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Iberian and Latin American Studies (MPhil / PhD)

As people involved in research, our prime concern is with producing top-quality work that in different ways questions the boundaries of the disciplines we work in and seeks to bring new materials, theories and methods into them.

The research programme in Iberian and Latin American studies is both exciting and innovative. The expertise of staff ranges across the field - from Golden Age art to Luso-Brazilian imperial history and culture and the colonial literatures and cultures of Spanish America; from contemporary Spanish and Portuguese cinema and urban studies to Latin American literature, poetry, cinema and museum studies - and the research published by both staff and students is also groundbreaking.

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, and after an interview. You need to find a suitable academic supervisor at Birkbeck, who can offer the requisite expertise to guide and support you through your research. 

Apart from the process of research supervision and the final examination of the thesis, each student has an annual review in which their progress is assessed. The PhD is usually three to four years of full-time study or five to seven years of part-time study. Find out more about undertaking a research degree at Birkbeck.

Find out more about studying at Birkbeck.


  • Birkbeck’s research excellence was confirmed in the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF), which placed Birkbeck 30th in the UK for research, with 73% of our research rated world-leading or internationally excellent; Modern Languages and Linguistics achieved 100% for a research environment conducive to producing research of the highest quality, while 73% of our research was recognised as world-leading or internationally excellent.
  • Our Department of Languages, Cultures and Applied Linguistics is a centre of teaching and research excellence.
  • The School of Arts is an official partner of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London. Opportunities for students have included a year’s free membership of the ICA, private views, discounts on all talks and events, free members' screenings and £3 cinema tickets on Tuesdays, up to 25% off ICA Artists' Editions and a monthly e-newsletter.
  • Entry Requirements

    Entry requirements

    A good degree with Spanish or Portuguese as a main component.

    Graduates in other subjects may be asked to take a qualifying examination.

    You will also need to submit a 2000-word research proposal prior to consideration for interview.

    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 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 requirements by country.

  • Fees


    Part-time home students: £2388 pa
    Full-time home students: £4500 pa
    Part-time international students: £6675 pa
    Full-time international students: £13200 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

    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.

    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.

  • Our Research Culture

    Our Research Culture

    We have built up an excellent team of research students who collaborate through departmental research seminars and are encouraged to publish and give papers at conferences. There are a number of School of Arts research events, which provide research training through the year, and a lecture series given by international experts. The Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, whose International Director is Slavoj Žižek, offers masterclasses for research students, given by Žižek, Etienne Balibar and other international specialists.

    The Department of Languages, Cultures and Applied Linguistics hosts the Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies (CILAVS), dedicated to collaborative, cross-disciplinary and comparative research on visual cultures. CILAVS includes the Ibero-American Museum of Visual Culture on the Web, which currently displays a large virtual exhibition of objects, artefacts and images from Brazil, Argentina and Chile (1880-1900). This resource is being expanded to other geographical areas, and to photography and film. CILAVS focuses our strong commitment to research in visual culture, in Renaissance and modern Spain and Portugal and in native, colonial and modern Latin America.

    We offer specialist supervision by experts who publish in their field. Key areas of research interest are: early modern Spanish culture; Golden Age art; Spanish American colonial art and cultural history; Spanish and Latin American fiction; Spanish and Latin American poetry; Spanish urban studies; childhood and youth studies in modern Spain; cultural history of Brazilian tropicality; Portuguese Asian and African colonial history; modern Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American cultural studies, including film, iconography, gender studies, urban studies, transcultural/subaltern studies, cultural geography and popular culture. Further core concerns of our work are cultural theory and the critical redefinition of modernity, from the experience of Spain, Portugal and Latin America.

    Interdisciplinary research projects are encouraged, and joint supervision can be arranged with other academic departments at Birkbeck.

    You will be encouraged to participate with articles for, and in the editing of, Dandelion, the School of Arts online journal for research students.

    Several members of the department have been involved in the foundation and development of the Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, which has been actively engaged in redefining Latin American studies.

    You will have access to computer workstations with email and internet facilities. You will also be offered workshops in research skills and methodologies during your first year of study.

    We particularly encourage students to engage with current debates, while at the same time providing a solid training in research methodology. There is a fortnightly seminar where we discuss readings in theory and methodologies, a student conference where students give papers, and a thesis-writing workshop. Staff and students also organise reading groups in order to explore particular areas of knowledge. We seek to create a mutually supportive environment, informed by discussion and dialogue.

    You are expected to participate in the department's research events, including attending lectures, research skills sessions and other classes/workshops as appropriate.

    Find out more about our vibrant research culture.

  • 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.

    Current PhD research topics 

    • Cross-cultural histories of tropical botany in Latin America
    • Culture and revolution in Portugal (1974-1975)
    • Visual and poetic works of the Brazilian and Peruvian neo-avant-garde
    • Lisbon in contemporary Portuguese cinema
    • Supernatural elements in the novellas of Maria de Zayas
    • Mexican performance art
    • Pablo Neruda’s radical poetics
    • Wearing the change: fashion in Portugal after the April Revolution
    • Imagined cities in the Dominican Republic: place, race and the quest for 'Lo Dominicano'
    • Invisible friends: questioning the representation of the court dwarf in Early Modern Spain
    • The transition from dictatorship to democracy: changes and continuities; causes and consequences
    • The struggle on stage: theater, proletarian cultures and social emancipation (1891-1934)
    • Visual representations of the Black Legend

    Application deadlines and interviews

    You can apply at any time during the year and start studying in October, January or April.

    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 Iberian and Latin American 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: