AHRC Research Areas

Through the Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership, the University of Birmingham is one of six institutions offering up to 89 Arts and Humanities Research Council funded studentships for 2016 entry. Applications for the 2016/17 round are now open.

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Here at Birmingham, we  are very proud of the breadth and depth of the research undertaken in the College of Arts and Law and across the University, offering a wide range of specialisms, alongside access to the expertise across the six HEIs which make up Midlands3Cities.

Through the partnership, the University of Birmingham's AHRC-funded PhD students will have the opportunity to draw on the combined expertise of the Universities of Birmingham, Nottingham and Leicester, Birmingham City University, Nottingham Trent University and De Montfort University. 

This doctoral scheme provides studentships which enable you to undertake and complete a doctoral degree. Studentships will normally be for up to three years for full-time study, or up to six years for part-time study. 

Funding is available for research in the following areas: 


Based in the Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology, we offer promising candidates the opportunity to carry out research in a range of areas across Byzantine, Prehistoric, Classical, Historical, Conflict, Landscape, Funerary and Environmental archaeology, as well as Geographical Information Systems and virtual environments. 

We welcome applications onto our Archaeology PhD from candidates whose research interests include:

  • Archaeological Science
  • Archaeological Theory
  • Archaeology of Human Origins
  • Archaeology of Literate Societies
  • Cultural Geography
  • Industrial Archaeology
  • Landscape and Environmental Archaeology
  • Maritime Archaeology
  • Prehistoric Archaeology

Contact: caha@contacts.bham.ac.uk

Classics and Ancient History

The Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology is able to offer an exceptionally wide range of opportunities and specialisms across Classics and Ancient History, as well as access to our outstanding research collection in the University Library. If your interests are in late antiquity, the medieval Balkans or modern Greece, your research will be supported by the excellent specialist library housed in our Whitting Room. 

Our Classics and Ancient History PhD invites applications from candidates whose research interests include: 

  • Classical Literature
  • Classical Reception
  • Epigraphy and Papyrology
  • Languages and Lingustics
  • Philosophy, Thought and Religion
  • Ancient History
  • Egyptology
  • Ancient Near Eastern Studies
  • Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies

Contact: caha@contacts.bham.ac.uk

Drama and Theatre Arts

The Department of Drama and Theatre Arts enjoys a highly respected national and international reputation for excellence in research in the study of drama. We benefit from Birmingham's exceptional resources for theatre research, as well as the University's links with world-class theatre in Birmingham, Stratford-upon-Avon, London and beyond. 

We offer candidates the opportunity to carry out research in a dynamic environment, allowing students, scholars and theatre practitioners to work together to achieve a new breadth and depth in the study of drama. 

Our research programmes -Drama and Theatre Studies PhD, and Drama and Theatre Studies Practice-based PhD- welcome applications from candidates whose research interests include:

  • Drama and Theatre Studies
  • Dramaturgy
  • Theatre and History
  • Theories of Theatre
  • Theatre and Society

Contact: a.j.ledger@bham.ac.uk

English Language and Literature

The School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies contains some of the leading centres for the postgraduate study of English in the UK, offering research supervision to postgraduates across practically the entire historical and conceptual range of English language and literature. The most recent Research Assessment Exercise found that 60% of our research was of international excellence. 

Our research students enter a self-motivated, vibrant and enthusiastic community of international scholars with an active research culture, and are well supported in their research by a network of supervisors and other advisors, as well as student-led seminars, department seminars and regular talks by visiting speakers. 

We welcome applications onto our English Language and Applied Linguistics PhD and English Literature PhD programmes, from applicants whose research interests include: 

  • Comparitive Literature
  • Creative Writing
  • Lifewriting (including Biography and Autobiography)
  • Textual Editing and Bibliography
  • English Language and Literature by Time and Place
  • History and Development of the English Language
  • Medieval Literature (including Old and Middle English, Anglo-Norman, and Icelandic/Old Norse)

Contact: Dr Paul Thompson: P.Thompson@bham.ac.uk for English Language or Dr Rex Ferguson r.ferguson@bham.ac.uk for English Literature.


The School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences has a renowned history for international excellence in research and teaching. We are a large interdisciplinary and international community of some 60 staff and around 80 research students, who produce world leading research in all areas of physical and human geography. 

