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English Research MPhil/PhD, option of joint PhD with HKU/NUS/Humboldt

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King’s is one of the oldest English departments in the country and is home to a lively and supportive group of academics and students engaged in the exploration of literary cultures from the 7th to the 21st centuries. Our Ph.D. students are at the very centre of our research culture and we welcome applications from prospective doctoral students working on any aspect of literary and cultural studies from the medieval to the contemporary. Our research is fuelled by our proximity to many of London’s artistic and cultural institutions and staff and students in the Department work in collaboration with our many cultural partners. Ph.D. students in English at King’s have access not only to expert and attentive supervision, but also a full programme of training in addition to the opportunity to teach.

REF rankings 2014: King's is one of the top 20 leading institutions worldwide (2014 QS World University Rankings). The 2014 Research Excellence Framework confirmed the world-class standard of research undertaken in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities and its leading international reputation. The Department of English is ranked 8th in the UK and 2nd amongst Russell Group universities according to the framework's "power" metric, which takes into account both the quality and quantity of research activity.

Research income
: AHRC/Leverhume/British Academy combined: £1,245,000
Current number of academic staff: 57
Current number of research students: 122

Recent publications:

  • Paul Gilroy, Darker Than Blue: On the Moral Economies of Black Atlantic Culture
  • Lucy Munro, Archaic Style in English Literature, 1590-1674 Clare Lees (ed), The Cambridge History of Early Medieval Literature
  • Alan Read, Theatre in the Expanded Field
  • Anna Snaith, Modernist Voyages: Colonial Women Writers in London 1890-1945
  • Zoe Norridge, Perceiving Pain in African Literature
  • Seb Franklin, Control: Digitality as Cultural Logic
  • Clara Jones, Virginia Woolf: Ambivalent Activist

Current research projects:

  • Scrambled Messages: The Telegraphic Imaginary 1857-1900 (AHRC funded)
  • Behind Enemy Lines: Literature and Film in the British and American Zones of Occupied Germany 1945-49 (ERC funded)
  • Modern Moves: Kinetic Transnationalism and Afro-Diaspora Rhythm Cultures (ERC funded)
  • Ego Media: The Impact of New Media on Forms of Self-Presentation (ERC funded)

Current and recent doctoral projects:

  • The ‘Unstageable’ in Contemporary Performance
  • ‘Things’ in Anglo-Saxon Literature and Culture
  • Shakespeare’s Plays in Germany, 1933-1945
  • Indian Soliders and the Second World War
  • Beyond Bloomsbury: London’s Queer Artistic Networks, 1910-1957
  • Programming Pro-Gamers: How Computational Control Codes the Gamer/Subject
  • The Material World of Fashion in the Work of James Joyce

Partner organisations:

  • Shakespeare's Globe
  • Courtauld Institute
  • Royal Society of Literature
  • Imperial War Museum
  • British Library
  • British Museum
  • We welcome applications for projects involving supervision at one of our cultural partners or at an institution within the LAHP consortium

Joint PhDs available: Exciting opportunities to gain a joint PhD with either the National University of Singapore or Hong Kong University or Humboldt.

Key information

Duration Expected to be MPhil two years FT, three years PT; PhD three years FT, four-six years PT; September to September, January to January or April to April

Study mode Full-time, Part-time

Further details

Awarding institution King's College London/King's and HKU/NUS/Humboldt for joint programme

Faculty Faculty of Arts & Humanities

DepartmentDepartment of English



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Course detail


English at King's is characterised by an exceptionally wide range of research activities reflected at all levels of its teaching programme. Academics in the department have cross-period interests in visual and material cultures; literature, medicine and science; gender and sexuality; colonial, postcolonial and transnational cultures; creative writing, life writing and performance; text, history, politics.

All members of staff are actively involved in research: most have gained an international reputation for the quality of their scholarship and are frequently called on to contribute their specialist knowledge to newspapers and other media Staff in the department regularly attract large-scale research grants from the European Research Council, Wellcome Trust, AHRC and Leverhulme Trust.

Ph.D. students are at the heart of our Department and its research culture. We have over 100 doctoral students from all over the world working on a wide range of projects. Many are AHRC-funded and some are working on collaborative doctoral projects with our cultural partner institutions. Together with our community of  postdoctoral fellows, our early career researchers both organise and participate in   our thriving seminar and conference culture.

