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The University of Southampton
HumanitiesPostgraduate study

PhD English Research Programme (including Creative Writing) (Q300)

We offer PhD supervision in English, interdisciplinary studies (via the research centres) and creative writing. Our postgraduate students are an essential part of the English and Humanities research community at Southampton.

The programme is also available via distance learning, which is designed for people who wish to study without travelling to Southampton regularly.

Introducing your degree

Earn a doctorate and expand on your knowledge of English literature or Creative Writing through our PhD English Research Programmes. We offer supervision in a range of specialist fields, including Chaucer, Austen, Dickens and Shakespeare studies, as well as literary modernism and post-modernism, cultural studies and book history across periods, and colonial and postcolonial studies.

With the expertise of our Creative Writing supervisors, you can examine writers from a range of eras such as Chaucer, Austen and Shakespeare; or write new work in fiction, narrative non-fiction, poetry or scriptwriting, while examining a critical component of the genre.

As a research student, you will have access to a whole range of facilities to provide you with the wisdom and capabilities to complete your research and make you an expert in your specialised area.

We offer supervision from world leading researchers across the range of English literature from the medieval period to the present day. We also offer a distinct pathway for Creative Writing, with expertise in fiction, narrative non-fiction, scriptwriting and poetry.  As a research student at Southampton you will benefit from the expertise of a dedicated supervisory team as well as having access to a wide range of training opportunities which will help you to develop your academic and transferable skills.

You will be part of a lively postgraduate community and will be able to engage directly with the initiatives launched from our interdisciplinary research centres: the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Culture; the Southampton Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies; the Southampton Centre for Nineteenth Century Studies, the Centre for Imperial and Post Colonial Studies, and the Centre for Modern and Contemporary Writing.

During your period of study you will be encouraged to present papers at departmental and Faculty events where you will receive feedback from peers and academic colleagues.  After Year One you may be offered a part-time teaching fellowship.

Career opportunities are wide ranging and varied. Opportunities exist as a member of a research team in academia, leading to future leadership positions within an academic context. The nature of the generic and discipline-specific skills obtained during your study make your experience and skills attractive to a range of organisations post qualification. These include teaching, freelance writing and publication, arts administration, journalism and local and national government administration.

Creative Writing

The Creative Writing pathway offers the opportunity to work with a creative writer on a book-length work on of fiction, narrative non-fiction or poetry or a script. The accompanying critical commentary allows a student to explore an area of research connected to that creative work, usually with a critical supervisor from our outstanding English literature faculty. The length of a dissertation in the Creative Writing pathway varies according to genre.


Doctoral Programme Director

Dr Matt Kerr


View the doctoral programme profile for this course

To Apply

Application process and required supporting documents

  • University online application including a personal statement
  • research proposal
  • transcript
  • 2 references
  • English language (if relevant)
  • 2 pieces of written work of between 3,000 and 7,000 that demonstrate a high level of research proficiency. For Creative Writing, we require one creative and one critical writing sample.

Candidates are advised to contact prospective supervisors with the subject of their proposed research prior to application.

Contact for postgraduate enquiries:
Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 7433

Key facts

Duration: Up to 4 years (full-time); 3–7 years (part-time)


  • English Literature Research: Viva Voce and Thesis (max. 75,000 words)
  • Creative Writing: Viva voce and one of the following creative pieces:
    • Creative prose: 50,000 - 85,000 words of creative prose; AND 20,000 words of critical writing
    • Poetry: 8,000 - 15,000 words of poetry; AND 20,000 - 40,000 words of critical writing
    • Performance of dramatic composition:  3 hours performance time; AND 20,000 words of critical writing

Start date: Normally September and January each year

Closing date: 3 months before start date (also dependent on funding body deadlines); an application decision cannot be guaranteed in time for programme commencement unless a complete application is received in good time - students requiring a visa to study should also allow extra time for visa processes; informal enquiries welcome at any time

Typical entry requirements

Academic entry requirements: First or upper second-class honours degree and normally Masters at Merit * level, or an equivalent standard in other qualifications approved by the University in English literature or a cognate discipline. (*Merit 60%-69%, Distinction 70%+)

Equivalent Qualifications: We will also consider candidates who do not have a Masters degree if they can demonstrate; outstanding undergraduate performance including evidence of preparedness for research (e.g. first class honours and 75% or more in the dissertation in a relevant subject); have a very strong research proposal; or other appropriate qualifications.

English language entry requirements: IELTS 6.5 overall, with a minimum of 6.5 in all components, or an equivalent standard in other qualifications approved by the University.

Selection process

Selection process: Online application and interview

Applications will be assessed under the following

  • Evidence of general academic aptitude
  • Preparedness or promise for doctoral research
  • Quality of the research project proposal
  • Fit with Southampton's research expertise

Applicant Quality: Your application will be judged against the following criteria:

  • it provides evidence that you meet our entry requirements
  • it demonstrates your personal suitability and commitment to undertake Doctoral study
  • it provides supportive references that indicate your suitability to undertake a PhD
  • it presents a well-focused and high quality research proposal which indicates potential to contribute original research to the discipline
  • it demonstrates critical awareness of the scholarly field to which the research will contribute, and appropriate methods to carry out this work
  • it may strengthen your application if you can demonstrate genuine interest in working with a named academic in the department 

Personal Statement: Use your Personal Statement to provide additional information relevant to your application. This should include the following:

  • outline your reasons for wishing to conduct postgraduate research in your chosen area
  • explain how your proposed research matches the research environment and supervisory expertise offered by English at Southampton
  • reflect on how your education, skills, and experience will equip you for PhD study and to undertake your planned research
  • indicate details of any other achievements/interests
  • indicate any special circumstances pertaining to the academic record
  • tell us what you hope to get from the programme 

For 2020 Entry

English language requirements

All applicants must demonstrate they possess at least a minimum standard of English language proficiency. Applicants requiring a visa to study in the UK who do not offer GCSE English language (or GCSE English) at the required level will need to meet the following English language proficiency requirement. Find out more about the University’s English Language requirements

Band E IELTS 6.5 overall, with a minimum of 6.5 in all components

This page contains specific entry requirements for this course. Find out about equivalent entry requirements and qualifications for your country.

Typical course content

The PhD by Research programme has no modules per semester. Instead it is an entirely research-oriented programme in which students conduct original research under the guidance of their supervisors.

Tuition fees

Fees for postgraduate research degrees vary across the University. All fees are listed for UK, EU and international full-time and part-time students alphabetically by course name.

List of tuition fees for this course and it's variations
Course TitleAwardYear of entryMode of studyUK/EUInternational
EnglishMPhil/PhD2021Full-timetbc March 2021£17,592
EnglishMPhil/PhD2021Part-timetbc March 2021£8,796
English (Distance Learning)MPhil/PhD2021Full-timetbc March 2021£17,592
English (Distance Learning)MPhil/PhD2021Part-timetbc March 2021£8,796
View the full list of course fees

Scholarships, bursaries, sponsorships or grants may be available to support you through your course. Funding opportunities available to you are linked to your subject area and/or your country of origin. These can be from the University of Southampton or other sources.

Explore funding opportunities

Study locations

Avenue campus

Avenue campus

Only a few minutes walk from Highfield Campus, Avenue provides a purpo...Find out more

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