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English Research Degrees - PhD

  • Level: Postgraduate Research
  • Starting: February 2021
  • Study mode: Full Time, Part Time, Distance Learning
  • Location: City Centre

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. 

What's covered in the 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. 

Students outside Millennium Point

Open Days

Our Virtual Open Day for this course will take place on 26 September 2020. Book now and we will email you with a link to the Virtual Open Day for your subject area of choice.

Book now

This course is open to International students

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Midlands4Cities Scholarships

Find out about applying for funding for this course.

Learn more

What is a PhD?

PhD degrees are research programmes. They allow you to learn as you work through the issues associated with solving a particular problem. Each research degree student is supported by a team of supervisors appointed for the particular study. In all years of study, students will be required to present their work in meetings of fellow students and staff conducting parallel research.

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 Anthony Howe, 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:

Current projects

We have a number of graduate students working on a wide variety of topics in Linguistics, Literature, Drama and Creative Writing. Current projects include a study of Language and Power during the Wars of the Roses, a study of heteronormativity in contemporary drama, and a thesis on Keats as a letter writer.

  • UK/EU students
  • International students

Award: PhD

Starting: Feb 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 3-4 years
  • £4,407 per year
  • Part Time
  • 4-7 years
  • £2,204 per year
  • Distance Learning
  • 4-7 years
  • £2,755 per year

Award: PhD

Starting: Feb 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 3-4 years
  • £12,800 per year
  • Part Time
  • 4-7 years
  • £6,400 per year
  • Distance Learning
  • 4-7 years
  • £8,000 per year

If you’re unable to use our online application form for any reason, please email 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.

Initial PhD Enquiry

Before you apply, 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. 

Send your initial PhD Enquiry

Research phds blog

Thinking about a PhD?

Our PhD section is the place to go for application tips, FAQs, funded opportunities, helpful blogs and more!

Find out more

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.

Extracurricular activities

You can strengthen your PhD research and personal/professional development by participating in wider international research communities and conferences, and by helping to teach degree modules to undergraduate students.

students on the grass in front of Curzon

School of English Blog 

A blog that offers you an insight into life as a student at the School of English at Birmingham City University.

Visit the blog 

How the PhD is assessed

We support both traditional PhD research presented through an academic thesis and practice-led PhD research.

Both routes will require you to conduct a piece of unique PhD research, submit a thesis for examination and sit an oral exam (viva voce) in which you defend your thesis before a panel of experts. We support a range of thesis submissions, including a combination of written and practice elements as well as a traditional written thesis.

You will also be supported through the activities of our PGR Studio. The PGR Studio  seeks to promote an experimental, creative and practice-based space that resonates across all the academic Schools and disciplines in the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media. A studio can be an artists’ studio, a design studio, a recording studio, a rehearsal studio or a writing studio.

The PGR Studio aims to enhance our postgraduate research (PGR) community and student experience through supporting routes into and out of PhDs through professional and career development within and beyond Higher Education as well as the transition throughout PhD study. We run workshops, training, social events and other activities in partnership with our PGRs for our PGRs

You can also strengthen your PhD research and personal/professional development by participating in wider international research communities and conferences, and by helping to teach degree modules to undergraduate students.

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 Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership have the opportunity to undertake industry placements as part of their research. For more information visit the Midlands3Cities website.

For those students not funded by Midlands3Cities, 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.

Subsequently, Serena taught at the University of Worcester and Birmingham City University, where she is now a permanent member of staff. Recent publications include a chapter on Graveyard Poetry and Gothic in Gothic and Death, ed. Carol Davison (Manchester University Press, 2017), a chapter on Christina Rossetti inVictorians and the Environment, ed. Lawrence Mazzeno (Ashgate, 2017), Insanity and the Lunatic Asylum (edited with Thomas Knowles), (Pickering & Chatto, 2014) andPre-Raphaelite Masculinities (edited with Amelia Yeates), (Ashgate, 2014).

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:

Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC)

International students who have a serious interest in studying with us but who perhaps cannot meet the direct entry requirements, academic or English, or who have been out of education for some time, can enter Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC) and begin their degree studies.


BCUIC is part of the global Navitas Group, an internationally recognised education provider, and the partnership allows students to access the University’s facilities and services and move seamlessly through to achieving a Bachelor’s degree from Birmingham City University.

Learn more about BCUIC

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’ll 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

While studying your PhD, you’ll be working with members of our inspiring, research-active staff, like Dr Sarah Wood, Head of School of English, whose research focuses on speculative fiction, children’s literature and women’s writing; Dr Robert Lawson, Course Director of the BA (Hons) English programme, sociolinguistics specialist and former recipient of the prestigious Fulbright Award; and Dr Serena Trowbridge, who is a leading scholar in Gothic Studies, gender and literature, and nineteenth century poetry.

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.