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  • Study Abroad

A Literary Odyssey: Explore PhD in English Literature Programs Abroad!

Updated on 12 december, 2023.

Shivangi Mishra

Shivangi Mishra

Sr. content editor.

Shivangi Mishra

For aspiring scholars of the English language , the allure of a PhD abroad is undeniable. From the hallowed halls of Oxford and Cambridge to the vibrant literary scenes of Paris and Florence, pursuing such a degree offers unparalleled access to world-renowned scholars, unique research opportunities, and a chance to immerse in a new cultural landscape. Choosing to pursue a PhD in English Literature abroad is a transformative decision indeed.

Table of Contents

  • United States of America:
  • New Zealand:

Best Universities to Study PhD in English Literature

  • Writing Sample:
  • Statement of Purpose:
  • Letters of Recommendation:

How to Apply

Best countries to study phd in english literature.

It's important to pick wisely while pursuing a PhD in English Literature abroad since every country has its unique blend of research possibilities, academic brilliance, and cultural richness.

England: 

With some of the most prominent colleges in the world and a long tradition of literary contributions, it is a global literary powerhouse. The UK offers a favorable environment for exploring both classic and modern literature, in addition to offering access to vast literary archives and a lively academic community.

United States of America: 

The US boasts a robust higher education system, with a multitude of universities offering cutting-edge research facilities and interdisciplinary programs in English Literature. The US academic landscape encourages innovative research and provides opportunities to engage with diverse literary traditions.

Canada: 

Canada is increasingly becoming a preferred destination for PhD candidates in English Literature. The country's inclusive learning environments, emphasis on multicultural literature, and strong support for research endeavors make it an attractive choice. 

Ireland: 

Birthplace of literary greats like Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, and James Joyce, Ireland offers a special environment for English literature doctoral study. The nation is renowned for emphasizing both classic and modern literary studies, having small class numbers, and having a supportive academic environment. . 

New Zealand: 

New Zealand offers a refreshing academic experience for PhD candidates in English Literature. With its stunning landscapes and a strong emphasis on indigenous and Pacific literature, New Zealand provides a unique perspective for literary studies.

Each of these countries presents a distinct academic and cultural landscape, allowing PhD candidates to tailor their research to specific interests within English Literature.

According to the "Open Doors Report" by the Institute of International Education, the US alone witnessed a notable 1.5% increase in international students pursuing humanities and arts doctorate programs. Graduates can pursue careers in academia, publishing, writing , and research.  

Numerous universities are offering top-notch PhD in English Literature abroad. A few of the best universities are mentioned below:

Documents Required for PhD in English Literature Abroad

When applying for a PhD in English Literature abroad, it's essential to prepare a comprehensive set of documents to meet the requirements of the respective universities:

Writing Sample: 

The applicant must submit two 15-page papers in 12-point type with 1-inch margins, in double-spaced, 12-point type. Rather than creative writing, the writing samples should demonstrate critical writing skills directly related to English.

Statement of Purpose: 

The statement of purpose is not a personal statement, and it should not be filled with personal anecdotes. It should be no longer than 1,000 words. Admissions committees should be able to see clearly what the applicants' interests and strengths are.

Test: 

All international applicants (whose primary language is not English) must submit official TOEFL (minimum score 100) and/or TSE scores via ETS.

Languages: 

No specific prerequisites are required for admission, but students who lack a strong language background will need to fill these gaps during their first two years of graduate study.

Grades: 

It is more important for a candidate to have an average of no lower than A- in literature (and related) courses.

Letters of Recommendation:  

A minimum of three letters of recommendation are required from faculty members or others who are qualified to assess the quality of the academic work and the potential for teaching. Letters of recommendation must be submitted online by the deadline for applications.

Applying for a PhD in English Literature abroad involves a strategic and meticulous process. Follow these essential steps:

  • Research and Choose Institutions:  

Explore universities renowned for their English Literature programs. Consider faculty expertise, research facilities, and program structure.

  • Check Eligibility Requirements:  

Review each university's eligibility criteria, including academic qualifications, language proficiency tests (such as IELTS or TOEFL ), and any specific prerequisites.

  • Prepare Required Documents:

Gather necessary documents, including academic transcripts , CVs, letters of recommendation , a statement of purpose, and any additional materials specified by the chosen institutions.

  • Take Language Proficiency Tests:  

If required, schedule and take English language proficiency tests. Ensure your scores meet the minimum requirements of the selected universities.

  • Submit Online Applications:  

Complete online application forms on the universities' official websites. Upload all required documents, paying attention to specific guidelines and deadlines.

  • Prepare for Interviews:  

Some institutions may require interviews as part of the selection process. Familiarize yourself with potential interview questions and be ready to discuss your research interests.