We welcome applications to our PhD research programme PhD in Geography and Environmental Sciences including in the AHRC relevant areas of:

  • Cultural geography
  • Historical geography
  • Environmental geography
  • Urban geography

Contact: r.j.day@bham.ac.uk

Heritage Studies

Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage is based at the University of Birmingham with offices at Ironbridge Gorge, a World Heritage Site in Shropshire, providing research students with access to unique academic experience and unrivalled resources. Their expertise includes:

  • World Heritage
  • Understanding Intangible Cultural Heritage
  • Valuing Heritage
  • Tourism and Cultural Change
  • Heritages of Conflict
  • Industrial Heritage Futures
  • Imagined and Mediated Pasts
  • Histories of Heritage
  • Heritage Policy

We welcome applications onto our Cultural Heritage PhD from candidates whose research interests could also include: 

  • Archives
  • Conservation Science
  • Heritage Management
  • Information Management
  • Museum and Gallery Studies

Contact: j.carman@bham.ac.uk


Graded 5 in the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, Birmingham is one of the country's leading history departments, with an excellent record of high-powered research of international standing. We are able to offer a broad range of research opportunities. Please see our History PhD

Among the research areas available for applications are:

  • Cultural History
  • Diplomacy and International Relations
  • Economic History
  • History of Ideas
  • History of Science/Medicine/Technology
  • Imperial/Colonial History
  • Political History
  • Religious History
  • Social History
  • War Studies

Contact: Professor Matt Houlbrook: M.Houlbrook@bham.ac.uk 


The depth and breadth of expertise of Birmingham's academics enables us to provide research opportunities which span between departments and even across colleges, to include History, Philosophy, Law, Science and Medicine, as exemplified by the Medicine, Ethics, Society and History research group. 

This interdisciplinary approach is evident in all of our research programmes, but those interested in interdisciplinary study specifically might be interested in applying for the following programmes:

In addition, the newly created American and Canadian Studies Centre encompases research into the literature, culture, history, film and TV, politics and international relations of North America. 


For over 85 years Birmingham Law School has made a major contribution to teaching and scholarship, and is regularly ranked among the top law schools in the UK. Our research has been ranked seventh in the country for world-leading and international excellence, and our academics are leaders in their fields and the authors of many key works used by practitioners today. 

Among the research areas available for applications on our Law PhD are:

  • Common Law, including Commercial Law
  • Comparative Law
  • Criminal Law and Criminology
  • EU Law
  • Human Rights
  • International Law
  • Jurisprudence/Philosophy of Law
  • Law Regulated Primarily by Statute (e.g. Family, Employment, Procedure)
  • Law Related to Property
  • Public Law

Contact: law-research@bham.ac.uk


Based in the Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics, research into Linguistics at Birmingham is part of a vibrant international community in which the most recent Research Assessment Exercise considered 60% of research to be of international excellence. 

We welcome applications onto our English Language and Applied Linguistics PhD programme from candidates whose research interests include:

  • Applications of Linguistics
  • Language, Variation and Change
  • Lexicon
  • Dictionaries and Databases
  • Linguistic Theory
  • Morphology and Phonology
  • Phonetics
  • Semantics and Pragmatics
  • Syntax

Contact: Dr Paul Thompson: P.Thompson@bham.ac.uk

Media, Film Studies and Creative Writing

The newly created Department of Film and Creative Writing brings together two dynamic and successful disciplines within the School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies. We are committed to creative and critical practice in teaching and research. Our staff include internationally renowned scholars and award-winning writers.

Employability is a key focus within the department and we enjoy excellent collaborative relationships with professional partners in film, television, theatre, literature and new media. As well as studying texts from a variety of critical, theoretical and historical perspectives, our students make films, perform poetry, develop screenplays, write novels and create television programmes. Their work can be found in theatres, in libraries, at festivals, in cinemas, on television screens, in newspapers, classrooms, online and in bookshops.

Interdisciplinary research is also encouraged through the B-Film Research Centre

We welcome applications onto our three research programmes:

Contact: m.a.conway@bham.ac.uk

Modern Languages

The Department of Modern Languagesis home to one of the UK's largest groups of internationally renowned researchers in the national cultures of Europe, and researchers can pursue specialist, cross-disciplinary or interdisciplinary postgraduate study in a vast range of areas. 

