Arts and Humanities (MPhil / PhD)

This programme supports original research projects across different disciplines, media, or practice-based research, encouraging new ways of thinking on how to historicise, bridge and transcend disciplines. Working under the supervision of two scholars from different departments in the School of Arts, you will join a unique and innovative interdisciplinary graduate community working in literatures, languages, media and art historical studies, where new kinds of scholarship take their place in a larger academic conversation about cross-cultural transfer, cultural comparison and interdisciplinary interpretation.

In addition to supervision, we support students’ work through a programme of critical theory seminars, and research skills and methodologies classes. In your first year you are encouraged to think about how to frame research questions, what happens when research subverts disciplinary boundaries, and how these might be seen differently through alternative or historical divisions of knowledge. From the second year, you will take part in research-in-progress workshops and a range of other activities, including conferences, student-led seminars and reading groups. Throughout, your work will be enhanced by and contribute to the School’s vibrant research culture and research centres.

In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, Art and Design at Birkbeck achieved 100% for a research environment supporting world-leading or internationally excellent research.

An MPhil/PhD is an advanced postgraduate research degree that requires original research and the submission of a substantial dissertation of 60,000 to 100,000 words. At Birkbeck, you are initially registered on an MPhil and you upgrade to a PhD after satisfactory progress in the first year or two. You need to find a suitable academic supervisor at Birkbeck, who can offer the requisite expertise to guide and support you through your research. Find out more about undertaking a research degree at Birkbeck.


  • Arts and humanities courses at Birkbeck are ranked third best in London and 13th in the UK in the Times Higher Education 2016-17 World University Subject Rankings.
  • The School of Arts offers committed, enthusiastic and dynamic research-based teaching, with a constantly evolving curriculum sensitive to developments in contemporary culture. We actively foster the creation of a graduate intellectual community and our students' professional development.
  • Birkbeck’s research excellence was confirmed in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, which placed Birkbeck 30th in the UK for research, with 73% of our research rated world-leading or internationally excellent.
  • A large number of our recent PhD students have successfully obtained permanent academic posts in leading universities in Britain, the United States and other countries.
  • Our research centres and institutes place your research in an international context, in which the best and most vibrant work is exchanged, discussed and developed.
  • Entry Requirements

    Entry requirements

    A good honours degree and preferably an MA in the relevant field(s).

    International entry requirements

    If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, the requirement for this programme is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 7.0, with not less than 6.0 in each of the sub-tests.

    If you don't meet the minimum IELTS requirement, we offer pre-sessional English courses, foundation programmes and language support services to help you improve your English language skills and get your place at Birkbeck.

    Visit the International section of our website to find out more about our English language entry requirements and relevant requirements by country.

    Visa requirements

    If you are not from the European Economic Area (EEA) and/or Switzerland and you are coming to study in the UK, you may need to apply for a visa.

    The visa you apply for varies according to the length of your course:

    • Courses of more than six months’ duration.
    • Courses of less than six months’ duration.
    • Pre-sessional English language courses.

    International students who require a Tier 4 visa should apply for our three-year evening study BA/BSc/LLB degrees, as these are classified as full-time study and qualify for student visa status. If you are living in the UK on a Tier 4 visa, you will not be eligible to enrol as a student on Birkbeck’s part-time evening study degrees.

    For full information, read our visa information for international students page.

  • Fees


    Part-time home/EU students: £2226 pa
    Full-time home/EU students: £4195 pa
    Part-time international students: £6050 pa
    Full-time international students: £11995 pa

    Students are charged a tuition fee in each year of their programme. Tuition fees for students continuing on their programme in following years may be subject to annual inflationary increases. For more information, please see the College Fees Policy.

    Fees and finance

    Outstanding MPhil/PhD researchers are encouraged to apply for our competitive scholarships and studentships, which cover fees and maintenance. Read more and apply now

    Find out more about other research funding opportunities at Birkbeck. 

    Flexible finance: pay your fees in monthly instalments at no extra cost. Enrol early to spread your costs and reduce your monthly payments.

    Fees discounts: If you are a member of a union that is recognised by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), you may apply for a 10% discount off your tuition fees.

  • Our Research Culture

    Our Research Culture

    PhD student experience

    Birkbeck is at the geographical centre of London's research complex, a short distance from the British Library, the University of London Library, the Warburg Institute, the Institute of Historical Research and the Wellcome Collection. The National Archives are easily accessible. We are also at the heart of the 'Museum Mile' and within walking distance of the theatre district. You are expected to participate in the department's research events, including attending lectures, research skills sessions and other classes/workshops as appropriate.

    The School of Arts provision is complemented by the work of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image, Peltz Gallery and the School’s research centres, all of which run seminars, lectures, screenings, exhibitions and workshops open to postgraduate students. You will also have the opportunity to become involved in organising their activities. 

    Research students who have upgraded to PhD status may have the opportunity of teaching on undergraduate courses appropriate to their areas, subject to financial and other limits, and subject to completion of our teaching course. Research students who have progressed satisfactorily with their study can apply annually and will be put on a list of available teachers, subject to a satisfactory interview with the graduate teaching panel.

    Read more about our vibrant research culture and find out about our current MPhil/PhD students and their areas of research.

    Training and methodology

    This programme supports PhDs in comparative studies (eg French and English literatures, Japanese and American film), multidisciplinary studies (eg English film and literature; photography and book history), theoretical approaches that cut across disciplines (eg cultural studies) and practice-based research. If your thesis involves studio-based, audio-visual or technological research, it may include a portfolio, exhibition or other audio-visual display. This must be original work, exemplifying and locating the ideas that are developed in conjunction with the written part of the thesis.

    The MPhil thesis is not more than 60,000 words; the PhD thesis is not more than 100,000 words. Both the MPhil and the PhD are assessed by a viva voce examination. The thesis requirements for a practice-based project vary according to the nature of the research and can be discussed with the admissions tutors.

  • How to apply

    How to apply

    You apply directly to Birkbeck for this course, using the online application link.

    For information about applying as a research student, read our guide for applicants. Prior to interview, you will need to submit a 2000-word research proposal.

    Students who wish to be considered for funding need to apply by the end of January.

    Application deadlines and interviews

    You can apply at any time for a start at the beginning of each term: autumn (October), spring (January) and summer (April).

    Students who wish to be considered for funding need to apply by the end of January 2017 for entry in October 2017.

  • Finding a supervisor

    Finding a supervisor

    Students admitted to the programme will have two co-supervisors from different departments in the School of Arts. Contributing departments are:

    Current supervisors on this programme include Silke Arnold-de-Simine, Andrew Asibong, Luisa Calè, Patrizia Di BelloProfessor Esther Leslie, Ana Parejo Vadillo, Leslie Topp and Jo Winning. Further potential supervisors can be found via each department's pages.

    You may suggest potential supervisors on your application, but the admissions tutors will endeavour to identify suitable supervision.