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

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The Department of History was ranked first in the country in the Research Excellence Framework 2014. We offer promising candidates the opportunity to study alongside academic staff working at the forefront of current research. Our academics cover a wide range of British, European and Worldwide history from around 500 to the present day, providing expert supervision in areas including medieval history, cultural and social history, politics, economics, religion, war studies, the history of the West Midlands, the history of sexuality and emotion, and the history of the environment. 


Course fact file

Type of Course: Distance learning, doctoral research

Study Options: Full time, part time

Duration: PhD – 3 years full-time, 6 years part-time; MA by Research – 1 year full-time, 2 years part-time

Start date: January, September


Research degrees are best planned by individual discussion, so if you have a particular subject area in mind, please contact a staff member working in your area of interest in the first instance. See ‘Research interests’ for more information. 


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

You can study both the MA by Research and PhD programmes on campus or by Distance Learning

Research degrees in History at Birmingham provide opportunities for detailed engagement with a specific topic, enhanced by the debates and cross-fertilisation of ideas sparked by working in contact and association with members of the UK’s leading History department, as judged in the most recent Research Excellence Framework exercise. Opportunities for collaboration across the University, particularly in the fields of Byzantine, Hispanic and Music History, as well as Philosophy, Politics and Economics, also help to generate stimulating and rewarding research. 

The extensive holdings of the University’s library, and ready access to other regional archives and libraries, offer abundant raw material for research. Within the department, groups such as the Centre for the Study of the Middle Ages (CeSMA) , generate a lively inter- and multi-disciplinary research culture, through delivery papers and broadening intellectual horizons. 

Current research topics range from questions such as how England became a Protestant nation in the 16th century, to why smoking played such an important role in 20th century life. Whatever your interest, whether it is cultural or social history in the 6th century, or military history in the 20th century, Birmingham’s History department has someone available to supervise your research with expert knowledge and understanding.

Profiles of our current History 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

Sam Humphries "I chose the Masters Research programme as it gave me the chance to pursue my own research project within a lively, resourceful and respected academic department. It combined the necessary taught elements and group discussion to hone and develop my academic research skills alongside working independently to make my project happen.

The course however offered lots more than I hoped for. It taught me crucial methodological understandings about how historians work and how to deploy and engage with them in my own research. These modules, alongside the fellow students and staff in the Centre, changed my work and approach to the subject for the better in ways I could not have conceived beforehand, changing my project fundamentally. The environment with passionate individuals each able to help you with your work has been immensely rewarding.

The course also helps develop the ability to work autonomously and critically assess your own standards and approaches to the subject. It is tough yet immensely rewarding as it offers up opportunities that would never have materialised otherwise. The Masters Research programme helped me pursue my interest in history further alongside helping me to think creatively and to apply these ideas to my work and life.”

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2015/16 are currently as follows:

  • Home / EU £4,052 full-time; £2,026 part-time
  • Overseas: £13,195 full-time; £6,597.50 part-time

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.

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments.

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

Learn more about postgraduate tuituion 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

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


Research degrees are best planned by individual discussion, so if you have a particular subject area in mind, please contact a staff member working in your area of interest in the first instance. See ‘Research interests’ for more information. 

