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English Research Degrees - PhD

A PhD in English will help you to develop research skills that support professional practice, research and/or academic careers. You will work closely with a team of specialist academics in your chosen field, and receive excellent support tailored to your individual needs. 

Studying with us in 2021/22 and 2022/23

The University has put in place measures in response to Covid-19 to allow us to safely deliver our courses.  Information about the arrangements for the 2021/22 academic year can be found here.  


Should the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic continue in the 2022/23 academic year or subsequent years of your course, any additional and/or alternative arrangements put in place by the University in response will be in accordance with the latest government public health advice, pandemic-related/health and safety legislation, and the terms and conditions of the student contract.

  • Level Postgraduate Research
  • Study mode Full Time/Part Time/Distance Learning
  • Location City Centre
  • Award PhD
  • Start date September 2022, February 2023
  • School School of English
  • Faculty Faculty of Arts, Design and Media


A PhD in English will help you to develop research skills that support professional practice, research and/or academic careers. You will work closely with a team of specialist academics in your chosen field, and receive excellent support tailored to your individual needs. 

This course is open to International students.

What's covered in this course?

A PhD enables you to follow a programme of self-directed, independent study, supported by experienced supervisors who are themselves experts in their area.  You will also be supported by the wider research community in the Faculty and you will have regular opportunities to attend research seminars, conferences and symposia.

Why Choose Us?

  • The School of English at BCU is a small, friendly academic environment that offers excellent support to all of our PhD students.
  • As well as a main supervisor (or Director of Studies), you will have a second supervisor to read and comment on your work.
  • We have a strong research culture and provide a range of career development opportunities to our graduate students. 

Research interests

The School of English is keen to hear from serious researchers interested in pursuing a PhD. Normally we would expect a good MA in a relevant area as an entry requirement, but in certain cases this may not be appropriate. Our research degree coordinator is Dr Mark McGlashan, and you are welcome to contact him with any enquiries. PhD applications tend to be taken more seriously where some thought has been given not just to the project, but also to the potential supervisor.

Current interests

We supervise doctoral work in a range of areas within English Studies, primarily:

Fees & How to Apply

  • International students

Award: PhD

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

Award: PhD

Starting: Feb 2023

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

Award: PhD

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

Award: PhD

Starting: Feb 2023

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

The University reserves the right to increase fees in line with inflation based on the Retail Prices Index or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament up to a maximum of five per cent.

Entry Requirements

To apply for our English PhD research degree you should have, or expect to be awarded, a Masters degree in a relevant English literary or linguistic field from a British or overseas university.

Exceptional applicants without a Master's degree, but holding a first class Bachelors degree in English, may be considered dependent upon the academic coherence and promise of their research proposal, and its consonance with the academic expertise of the School.

We also welcome enquiries from potential PhD researchers without formal academic qualifications but with appropriate levels of professional experience.

Please send us an initial PhD enquiry containing your brief PhD research proposal (max. 500 words), and/or any questions or queries you may have. You’ll notice that it asks you whether you’ve thought about potential supervisors. Blanket applications, which leave this section blank, are often rejected. You may wish to contact one of our members of academic staff to discuss a potential project, and you are encouraged to do this. Applications, however, should be sent through official channels, beginning with the initial enquiry form.

We will review your initial enquiry to ensure your research proposal compliments one of our PhD research interests and if so we will ask you to make a full application.

English Language Requirements for International Students

Valid Academic IELTS certificate with overall score of 7.0 with no band below 6.5 or equivalent.

Research proposal guidance

Your research proposal should address the following areas:


Please outline what the purpose of your research is; e.g. "The objective of this research project is to….."


Explain the scope of the project and the range of activities that you imagine this will involve; e.g. “The following tasks will be undertaken as a part of the proposed research”.


Explain why this research is needed.  Outline previous work in the field (if any exists).  What do you imagine the wider benefits of this research will be? 


Explain what methods you will use to conduct your research and why? Explain the reasons for your choice of methodology and why it is appropriate. Try and think of potential problems that you may encounter.


Are there specific facilities that you will need to conduct your research (e.g. hardware or software)? If so are these already in place?  How do you propose to fund your research?

Additional costs

As each PhD is an individual research project, it is impossible to specify what additional costs may be incurred. Whilst we are able to offer limited financial support towards the direct costs of research (e.g. the purchase of books or digital reproductions of primary sources; attendance at conferences and workshops, etc.) you may need to supplement this. Any potential costs should be identified in your application.

