Comparative Literature MPhil/ PhD

Suitably qualified candidates can study for the degrees of MPhil and PhD in Comparative Literature. Research topics can be in traditional areas of comparative literature or in such fields as literary theory, translation studies, gender studies and interdisciplinary studies.

The PhD requires a minimum of three years' full-time study (minimum four years' part-time). The MPhil is a research degree of the shorter type, normally requiring two years full-time (four years part-time). Students can study on a full-time or part-time basis; part-time non-residential registration is also possible in some cases.

All research students initially register for the MPhil; they can upgrade to the PhD after a minimum of one year's full-time study (or two years part-time), provided their work is of a sufficient standard.

Before applying, all applicants must approach prospective supervisors with their proposals and secure the agreement of two supervisors to supervise the proposed project. Applications which are received without two previously agreed, named prospective supervisors will not be considered.


As a research student you do not follow a prescribed programme of study. Instead, you carry out your own research project under the guidance of a Supervisor, while following research and skills training as appropriate.

Students have both a Principal Supervisor and a Subsidiary Supervisor. You may register either in the department of your Principal Supervisor or in the Centre for Intercultural Studies.


In addition to the research training available in individual academic departments, the Centre for Multidisciplinary & Intercultural Inquiry organises regular seminars for research students and staff working across cultural, disciplinary or linguistic boundaries. 

Comparative Literature research students can take part in the symposia and week-long seminars of the international Hermes Consortium, which involves the universities of Aarhus, Giessen, Lisbon, Leuven, Santiago de Compostela and Utrecht as well as UCL.

Students working in translation studies can attend a two-week specialist Translation Research Summer School, a collaboration with Manchester, Edinburgh and the Hong Kong Baptist University.

The UCL Graduate School offers a range of induction and skills training courses for all research students. The Graduate School also hosts two Royal Literary Fund Fellows, professional authors who offer one-to-one tutorials in effective academic writing for both native and non-native speakers of English.


Study for the degrees of MPhil and PhD in Comparative Literature results in the submission of a thesis. The thesis is a book-length contribution to knowledge, based on original research.

A thesis for the degree of MPhil runs to approximately 60,000 words. It should be either a record of original work or a thorough and critical exposition of existing knowledge in an area of comparative literary study.

A PhD thesis may be up to 100,000 words and must form a distinct contribution to knowledge, show evidence of original thought and research, and be suitable for publication as submitted in abridged or modified form.


The graduate programme in Comparative Literature draws on the combined expertise of staff in the language and literature departments in UCL's Arts and Humanities Faculty, the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). This enables virtually global coverage.

The library resources in central London are unrivalled. Apart from the UCL Library and the University of London Library, there are the specialist collections of SSEES and SOAS, the various research institutes of the University of London (click here for a list) and, beyond these, the British Library. All these collections are within a few minutes' walk of UCL.


Normally we expect PhD applicants to have a First or very high Upper Second in their first degree (or equivalent) and a Distinction or indication of distinction-level work at Masters level (or equivalent) in a language and literature subject or in another relevant field. All PhD applicants should present a convincing, well-argued and carefully formulated proposal and should have excellent standards of academic English.

There is no deadline for applications, as research students can start at any time (i.e. not necessarily in September). For those candidates planning to apply for funding, however, initial contact with a subject area convenor or prospective supervisor should be made in October or November where the deadline for funding is January.


Application forms, general information about admission for a research degree at UCL and copies of the Graduate School Prospectus may be obtained from the Admissions Office in the UCL Registry. Online application forms are also accessed via the Admissions Office. Please note that you may need to provide proof of proficiency in English with your application; click here for details.
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For academic advice, please contact the relevant department.

Research Project Proposals

Admission to a research degree programme is normally dependent on the submission of a detailed research project proposal. The proposal, which will normally be a document of between 1,000 and 3,000 words, should cover such things as:

  • the area of research, with an indication of the scope, genres, themes, periods, authors and/or main texts;
  • the research questions which the project will address;
  • the methodology to be applied in addressing the research questions;
  • the disciplinary and wider relevance of the project;
  • the current state of knowledge in the relevant area, as recorded in key publications;
  • the specific contribution to knowledge which the project intends to make;
  • practical aspects of the project, such as the location of relevant materials and an initial timepath;
  • your suitability to carry out the project.