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

Our internationally recognised research ranges from the medieval to the contemporary period, focusing on the 18th century and after, with the preponderance in the 20th century. Recent and on-going PhDs in French Studies span a broad range of periods and topics, and we welcome enquiries and proposals relating both to discrete specialisms and to interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary work.

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 2014, September 2014


The 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 PhD – the most advanced research degree – leads to a dissertation of up to 80,000 words on a subject of your choice and under the expert supervision of an academic member of staff. You can study for a PhD on campus or by Distance Learning.

Postgraduate research is pursued in its broadest social and intellectual context, and you develop your research project within an active and friendly postgraduate community. Postgraduates are offered opportunities to present work-in-progress at Departmental Research Seminars, the School Postgraduate Forum, and relevant Postgraduate conferences hosted at the University. As appropriate, staff and supervisors will also guide postgraduate students in important areas beyond the thesis itself, such as the preparation of external conference papers and research publications. Since we are particularly interested in interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary work, it is possible to arrange joint supervision involving staff from other Departments, thereby giving you access to a broader knowledge base and maximising the quality and originality of your work.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2014/15 are currently as follows:

  • Home / EU £3,996 full-time; £1,998 part-time
  • Overseas: £12,565 full-time; £6,282.50 part-time

Learn more about 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

A good upper second-class degree in French (Single or Joint Honours), or the equivalent, is usually required

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

For applicants to the PhD Distance Learning study mode only:

As part of the application process for the distance learning study mode, we will ask you to provide evidence to demonstrate that you have the time, commitment, facilities and experience to study for a PhD by Distance Learning. Please be prepared to provide evidence, and details, of the following:

  • Examples of your postgraduate research experience and ability to work independently e.g. papers/presentations at professional and academic conferences or publications in professional journals or previous completion of an independent research project, etc.
  • Full reasons (academic and personal) for registering for the distance learning mode of study rather than by standard full or part-time on-campus options. In particular, how you will be able to carry out your project in your chosen location.
  • Access to local library facilities (where needed)
  • Access to IT facilities
  • Access to communications, including e-mail and visual communication media e.g. Skype and Facetime
  • Access to facilities to support any study-related disability (where appropriate)

You can upload this information at the time of application - when asked to provide supporting documentation - or via your applicant portal once you have submitted your application.

For all applicants:

Learn more about applying

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 interests of staff

  • The Algerian War of Independence; the French colonial experience.
    Contact: Dr Craig Blunt
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5968
  • Decadence; Revolutionary fiction; 18th- and 20th-century women's writing; drama (Beckett, Koltès); comparative literature (French and English); European and national identities.
    Contact: Emeritus Professor Jennifer Birkett
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5981
  • French cultural history, especially of the 20th century; the Nouvelle Revue Française and Jean Paulhan; Franco–British cultural relations.
    Contact: Professor Martyn Cornick
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5965
  • History and theories of sexuality; history and politics of sexual 'perversion'; modern critical theory; nineteenth-century French writing and culture; decadence and the fin de siecle; cinema and media studies; death studies
    Contact: Professor Lisa Downing
  • Dada and Surrealism in French literature and film, particularly Tristan Tzara, Luis Buñuel and Jean-Luc Godard; 20th-century French poetry.
    Contact: Dr Stephen Forcer
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5985
  • 20th-century prose fiction; especially Julien Gracq, Patrick Modiano, J.M.G. Le Clézio; memory in literature, memory of WWI and WWII; the City in literature and visual culture.
    Contact: Dr Béatrice Damamme-Gilbert
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5969
  • Early modern French literature and culture.
    Contact: Dr Ursula Haskins-Gonthier
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5965
  • Francophone Caribbean literature and film from Martinique and Guadeloupe and the Antillean diaspora (including the Haitian diaspora in Canada); Francophone colonial and postcolonial studies more generally.
    Contact: Dr Louise Hardwick
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5964
  • French cinema (all periods); 20th-century visual art; literary, critical and feminist theory; Duras; Beckett.
    Contact: Dr Kate Ince
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5972
  • Inter-war literature and culture; Second World War and literature; Irène Némirovsky; women’s writing; literature and translation; travel writing.
    Contact: Dr Angela Kershaw
    Tel: +44 (0)121 4145974
  • Colonial and postcolonial studies; popular representations of Empire in Britain and in France; European imperialisms in comparative perspective; the decolonisation of European empire; colonial and postcolonial history of francophone Africa, North Africa and the Sahara.
    Contact: Dr Berny Sèbe
    Tel. + 44 (0)121 414 6173
  • 19th-century literature; Honoré de Balzac; the politics of Balzacian provinciality; contemporary re-imaginings of 19th-century literature.
    Contact: Dr Andrew Watts
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5965
  • 20th- and 21st-century French poetry, especially post-1945 and extreme contemporary; relations between art and literature in France; text-and-image studies.
    Contact: Dr Emma Wagstaff
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5965


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.

Our French Studies doctoral researchers have gone on to forge successful careers in a variety of industries, including Higher Education. Rachel Luckman graduated in 2009 with a PhD and is now an associate lecturer here:

“I loved my studies at Birmingham; I felt challenged and rewarded... I began lecturing as a postgraduate student, and have continued on a part-time basis.”