Our research programmes include: 

We welcome applications for these programmes from candidates whose research interests include:

  • Area Studies
  • French Studies
  • German Studies
  • Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin
  • Interpreting and Translation
  • Italian Studies
  • Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Russian, Slavonic, and East European Studies 
  • Post-Colonial Studies
  • Sexuality and Gender Studies

Contact: modernlanguages@bham.ac.uk


One of the most prestigious music departments in the UK, we have been ranked second in the country for the quality of our world-leading research, and the past year has seen us expand our offering even further. We are located in the Bramall Music Building at the heart of the University campus, centered on the 450-seat Elgar Concert Hall, and our Music Library is one of the best in the country, with special collections including Elgar's diaries, manuscript scores and early editions, as well as Baroque manuscripts and early printed sources, and an extensive microfilm collection. 

We welcome applications for our prestigious research degrees - Musicology PhD, Musical Composition PhD and Music Performance Practice PhD - from applicants whose research interests include:

  • Classical
  • Composition (including computer-aided and electroacoustic composition)
  • History of Music
  • Music and Society
  • Musical Performance
  • Musicology
  • Popular Music
  • Traditional Music

Contact: Dr Scott Wilson: s.d.wilson@bham.ac.uk


Our department is home to a dynamic and friendly community of philosophers, pursuing original research on a wide range of topics. We have a growing international reputation as a centre of excellence for research, and staff members write papers and books in key areas. 

We are multidisciplinary in approach, and our links with the College of Medical and Dental Sciences, the International Development Department, the Birmingham Business School, the School of Psychology and the Birmingham Law School confirm our belief that the issues we face today cannot be solved within any one department alone. 

We welcome applications to our research programmes - the Philosophy PhD and the Global Ethics PhD - from students whose research interests include:

  • Epistemology
  • Ethics and Aesthetics
  • History of Philosophy by Period
  • Metaphysics
  • Philosophy of Language and Philosophical Logic
  • Philosophy of Mind and Psychology
  • Philosophy of Science and Mathematics, and Mathematical Logic
  • Political Philosophy
  • Applied Philosophy, Global Ethics and Bioethics

Contact: Professor Ian Rumfitt: i.rumfitt@bham.ac.uk

Theology and Religion

The Department of Theology and Religion combines internationally established strength in teaching and research with initiative in new fields of study. The knowledge and expertise of our academic staff offers variety and depth of study in a context which supports and encourages multidisciplinary research across the areas of theology and the study of religion. This includes areas such as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

We offer a wide variety of forward-thinking research opportunities, including our Practical Theology Doctorate and the Theology and Religion PhD/MA by Research, which can be studied through the following specialisms:

We welcome applications to these programmes from students whose research interests include:

  • Church History and History of Theology
  • Indian and Far Eastern Religions
  • Islam
  • Judaism
  • Liturgy
  • New Testament
  • Old Testament
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Systematic Theology
  • Modern Theology
  • Religion, Gender and Sexuality
  • Evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity
  • Electronic Editing of Texts

Contact: Professor Ian Rumfitt: i.rumfitt@bham.ac.uk

Visual Arts and History of Art

Based in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, the Department of Art History, Film and Visual Studies has access to this excellent and representative collection of post-medieval European art, including paintings, engraving and drawings by such artists as Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Veronese, Picasso and Magritte. it is also an important collection of 19th-century paintings by artists such as Monet, Manet, Degas, Gauguin, Turner and Whistler. We also encourage interdisciplinary research, particularly on the subject of Film through the B-Film Research Centre

We welcome applications for our History of Art PhD from candidates whose research interests include: 

  • Applied Arts (History, Theory and Practice)
  • Art Theory and Aesthetics (History, Theory and Practice)
  • Ethnography and Anthropology
  • Film-based Media  (History, Theory and Practice)
  • Fine Art  (History, Theory and Practice)
  • Performance and Installation  (History, Theory and Practice)
  • Photography  (History, Theory and Practice)
  • Time-based Media  (History, Theory and Practice)
  • Conservation of Art and Textiles
  • Art History

Contact: Dr Camilla Smith: h.c.smith@bham.ac.uk

Additional Information