Postgraduate research

As a vibrant community of students and academics, the College of Arts and Law is committed to the advancement of academic endeavour, and research degrees are central to this. From the PhD, the most advanced and prestigious research degree, to the MA by Research, or the combined taught and research MRes, our courses enable aspiring researchers of any level to develop and apply their knowledge towards the preparation of a piece of research that makes a unique impression in their field of study.

Studying with the College of Arts and Law

Breadth of experience

Your research degree will involve the preparation of a dissertation of up to 80,000 words on a subject of your choice, developed under the expert supervision of an academic member of staff. Within the College, we have a broad range of subject areas in which you can undertake research, and in recent years this breadth of experience has seen students enjoy co-supervision, enabling them to tap in to the expertise of more than one supervisor. As the nature of many research projects is increasingly interdisciplinary in scope, this is a key advantage of studying here at Birmingham.

Flexible delivery

We offer three levels of research degree, allowing you to choose the appropriate level to suit your experience and aspirations. Our MRes courses, which can be taken as standalone programmes or a stepping stone to further research, combine taught modules with an extended independent research project of up to 20,000 words. The MA by Research, a shorter alternative - or stepping stone to - a PhD, culminates in a 40,000-word thesis, while the full PhD is completed with an 80,000-word dissertation. Some of our PhD courses also include integrated study, starting with an additional year’s worth of taught modules to provide a foundation for your research.

These courses are also incredibly flexible, enabling you to select the method of study which suits your commitments outside of academia. The majority of our courses are available full-time or part-time, with a full-time PhD taking three years and a full-time MA by Research or MRes just one year, and part-time modes taking twice as long.

We also offer our MA by Research and PhD courses by distance learning, either full-time or part-time, enabling you to complete research all over the world, while benefitting from the input of Birmingham’s world-class academics. This also gives you the flexibility to combine your research with existing work or family commitments.

Innovative approach

In addition to the excellence on offer with these traditional forms of research degree, the College of Arts and Law is home to a number of innovative and engaging courses, which enable students to develop their knowledge, and present their research, in creative ways.

The School of English, Drama and American and Canadian Studies, for example, is home to the Film Studies Audio-Visual PhD, which leads students through the filming and editing of an hour-long documentary on their research, which is accompanied by a 30,000-word written defence. The School also offers a Practice-Based PhD in Drama and Theatre Studies, which allows your academic research to be conducted through practical experimentation, accompanied by a 40,000-word thesis.

Another example is the Music Performance Practice PhD, which centres on a musical performance of up to 45 minutes.

Personal development

The College of Arts and Law offers all our postgraduate students opportunities to gain and enhance skills, alongside your studies, to aid your personal and professional development. These include free language training, either for personal development or to support your research, and employability skills training.