Course study environment

We place great emphasis on pastoral care and are a friendly and welcoming department. Our home in the new Virginia Woolf Building offers many spaces for postgraduate students to work and socialise. Studying in London means students have access to a huge range of libraries from the Maughan Library at King’s to the Senate House Library at the University of London and the British Library. In addition, archives and special collections abound: eg The Women’s Library at LSE. The department hosts a number of vibrant research seminars series and symposia open to all graduate students. In addition, there is a student-led graduate seminar series called ‘The Abstract’  and an online journal which allow students to present, discuss and publish their work. We also organise an annual graduate conference attended by students and staff in the department which provides a friendly and supportive forum in which research students can give papers on their work. Students are encouraged to organise their own events, with Departmental and College support.

Postgraduate training

There is a range of induction events and training provided for students by the Graduate School, the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and the English Department. A significant number of our students are AHRC-funded through the London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP) which also provides doctoral training to all students. All students take the ‘Doctoral Seminar’ in their first year. This is a series of informal, staff-led seminars on research skills in which students can share and gain feedback on their own work. We run a series of ‘Skills Lunches’, which are informal lunch meetings with staff, covering specific topics, including Upgrading, Attending Conferences, Applying for Funding and Post-Doctoral Awards, etc. Topics for these sessions are generally suggested by the students themselves, so are particularly responsive to student needs. We have an Early Career Staff Mentor who runs more formal workshops of varying kinds, particularly connected to career development and the professions (for example, ‘Applying for Jobs’ and ‘How to Write an Academic CV’). Furthermore, individual research groups within the department also provide various forms of trainings, including ‘Work in Progress’ sessions, in which students raise research/methodology questions related to their own projects.

Through our Graduate Teaching Assistantship Scheme, doctoral students are given the opportunity to teach in the department (usually in their second year of study) and are trained and supported as they do so.


Joint PhDs - Benefits of collaboration

Exciting opportunities are available to undertake a joint PhD programme either with Hong Kong University (HKU), the National University of Singapore (NUS) or Humboldt in Berlin. There are a number of areas where research expertise at King’s overlaps with our partnerships with these international institutions, enabling excellent supervisory teams for students. The fields of post colonialism, performance studies/drama, modernism, and 18th-19th century literature are especially strong across all our partners, but the full breadth of literary studies can usually be accommodated via our joint programmes. In undertaking a joint degree, students have access to studying in vibrant international contexts, making the research experience a rich and rewarding one. FAQs about joint PhDs can be found on the King’s Worldwide web pages.

Head of group/division

Professor Richard Kirkland

Contact for information

Postgraduate Admissions, Admissions Office tel: +44 (0) 20 7848 1649 fax: +44 (0) 20 7848 7200

Contact email

Course website

Entry requirements

Entry requirements

Visit our admissions webpages to view our English language entry requirements.

General entry advice

Applicants should normally have:

  • A Bachelor's degree with 1st Class honours  in English (or international equivalent)

  • or a Master of Arts  in English with High Merit - 65% or higher in the UK system (or international equivalent)

Those applying for one of the joint degrees are encouraged to contact an academic at King's to develop research links with the partner institution. Students applying for the joint PhD programme with Humboldt University may be required to hold a Master’s degree in order to meet the requirements of Humboldt University.

Application procedure

Before submitting an application, it is best to make informal email contact with a potential supervisor. Please consult the ‘People’ section of our website for details of staff expertise and publications. Then you can gain some initial feedback on your proposed topic, see who in the Department might be best placed to supervise your project and find out whether they are taking on new students. If you are unsure who to contact, please get in touch with the Postgraduate Research Lead on

Admission to our research programmes will initially be for the MPhil but we expect students to transfer to the PhD after between 12 and 18 months (or part time equivalent)  by agreement with their supervisor and the Departmental Postgraduate and Research Committee. This process is called the ‘upgrading’ and involves submission of a dossier followed by an informal interview with their second supervisor and another member of the Department. 

Personal statement and supporting information

A key part of your application is your research proposal. Here are some guidelines on writing a successful proposal:

Writing your PhD Proposal….

  • takes time! You should expect to write it over a number of weeks, involving fresh research, feedback from friends and a tutor, and careful polishing. There is no specific format for the proposal, but around 2-4 pages (1000-2000 words) is recommended.
  • is a crucial part of your application, which is mainly judged on the quality of your ideas, more than on any personal qualities or previous experience.  Your independent development of a strong proposal is the first test of your ability to do a successful PhD.
  • need only be indicative: you don’t need to have written the book before applying for the PhD. Everyone knows that applicants are expressing an interest in an area rather than mastery of it, and that projects change a lot over the three years of studying. But you should describe a project that excites you personally at the time of applying.

