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Psychosocial Studies (MPhil / PhD)

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.

The Department of Psychosocial Studies brings together scholars who have backgrounds in a variety of areas of academic enquiry, including anthropology; sociology; gender and sexuality; cultural and postcolonial studies; education studies; critical psychology; psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. We have a strongly interdisciplinary focus and can offer supervision in areas including violence, state violence and war; intimacy, parenting, care, friendship and love; ‘race’, racism and diaspora; human rights, citizenship and social movements; education and learning; embodiment; communities and collective life; gender and sexuality.

Our programme aims to provide an excellent forum for students to carry out theoretical or applied research in the broad area of psychosocial studies, focusing particularly on innovative interdisciplinary work.

      Highlights

      • The Department of Psychosocial Studies has an active and vibrant research culture. This includes regular workshops, many visiting speakers, and numerous collaborative projects both within London, and at national and international levels.
      • The MPhil/PhD programme provides an excellent forum for you to develop and enhance your specialist, as well as more general, transferable, research skills. The programme allows you to gain insight into different research methods and acquire valuable experience both in carrying out large-scale research projects and teaching.
      • Birkbeck’s research excellence was confirmed in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), which placed Birkbeck 30th in the UK for research, with 73% of our research rated world-leading or internationally excellent.
      • In the 2014 REF, Sociology at Birkbeck was ranked 13th in the UK.
      • The Department of Psychosocial Studies has a formal link with the University of São Paulo, Brazil. This link enables you to undertake an optional module at the university as part of your programme of study at Birkbeck.
      • Entry Requirements

        Entry requirements

        A good Master’s degree in a relevant subject in the humanities or social sciences, although we will consider an application from someone who has a first- or good second-class honours degree in one of these subjects.

        You will also need to submit a detailed outline of your research proposal, specifying its significance and originality.

        International entry requirements

        If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, our usual requirement is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 6.5, 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 full-time courses (with the exception of modular enrolment certificates of higher education and graduate certificates), as these qualify for Tier 4 sponsorship. 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 courses (with the exception of some modules).

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

      • Fees

        Fees(2019/20)

        Part-time home/EU students: £2296 pa
        Full-time home/EU students: £4327 pa
        Part-time international students: £6375 pa
        Full-time international students: £12625 pa

        Please note: the tuition fee indicated here is for 2019/20. The tuition fee for 2020/21 is subject to an inflationary increase.

        Fees and finance

        From 2018-19, PhD students resident in England can apply for government loans of up to £25,000 to cover the cost of tuition fees, maintenance and other study-related costs.

        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.

        The School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy attracts funding for studentships that ensure researchers of the highest standard can pursue their research with us. We offer a limited number of fully funded research opportunities.

      • Our Research Culture

        Our Research Culture

        Birkbeck is at the geographical centre of London’s research library complex, a short distance from the British Library, the University of London Library, the Warburg Institute, the Institute of Historical Research and the Wellcome Institute. All our research students are supported by close individual supervision, occurring once a month, supplemented by research seminars in which all doctoral students of the Department are invited to participate.

        Our Department currently offers two doctoral seminars, one run by Professor Lynne Segal (PhD Research Seminar) and one by Dr Margarita Palacios (Critical Theory Doctoral Seminar).

        In addition, you are encouraged to attend training in research methodologies organised by the Birkbeck Institute for Social Research (BISR). The Department’s provision and that of the BISR is complemented by the work of Birkbeck Gender and Sexuality (BiGS), the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, the Centre for Law and the Humanities and the London Critical Theory Summer School.

        Overall, with its long and successful experience in the supervision of both full-time and part-time research students, Birkbeck remains an outstanding choice for doctoral research.

        We actively promote interactive graduate life, with multiple resources for fostering a rich postgraduate community at Birkbeck.

        Recent research topics include:

            • Dimensions of Belonging: Rethinking Retention for Mature Part-time Undergraduates in English Higher Education
            • Unpalatable Truths: How Does Society Cope?
            • Moments of Russianness: Locating National Identification in Discourse
            • Negotiating Gay Chinese Subjectivities - Shame, Dilemmas and Conflicts
            • The Dead Mother Complex and Addiction
            • Homonationalism, (Critical) Whiteness, and Neoliberal Multiculturalism in Britain
            • Towards a Theory of the Psychodynamics of Literary Reading
            • Dream Construction, Deconstruction: What a Re-reading of Freud on Dreams Can Tell Us About the Structure of the Unconscious and its Relationship to Deconstruction
            • Psychosis, Writing and the Social Bond: Psychopathography as Social Critique
            • The Phallus and its Discontents
            • Constitutive Ambiguities: Collective Memory and Subjectivity in Trabzon, Turkey
            • On Sideways Beyond a Communist Future: On Adorno, the Communist Utopia and Post-Communist Art in Poland
            • Just-Is: Contingency, Desire and Temporality
            • Doctor Who and Gay Identity
            • The Queer Act of Breastfeeding: A Psychosocial Inquiry into Meaning-Making in the Representations of Breastfeeding in Visual Culture
            • Women and Gender Violence in Italy
            • The Monster Within: Between the Onset and Resolution of the Oedipal Crisis
            • From Indignation to Collective Action: Subjectivity, Critique and Resistance in a Greek Context
            • Cannibalism and Colonialism in Psychoanalysis
            • The Notion of Time in Jacques Lacan's Theory.

            Read more about our vibrant research culture.

            Assessment

            Assessment is by doctoral thesis submitted at the end of your research.

