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Postgraduate research

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The English PhD

The Royal Holloway English Department has an international reputation for advanced research. We have an excellent record of PhD completion and a thriving postgraduate community. 

Currently we have around 50 PhD students researching topics across the full range of English literary studies, Creative Writing, and Poetic Practice. 

Royal Holloway has excellent research facilities, including electronic resources and the largest library in the University of London.

To determine if your topic can be supported, please browse our Research pages.

Students are supervised in the Department for the degrees of MPhil and PhD, awarded by the University of London. Applications for funding should be made through the TECHNE scheme (see Funding tab below). Please note that the departmental deadline for TECHNE applications for 2018 entry has now passed.

It is possible to study either full- or part-time. If you wish to find out about the feasibility of your research or creative project, an informal enquiry can be made to the Director of Graduate Studies Dr Will Montgomery.







Click here for specific details of Creative Writing and Practice-based PhDs.





Please also see the other tabs on this page for more details about funding and the application process.

MA by Research 

We also offer a Masters by Research, which can serve as an alternative to the traditional taught MA, whether as a pathway to PhD study or as an independent research qualification. In the course of this one-year (or two-year part-time) degree, the student works towards a dissertation of up to 40,000 words. This is an extended independent research project pursued with the support of a supervisor. Students will receive training in research skills, and will have access to the wide range of other training opportunities available in the college, including the Researcher Development Programme (RDP). 

There is also a taught module which focuses on developing research skills, and is hosted by the School of Modern Languages, Literature and Culture. As this course is taught in Autumn term, it is generally expected that the MA by Research will begin in Autumn Term, although we may consider Spring Term starts where there are exceptional reasons to do so. 

How to Apply (MA by Research):

Complete a College application form, available here.

Your College application will reach us directly. However, in order to fully complete your application process for funding consideration, please send the following additional materials:          

  • • One samples of written work in English, which should take the form of a short academic essay 
  • • A research proposal (up to approx. 1000 words)

directly to English.PGAdmissions@rhul.ac.uk.

There is no set template for the proposal, but it typically includes the following:

            • Synopsis;

            • Research questions; 

            • Background to research, including key literature;

            • How the proposal relates to this context;

            • Methods and approaches used;

            • Draft timetable;

            • Indicative bibliography.

Research Community

There is considerable opportunity for research students to work together at Royal Holloway; doctoral students participate in and lead a variety of research seminars, including the Contemporary Innovative Poetry Research Seminar, the Shakespeare Reading Group, the Nineteenth-Century Reading Group, the London 19th Century Studies seminar, and the Finnegans Wake Research Seminar. Encouragement and support is given to students who wish to present their work at or run conferences. Creative writing and practice-based students also find numerous platforms to disseminate their work. The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences runs a lively series of seminars, workshops and lectures for practice-based students. Discipline-specific research training is available through departmental, Faculty and College programmes (see Training tab below).

The English department at Royal Holloway is home to two high-profile Research Centres. Our long-standing Centre for Victorian Studies is one of the leading international Centres for Victorian research, many of its events held in the stunning picture gallery, which houses a world-famous collection of Victorian art. Royal Holloway is an award-winning centre for Victorian postgraduate training, moreover, each year hosting the residential London Victorian Studies Colloquium which brings together aspiring Victorian academics from all parts of the UK and beyond as well as masterclasses. We are a centre of excellence for research on Dickens and offer unrivalled opportunities for aspiring Dickensians: we have an official partnership with the Dickens Museum and are a member institution of influential the Californian consortium, the Dickens Project. Among other benefits, this means that each year a postgraduate student is funded to attend the Dickens Universe conference in Santa Cruz, the biggest annual gathering of Dickensians in the world. We are the only member institution in London and one of the few in the UK.

Our Poetics Research Centre is a leading forum for the investigation of contemporary poetry, embracing the following strategies of writing – innovative and experimental writing, hybrid poetics, sound, bookarts, live-art, digital writing, installation, performance writing – as they are conceived in the framework of modernist and contemporary writing and critical theory. The Centre runs numerous events. These include the Contemporary  Innovative Poetry Research Seminar at Senate House, a seminar series run in collaboration with colleagues at Kent’s Modern Poetry Centre, the Praxis reading series and various one-off colloquia, readings and discussions. Research Centre staff teach on the well regarded Poetic Practice MA, and are currently supervising several PhDs. PGR students working within the areas of enquiry addressed by the Research Centre are eligible to become associates. 

Graduate conference

Our annual PGR conference takes place every year in early November. Prospective students are welcome to attend. Please email Dr Will Montgomery for details.

Royal Holloway is the lead member of the TECHNE London and South-East Doctoral Research Consortium, which offer doctoral and masters awards for those commencing study in September. Students wishing to study in the Department of English will be able to apply to TECHNE for a doctoral award by submitting an application to the department. Please see the TECHNE Applications and Funding page for further information on the application procedure for TECHNE funding as well as other College studentships. 

General Information

We welcome postgraduate applications from students who have or are about to obtain an MA in an appropriate subject, but candidates with degrees in other subjects or with relevant publications will be considered. We usually expect students to have achieved at least a 2:1 or equivalent in their first degree. 

Overseas applicants should have a degree of equivalent standard and must possess an excellent level of competence in spoken and written English. (Required IELTS scores are 7 overall with 7 in writing, and no remaining subscore to be below 5.5 if the applicant requires a student visa.)

Students are initially registered for an MPhil degree and transfer to PhD on satisfactory completion of the upgrade process. Full-time PhD students are expected to complete their degree in three years (with a fourth and final year for writing up). Part-timers have twice the time to complete their degree.

