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English and Humanities


Application options include:

Full-time Part-time
On campus

Course Overview

Birkbeck offers committed, enthusiastic and dynamic research-based teaching in English and humanities, with a constantly evolving curriculum sensitive to developments in contemporary culture.

We actively foster the creation of a lively graduate intellectual community and our students' professional development. A large number of our recent PhD graduates have successfully obtained permanent academic posts in leading universities in Britain, the United States and other countries.

An MPhil/PhD is an advanced postgraduate research degree that requires original research and the submission of a substantial dissertation. 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.

In the 2021 Research Excellence Framework, English Language and Literature at Birkbeck achieved 100% both for its research environment and the impact of our research with 72% of research recognised as world-leading. We welcome applications for research in all areas of English, cultural studies and related areas, including: Old English, Old Norse, medieval literature and culture, the Renaissance and early modern periods, the Enlightenment, Romantic and Victorian studies, the modern and contemporary periods, literary and cultural theory, gender studies, theatre studies, poetics and creative writing (including practice-based research).

Key information

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  • Birkbeck was ranked 2nd in the UK for its English Language and Literature research in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework.
  • With more than 100 students undertaking research for MPhil/PhDs in English and humanities, Birkbeck has a large and thriving postgraduate community - the largest body of graduate students in English studies in the University of London. Supervision is available in literature from Old Icelandic to contemporary writing, and we are also well regarded for our work on interdisciplinary research topics in cultural history and theory.
  • We place great emphasis on ensuring that graduate supervision is thorough, professionally conducted and leads to the successful completion of a thesis. We offer a dedicated research skills course at the start of the degree with the option of a paleography course for those working on early periods. As well as observing strict guidelines on supervision, a senior member of staff acts as director of graduate studies and co-ordinates the monitoring of our students' progress.
  • A termly graduate forum allows students formally to discuss issues of graduate provision and resources with staff.
  • Entry Requirements Entry Requirements

    Entry Requirements

    A good honours degree and preferably an MA in literary, historical or other disciplines of cultural studies.

    Prior to interview you will need to submit a research proposal of 2000 words.

    English language 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 and funding requirements

    If you are not from the UK and you do not already have residency here, 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: Student visa
    • Courses of less than six months' duration: Standard Visitor visa

    International students who require a Student visa should apply for our full-time courses as these qualify for Student visa sponsorship. If you are living in the UK on a Student 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.

    Please also visit the international section of our website to find out more about relevant visa and funding requirements by country.

    Please note students receiving US Federal Aid are only able to apply for in-person, on-campus programmes which will have no elements of online study.

  • Fees Fees


    English and Humanities MPhil/PhD: 7 years part-time or 4 years full-time, on campus, starting in academic year 2024-25

    Academic year 2024–25, starting October 2024, January 2025, April 2025

    Part-time home students: £2,539 per year
    Full-time home students: £4,786 per year
    Part-time international students: £7,525 per year
    Full-time international students: £14,885 per year

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

    If you’ve studied at Birkbeck before and successfully completed an award with us, take advantage of our Lifelong Learning Guarantee to gain a discount on the tuition fee of this course.

    Fees and finance

    PhD students resident in England can apply for government loans of over £26,000 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.

    We offer a range of studentships and funding options to support your research.

    Discover the financial support available to you to help with your studies at Birkbeck.

    International scholarships

    We provide a range of scholarships for eligible international students, including our Global Future Scholarship. Discover if you are eligible for a scholarship.

  • Our research culture 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. The National Archives, the Fawcett Library and Women's Library are easily accessible.

    Birkbeck has a thriving research culture in English and humanities. It holds a seminar in critical theory, numerous reading groups and a regular programme of major visiting speakers. All postgraduate students follow courses in research skills and other forms of graduate training. You are expected to participate in our research events, including attending lectures, research skills sessions and other classes/workshops as appropriate.

    We are well known for our leading international research and are home to highly active research centres, including the Centre for Contemporary Theatre, the Centre for Contemporary Literature, the Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies and the Contemporary Poetics Research Centre; we initiated the London Renaissance Seminar and the Birkbeck Centre for Medical Humanities; and we run a number of other research seminars, and frequent national conferences and symposia.

    Our provision is complemented by the work of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, and by other interdisciplinary activities. Students can apply for funds for giving papers at conferences, for student-led events and for extraordinary research expenses from school postgraduate funds.

    We have long experience in the supervision of both full-time and part-time research students and currently have over 100 research students, half of whom are full-time.

    Training and methodology

    Students are required to attend seminars on research skills and seminars on theory throughout the first two 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 College, or other institute of the University of London in each year you are a registered student.

    We do 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 three 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 two substantial pieces of written work in every academic year and part-time students to submit at least one.

    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.

    In addition, all students will be required to submit annually to our 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 academic life in your area of research.

    Every research student is appointed a primary supervisor who is the person, or one of the persons, best suited to give the advice and direction that he or she needs. Sometimes students will be supervised jointly by more than one person, 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.

    Teaching opportunities

    We offer research students the opportunity to teach on our undergraduate courses. This is subject to financial and other limits, and to completion of a course on teaching in higher education.

    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.

  • How to apply 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. You may also find it helpful to view the research projects of our current students

    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. (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.

    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 can apply at any time during the year.

    Students who wish to be considered for funding, both full College Studentships and Arts Research Scholarships, need to apply by the end of January 2022 for entry in October 2022.

    Apply for your course

    Apply for your course using the apply now button in the key information section.

