English Language and Applied Linguistics PhD/MA by Research

We offer excellent candidates the opportunity to carry out research in one of the most dynamic institutions in Britain.

We specialise in, and welcome applications from prospective research students interested in the following areas: Corpus Research, Cognitive Linguistics and Psycholinguistics, Discourse Analysis and Stylistics, and Language Learning and Teaching.

We also offer an Applied Linguistics PhD via distance mode, in two formats: traditional and modular.

Doctoral Training Partnership studentships available

The University of Birmingham is part of the Midlands4Cities AHRC DTP and the Midlands Graduate School ESRC DTP, both of which are offering postgraduate research studentships to campus-based UK/EU applicants across each DTP's partner institutions. AHRC awards are available across arts, law and humanities disciplines, and ESRC awards are available for a range of social science disciplines including Applied Linguistics, Area Studies (African Studies), Economic and Social History, and Socio-Legal Studies.

Find out more

College of Arts and Law postgraduate scholarships available

The College of Arts and Law is offering a range of scholarships for our postgraduate taught and research programmes to ensure that the very best talent is nurtured and supported.

Learn more about our scholarships

Shuangling Li

Shuangling Li

“At the University of Birmingham, we have the most supportive group of staff and PhD fellows and I have access to valuable resources for research. We also have a research community, PG Tips, which organises weekly seminars and conferences for us to participate in. We can hear about each other’s research project or talk about our own studies. Our department also organises seminars where we can hear from established professors or researchers in our area.”
Ask Shuangling a question

As a student on one of our PhD and MA by Research programmes, you will conduct a large-scale independent linguistic research project, at the conclusion of which you will have become an expert in your chosen field of study.

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

The MA by Research programme requires you to prepare a thesis of up to 40,000 words on a topic of your choice, for which an academic staff member will provide expert supervision.

Our principal areas of research are:

Corpus Research - We are well known for our innovative approaches to the analysis of large corpora, which have had a strong impact on language teaching, dictionary development, and research into academic discourses. We are home to the  Centre for Corpus Research (CCR), which supports the use of corpus analysis in research, teaching and learning. The CCR provides access to a range of corpora and has a dedicated computer suite with specialist resources.

Cognitive Linguistics and Psycholinguistics - Our research in  cognitive linguistics and psycholinguistics covers a wide range of areas including figurative language, idioms, embodied cognition, iconicity, language and perception, sign languages, second language acquisition, and construction grammar. We have particular strengths in British Sign Language, Australian Sign Language and gesture studies. We have a Linguistics Laboratory  which includes equipment for eye-tracking studies.

Discourse Analysis and Stylistics - We are known for the development of several highly influential discourse analysis frameworks, and for our work on narrative, the discursive representation of inequality, new media, the language of politics, as well as new ideas on evaluation and phraseology. Our research draws on a variety of linguistic and theoretical traditions, including: systemic-functional linguistics; critical discourse analysis; corpus linguistics; multimodal analysis; narrative analysis; conversation analysis, and genre analysis. Our particular strength at Birmingham is that we combine discourse analysis and stylistics with corpus analytic methods of research. 

Language Learning and Teaching - We research and publish in: academic literacies; phraseology; the teaching and learning of metaphor and other types of figurative language; applications of cognitive linguistics to second language learning and teaching; and the uses of corpora in language teaching.

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

  • World-leading research - the department celebrated excellent results in the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) results. 34% of research at the University of Birmingham for English Language and Literature was rated 4*, ‘world-leading’. A further 53% was rated 3*, ‘internationally excellent’.
  • World ranking recognition - the University of Birmingham was ranked in the top 40 in the world for English Language & Literature and Linguistics by the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2018. These rankings are compiled annually to help prospective students identify the leading universities worldwide in a particular subject.
  • Research resources - our English Language programmes benefit from the 450 million-word Bank of English corpus, an invaluable collection of authentic language data. All students and researchers working within English Language also have free access a variety of language corpora, and, where necessary, training in how to use them. Additionally, the Main Library houses an extensive collection of books on English language and linguistics, including English language teaching, and subscribes to 250 periodicals in the fields of English language and literature.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2019/20 are as follows: 

  • UK/EU: £4,320 full-time; £2,160 part-time*
  • International: £17,040 full-time 

The above fees quoted are for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, 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 2019.

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. 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

Our requirements for postgraduate research are dependent on the type of programme you are applying for:

  • For MRes and MA by Research programmes, entry to our programmes usually requires a good (normally a 2:1 or above) Honours degree, or an equivalent qualification if you were educated outside the UK.
  • Applicants for a PhD will also need to hold a Masters qualification at Merit level or above (or its international equivalent).

Any academic and professional qualifications or relevant professional experience you may have are normally taken into account, and in some cases, form an integral part of the entrance requirements.

If you are applying for distance learning research programmes, you will also be required to demonstrate that you have the time, commitment, facilities and experience to study by distance learning.

If your qualifications are non-standard or different from the entry requirements stated here, please contact the admissions tutor.

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, which includes detailed advice on research proposals and how to write them.

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.

Please note: Postgraduate research can start at any time during the year, but it is important to allow time for us to review your application and communicate a decision. If you wish to start in September, we would recommend that you aim to submit your application and supporting documents by the end of June.

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 specialise and welcome applications from prospective research students interested in corpus linguistics, cognitive linguistics and psycholinguistics, and stylistics and discourse analysis.

A summary of our key research areas, and staff working within those, can be found below. General queries which are not subject-specific (including fees, scholarship enquiries and paperwork) are best directed to the College of Arts and Law Graduate School.

Related research

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University.

The University's Careers Network provides advice and information specifically for postgraduates that will help you to develop an effective career and skills development strategy, and to make the most of your time with us at the University. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated careers and employability team to deliver tailored programmes of careers events and local support.

You will have opportunities to: meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs; attend employer presentations and skills workshops; receive 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.

You will also be able to access our full range of careers support for up to two years after graduation.

Postgraduate employability: English Language and Linguistics

Birmingham's English Language and Linguistics postgraduates develop a broad range of transferable skills that are highly valued by employers, particularly in relation to verbal and written communication. They also develop crucial skills in organisation, time management, analysis and interpretation of information.

Many of our graduates enter roles for which their programme has prepared them, such as teaching and lecturing; others use their transferable skills in a wide range of occupations including journalism, marketing and events.

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

The Guild of Students hosts over 250 student groups and societies to suit a wide range of interests. These include the Postgraduate and Mature Students Association which runs a regular and varied programme of events specifically tailored to postgraduate students.

In addition, you will find that each Department runs its own social activities, research fora and student groups.

Accommodation

We offer accommodation for postgraduates on or near to campus, although many of our students also choose to live privately in student accommodation, shared houses or flats. If you do choose to live in private accommodation, the University has dedicated support services to help you to find properties from accredited landlords.

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.