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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 Journal, The 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).



Dr Islam Issa, Reader in Literature and History

Islam is a BBC New Generation Thinker for BBC Radio 3 and BBC Four. 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.

English lecturer Helen Hopkins

Helen Hopkins

International Responses to Shakespeare in the Collections of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Collaborative PhD, Birmingham City University and The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Funded by AHRC Midland4Cities, National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF), and STEAMhouse.

My funded doctoral project is the first to explore the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s (SBT) collections to determine what the international responses to Shakespeare can tell us about his cultural capital, appropriation, imperialism, and diplomacy.

The project was originated by Dr Islam Issa of BCU and Dr Paul Edmondson of the SBT with the aim of identifying how such a collection might engage with issues of representation and inclusion in the Higher Education and Arts sectors.

With M4C and BCU funding, I have had the opportunity to attend major international conferences and discuss my work with world-renowned scholars. This has led to published articles in The Shakespeare Newsletter and Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation, as well as a forthcoming chapter for an edited collection that resulted from my participation in a seminar at the Shakespeare Association of American annual conference. My close collaborative relationship with the SBT has allowed me to publish several blogs and an online exhibition.


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 Dr 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 

Selina Schmidt

Dr Selina Schmidt

Rapport management in online spoken interaction: a cross-cultural linguistic analysis of communicative strategies.

PhD, Birmingham City University and University of Birmingham, funded by the AHRC and Midland4Cities

For my PhD, I investigated rapport, a harmonious relationship between people. More specifically, I looked at the creation and maintenance of such a relationship through a process known as rapport management. My PhD thesis addresses various gaps in rapport research by analysing rapport management in a corpus of video conferencing between international students as an applied example. My thesis bridges these gaps by combining qualitative and quantitative approaches and focussing on three linguistic features that affect a specific rapport strategy, that of stance or conversational positioning. Rather than trying to capture rapport in its entirety, my thesis constitutes a new approach to the analysis of rapport strategies and features and their extraction from larger datasets. As an essential step in doing that, my thesis adopts the concept of co-occurrences and applies these to the linguistic features in the spoken corpus data.

My Midlands4Cities (M4C) funding has allowed me to present my research at leading international conferences, as well as symposia, workshops and other events. With the help of M4C’s Cohort Development Fund (CDF), which is available to all M4C students, two of my peers and I organised an event called Talking Heads, which trained PhD students on how to present their research on the radio and TV.We invited practitioners and researchers with extensive media experience to give theoretical and practical training to PhDs from all M4C universities (also those PhDs that did not receive M4C funding) in BCU’s industry-standard radio and TV studios (Curzon Street Studios).

M4C consists of a closely-knit research community with established research networks, reading groups, and many other CDFs each year. One such CDF organised by students from the Nottingham universities allowed me to get a Prince2 project management certification that was fully funded by M4C. I also received extensive additional professional development training for public speaking, thesis writing, etc.

The M4C funding I received also meant that I not only had the possibility to benefit from supervisors from two different universities, but I also had access to two department’s pool of knowledge, events, and research space. The Linguistics team in BCU’s School of English consists of a group of excellent researchers whose experience I could tap into whenever necessary. They are a very supportive and involved group that make sure you are progressing well and get the help you need at any stage during your PhD. This is also mirrored in the Arts, Design and Media Faculty, which is very supportive of and interested in their PhD students. Their PGR Studio offers superb training events like writing workshops, but also conferences, a mentoring scheme and it is the place where some of my close friendships started.

We are proud to be a member of the M4C consortium and several of our academics serve on M4C panels and committees. We welcome cross-institutional applications working with our consortium partners.

Other enquires and expressions of interest can be submitted here.

See our PhD course page