  • Finding a supervisor Finding a supervisor

    Finding a supervisor

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

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

    • Professor Anthony Bale, MA, MA, DPhil: medieval English literature; medieval popular culture and popular religion; affect and emotions; book history, marginalia and histories of reading; medieval Jewish history, Jewish-Christian relations and the history of anti-Semitism; medieval pilgrimage culture, the Holy Land, travel writing and Mandeville.
    • Professor Heike Bauer, MA, PhD: nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature and culture; gender studies; history of sexuality; sexology and literary culture 1800-1950; modern discourses and representations of hate; translation and cross-cultural exchange; women's writing; contemporary lesbian and queer theory and literature.
    • Julia Bell, BA, MA: creative writing; publishing.
    • Mike Bintley, MA, PhD: early medieval literature and culture, especially Old English and Old Norse; textual and material culture; literature and archaeology; environmental humanities, ecotheory, and ecocriticism; studies of landscape and environment; studies of settlement and urbanism; cognitive approaches to texts and material culture; medieval reception of Classical literature and culture.
    • Professor Joe Brooker, BA, MA, PhD: Irish writing; modernism; contemporary British culture.
    • Carolyn Burdett, BA, MA, DPhilfin-de-siècle literature, culture and society; Victorian emotions; the Victorian novel; nineteenth-century feminism; science (especially Darwinian evolution and psychology) and literature.
    • Luisa Calè, Letters Degree Rome, PhD, DPhil: Romantic period literature, culture and public sphere; visual culture and theory; cultures of collecting; visual forms and sites of textual transmission; translation; reader response.
    • Daragh Carville, BA, MA: creative writing: writing for the stage; screenwriting.
    • Stephen Clucas, BA, PhD: sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English and European intellectual history; the history of Renaissance magic; Renaissance philosophy; Renaissance mythography; sixteenth- and seventeenth-century philosophical poetry.
    • Isabel Davis, BA, MA, PhD: late medieval and Renaissance literature and culture; sexual domestic ethics.
    • Caroline Edwards, BA, MA, PhD: twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature; critical theory; utopianism; women‘s writing; modernism; postmodernism; Marxist aesthetics; science fiction.
    • David Eldridge: creative writing.
    • Professor Martin Paul Eve, BA, MA, PhD: literature; technology; publishing; contemporary American fiction; digital humanities.
    • Peter Fifield, BA, MA, PhD: modern literature; illness in modernism; Samuel Beckett; ethics; modernist archives; neuroscience.
    • Professor Alison Finlay, BA, BPhil, DPhil: Old Icelandic sagas and skaldic poetry; Old English poetry.
    • Richard Hamblyn, BA, MA, PhD: creative writing; environmental writing and history.
    • Anna Hartnell, BA, MA, PhD: twentieth- and twenty-first-century American literature and culture, with a special focus on race, nation and religion; postcolonial and diasporic literatures; literary and cultural responses to 'the contemporary', particularly perceived moments of rupture and crisis.
    • Seda Ilter, BA, MA, PhD: contemporary theatre and performance; media culture; mediatised theatre; new writing for performance; text and textuality in theatre; dramaturgy; aesthetics and politics of representation; adaptation.
    • Professor Esther Leslie, BA, MA, DPhil: critical theory and the Frankfurt School, especially Walter Benjamin; European modernism and avant-garde; Marxism; science, technology and material culture; animation; situationist theory and psychogeography.
    • Professor Roger Luckhurst, BA, MA, PhD: late nineteenth-century literature and pseudo-science; modernism; science fiction; literary theory; contemporary literature and culture.
    • David McAllister, BA, MA, PhD: early to mid-nineteenth-century literature and culture; the Victorian novel; Victorian non-fiction prose writing; death in Romantic and Victorian literature and culture; Victorian discourses of masculinity.
    • Victoria Mills, BA, MA, MA, PhD: Victorian literature and culture; the Victorian novel; gender, especially Victorian masculinities; material and visual cultures; cultures of collecting; photography and fiction; classical reception; travel writing.
    • Ana Parejo Vadillo, PhD: Victorian and fin-de-siècle London; fin-de-siècle literature; Victorian travel and technologies; any aspect of Victorian poetry; women and Victorian cities; the country and the city; omnibuses; railways; Amy Levy, Alice Meynell, Michael Field, Christina Rossetti, Oscar Wilde, Arthur Symons; decadent and aestheticist writing by both men and women.
    • Professor Robert Swain, BSc: theatre directing; training of directors, producers, writers, actors and new writers.
    • Professor Fintan Walsh, MPhil, PhD: modern and contemporary theatre; queer theatre and performance; medical humanities and psychosocial issues.
    • Luke Williams, BA, MA: creative writing; the novel; the avant-garde, theories of 'The Contemporary'; colonial and postcolonial literature; the document in fiction; collaborative writing.
    • Professor Joanne Winning, MA, PhD: modernisms, especially female and lesbian modernism; critical and cultural theory in the twentieth century; theories of gender and sexuality; lesbian subjectivities and cultural production; psychoanalysis and its theories; twentieth-century and contemporary Australian and Scottish literature and culture; relations between illness, language and the clinical encounter; medical humanities.
    • Professor Susan Wiseman, BA, PhD: literature and culture 1500-1700, particularly the English Civil War; gender and writing (including women's writing); Renaissance drama; early modern colonial encounters.
    • Agnes Woolley, BA, MA, PhD: postcolonial literature and film; diaspora; migration; transnational literature and culture; refugee arts.
    • Gillian Woods, MA, MST, DPhil: Renaissance theatre and drama; post-Reformation religion; visual arts; nostalgia; representations of space.