Course in Depth

A day in the life of a PhD student

If you're considering doing a PhD there's probably a lot of questions going through your mind: how am I going to pay for it? Should I quit my job? Will I cope with the workload? But most importantly, what is it really like? Karen Patel, a full time PhD student, shares her experiences of juggling life, a part time job and her studies. Read more in Karen's blog.

Supervisors and Support

As an English PhD research student you will be guided through your programme of study by a team of supervisors.

Your supervisors will help you create your individual PhD research plan which, in your first few months, may include study for a research methods qualification: PG Cert Research Practice.

Your supervisory team will include a Director of Studies whose role it is to ensure that you are meeting targets and following the correct processes and systems for conducting English PhD research.

You will also be supported by a second supervisor (and sometimes a third) who will provide guidance based on their knowledge of your specific English PhD research interest.

You will meet with your supervisors on a regular basis to review your progress, receive advice and plan the next stages of your PhD research degree.

You will present your research developments regularly to supervisors and other members of your PhD research community at Birmingham School of English.

Modes of Study

Our English PhD research degree is offered full-time, part-time or by distance learning.

These three modes of study ensure that we can create a PhD research plan around your lifestyle needs, even if you are in full-time employment or overseas.

Full-time PhD Research: three years

As a full-time English PhD research student you will undertake much of your research on campus using the facilities at the School of English.

You will be expected to complete your research and submit your work for examination within 36-43 months.

Part-time PhD Research: four years

You would chose part-time English PhD research if you opt to study whilst in employment or if full-time study is impractical.

You will be encouraged to use the campus facilities at the School of English when you can and may often work from home.

You will be expected to complete your research and submit your work for examination within 48-72 months.

Distance Learning PhD Research: four years

Distance learning is possible, under carefully controlled circumstances, if you normally live outside of the UK but wish to conduct English PhD research with the School of English.

You will still be required to have some level of face-to-face engagement with us each academic year, often by conducting research on campus in Birmingham (UK).

Face to face research will be arranged for a period of time during the summer months, or at a mutually agreed time.

You will be expected to complete your research and submit your work for examination within 48-72 months.


The value of a PhD 

The Doctor of Philosophy or PhD is recognised worldwide and is often an essential requirement for those wishing to follow an academic or research career in industry or commerce.

Our English PhD research degree will help you create opportunities to develop research skills that support professional practice, research and/or academic careers.


PhD researchers funded under the Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Partnership have the opportunity to undertake industry placements as part of their research. For more information visit the Midlands4Cities website.

For those students not funded by Midlands4Cities, the PhD still allows you the opportunity to work with other institutions and companies as part of your research. You can discuss your options with your potential supervisors, if you feel a placement would benefit your research.


OpportUNIty Student Ambassador

OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.

It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.

Graduate roles

Dr Serena Trowbridge completed her Ph.D. in the School of English in 2010, working on Christina Rossetti and the influence of Gothic under the supervision of Professor Fiona Robertson. Her monograph, Christina Rossetti's Gothic, based on her thesis, was published by Bloomsbury in 2013.

Serena is now Associate Director of Research for the School of English, with responsibility for researcher education and career development. She is Reader in Victorian Literature. Her research interests include Gothic, graveyard poetry, Pre-Raphaelitism in art and literature, lunatic asylums, ecocriticism and eighteenth and nineteenth century literature generally.

International Students

Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.

The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.

Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:

Facilities and Staff

Parkside and Curzon Buildings

Our Facilities

When you join Birmingham City University, the first thing you will notice is the high standard of our campuses. With an investment of £340 million across our buildings and facilities, we are committed to giving you the very best learning environment to help shape your experience.

You will study at both the home of the School of English in Millennium Point, and at our £63 million development the Curzon Building, located on our City Centre campus in the vibrant second city that is Birmingham.

Discover your bright and open learning spaces, your 24 hour (during term time) library, drama, media and radio studios, along with state of the art lecture theatres, and a variety of sociable break-out areas, all adding to your unique learning experience.

Our staff

Dr Anthony Howe

Reader in English Literature and MA English Literature Course Director

Dr Anthony Howe is Reader in English Literature and Associate Director of Research in the School of English at Birmingham City University. Originally from the North East of England, he studied at Liverpool (BA; MA) before taking a PhD at Cambridge. Prior to his current post he taught at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford. He is a Senior Fellow of the HEA. Dr Howe’s major research concern is in the field of English Romantic period poetry, especially Byron and Shelley.

More about Anthony