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The University of Southampton
HumanitiesPostgraduate study

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

We offer PhD supervision in English; in Creative Writing; and in interdisciplinary work between English, Creative Writing and other subjects. Our postgraduate students are an essential part of the English and Humanities research communities 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 in English Literature or Creative Writing through our PhD Research Programmes.

In English literature, we supervise work on literature from the 14th to the 21st century, as well as transhistorical and interdisciplinary projects.  We support projects on individual authors and established literary epochs, as well as cutting edge work that expands the meaning of ‘literature’ and redefines ‘culture’. We encourage work that brings the study of literature into conversation with the visual arts, philosophy, music, history, politics, law, economics, and science. We are experienced in supervising work on literatures from across the world, including comparative literature projects.

In Creative Writing, students draw upon the expert support of our Creative Writing supervisors to write new creative works of fiction. Their projects may be a collection of short stories or a novel; narrative non-fiction; works for children or young people; or poetry. This book-length project is written in conjunction with a piece of research that explores the critical considerations needed to deepen and put into context the creative project. Usually, the critical component is co-supervised by an English literature colleague with an expertise in a relevant area. 

Please browse our staff pages for individual areas of expertise in supervising critical and creative projects. 

As a research student, you will have access to a wide range of facilities. These include a Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Culture; a Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies; a Centre for Nineteenth Century Research; a Centre for Modern and Contemporary Writing and a range of Research Institutes, including the Parkes Institute, the Southampton Institute for Arts and Humanities and Chawton House. You will also have access to a rich range of opportunities, including involvement in seminar series and regular formal training events to provide you with the wisdom and capabilities to complete your project, enhance your CV, and prepare you for your chosen career. 

A PhD in English or Creative Writing from Southampton has helped our graduates to establish careers in academic research; publishing; local, national and international policy work; teaching in college and Higher Education; project design and management; and in a wide variety of roles as writers and researchers in diverse media organisations. 

Writing your PhD Proposal

It takes time and care to complete a PhD proposal that meets the standards required for a higher degree. It is important to demonstrate that you fully understand what a PhD entails before you submit your application. 

A PhD in English Literature

You need to research and summarise previous criticism on your chosen topic; clearly state your aims, research questions and argument; explain why the work will be distinctive, original and meaningful; justify the choice of texts and the historical/geographical scope of the thesis; explain your methods; and include a chapter-by-chapter synopsis that is feasible within 75,000 words. You should also include a bibliography. 
A PhD in Creative Writing 
The Creative Writing pathway offers the opportunity to work with a creative writer on a book-length work of fiction, narrative non-fiction or poetry. The accompanying critical commentary allows exploration of an area of research connected to that creative work, usually with a critical supervisor. The length of a dissertation in the Creative Writing pathway varies according to form and genre. 
Please find a guide to preparing an application for a PhD in the School of Humanities at Southampton here.

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 and international full-time and part-time students alphabetically by course name.

Course TitleAwardYear of EntryMode of StudyUKInternational
English MPhil/PhD 2023 Full-time £4,596 £18,600
English MPhil/PhD 2023 Part-time £2,298 £9,300
English (Distance Learning) MPhil/PhD 2022 Full-time £4,596 £18,600
English (Distance Learning) MPhil/PhD 2022 Part-time £2,298 £9,300
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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