UCL English


MPhil/PhD in English Literature and Language

One of the highest-ranking English Departments in the UK, UCL provides fantastic opportunities for PhD students to study in the heart of literary London, with access to vast quantities of resources and research materials, and a high number of academic staff working on a diverse range of specialist topics. 

Note that you should identify a prospective supervisor yourself (see our list of staff) and contact them before you make your formal application, to check that they are in a position to support the project that you are proposing.

Dr Julia Jordan (julia.jordan@ucl.ac.uk) is the English Department's Graduate Tutor. Application enquiries can also be directed to Natasha Clark (n.clark@ucl.ac.uk), Senior Education Administrator.

Studying for a PhD at UCL

With access to a vast collection of archival materials, and world-leading supervision in a wide range of literary periods and topics, UCL is one of the best universities in which to study for an English PhD.     

There are normally about 45 students undertaking research degrees in the department. Graduate students initially register for the MPhil degree, but usually in the second year, when a realistic and workable thesis has been confirmed, and work-in-progress and a future plan have been discussed, students are upgraded from MPhil to PhD status.

Students accepted for admission are given a principal supervisor with whom the student will work closely during the course of the degree. A secondary supervisor is also appointed to provide additional advice. Great importance is attached to matching student and supervisor, and ensuring that students' progress is well monitored. Students meet either one or other supervisor approximately ten times during the academic year. The Department is eager to ensure PhD completion rates within four years, and therefore reviews each student's progress by means of an interview at the end of each year. When completed and submitted, the thesis is defended in an oral examination. 


Students are expected to complete the PhD within three or four years of registration, and the minimum period of registration is two years. Part-time students complete the degree within five to seven years of registration. 

Research Specialisms

The Department offers MPhil/PhD supervision in a wide range of topics, including English and English-related language and literature from Old English to the present day. Information on the research interests of staff can be found here (click on the name of each member of staff to access their personal profile). 

Research Resources

UCL Library has outstanding physical and digital collections for literary research, as well as specialist materials in its excellent Special Collections department. Among these are the George Orwell Archive; Little Magazines; the Routledge and Kegan Paul Archives (publishing history); the Brougham Papers and papers of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (19th-century liberalism); and the Chadwick Papers (19th-century sanitary reform). UCL Library also has superb holdings in London history. For language topics the Department is especially well placed, as it houses the world-renowned Survey of English Usage.

Other London archives with manuscript and rare book resources relevant to the Department’s research interests include (but are by no means limited to):

Research is expected to take students into numerous libraries and archives, not only within London, but also throughout Britain, and often internationally. 

Research Environment

The Department places great emphasis on opportunities for students to discuss their work and participate in the exchange of knowledge and ideas. There is a programme of regular departmental Research Seminars at which PhD students are invited to present their work; speakers may also include members of the department’s academic staff and invited guests. The department also hosts a seminar series on Race, Power, and Poetics, and a wide range of informal discussion groups and reading groups.

The Institute of Advanced Studies (part of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities) hosts an exciting programme of research events and activities. UCL students also have access to the abundance of seminars and conferences available across London, including those of the Institute of English Studies at the University of London.

The English Department’s graduate students organise a one-day conference each year; many of the papers delivered at the conference are published in Moveable Type, the Department's graduate-led online journal. There is a Graduate Common Room in the English Department. Many PhD students spend much time working at the British Library, to which UCL has unrivalled proximity, which also functions as a hub for academic networking.

Current Students' Research Topics

Details of current PhD students and their projects can be found here

The Research Proposal

Your research proposal does not need to be long (typically somewhere between 800-1000 words). The most important things we are looking for you to explain are:

1) What primary literature/texts will you be studying?

2) What is your idea/approach to this literature?

3) How does your project fit in to the secondary literature/criticism on this topic?

4) Practical details, like which archives you will use, roughly how long you will spend on each chapter, what each chapter may be about, etc

5) That you have considered how the chosen project will work within a 100,000 word limit (so it's clearly not something so small that it's 20,000 words maximum, nor have you chosen something so big that you couldn't possibly do it justice in 500,000).

Proposals and intentions often change a little/quite a lot once they are on the course, but the important thing is just to demonstrate that you have thought about the practicalities and you have a clear, viable research topic that we could supervise in the Department, and which you could complete within three years.

Applying for a Place

Applicants should usually expect to begin their studies in September at the start of an academic year (although in some cases, a January start can be discussed). UCL’s application process usually opens in mid-October, and you are encouraged to apply as early as possible, as there are a number of stages to the process.

It is essential to understand that your application for a place must be fully processed, and an offer of a place at UCL secured, before you can apply to any of the various funding schemes (see under ‘Applying for Funding’ below). You should allow time for this, and for us to advise you on your funding application(s). For this reason your full, formal application for a place via UCL’s online system must be submitted by Friday 5 January 2024 at the latest. This is an internal departmental deadline and supersedes any dates given on external websites.

We strongly recommend that all candidates should apply for funding; but those candidates who intend to self-fund may apply for entry in September 2024 at any time up to 31 March 2024.

The steps for applying for a place take some time, and are as follows:

1. Contact a member of staff in the English Department to establish whether they are available and interested in supervising your project. They may ask to see your CV and a brief research proposal (see above, ‘The Research Proposal’). You can find details of the research interests of individual members of staff here (click on each name to see the staff member’s profile). If you are not sure who to approach, you may consult the English Department’s Graduate Tutor, Dr Julia Jordan (julia.jordan@ucl.ac.uk).

