Comparative Literature MPhil/PhD

London, Bloomsbury

UCL is a global leader in the thriving field of comparative literature, building on the great strength of its well-established language-specific literary and cultural degrees. With its exceptional range of modern and ancient languages, UCL provides an ideal environment for comparative inquiry. We actively support interdisciplinary research across languages and cultural periods, and welcome comparative projects that may benefit from joint supervisory support.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2023/24)
Overseas tuition fees (2023/24)
3 calendar years
5 calendar years
Programme starts
Research degrees may start at any time of the year, but typically start in September.
Applications accepted
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Entry requirements

A minimum of an upper second-class Bachelor's degree in a relevant discipline from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard, and a Master's degree with Merit in a relevant field. In the first instance, candidates should establish a dialogue with a potential supervisor before making a formal application. Admission is normally dependent on the submission of a detailed research project proposal.

The English language level for this programme is: Level 4

UCL Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English courses are for international students who are aiming to study for a postgraduate degree at UCL. The courses will develop your academic English and academic skills required to succeed at postgraduate level. International Preparation Courses

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

Equivalent qualifications

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below. Please note that the equivalency will correspond to the broad UK degree classification stated on this page (e.g. upper second-class). Where a specific overall percentage is required in the UK qualification, the international equivalency will be higher than that stated below. Please contact Graduate Admissions should you require further advice.

About this degree

Research students can specialise in any aspect of comparative literature for which suitable supervision is available. Potential supervisors' disciplinary perspectives are drawn from language departments including the School of Slavonic & East European Studies, Greek & Latin, Anthropology, Geography, literary studies and queer studies and across UCL.

Who this course is for

This programme is for applicants with a background or interest in comparative literary study and research. It is suitable for both recent Masters graduates as well as early or mid-career professionals. This MPhil/PhD is for applicants who want to do multi-disciplinary research, who may have completed post-graduate training or study and want to develop an advanced critical analysis in a specific research area.

What this course will give you

The Comparative Literature programme draws on the collective expertise of specialists in the Faculties of Arts & Humanities, Social & Historical Sciences, the Institute of Education, the School of Slavonic & East European Studies (SSEES).

We are especially interested in creative critical research and in proposals that articulate and examine new developments in literary and cultural studies, in the English-speaking world and beyond.

Training programmes are designed on an individual basis by the student's supervisor, and generally involve participation in activities offered by the department of the primary supervisor. Students also take advantage of training provided by the UCL Doctoral School and our departmental research student seminars.

The foundation of your career

Skills acquired as a result of taking this programme include: ability to conduct research in library archives and electronic archives; ability to synthesise and summarise large amounts of information; ability to use evidence in order to construct a convincing argument; ability to work with texts in more than one language; acquisition of sensitivity to the cultural register of texts; ability to plan workloads efficiently and meet deadlines.


PhD students may go on to academic careers or careers in research, in publishing or in creative writing.


There are many opportunities for networking whilst undertaking this programme, namely in areas within membership of cultural institutions like the British Museum. There are also research organisations such as the British Library and cultural organisations, Cervantes Institute, and there are research hubs at UCL (IAS or the SAS) all available for great networking opportunities.

Teaching and learning

Students are normally required to make a presentation on their plans to the departmental staff in the summer of their first year. All UCL research students have to submit a substantial report and defend their research plans in an Upgrade Exam in order to transfer from MPhil to PhD registration status, normally within 9 to 18 months of first enrolment.

The maximum length of the PhD thesis is 100,000 words. The ideal length of a PhD thesis in Comparative Literature is 80,000 words.

Depending on staff availability, there is provision for a small number of students to pursue the Documentary Track pathway, which allows suitably qualified PhD students to submit a thesis of 60,000-70,000 words and a within-copyright filmed documentary of 20-30 minutes in length in place of the standard requirement of a thesis of 80,000-100,000 words in length.

The documentary-track PhD is researched in a twofold manner as a text and a film project and developed in two parallel but interdependent modes of discourse. Thus the two projects are intended to overlap closely such that the documentary is part of the integrated whole of the argument of the thesis. An example of a research project which might be pursued using this methodology would be the study (in the form of an academic thesis) of the works of a living author or artist or film director along with a creative, research-led documentary film on the same individual's work. It is expected that the two parts of the research project will form a composite whole. It will also be necessary for the candidate to provide a statement explaining the research question and aims addressed by the documentary film including written production notes, and a discussion of the stages of research and choice of methodology.

Research areas and structure

We invite proposals with a comparative, cross-cultural, and interdisciplinary focus, including comparative studies of themes, genres, and periods, and research in the following fields: world literature, literary and cultural theory; material and visual cultures; reception studies; cultural history; comparative gender studies and performance studies; diasporas and migration studies; new media. 

In the first instance, candidates should establish a dialogue with a potential supervisor before making a formal application. The length of registration for the research degree programmes is usually three years for full-time and five years for part-time. You are required to register initially for the MPhil degree with the expectation of transfer to PhD after successful completion of an upgrade viva 9-18 months after initial registration. 

Upon successful completion of your approved period of registration you may register as a completing research student (CRS) while you write up your thesis.

In the first year, you will be required to take part in a mandatory Skills Seminar Programme. You are expected to agree with your supervisor the basic structure of your research project, an appropriate research method and a realistic plan of work. You will produce and submit a detailed outline of your proposed research to your supervisor for their comments and feedback and be given the opportunity to present your research to UCL academic staff and fellow PhD students

In the second year, you will be expected to upgrade from MPhil to a PhD. To successfully upgrade to a PhD you are required to submit a piece of writing (this is usually based on one chapter from your thesis and a chapter plan for the remainder). You are also required to present and answer questions about this work to a panel consisting of your subsidiary supervisor and another member of the Faculty who acts as an independent assessor.

The length of registration for the research degree programmes is usually three years for full-time and five years for part-time. You are required to register initially for the MPhil degree with the expectation of transfer to PhD after successful completion of an upgrade viva 9-18 months after initial registration. 


There is no compulsory placement in this programme, but we encourage students to apply to the Yale-UCL exchange programme that offers students to pursue their Comparative Literature studies for one term at the University of Yale.


Details of the accessibility of UCL buildings can be obtained from AccessAble Further information can also be obtained from the UCL Student Support & Wellbeing team.

Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time Part-time
Tuition fees (2023/24) £5,860 £2,930
Tuition fees (2023/24) £26,200 £13,100

The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Where the programme is offered on a flexible/modular basis, fees are charged pro-rata to the appropriate full-time Master's fee taken in an academic session. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Students website:

Additional costs

For more information on additional costs for prospective students please go to our estimated cost of essential expenditure at Accommodation and living costs.

Additional costs may include expenses such as books, stationery, printing or photocopying, and conference registration fees.

The department strives to keep additional costs low. Books and journal articles are usually available via the UCL library (hard copies or via e-journal subscriptions).

The wealth of departmental seminars / colloquiums / symposiums and student organised work in progress sessions give ample opportunities to present research, receive feedback and participate in discussion.

For more information on additional costs for prospective students please go to our estimated cost of essential expenditure at Accommodation and living costs.

Funding your studies

Depending on eligibilty students can apply for a fully funded LAHP studentship. For information about available funding and scholarships please visit our Funding and Scholarships webpage.

For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.

Next steps

All applicants must identify and contact potential supervisors before making their application. For more information see our 'Need to Know' page.

Please note that you may submit applications for a maximum of two graduate programmes (or one application for the Law LLM) in any application cycle.

Choose your programme

Please read the Application Guidance before proceeding with your application.

Year of entry: 2023-2024

Year of entry: 2022-2023

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