            Read more about this programme in our handbook.

          • How to apply

            How to apply

            Follow these steps to apply to an MPhil/PhD research degree at Birkbeck:

            1. Check that you meet the entry requirements, including English language requirements, as described on this page. 

            2. Find a potential supervisor for your MPhil/PhD research. You can look at the Find a Supervisor area on this page for an overview, or search our Experts’ Database or browse our staff pages for more in-depth information. 

            3. Contact the academic member of staff - or the department they teach in - for an informal discussion about your research interests and to establish if they are willing and able to supervise your research. They may ask you for a 200-word summary of your proposed research project. (Please note: finding a potential supervisor does not guarantee admission to the research degree, as this decision is made using your whole application.) Find out more about the supervisory relationship and how your supervisor will support your research

            If you cannot find an appropriate academic, then email the Director of Graduate Studies, Amber Jacobs, for advice and help. You may find it helpful anyway to make contact with Amber before you submit your application. 

            4. Draft a research proposal. This needs to demonstrate your knowledge of the field, the specific research questions you wish to pursue, and how your ideas will lead to the creation of new knowledge and understanding. Find out more about writing a research proposal.

            5. Apply directly to Birkbeck, using the online application link on this page. All research students are initially registered on an MPhil and then upgrade to a PhD after making sufficient progress. 

            Find out more about the application process, writing a research proposal and the timeframe

            Application deadlines and interviews

            You must submit a detailed outline of your research proposal, specifying its significance and originality.

            You can apply at any time during the year. Entry for the programme is October of each year.

            If you wish to apply for funding, you will need to apply by certain deadlines. Consult the websites of relevant bodies for details.

          • Finding a supervisor

            Finding a supervisor

            A critical factor when applying for postgraduate study in psychosocial studies is the correlation between the applicant’s intellectual and research interests and those of one or more potential supervisors within the Department.

            Find out more about the research interests of our academic staff:

            • Professor Lisa Baraitser, BSc, MA, PhD: psychoanalytic and psychosocial theory; feminist theory; affect theory; motherhood and the maternal; ethics of care; philosophy of time.
            • Professor Claire Callender, BSc, PhD: higher education policy; student finances and funding; student debt; part-time undergraduates.
            • Professor Stephen Frosh, BA, MPhil, PhD: psychoanalysis, psychotherapy and cultural processes; critical psychology; contemporary identities; psychosocial research methods.
            • Ben Gidley, BA, MA, PhD: urban ethnography, lived experience of diversity, comparative urbanism, diasporic belonding; antisemitism, particularly in relation to other forms of racialisation; Anglo-Jewish history and sociology, Jewish/non-Jewish relations; urban social movements; fascism and anti-fascism; South and East London.
            • Viviane Green, BEd, MA: problems and possibilities of integrating accounts of emotional development; clinical issues linked to the transmission of intergenerational trauma; a multi-perspective approach to understanding the growth of the capacity for empathy and its links to pathology.
            • Elizabeth Hoult, BA, PGCE, MA, PhD: prison education; resilient adult learning; resilience in disadvantaged groups; use of literary texts and techniques in sociology research; application of the philosophy of Hélène Cixous to education and sociology; the practice and place of autobiographical writing in academic research.
            • Amber Jacobs, BA, MA, PhD: feminist theories, psychoanalysis, gender and sexualities, the post-human, film and visual culture, digital technologies, feminist philosophy; post-Lacanian feminist and Queer theorists; ancient Greek myth and tragedy literature, culture and theory; writing and sexual difference; theories and constructions of the maternal.
            • Gail Lewis, BSc, MPhil, PhD, PGD: psychodynamics of organisation; psychosocial approaches to the constitution and experience of gendered and racialised subjectivity; multiculture, citizenship and constitution of nation/national belonging; feminist critical race and postcolonial theory; social policy, welfare practices and professional identities; black feminist psychosocial and psychoanalytic theory.
            • Brendan McGeever, BA, PgD, MSc, PhD: racism and racialization; antisemitism; nationalism; class; Marxism; the former Soviet Union; contemporary Russia.
            • Yasmeen Narayan, BA, MA, PhD: histories of 'race' and racism; postcoloniality and psychoanalysis; urban multiculture; criminalisation and imprisonment, addiction, 'sexuality' and ethnography.
            • Margarita Palacios, PhD: politics, culture and psychoanalytic theory; social theory and continental philosophy; studies on violence and 'otherness'; language, power and knowledge; cultural sociology and social change; Latin America.
            • Silvia Posocco, BA, MSc, PhD: transnational gender and sexuality studies and theories; social anthropology, social theory and cultural analysis; violence and conflict; the state and the law; secrecy, sociality, subjectivity; transnational adoption circuits, documents and archives; ethnography; Latin America, Guatemala, London.
            • Professor Lynne Segal, BA, PhD: gender and queer studies, including feminist scholarship, masculinity and its discontents; the perils of desire, love, power, ageing and sexual intimacies; political identifications and cultural belongings, including notions of radical happiness and utopian thought.
            • Professor Irene Bruna Seu, MA, PhD: psychosocial inquiry into moral apathy in response to human rights abuses; psychoanalytic and social psychological contributions to the understanding of oppression, race, discrimination, identity and helping behaviour; social constructions of femininity and gender; discourse analysis and social constructionism.
            • Laurence Spurling, BA, PhD: assessment in psychotherapy; borderline personality disorder; interpersonal psychotherapy; psychodynamic counselling/psychotherapy; regression; the clinical case study.