Potential Supervisors

We recommend that you first consult the staff research pages and look through the research profiles of our academic staff involved in supervision. It is worth determining whether your research interests resonate with any of the specific areas of interests outlined and, if so, to emphasise this in your application. 

You may consider sending a preliminary research proposal to a potential supervisor ahead of completing your formal application. In addition to this preliminary proposal, you may, if you plan to do a practice-based PhD, also choose to send a writing sample. Sending out material in this manner will offer you a sense of whether your proposed area of research matches the specific expertise and interests of any potential supervisor(s) with whom you might like to work. Alternatively, should you decide to go straight into the formal application procedure, your proposal will be circulated to all potential supervisors for consideration. Cross-departmental supervision is available for viable interdisciplinary projects.

Research Proposal

Although there is no set model for how to put together your research proposal, the following is a basic outline of what you might include:

  • Synopsis;
  • Research questions and contribution to knowledge; 
  • Background to research, including key literature;
  • How the proposal relates to this context;
  • Methods and approaches used;
  • Draft timetable;
  • Indicative bibliography.

Applications Procedure for PhD in English Literature

Please visit our TECHNE Applications and Funding page for information on the applications procedure for PhD in English Literature.

AHRC Studentships and College Studentships

Those intending to study for a PhD in the Department of English are able to apply for Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) studentships and for College Studentships. Please visit our TECHNE Applications and Funding page for more information on how to apply. College studentships are allocated to the strongest unsuccessful TECHNE applicants, as defined through our ranking system. Funding for non-EU overseas students is limited to a very small number of fee waivers allocated by the Faculty. There are currently no maintenance funds available for non-EU overseas students. Please note that the departmental deadline for TECHNE applications is midnight on Monday 8 January 2018.

Further Enquiries

Please direct any further enquiries about Postgraduate Research in the Department of English to the Director of Graduate Studies Dr Will Montgomery.

College Training

The College offers a full platform of generic skills training through the Postgraduate Research Student pages. There is also full Practice-Based PhD Programme run by the Faculty. 

Department Training

The English Department runs a series of Research skills seminars. Relevant training sessions run by other departments and instituitons such as the Institute for English Studies will be advertised.


The faculty runs a series of interdisciplinary seminars, workshops and lectures for practice-based students.


Advice and pastoral support is initially by your supervisor (advice on the content and direction of your PhD), your advisor or relevant Director of Graduate Studies (pastoral matters), or the departmental administrator (admin queries), and also by various facilities in the college.

See also our page with Information for Current Students in Postgraduate Research for full information on training and support provided.

Click here for details of our current postgraduate research students:

Books by recent PhD students

  • Neema Parvini, Shakespeare's Histories: Beyond Historicism (Edinburgh, 2012)

  • Neema Parvini, Shakespeare & Contemporary Theory: New Historicism & Cultural Materialism (Continuum, 2012)

  • Andrew Purrsell, co-ed., Within the Tides (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Joseph Conrad, 2012)

  • Neema Parvini, Shakespeare's History Plays: Rethinking Historicism (Edinburgh University Press, 2012)

  • Neema Parvini, Shakespeare and Contemporary Theory: New Historicism and Cultural Materialism (Bloomsbury, 2012)

  • Michael Wainwright, Toward a Sociobiological Hermeneutic: Darwinian Essays on Literature, (Palgrave, 2012)

  • Farah Karim-Cooper, Cosmetics in Shakespearean and Renaissance Drama (Edinburgh University Press, 2012)

  • Farah Karim-Cooper and Tiffany Stern (eds), Shakespeare's Theatres and the Effects of Performance, The Arden Shakespeare (Bloomsbury, 2013)

  • Sam Halliday, Sonic Modernity (EUP, 2013)

  • Farah Karim-Cooper and Andrew Gurr (eds), Moving Shakespeare Indoors: Performance and Repertoire on the Jacobean Stage (Bloomsbury, 2013)

  • Jane Grogan, The Persian Empire in English Renaissance Writing, 1549-1622 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)

  • Elizabeth English, Lesbian Modernism and Genre: Censorship, Sexuality and Popular Fiction (EUP, 2014) 

  • Neema Parvini, Shakespeare and Cognition: Thinking Fast and Slow Through Character (Palgrave, 2015)

  • Neema Parvini, Shakespeare and New Historicist Theory (Bloomsbury, 2016)

  • Sean McEvoy, Shakespeare: The Basics, third edition (Routledge, 2016)

  • Sean McEvoy, Tragedy: The Basics (Routledge, 2016)

  • Dan O’Gorman, Fictions of the War on Terror: Difference and the Transnational 9/11 Novel (Palgrave, 2015)

  • Farah Karim-Cooper, The Hand on the Shakespearean Stage  (Bloomsbury, 2016)

  • Sam Gilchrist Hall, Shakespeare's Folly: Philosophy, Humanism, Critical Theory,  (Routledge, 2016)

  • Michael Wainwright, Game Theory and Minorities in American Literature (Palgrave, 2016)

  • Sean McEvoy, Theatrical Unrest: Ten Riots in the History of the Stage, 1601-2004 (Routledge, 2016)

  • Emilia Borowska, The Politics of Kathy Acker: Revolution and the Avant-Garde  (EUP, forthcoming 2017)


Emily Dickinson Desk

Kurokawa Kisho, 'Helix City', 1961

Contemporary Innovative Poetry Research Seminar

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Shakespeare Reading Group

Finnegans Wake - image of pages

University of London Finnegans Wake Research Seminar

Practice-based PhD Performance, Elephant and Castle 2011

RHUL Practice-based PhD Programme


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