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

We offer the opportunity to undertake research in English Literature, delivered on campus or through distance learning.

You will have access to a range of world-class resources in the University’s Main Library and the Cadbury Research Library where a host of rare manuscripts and archives are available. The department also fosters a range of connections with local partners such as the Library of Birmingham, the largest municipal library in Europe, and the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, itself part of the wider School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies.

Dr Sarah Parker

Dr Sarah Parker

PhD English Literature

“Birmingham's strengths lie in its various collections, including the Cadbury Research Library, the Research and Cultural Collections and the Barber Institute's fine art gallery. Having such resources to hand was invaluable to my research and also makes for a pleasant environment in which to study.”

A PhD is awarded for the outcomes of intensive, independent study that demonstrates an original and significant contribution to knowledge in your chosen subject. You will be assessed at the end of the programme by a thesis of 80,000 words which will need to be deemed suitable for publication, in whole or in part in a learned journal or equivalent by your examiners. You will need to defend your thesis and demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of your subject at a viva voce (oral examination) before a panel of expert examiners.

An MA by Research is a research-based Masters programme assessed by a thesis of 40,000 words. An oral examination may be held at the discretion of the examiners.

Unlike our postgraduate taught programmes, there are no formal lectures or seminars in a PhD or MA by Research, and your work is not formally examined until after your thesis has been submitted. Instead, our postgraduate research programmes provide you with the opportunity to undertake research under the expert guidance of a primary supervisor, co-supervisor and mentor, supported by complementary research training.

Find out more about what to expect from a PhD/MA by Research.

Distance learning

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, the programme includes a fully-funded annual visit to campus for each full year of your programme (every two years for part-time students).

For more information on distance learning including answers to frequently asked questions, student experiences and funding opportunities, please see our distance learning website

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):  34% of research at the University of Birmingham for English Language and Literature was top 4* rated ‘world-leading’. A further 53% was rated 3* ‘internationally excellent’.
  • Global ranking: The University of Birmingham was ranked 39th in the World for English Language & Literature 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.
  • Excellent resources: We have many well-established resources to draw on, including those housed in the Cadbury Research Library, which holds approximately 120,000 pre-1850 books dating from 1471, and some 3 million manuscripts.
  • Library facilities: The University’s Main Library also houses extensive research resources, with a large collection covering literature in general and English literature from Anglo-Saxon times to the present. This is supplemented by a growing drama and modern literature collection at the Orchard Learning Resource Centre in Selly Oak.
  • Links with the Royal Shakespeare Company: Our students may benefit from the University’s new collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), which has seen the reinstatement of the iconic studio theatre, The Other Place.

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; £8,520 part-time

The same fees apply to both campus-based and distance learning study. The distance learning programme fee also includes a fully-funded visit to campus for each full year of the programme.

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.

Fee status

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


For EU students applying for the 2020/21 academic year

The UK Government has confirmed that EU students will continue to be eligible for 'home fee status' for entry in September 2020, and will continue to have access to financial support available via student loans for the duration of their course. For more information take a look at the gov.uk website.

Paying your fees

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuition fees and funding.

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 from different countries - our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements: standard language requirements apply for this course - IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band, or PTE with 59 in all four skills. If you are made an offer of a place to study and you do not meet the language requirement, you have the option to enrol on our English for Academic Purposes Presessional Course - if you successfully complete the course, you will be able to fulfil the language requirement without retaking a language qualification.

Learn more about international entry requirements

How to apply

Application deadlines

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 1 July 2019.

Distance learning students will attend a residential visit in September or January, and those students wishing to attend the September residential are also encouraged to apply by 1 July 2019. The visit will take place at the end of September/beginning of October and you will receive further details once you have accepted your offer.

Additional guidance for applicants to the PhD Distance Learning study mode.

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 also wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

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 in the Department of English Literature takes place across medieval, early modern, eighteenth century, nineteenth century, and modern and contemporary literature and culture. The diverse research interests and approaches of the department ensure a vibrant and dynamic research community.

Please contact a staff member working in your area of interest in the first instance. A summary of our key research areas, and staff working within those, can be found below.

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 Literature

Birmingham's English Literature postgraduates develop a range of skills including presentation, communication and analytical skills, as well as the ability to work independently, think critically and develop opinions.

Over the past five years, over 97% of English Literature postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Many of our graduates go on to further study or academia, while others use their transferable skills in a wide variety of occupations including copywriting, marketing, publishing and teaching.

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.