Things to include:

  1. Title: is it clear and appealing? Does it contain keywords and suggest your project’s place in a recognisable field of scholarship? Would it point us to a suitable supervisor without too much difficulty?
  2. Clear statement on what you want to work on and why it is important and exciting. What questions will you be addressing? Is there a lack in the existing research area that you can identify? Are you showing an ambition to make an intervention in the broader field of English studies?
  3. Background knowledge and clear reference to existing research in this area. If you have found a research ‘gap’ you could say where the other relevant debates appear to stop.
  4. Some discussion of the methods you might use, and why you are using them
  5. An indication of the research strategy and a rough timeframe of key milestones
  6. Key primary and secondary references, presented according to an academic convention. This can either be throughout the text, in footnotes, or in a final short bibliography.

Applicants are also asked to submit an essay of not more than 5,000 words, preferably on a topic related to their chosen research topic. Applicants who completed their MA or BA more than 10 years ago will normally be expected to submit a new piece of work.


Many of our incoming students apply for AHRC funding via the London Arts and Humanities Partnership.  Please see their website ( for more detail of deadlines, application procedure and awards available. Also the ‘Student Funding’ section of the Prospectus will give you more information on other scholarships available from King’s.

Course intake

No set number.

Joint PhDs - Application advicee

Applicants for the Joint PhD programme must contact the relevant departments at both universities before submitting an application in order to discuss the suitability of their topic for the joint programme and to locate potential supervisors. Applications should initially be submitted to the proposed home institution only, ie where the student will start and finish their programme. Students should note that acceptance onto the programme may take slightly longer than for single-institution PhDs because of the additional steps involved. Further details, including FAQs, can be found on the King’s Worldwide web pages.

Applicants who choose King’s as their home institution should apply through the online system, selecting the appropriate Joint PhD option from the drop-down list. In addition to the standard supporting documentation, applicants should submit a Travel Plan form indicating how they intend to divide their time between the two partner institutions. Students must spend a specified amount of time in each institution, details of which can be found in the ‘Notes’ section of the Travel Plan form.

It is recommended that students submit applications for the Joint PhD programme by the end of March to begin the following September.

Application closing date

The deadlines for applications are detailed below for 2017/18 entry. Prior to these dates all applications will be given equal consideration and considered on their individual merits. After these dates applications will be considered subject to the availability of places, thus we encourage you to submit your application as soon as possible. Please note that funding deadlines may be earlier.

  • September 2017 entry - Application deadline: 20th July 2017 for Overseas students and 3rd September 2017 for Home/EU students
  • January 2018 entry - Application deadline: 29th October 2017 for Overseas students and 3rd December 2017 for Home/EU students
  • April 2018 entry - Application deadline: 18th February 2017 for Overseas/Home/EU students

Help and support

If you don't have a suitable qualification for direct entry to a UK university, or if English isn't your first language, our academic preparation courses can help you get ready for study in the UK.

Preparation courses

Fees and funding

UK/EU Tuition Fees 2017/18

Full time tuition fees: £4,800 per annum

Part time tuition fees: £2,400 per annum

Current regulations allow some students to pay UK tuition fees on the basis of their EU citizenship or residency. Until these eligibility criteria are changed, the EU tuition fee will remain the same as the UK tuition fee.

These tuition fees may be subject to additional increases in subsequent years of study, in line with King’s terms and conditions.


International Tuition Fees 2017/18

Full time tuition fees: 

£17,850 p.a. (MPhil/PhD, English Research)

£17,850 p.a. (MPhil/PhD, English Research with Humboldt-Universität Zu Berlin/University of Hong Kong/National University of Singapore)

Part time tuition fees:

£8,925 p.a. (MPhil/PhD, English Research)

These tuition fees may be subject to additional increases in subsequent years of study, in line with King’s terms and conditions.

Financial help and support

Visit the fees and funding webpages to find out more about bursaries, scholarships, grants, tuition fees, living expenses, student loans and other financial help available at King's.


Next steps

View our postgraduate guide

Learn more about postgraduate degree programmes at King's. Download or view our guide in PDF format.

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Page last modified on 06 March 2017.