MPhil or PHD in English Literature


The department offers MPhil and PhD programmes in English Literature on a part-time or full-time basis and welcomes enquires from prospective students about supervision of dissertation topics. The University Graduate School provides cross-institutional support and facilities for research students within an interdisciplinary community and supports research students with various seminar programmes and postgraduate conferences.

Modes of Study

Full-time and part-time programmes are available.

Full-time students enrol for a period of three years.

Part-time students enrol for five years.

Students enrol initially for the MPhil, with an anticipated upgrade to PhD midway through the programme when the work is sufficiently advanced. 

Entry Requirements

Applicants for the MPhil/PhD in English will normally need to meet the following criteria:

  • hold or be completing an MA degree in English or a relevant subject
  • have prepared a promising research proposal
  • display evidence of aptitude for research

Dissertation Topics

The Department offers supervision in a wide range of areas and has particular strengths in Victorian Literature, Early Modern Literature, Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature, Eighteenth-Century Literature, Children's Literature, and Crime Fiction. Please review the research and supervisory interests of the English staff.

Dissertations recently completed include:

  • ‘A Great Sense of Journeying’: Transport and Cultural Transition in the Novels of D. H. Lawrence’
  • David Lester Richardson (1801-1865): A Romantic Anglo-Indian
  • The Life and Works of Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna (1790-1846)
  • A Study of the Musicality of T. S. Eliot's "Four Quartets"
  • "Debit them; credit me": B. S. Johnson's Experiments With Truth
  • Nelson Algren: A Lost Reputation and its Rehabilitation
  • The Architecture of Potential: Re-evaluations of Classic Detective Fiction
  • Film Adaptation and the Novels of E. M. Forster: Aspects of Narrative Structure

How to Apply

Applicants are advised to contact a proposed supervisor from the tutors listed on our research page in order to establish whether supervision of their topic is possible. Please note that while the department can give initial advice on whether we might be able to supervise a dissertation on a particular topic, most matters regarding applying for MPhil/PhD study and applying for studentships are dealt with centrally by the Graduate School.

The normal process for application is:

  • Completion of an application form and provision of two referees. At this stage the applicant is required to make a brief description of the research project she or he has in mind.
  • Interview of applicants who have the required academic qualifications and promising research proposal.

Apply Direct / Part-time study

Location Length Start  
MPhil/PhD English Literature apply
Canterbury 42 months full-time September 2020
MPhil/PhD English Literature apply
Canterbury 42 months full-time February 2021


Each student has a supervision committee with comprises a 1st supervisor, a 2nd supervisor and a Chair. The 1st supervisor sees the student on a regular basis. The frequency of contact is by mutual arrangement. Students are expected to initiate their own research approach and programme, and the 1st supervisor plays a responsive role unless there is need for intervention. The 2nd supervisor sees the student less frequently and is therefore able to provide a more distanced evaluation of the student's work. The Chair, who is either a Professor or Reader in English or a related academic area, sees the student once per year at the annual review meeting. The purpose of the annual review is to evaluate the student's work and help ensure appropriate academic standards. Upgrade to PhD is usually considered midway through the programme.

Research Methods Training

Full-time students must attend a programme in research methods during their 1st year. This is an institution-wide, inter-disciplinary programme which covers the full-spectrums of research approaches. It thus allows the student to establish a broad perspective within which to place her or his work, and also to become part of a larger community of research students.

Students may in addition, if they wish, attend the Issues, Scholarship and Method in Literary Research Modules run as part of our MA  in English programme.

Further Information

Further information about applying for the MPhil/PhD programme, fees, studentships etc is available from the Graduate School .

For queries specific to postgraduate study in English please contact the MPhil/PhD Coordinator for English: Professor Carolyn Oulton.


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Last edited: 13/11/2019 12:23:00