School of Society and Culture

PhD English

Take the opportunity to pursue an individual research project of your choosing full-time or part-time, with expert guidance and personal supervision from a member of our English team. Our academics have an established tradition of internationally recognised research excellence. In the 2021 Research Excellence Framework, English and Creative Writing at Plymouth was first in the South West for its 4/3* star research outputs and impact signifying 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent' work.

Course details

  • Year 1

  • This full time or part time doctoral programme is suitable for people who have a particular research question or topic in mind, and wish to explore this through independent study in order to produce an original contribution to the subject. If you aspire to a research career this is the most appropriate research degree to undertake.
    You will be guided by a small supervisory team of academic experts under the direction of a Director of Studies. You will be expected to fully engage with skills development and training and to present your research in a range of scholarly contexts.
    Your PhD will be assessed via submission of either a written thesis (approximately 80,000 words), or one that combines critical writing with artistic, creative and/or professional practice, and a viva voce (an oral examination).
    For full details of what doing a PhD entails at the University of Plymouth, please visit our postgraduate research degrees pages

    Core modules

    • Research Skills in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (DRTS800)

      This module provides research students the opportunity to explore the creation and interpretation of new knowledge within their field; develop the students’ ability to conceptualise, design and present their theses to merit publication; advance the students’ academic enquiry skills and techniques; and to generate and share the new knowledge within their academic discipline and professional practice.

    • Research English (GSRENGL1)

  • Year 2

  • Core modules

    • Research English (GSRENGL2)

  • Year 3

  • Core modules

    • Research English (GSRENGL3)

  • Year 4

  • Core modules

    • Research English (GSRENGL4)

  • Year 5

  • Core modules

    • Research English (GSRENGL5)

  • Final year

  • Core modules

    • Research English (GSRENGL6)

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

PhD on the Basis of Prior Published Works in English

PhD on the Basis of Prior Published Works enables candidates who have been research active to submit a collection of previously published works for consideration for the award of a PhD. The submission must evidence that you have personally made a systematic study; that you have shown independent, critical and original powers; and that you have made a distinct contribution to knowledge. The submission as a whole must be framed as a single coherent research project.
Find out more about PhDs on the Basis or Prior Published Works 

Entry requirements

Masters degree or equivalent from a UK higher education institution in a relevant subject. 
Applicants normally have to supply a research proposal, personal statement, and occasionally evidence that they are prepared to undertake the proposed project. This may include a portfolio, or a sample of critical writing, depending on their area of study.
Other UK or overseas qualifications may also be accepted – with academic reference
For more general guidelines and application requirements, please visit the research degrees applicants page. 

Fees, costs and funding

Please visit tuition fees for postgraduate research for information about fees. This course is in Band 2 for fees purposes.
If you are a full time student, you will pay full time fees for three years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional one year writing up period.
If you are a part time student, you will pay part time fees for four years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional 'writing up' period of up to two years.
You are responsible for meeting all of the costs related to your own research project, beyond the resources available in the department.
Please visit our postgraduate research money matters page to find out more about issues related to fees, funding, loans and paying for your programme of study.

How to apply

In addition to completing the online application form (which includes space for a personal statement), you must also upload a research project proposal of no more than 1000 words in total. Your research proposal should outline your general topic, your key aims and the research question/problem you are addressing, your proposed methodology, key definitions/thinkers/discourses/practitioners you are drawing upon and an explanation of why this topic is significant or important.
Your personal statement should briefly explain why you have chosen to apply to our programme and what you feel you can offer our research community.
You will also need to submit a sample of your critical writing (3000 words maximum) and, if relevant, evidence of your ability to undertake the practice-led research you are proposing (e.g. a DVD, portfolio, links to website, reviews, catalogue, etc.). It should take no longer than 30 minutes to view all the visual material that you provide.
Submitting your application
Complete your application and upload supporting documents to the Doctoral College by completing our online application form.
Questions on the application process?
We're here to help. Please contact the Doctoral College team and we'll be happy to assist you.
You can view or download our postgraduate research admissions policy.
If you have a disability and would like further information on the support available, please visit our Disability Services website.
Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office
Find more information about how to apply for a research degree.
Our community
Draw on staff expertise in fields ranging from Restoration literature to contemporary utopias, from early European encounters with native Americans to the relationship between poetry and the environment. 
Recent and current English PhD projects include studies of phenomenology in Virginia Woolf’s writing; of trauma in Holocaust studies; of William Blake’s construction of a spiritual self; and of eco-trauma in contemporary fiction.
As a PhD student at Plymouth you will become part of a community that is supported by multiple research seminar series, cross-disciplinary collaborations, and outward-facing engagements. These range from The Arts Institute's lecture series to our work with community organisations and cultural institutions such as The Box: Plymouth's award-winning museum, art gallery and archive situated just across the road from the campus.
We particularly welcome doctoral research in the following areas:
  • Early Modern literature
  • Transatlantic literature and culture
  • Literature and culture of the ‘long’ 18th century
  • Climate Emergency literature and 'eco-criticism'
  • Creative non-fiction.
  • Genre studies (e.g. science fiction, crime, horror, the historical novel)
  • Modern and contemporary literature and culture

Academic staff


English and creative writing research

Our staff have published extensively and internationally across a diverse range of fields in literary criticism and creative writing.
We are part of a thriving community of researchers covering arts and humanities disciplines, supported by the University's Arts Institute.

Arts, humanities and business postgraduate research degrees

As a research degree student within the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business, you will become part of a scholarly community that proudly includes a wide range of approaches and disciplines.
Arts and Humanities Doctoral Training Centre
Coastal Processes Research Group Perranporth beach