  • Apply for Scholarships:  

Explore available scholarships and apply for financial aid to support your studies. Check eligibility criteria and deadlines for scholarship applications.

  • Monitor Application Status:  

Keep track of your application status through the university portals. Respond promptly to any requests for additional information.

By meticulously following these steps, you enhance your chances of a successful application and embark on a rewarding PhD journey in English Literature abroad.

Conclusion 

Pursuing a PhD in English Literature abroad promises a transformative academic journey, as evidenced by the increasing global interest in humanities and arts doctorate programs. With diverse opportunities in academia, publishing, writing, and research, graduates are well-equipped for a fulfilling future. The selection of top universities, meticulous document preparation, and strategic application steps are essential for a successful PhD application. 

What is a PhD in English Literature abroad?

A PhD in English Literature abroad is an advanced doctoral program focused on literary theory, history, and criticism. Opting for this international academic journey opens up opportunities in academia, publishing, writing, and research, offering a rewarding and transformative experience.

Which countries are considered ideal for undertaking a PhD in English Literature abroad?

The optimal countries for pursuing a PhD in English Literature encompass the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand. Each presents a distinctive academic and cultural setting, enabling candidates to customize their research based on specific interests in the field.

What documents are necessary to pursue a PhD in English Literature abroad?

Required documents encompass transcripts, a completed application form, a comprehensive resume, letters of recommendation, English language proficiency test scores, a statement of purpose, GRE or relevant test results, passport-sized photographs, and an outline detailing the proposed research project.

How to initiate the application process for a PhD in English Literature abroad?

To commence the application process, it is essential to research and select institutions, review eligibility criteria, compile necessary documents, complete language proficiency tests, submit online applications, prepare for potential interviews, seek scholarships, and regularly check application status through university portals to ensure a successful application journey.

She is an experienced writer and journalist who has extensively covered the education sector in India and Abroad. Now helping Indian aspirants realise their foreign education dream by providing them with relevant content and information through upGrad Abroad. Amateur traveller, loves to read Architectural Digest!

Exams to Study Abroad

Top study abroad destinations, important resources to read, interested in studying abroad, similar articles.

best country to do phd in english literature

With one of the 30 top English PhD programs, career opportunities are numerous, because let’s face it: researching, writing, teaching, learning, communicating, and critical thinking all translate into a highly sought-after knowledge and skill set.

This is not a trick question: What would we do if we could not communicate with each other, whether verbally or in writing (or texting)?

Seriously think about it: Without language, what do we have?

There are those who live and breathe:

  • sentence structures

They can’t seem to get enough of learning about the dynamic subject we call English. If you love language, writing, research, learning, and continuously searching for that right word, a PhD in English may be the graduate program you’re looking for.

Check out our top English PhD program rankings and start preparing for your future!

  • Top MFA in Creative Writing
  • Best PhD in Communications

Table of Contents

What Is a PhD in English?

A PhD in English is a terminal degree, meaning it’s the highest you can get in any given subject. While concentrations and programs of study differ, three parts of an English PhD are certain:

  • qualifying exams
  • a dissertation

Coursework typically includes various literature classes to provide a strong breadth of English language and literature knowledge. Most top English PhD programs also require foreign language requirements. After the coursework is finished in around 2-3 years, English majors will take a comprehensive qualifying exam to achieve doctoral status. This exam covers all they have studied this far, and passing it will allow them to move on to their dissertation.

A dissertation is the final step to earning a PhD in English. Think of it as an independent research project that takes years to:

  • compile information

The dissertation defense is the last step, where you present your project to a faculty panel.

Most top English PhD programs take five to seven years to complete, but of course, it depends on full-time or part-time status. It is also worth noting that many graduate schools, including the ones we have reviewed, provide full funding to the student earning a PhD.

You may also like: Doctorate vs PhD

What Are the Top English PhD Programs?

At CollegeRank , we strive to do our best to guide you and your family toward a fruitful academic career. The pursuit of knowledge is a noble one, and we want to help you reach your goals. Please feel free to visit our dedicated methodology page for a step-by-step breakdown. For questions, comments, badge downloads, or data corrections, please feel free to reach out to us at [email protected].

University at Buffalo

Buffalo, New York

Average Net Price

University of Buffalo

While all of our rankings in this article are notable, The University of Buffalo ranks in the top 1% of not just the country but the world by the Center for World University Rankings. Founded in 1846, SUNY Buffalo is the largest campus in the 64-campus SUNY system. It offers one of the best English PhD programs. It just happens to be our #1 choice!

What sets SUNY Buffalo apart from others? As a student, you are a part of a vibrant, supportive community as an active participant in every part of the program. You are not just going to school, but you are a part of the process. This includes attending and voting in department meetings and joining the English Graduate Student Association (EGSA).

