking distance of Shakespeare’s birthplace, school and grave, and the theatres of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Shakespeare Institute offers postgraduate students and scholars an academic experience unrivalled by any other university.

Major funding opportunity for Home/EU applicants to this PhD programme

We are part of the Midlands3Cities consortium, offering up to 89 Arts and Humanities Research Council funded studentships. This includes full research fees, a substantial maintenance grant and additional research training support. Applications are now open. Find out more detailed information on this scheme.

Sara Marie Westh

Sara Marie Westh

“As a research student, I am given both enough freedom to pursue my studies independently and sufficient support to give me a sense of progress. I can only imagine that this is an extremely difficult balance for my tutor to achieve, one that must be tailored to the individual student. This balance is the best part of being a PhD student. A close second must be the close-knit student community at the Institute”
Ask Sara a question

At the Institute, you are able to study for full-time and part-time research degrees at all postgraduate levels (MA by Research, MLitt, and PhD).

You will work towards writing a thesis on a topic of your own choice, agreed with the Institute at the time of admission, and are supervised by a member of the Institute's teaching staff. There is also the opportunity for split location registration.

The PhD - the most advanced research degree – leads to a dissertation of up to 80,000 words. If you have not already completed a research Masters, you will normally register for an MA by Research in the first instance, and apply to upgrade your registration to a PhD on the basis of progress made.

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, there is a compulsory annual visit to campus (every two years for part-time PhD students) - please see our frequently asked questions about distance learning to find out more.

The MLitt involves undertaking research on a chosen topic leading to the preparation of a thesis of 60,000 words.

The MA by Research programme requires you to prepare a dissertation of up to 40,000 words.

All research students take a course on the Methods and Materials of Research. The aim is to provide an initial training in the methodologies of research in the various fields associated with Shakespeare Studies. There are no other compulsory courses, but research students are expected to attend Thursday Seminars and the Research Seminars; they are also given the opportunity of undertaking specialist training in palaeography.

Visiting the Shakespeare Institute

We welcome prospective students to visit the Shakespeare Institute. Our next open afternoon is expected to take place on 4 February 2016.


Profiles of our current Shakespeare Studies 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 College of Arts and Law celebrated excellent Research Assessment Exercise 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’.
  • You can be based in Stratford-Upon-Avon, where the works of Shakespeare are so famous.
  • The University of Birmingham has very close links with the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, this includes a collaboration which will see the University become a Founding Partner of The Other Place, which closed in 2006 but will be redeveloped in Stratford-upon-Avon. This will open in 2016 and  will be a hub for cutting-edge research and creative practice.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2016/17 are as follows:

Campus-based programmes

  • Home / EU: £4,610 full-time; £2,305 part-time*
  • Overseas: £14,180 full-time

Distance learning programmes

  • Home / EU: £4,110 full-time; £2,055 part-time*
  • Overseas: £13,680 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 2016.

For part-time students, the above fee quoted is for year one only and 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.

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To be eligible for these awards, candidates must hold either an offer of a place to study or have submitted an application to study at the University. 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

All students registered for research degrees will have an honours degree in a relevant subject, such as English or History, normally at least at an upper second class level (or its equivalent for overseas’ students). Applicants for direct admission to PhD study will also have completed a Masters degree in a relevant subject at a high level.  Other qualifications and evidence of research experience may be considered as alternatives to the qualifications cited.

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

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

We welcome applications from prospective postgraduate students, particularly those who wish to work in the following fields of study:

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

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

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

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
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 9514

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

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

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

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

Shakespearean performance, Anglo-European theatrical relationships, Victorian and Edwardian theatre and the History of Film.
Contact: Professor Russell Jackson c/o Department of Drama and Theatre Arts
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5790

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.

In addition, the global edition of The New York Times has ranked the University 60th in the world and 9th in UK for post-qualification employability. The rankings illustrate the top 150 universities most frequently selected by global employers and are the result of a survey by French consulting firm Emerging and German consulting firm Trendence.

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.

In 2013, 99% 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: Imperial College London; National Trust; Royal Shakespeare Company; Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; The Grove Theatre; and University of Bristol.

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.

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.