Please be aware that members of staff cannot give detailed advice on how to improve your research proposal. This is because evaluation of the proposal is an important part of the process for the selection of candidates, so it must be your own independent work. If we invite you for interview (step 3 below) this will be an opportunity for you to discuss your proposal with your prospective supervisor. If we offer you a place (step 4 below), we will then advise you on how to make your research proposal as strong as possible for your funding application(s).

2. If you have been encouraged to make a full, formal online application, please do so, following the instructions here. Your application must include a research proposal, two references, a CV, and transcripts from your previous academic courses. If you intend to proceed to funding applications, your application for a place must be submitted by 5 January 2024. When you submit your application, please also send your research proposal and academic CV directly by email to the English Department’s Graduate Tutor, Dr Julia Jordan (julia.jordan@ucl.ac.uk).


Applying as an international student  

Further information about English language requirements and applying as an international student can be found here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/graduate/applying-international-student


3. The English Department will consider the strength of each applicant’s proposed research project, the applicant's grades in undergraduate and Masters level study, and the suitability (and availability) of academic staff in the Department to supervise the proposed project. If we decide to proceed with the application, the applicant will be invited to a short interview to discuss the research proposal in more detail. This will normally be with the applicant's proposed primary supervisor, a potential secondary supervisor, and/or the Tutor for Graduates. UK applicants will normally be interviewed at UCL; international students, or those who are unable to attend for other reasons, will be interviewed online. Please try to ensure that you are available for interview from November to January.

4. If your interview is successful, we will offer you a place. You can now proceed to funding applications (see ‘Applying for Funding’ below). PLEASE NOTE: it is your responsibility to be aware of the deadlines for different funding schemes, and to ensure that there is time for your application for a place to be fully processed before you proceed to funding applications.

Applying for Funding

Scholarships for which you may be eligible to apply are listed here.  


Studentships for PhDs in English at UCL are available from LAHP (the London Arts and Humanities Partnership), funded by the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council). LAHP is a consortium of Higher Education Institutions in London. More information, including eligibility for a studentship and how to apply, is available from their website. Around 10% of applications for studentships are successful.

Applicants who are interested in LAHP funding must also have submitted a completed PhD application to UCL by Friday 5 January 2024. Once we have confirmed your offer of a place, you must then submit a completed LAHP application form, including the supervisor statement, by their deadline (26th January 2024 at 5pm). Your prospective supervisor will advise you on how to make your LAHP application as strong as possible. It is your responsibility to allow sufficient time for all of these processes.

If you have any further questions about the LAHP application procedure, please email Ms Natasha Clark (n.clark@ucl.ac.uk

Research Excellence Scholarship (RES)

UCL Research Excellence Scholarships aim to attract high-quality students to undertake research at UCL. Up to 40 UCL  Research Excellence Scholarships (RES) are available to prospective and current research students from any country.

More details about the application process for the Research Excellence Scholarships, including deadlines, can be found here.

Wolfson Scholarships

The Wolfson Foundation is offering six postgraduate research awards in the humanities for 2024/25. These will be for three areas in history, literature and languages.

Details about the award scheme and the application process can be found here

Applicants should send the mandatory documents to Natasha Clark (n.clark@ucl.ac.uk) by the end of 12 January 2024.

UCL Research Opportunity Scholarship

UCL's Research Opportunity Scholarship (UCL-ROS) supports UK BAME postgraduate research degree students. Details about eligibility, the award and the application process can be found here.


Research Skills

Each student works closely with their supervisor to develop research skills specific to their project. Regular completion of an online research log helps the student and supervisor to assess training needs.

The English Department provides a course in PhD Skills Training. The first term is on Research Skills and Methods, and is aimed at first-year students, who are required to attend. The second term is on Professional Academic Skills, and is open to all PhD students.

Across UCL, PhD training is co-ordinated by the Doctoral School. The Doctoral Skills Development Programme is delivered via the Inkpath platform, and benefits from participation by the Bloomsbury Postgraduate Skills Network, a consortium of leading Higher Education Institutions.

Training courses and events are also available from LAHP (the London Arts and Humanities Partnership). LAHP-funded students are given priority for booking, but places may also be available to other students.

Teaching and Employment Prospects

Teaching opportunities for research students

PhD students who are making good progress with their research project are offered teaching opportunities. Those in their second year are normally offered experience in teaching one-to-one tutorials. Those in their third year are normally offered experience in teaching seminars.

PhD students in English also work with UCL’s Access and Widening Participation team to deliver a highly successful Summer School for Year 12 school students.

Employment Prospects

PhD graduates from the Department have an excellent record of securing employment in institutions of higher education. In recent years PhD alumni have progressed to academic positions here at UCL, as well as at Oxford and Cambridge, in the wider University of London, and at other universities across the UK. Others have successfully gained international appointments, in destinations including the United States, Canada, and New Zealand. Our PhD graduates are also well placed to pursue careers outside academia, as the skills in research, analysis, writing, and communication obtained during the PhD transfer easily to high-level work in many sectors.


Further Information

UCL prospectus page for the MPhil/PhD programme.

For further information, please email Natasha Clark (n.clark@ucl.ac.uk).

Apply Online

You can find a link to the online application form on the main UCL website at the bottom of this page: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/graduate/apply

Visiting Research Students

We do accept some visiting students, if there is a suitable academic to act as supervisor. The first step is to identify someone who looks like a suitable supervisor by looking through the list of academic staff yourself: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/english/people/academic-staff . Then, you should contact them with your research proposal to see if they think they would be well-positioned to supervise and will be available to do so over the period of time you’d like to visit. If they are happy to supervise you, you must submit an application via our online system. Further details about this and the link for applying can be found on this page: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/international/study-abroad-and-exchange/visiting-research-students.