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

We offer promising German Studies candidates the opportunity to carry out research in one of the leading centres in the country for language, literature, history and culture.

Germanists working here are part of a stimulating research culture within the Department of Modern Languages, and also benefit from special links to the DAAD-supported multidisciplinary Institute for German Studies. Between us we are able to offer an exceptionally wide range of expertise, and hence supervision opportunities, ranging from the medieval period to the present day, and from traditional literary analysis to cutting-edge interdisciplinary approaches.

Dr Nigel Harris

Dr Nigel Harris

“The in–depth study of German and the German-speaking lands is challenging and fascinating, but also increasingly important in an ever more vibrant and integrated Europe.”

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 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.

We have particular strengths and traditions in studying the interface and interactions between literature (and other forms of cultural expression) and the socio-political contexts in which they were produced. We also encourage and enable interdisciplinary research, and have a successful history of joint supervisions with other departments and schools within the College of Arts and Law (and beyond).

Profiles of our current Modern Languages doctoral researchers

Why study this course

  • You will be studying with the Department of Modern Languages which has been recognised for the quality of our research in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework Exercise, with over 75% of our research judged to be ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ 
  • Birmingham’s Modern Languages postgraduates develop excellent communication skills, whilst cultural awareness and foreign language skills are highly sought after by employers. Postgraduates in Modern Languages also have a range of transferable skills including the ability to gather and interpret information, organisational skills and the ability to work well with others. Such skills can be used in a variety of occupations.
  • You can pursue specialist, cross-disciplinary or interdisciplinary postgraduate study in any others of language specialism at the University. Youu can also research a wide range of cultural, literary, historical, and socio-political topics related to periods from the MiddleAges to the present day.

Fees and funding

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

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

* 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.

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 tuituion fees and funding.

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

GDR literature and culture, memory studies, memories of dictatorship, migration from Romania and Bulgaria

Contact - Dr Sara Jones - Tel: +44 (0) 121 414 6185; Email:

Twentieth- and twenty-first-century women’s writing; the politics of remembrance; feminist theory; gendered memories of Nazism; autobiography and identity; women's writing and fascism.

Contact - Dr Joanne Sayner Tel:+44 (0)121 414 6177; Email:

Twentieth-century German literature; language teaching methodology.

Contact - Professor John Klapper; Tel: +44 (0)121 414 6186; Email:

German culture and history since 1750, particularly the relationship between literature and politics; German cinema. 

Contact - Dr Elystan Griffiths; Tel: +44 (0)121 414 6178; Email:

German intellectual and cultural history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, especially Nietzsche, the First World War, and National Socialism.

Contact - Dr Nicholas Martin; Tel: +44 (0)121 414 6176; Email:

Medieval and sixteenth-century literature and culture. 

Contact - Dr Nigel Harris; Tel: +44 (0)121 414 6183; Email:

Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century women's literature.

Contact - Dr Ruth Whittle; Tel: +44 (0)121 414 3218; Email 

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.

Birmingham's Modern Languages postgraduates develop excellent communication skills, whilst cultural awareness and foreign language skills are highly sought after by employers. Postgraduates in Modern Languages also have a range of transferable skills including the ability to gather and interpret information, organisational skills and the ability to work well with others. Such skills can be used in a variety of occupations.

Over the past five years, over 94% of Modern Languages postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Some of our language graduates train to become professional linguists such as translators and interpreters. Others graduates enter employment where their language skills may be advantageous but not central to their role - for example, within international organisations, the Civil Service and in the travel and hospitality industry. Employers that graduates have gone on to work for include: Arts and Humanities Research Council; Deloitte; Tate Britain Gallery; University of Manchester; and Zamyn (a communications agency).

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.