Skip to main content

English Literature

The PhD programme in English Literature offers the opportunity for postgraduate students to make an original contribution to knowledge in their chosen field of study and to become part of a thriving, internationally-renowned research community.

We welcome applications for research across the chronological and theoretical range of English Literature.

Successful applicants will be supervised by academic staff working at the forefront of their fields and leading debate in the ever-changing environments of the discipline.

Doctoral students are encouraged to push beyond the boundaries of critical commonplaces, to think differently and to participate fully in the rich intellectual life of the School. As well as working closely with a dedicated supervisor, or supervisors, students are able to develop their projects within the context of a dynamic and well-resourced interdisciplinary research culture.

Programme aims

The culmination of the PhD in English Literature is a sustained piece of written work that makes an original contribution to knowledge and understanding in a chosen field of study. Successful PhD students are trained in the most sophisticated critical and theoretical practices in preparation for a career in Higher Education or professional employment requiring advanced research skills and subject knowledge at the highest level.

Distinctive features

  • A dynamic and supportive interdisciplinary research culture that connects the vibrancy of Cardiff’s literary and cultural location to the broader international contexts of the discipline.
  • Access to a diverse range of research training and professional development opportunities, including: a weekly thesis workshop; a student-led annual postgraduate research conference; a residential conference for students in their first year of study at Gregynog Hall, a country house with a distinguished artistic heritage set in glorious countryside in mid-Wales.
  • We offer teaching opportunities on the undergraduate degree and PhD students can undertake the School’s unique ‘Learning to Teach’ programme, accredited by the Higher Education Academy.
  • The School provides a dedicated suite for research students with computing facilities, networked information and access to email and Internet.
  • Postgraduate research students can apply for School funding to attend academic conferences and/or undertake archival/library visits.

Key facts

Mode of study Full-time, part-time
Qualification PhD, MPhil
Full-time duration 3 years (PhD), 1 year (MPhil)
Part-time duration 5 years (PhD), 2 years (MPhil)
Start dates January, April, October

Skills developed

In addition to working closely with a supervisor, doctoral students attend a weekly thesis workshop, which offers discipline-specific research training as well as opportunities to share work-in-progress with other students.

The workshops run alongside the integrated research and professional skills training programme, which includes career management skills, offered by the Doctoral Academy.


The PhD is assessed by submission of a thesis of 80,000 words and a viva voce examination.

The MPhil is assessed by submission of a thesis of 50,000 words and a viva voce examination.

'I’m particularly struck by our communal interest in what goes on at the interface of different traditions, methodologies, theoretical approaches, disciplines and practices. It gives Cardiff a particular entry into cutting-edge research that continually engenders new and exciting questions both for our staff and, through our PhD supervision and our research-led teaching, also for our students at all levels' (Professor Ann Heilmann, Director of Research in the School of English, Communication and Philosophy).

The School’s research is recognised internationally for its excellence and was ranked in the top ten for the quality of its English Language and Literature research (which includes Critical and Cultural Theory and Creative and Critical Writing), in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF2014).

Cardiff University recently joined the world's top 100 universities for the study of English Language and Literature in the 2016 QS World University Rankings.

Research environment

The School’s commitment to the intellectual and professional development of its postgraduate students is underpinned by the provision of a high-quality supervisory experience, advanced-level research training and access to the resources necessary to help each student flourish intellectually and work productively.

The vitality of the English Literature research community is evidenced by the diverse range of reading groups, research centres, visiting speaker series and public engagement platforms in which staff and students participate, including: Assuming Gender, the Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research (CEIR), the Cardiff Romanticism and Eighteenth-Century Seminar (CRECS), the Medieval and Early Modern Research Initiative (MEMORI), the Modern and Contemporary Research Group (MoCo), as well as Cardiff BookTalk and the Cardiff Poetry Experiment.

In addition, the School runs a student-led annual research conference for postgraduates working in English Literature, Creative and Critical Writing, Critical and Cultural Theory and Philosophy, the aim of which is to foster interdisciplinary conversations and to enhance students’ individual research and employability skills.