Research interests of staff

  • British and German Armies
    Contact: Dr Jonathan Boff
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5512
    Email: j.f.boff@bham.ac.uk
  • British 20th-century political history
    Contact: Professor Nicholas Crowson
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5485
    Email: n.j.crowson@bham.ac.uk
  • Society and politics of 17th-century England
    Contact: Professor Richard Cust
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5764
    Email: r.p.cust@bham.ac.uk
  • History of the West Midlands since 1700
    Contact: Dr Malcolm Dick
    Tel: +44 (0)121 4158253
    Email: m.m.dick@bham.ac.uk
  • Counter-Reformation belief and politics
    Contact: Dr Elaine Fulton
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 6632
    Email: e.k.fulton@bham.ac.uk
  • History of Nineteenth Century Britain
    Contact: Dr David Gange
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5665
    Email: d.j.gange@bham.ac.uk
  • Air power: history, theory and practice
    Contact: Air Cdre (Ret’d)
    Dr Peter Gray Tel: +44 (0)121 414 8423
    Email: w.gray@bham.ac.uk
  • The British economy in the 20th century
    Contact: Dr Julian Greaves
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5760
    Email: j.l.greaves@bham.ac.uk
  • German history since 1870
    Contact: Dr Armin Grünbacher
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5759
    Email: a.gruenbacher@bham.ac.uk
  • Art and material culture of early modern Britain
    Contact: Dr Tara Hamling
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 9510
    Email: t.j.hamling@bham.ac.uk
  • Modern British social history
    Contact: Professor Matthew Hilton
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 7697
    Email: m.j.hilton@bham.ac.uk
  • British–German relations since 1945
    Contact: Dr Sabine Lee
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5736
    Email: s.lee@bham.ac.uk
  • 19th–20th century European history; environmental history
    Contact: Professor Corey Ross
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5757
    Email: c.d.ross@bham.ac.uk
  • Race and Immigration
    Contact: Professor Gavin Schaffer
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 6629
    Email: g.schaffer@bham.ac.uk
  • Early Modern European exploration, expansion and colonisation
    Contact: Dr Margaret Small
    Tel: +44 (0)121 4145501
    Email: m.small@bham.ac.uk
  • History of religion in the British Army
    Contact: Dr Mike Snape
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 3405
    Email: m.f.snape@bham.ac.uk
  • Economic History 
    Contact: Dr Jelle van Lottum
    Email: j.vanlottum@bham.ac.uk
  • Asian History
    Contact: Dr Shirley Ye
    Email: s.ye@bham.ac.uk
  • History of the medieval Middle East, Afghanistan and Central Asia: religious culture, politics and society, cross-cultural interaction, cities, frontiers
    Contact: Dr Arezou Azad
    Email: a.azad@bham.ac.uk
  • Early European economic and social history; the Vikings
    Contact: Dr Chris Callow
    Tel: +44 (0) 121 414 5934
    Email: c.p.callow@bham.ac.uk
  • Economy and society in late medieval England
    Contact: Dr Miriam Müller
    Tel: +44 (0) 121 414 5741
    Email: m.muller.1@bham.ac.uk
  • Religious culture in central Middle Ages (c1000-c1300) especially history of crusading
    Contact: Dr William Purkis
    Tel: +44 (0) 121 414 6626
    Email: w.j.purkis@bham.ac.uk
  • Late medieval English legal history; the friars in England
    Contact: Dr Jens Röhrkasten
    Tel: +44 (0) 121 414 5761
    Email: j.roehrkasten@bham.ac.uk
  • Premodern China, especially c.700-1200; comparative, world and global history; borders, cross-cultural interaction, politics and society
    Contact: Professor Naomi Standen
    Tel: +44 (0) 121 414 6881
    Email: n.standen@bham.ac.uk 
  • The late medieval Church and society, especially in England
    Contact: Professor Robert Swanson
    Tel: +44 (0) 121 414 5748
    Email: r.n.swanson@bham.ac.uk
  • England, 900-1200: religious and political culture; issues concerning gender and identity
    Contact: Dr Simon Yarrow
    Tel: +44 (0) 121 414 5744
    Email: s.s.yarrow@bham.ac.uk

Related research


Research degrees are best planned by individual discussion, so if you have a particular subject area in mind, please contact a staff member working in your area of interest in the first instance. See ‘Research interests’ for more information. 


The University of Birmingham has been ranked 8th in the UK and 60th in the world for post-qualification employability in the latest global survey of universities commissioned by the International Herald Tribune.

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.

Birmingham’s History graduates develop a broad range of transferable skills that are highly valued by a range of employers. These skills include: familiarity with research methods; the ability to manage large quantities of information from diverse sources; the ability to organise information in a logical and coherent manner; the expertise to write clearly and concisely and to tight deadlines; critical and analytical ability; the capacity for argument, debate and speculation; and the ability to base conclusions on statistical research.

Over the past five years, over 92% of History postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Some of our History postgraduates go on to use their studies directly, for example in heritage, museum or archivist work. Others use their transferable skills in a range of occupations from finance to civil service to fundraising. Employers that graduates have gone on to work for include: Alcester Heritage Network; HSBC; KPMG; Ministry of Defence; and the National Trust.


Research degrees are best planned by individual discussion, so if you have a particular subject area in mind, please contact a staff member working in your area of interest in the first instance. See ‘Research interests’ for more information.