The School of English at BCU is one of the University’s most successful research centres, and offers expert PhD supervision in a wide range of topics within English Studies. We currently have students working in English Literature, Linguistics, Creative Writing and Drama.

As well as benefitting from the School’s world-class research environment, you will benefit from being part of an impressive wider Faculty Research Culture that includes, among other units, the Birmingham School of Media, The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and the new Birmingham Institute of Creative Arts. The School of English, as well as hosting a range of more traditional projects, is thus uniquely placed to supervise innovative, cross-disciplinary doctoral work.

Why choose us?

  • The School of English at BCU is a close-knit, 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.
  • We host the Institute of Creative and Critical Writing, which hosts a number of prestigious events, and provides an excellent environment for doctoral work with a creative element.

Our Supervisors

Our world-leading researchers cover the full range of modern English studies. Our academics serve as editorial board members for a number of internationally leading journals, including The Byron JournalThe Keats-Shelley Review, and Victoriographies. We have a very strong reputation in the subject, and our academics are regularly invited to speak to both specialist and more general audiences. Recently, our scholars have spoken, among other places, to the Byron Society of London, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Keats House, Rome, the National Portrait Gallery, the Shakespeare Institute, the British Council, Algiers.

We are also strongly linked to Birmingham and work with local institutions including the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Birmingham and Midland Institute, the Birmingham Rep, the Birmingham Hippodrome, and Writing West Midlands. Some recent projects and events in which we have been involved: the Birmingham Literature Festival headline event with Carole Anne Duffy (2019); Hippodrome 120 (a short monograph anniversary history of the Birmingham Hippodrome); WebCorp and other tools developed by the Research and Development Unit for English Studies; the Ministry of Justice Post-Implementation Review of Part 1 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).


David Roberts is Professor of English at BCU, a National Teaching Fellow and a Fellow of the English Association. A specialist in late seventeenth-century drama, he has published five books with Oxford University Press, two with Cambridge University Press, and two with Methuen. Recent major publications include a new edition of Congreve’s The Way of the World in the New Mermaids series, a new edition of An Apology for the Life of Mr Colley Cibber for Cambridge University Press, and an essay in The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare in Music. Forthcoming are a short monograph on the RSC and Restoration Comedy, and essays in The Oxford Handbook of Restoration Literature and The Palgrave Handbook of Theatre Censorship. A Trustee and former Chair of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre as well as former Pro Vice Chancellor/Dean of Faculty and a published novelist, David welcomes interest from students wishing to pursue projects in seventeenth and eighteenth century theatre and literature (including biography), textual criticism, and contemporary theatre management.

Dr Serena Trowbridge is Reader in Victorian Literature. Her research interests include Pre-Raphaelitism in art and literature, Gothic, ecocriticism and nineteenth century literature poetry and prose. Publications include My Ladys Soul: The Poetry of Elizabeth Eleanor Siddall (Victorian Secrets 2018), Christina Rossetti’s Gothic, monograph (Bloomsbury 2013), ‘The Gothic in Victorian Poetry’ in The Cambridge Companion to the History of the Gothic, ed. Dale Townshend (CUP 2020), ‘Elizabeth Siddall: Pre-Raphaelitism, Poetry, Prosody’, in Defining Pre-Raphaelite Poetics ed. Heather Bozant Witcher and Amy Kahrmann Huseby (Palgrave 2020), ‘“Truth to Nature”: The Pleasures and Dangers of the Environment in Christina Rossetti’s Poetry’, pp. 63-78 in Victorian Writers and the Environment, ed. Ronald D. Morrison and Lawrence W. Mazzeno (Routledge 2017) and ‘Past, Present and Future in the Gothic Graveyard’, pp. 21-33 in The Gothic and Death, ed. Carol M. Davison (Manchester UP 2017). Serena currently supervises doctoral students working on Walter Bagehot and Shakespeare; Pre-Raphaelite women; the work of Algernon Charles Swinburne; Romanticism and weather poetry.

Islam Issa is Professor of Literature and History. He is a BBC New Generation Thinker for BBC Radio 3 and BBC Four. He is interested in supervising doctoral research projects on early modern literature, especially:

  • Milton and his contemporaries
  • Shakespeare and his contemporaries
  • Digital humanities
  • Reception theory and global reception

He won the Times Higher Education Award's 'Research Project of the Year: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences', 2019, for his Stories of Sacrifice exhibition. His other accolades include the Milton Society of America's 'Irene Samuel Memorial Award' for best multi-authored volume, 2018, for Milton in Translation.


Dr Islam Issa, Reader in Literature and History


Dr Mark McGlashan is interested in supervising doctoral research projects in corpus linguistics and (critical) discourse analysis, particularly those in the following areas:

  • Linguistic analyses of web data (forums, blogs, social media, etc.)
  • Online networks and discourses of far-right, nationalist, and extremist groups
  • Language, gender and sexuality
  • Multimodal approaches to corpus linguistics and discourse analysis.

Andrew Kehoe

Professor Andrew Kehoe is interested in supervising doctoral research projects in corpus linguistics, particularly those in the following areas: 

  • Linguistic analyses of web data, especially blogs and social media 
  • Language change over time (diachronic corpus linguistics) 
  • The language and discourse of online news reporting 
  • Corpus pragmatics / (im)politeness 

Dr Robert Lawson is an Associate Professor in Sociolinguistics, with research interests in language and masculinities, language and radicalisation, applied language studies, and sociolinguistic variation and change. He is the editor of Sociolinguistics in Scotland (Palgrave, 2014) and Sociolinguistic Research: Application and Impact (Routledge, 2016), and the author of Language and Mediated Masculinities (Oxford University Press, 2023). He has published in a range of international journals, including Journal of Sociolinguistics, Discourse, Context & Media, Social Media + Society, Applied Corpus Linguistics, English Worldwide, Language under Discussion and Annual Review of Linguistics and is a regular contributor to a variety of national and international media outlets. He is also a Fulbright award winner at the University of Pittsburgh (2012-13), a Junior Visiting Professor at the University of Jyväskylä (2019-2020), and is currently a Fellow of the Institute for Research on Male Supremacism (2021 – present). Dr Lawson would be interested in supervising doctoral students in the following areas:

  • Language and masculinities (especially in media spaces)
  • Manosphere communities (including incels/MRAs/red pillers)
  • Language and radicalisation/extremism
  • Male supremacism
  • Pedagogical work on anti-sexism/anti-misogyny
  • Applied language studies
  • Sociolinguistic variation and change


Dr Soudabeh Ananisarab is interested in supervising doctoral research projects in theatre studies, particularly those in the following areas:

  • Modern and contemporary British theatre
  • Theatre history and historiography
  • Regional theatre histories
  • Theatre economics

Other enquires and expressions of interest can be submitted here.

See our PhD course page