The Arts and Social Studies Library contains substantial collections in all our subject areas, together with extensive electronic resources. It is also home to Special Collections and Archives, which holds specialist collections, such as Cardiff Rare Books (a collection of over 14,000 items ranging from fifteenth-century incunabula to twentieth-century fine press books), as well as materials relating to Devolution, Eastern and Central Europe, the First World War, Illustrations, Labour history, Welsh literature and culture, Witchcraft, Women’s History and Gender Studies, the History of Medicine and Science—and much more.

Students on the PhD in English Literature programme are able to take advantage of an extensive programme of training, including the opportunity to enrol on the School’s unique Learning to Teach in Higher Education programme, a Master’s-level module accredited by the Higher Education Academy.

They also have access to a dedicated suite of research rooms with excellent computing facilities, networked information and access to email, a generous research allowance, a contribution to photocopying costs and use of free printing facilities. Our Home, EU and International students are encouraged to develop and enhance transferable skills that will increase their employability, both inside and outside of Higher Education, in an increasingly competitive jobs market.

Research projects

We offer expert supervision across the chronological and theoretical range of the discipline, with particular strengths in the following areas:

  • African American literature
  • book history
  • children’s literature
  • critical and cultural theory
  • cultural history
  • digital humanities
  • editing theory and practice
  • experimental writing
  • film and adaptation
  • gender and sexuality studies
  • gothic
  • historicism (new-Elizabethan, neo-Medieval, neo-Victorian, counter-Romantic)
  • illustration studies
  • literary history
  • literature of the long eighteenth century
  • literature and the environment
  • literature and law
  • literature and science
  • literature and slavery from 1760 to the present
  • manuscript culture
  • medical humanities
  • medieval literary and cultural studies (including medieval afterlives)
  • modern drama
  • modernist literature
  • Old Norse-Icelandic and Old English literature
  • postcolonial literature
  • postmodernist literature
  • renaissance literature
  • romantic literature
  • Shakespeare
  • Victorian and neo-Victorian literature
  • visual culture
  • Welsh writing in English
  • women’s writing and women’s literary history.

More information about staff and their fields of expertise.

Job roles: Lecturer, Researcher, Editor, Head Teacher, English Teacher, EFL Teacher, PR Officer.

Employers: Universities from Cork (Ireland) to Wisconsin State (USA), Oxford University Press, Penguin Random House, Palgrave MacMillan, London Film School, Virgin Media, Literature Wales, Visit Wales.

Employers: Oxford University Press, London Film School, Palgrave MacMillan, Universities from Cork (Ireland) to Wisconsin State (USA), Virgin Media, Literature Wales, Visit Wales.

UK government postgraduate doctoral loans

Candidates for the Professional Doctorate programme may be eligible to apply for a UK government postgraduate doctoral loan.

Find out more about UK government postgraduate doctoral loans


The School welcomes enquiries from applicants who are considering applying for funding for a PhD in English Literature from the South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership.

See our latest PhD studentships and projects and find out more about other funding opportunities.

Tuition fees

Students from the UK

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

Students from the rest of the world (international)

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

A step by step guide to the application process.

Research proposal

Applications for research degrees should be accompanied by a research proposal of around 1,000 words maximum. This should include a draft title and establish key objectives in terms of the basic research questions you intend to address.

The proposal should additionally situate your work in relation to the wider field of existing scholarship; give an initial sense of the original contribution you hope to make and provide an indication of your intended research methodology. A preliminary bibliography of expected key sources should also be appended.

In addition to the research proposal, application form and supporting documents, we also require an essay on a literary topic of your choice (around 4,000 words, in English).

You are recommended to email the postgraduate administrator at with your research proposal prior to making a formal application.

Find out more details on how you write your research proposal.

Admission process

The Director of the Postgraduate Research Programme in English Literature assesses all applications, taking into consideration the quality and viability of the research project, as well as the capacity of staff to supervise it. This will include consultation with potential supervisors. Applicants who pass this initial stage of assessment will then be invited for interview.

Applications are welcome from graduates with at least a 2.1 in English Literature (and/or relevant discipline) and an MA in English Literature (and/or relevant discipline).

English language requirements

The School welcomes applications from students outside the United Kingdom. For non-native speakers of English, an IELTS overall score of 7.5 with at least 7.0 in each sub-score is essential.

Please read our English language requirements for more details.


Administrative contact(s)

ENCAP Postgraduate Admissions

Administrative contact


Apply now
See the range of PhD studentships and projects currently available.

Related courses

Related subjects