If you are considering applying for MPhil/PhD research in any of these areas, you are advised to contact the department about your research plan before making an application.
For information about applying as a research student, read our guide for applicants.
Students are required to attend seminars on Research Skills and seminars on Theory throughout the first 2 terms in the first year of study. Subsequent attendance is optional. You are also required to participate in some of the seminars or other activities put on by the department, School of Arts, or other institute of the university in each year you are a registered student.
The department does not lay down a specific timetable for meetings with your supervisor, although all supervisors will agree a personal timetable of consultation with their students. But we do expect as a minimum that all full-time research students will meet with their supervisors 3 times a term, and part-time students twice a term. If no formal timetable of meetings has been arranged, it is up to you to take the initiative in arranging supervisory meetings.
In a similar way, the school requires all full-time students to submit at least 2 substantial pieces of written work in every academic year and part-time students to submit at least one.
In addition, all students will be required to submit annually to the department's Graduate Panel a detailed written report on their progress through the year. Supervisors will in turn be responsible for submitting to the Panel annual reports on students' progress; every student will be interviewed annually by a member of staff who is not their supervisor after the reports have been received.
Your supervisor's responsibilities include:
- advising you on the formulation and following through of your research and advising you about work already published in your area
- discussing with you questions of approach and methodology
- guiding you in the use of primary and secondary literature, as well as historical, archive and other source materials
- commenting in detail and in a reasonable time upon the written work that you submit
- advising you on how to acquire skills and techniques necessary for your research (for example, learning another language, or editorial or bibliographical skills)
- advising you where to go or whom to consult if you have difficulties which your supervisor cannot herself or himself resolve
- putting you in touch with students and teachers with whom you may share research interests
- keeping you informed about how far your work meets the standards required by the university and about university regulations and requirements regarding the organisation and submission of your thesis
- providing pastoral advice and support
- writing references as and when these may be requested.
You in turn have a responsibility, in addition to those more formal responsibilities specified above, to keep your supervisor informed at all times about the progress of your work, and to take part in the academic life of the department.
Every research student is appointed a primary supervisor who is the person, or one of the persons, in the department best suited to give the advice and direction that he or she needs. Sometimes students will be supervised jointly by more than one person in the department, or between departments, although there will always be one principal supervisor responsible for formal and administrative arrangements. In the case of joint supervision, both your supervisors should specify clearly the ways in which the sharing will operate.
During the course of your degree, your supervisor may be absent for a prolonged period. You will be assigned a deputy supervisor who will look after your work in the same way as the supervisor until she/he returns. Your supervisor should give you good warning about planned absences and organise alternative supervision.
Although a student's principal point of contact at Birkbeck is his or her supervisor(s), the department as a whole has responsibility for each student's academic progress and well-being. It exercises this responsibility through its Graduate Panel, which monitors the progress of all research students and approves transfers from MPhil to PhD status. The annual interview you have with a staff member is an opportunity for you to report on and discuss your satisfaction or dissatisfaction with your research progress, your supervision and other aspects of the school's provision for graduate study.