This top PhD in English requires 72 credits, which are satisfied through ten graduate seminar courses in fields such as:

  • American and British literature
  • poetics and critical theory

You will then take an oral qualifying exam and complete and defend a “book-length work of original scholarship,” otherwise known as a dissertation.

As a graduate program student, you are encouraged to publish during your time at SUNY Buffalo and equipped with a third-year workshop for this goal. This graduate program takes approximately five years and is fully in person. You can apply through the Graduate Enrollment Services.

University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, California

Berkeley

Globally ranked as the fourth-best university according to U.S. News & World Report rankings, University of California-Berkeley has been described as a “glorious place,” full of “commitment to excellence.” This is a top graduate program in the country. The PhD in comparative literature, is both “historical and theoretical”. It includes a “signature combination of teaching and research on literature, film, and other media.”

In this English PhD program , you will choose one literature from a historical and critical perspective and complete comparative work in three kinds of literature. You will then complete ten courses encompassing:

  • comparative
  • major types of literature
  • minor types of literature

The University of California-Berkeley says this program takes approximately seven years to complete and includes a recommended timetable to stay on track.

The University of California-Berkeley offers a myriad of fellowships and financial aid to help with the cost of this PhD program. In addition, you have the opportunity to seek employment through the department in teaching and research assistantship programs. Alumni have won national awards from the Modern Language Association and the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA).

University of Maryland

College Park, Maryland

University of Maryland

The University of Maryland is devoted to social entrepreneurship. It is recognized as the nation’s first  “Do Good” university. Home to over 41,000 students and 388,000 alumni, UMD spans 12 schools and colleges. It offers 297 academic programs, including the nationally ranked PhD in English. This graduate program prepares students who plan to teach at the university level with:

  • language courses

Along with You will study an in-depth range of topics such as:

  • literary and cultural history,
  • aesthetic, critical and cultural theory
  • digital and media studies
  • humanistic engagement with the sciences
  • language, rhetoric and composition

You will complete a minimum of 12 courses, including a foreign language requirement, while maintaining a 3.6 GPA. 

UMD’s top English PhD program is highly competitive but well worth the competition if you are accepted because all students receive a five-year funding package. To apply, you need to submit:

  • a statement of goals and research interests
  • transcripts
  • three letters of recommendation
  • a sample of critical writing
  • an academic CV

The University of Texas at Austin

Austin, Texas

University of Texas at Austin

UT Austin is not only known for its food (especially breakfast tacos!) and music, but it’s also our #4 ranking. It has:

  • excellent academic programs
  • extensive research
  • shared values of “equity, excellence, innovation, and empowerment”

It is ranked #20 in Best Graduate Schools from U.S. News & World Report . UT Austin offers a PhD in English with a concentration in literature or rhetoric and digital literacies.

Whether you enter the program with a bachelor’s or a master’s degree, you are required to complete 39 graduate seminar hours before the end of your third year. You must pass the third-year examination to achieve doctoral candidacy. The final milestone for the PhD in English is the dissertation defense. Graduate students have access to six years of funding from combined teaching assistantships.

UT Austin’s admission is highly competitive. Each year, this English PhD program accepts 12-14 students into the literature concentration and four in the rhetoric and digital literacies program. You can apply through ApplyTexas if you have a BA or MA plus at least 15 hours of upper-division English credits with a minimum 3.0 GPA.

University of Wisconsin – Madison

Madison, Wisconsin

University of Wisconsin Madison

A top-ranked university with 19 faculty and alumni Nobel Prize winners? Yes, please! Check out UW-Madison, awarded #13 in America’s Best Colleges from U.S. News & Report . UW Madison offers more than 9,000 courses across over 450 academic programs, including a PhD in English with the following specializations:

  • Composition and rhetoric
  • English language and linguistics
  • Literature studies

This graduate program “combines a sharp focus on conceptual approaches to literary and cultural works with a commitment to broad coverage of the field of Anglophone literature.” As a student, you will tailor the program to your career goals through a required minor. You will also study interdisciplinary areas such as:

  • literary theory and criticism
  • gender studies
  • race and ethnic studies

You will complete 51-63 coursework credits depending on which concentration you choose. Each concentration includes:

  • major courses
  • minor courses
  • research/method/tools courses

While some of the best English PhD rankings offer online or hybrid formats, UW-Madison’s coursework is face-to-face. Applicants must have a bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited institution. English degrees are preferred but they are not required.

Texas Tech University

Lubbock, Texas

Texas Tech

Texas Tech warded a “Very High Research Activity” category by Carnegie Classification of Institution of Higher Education. It is a comprehensive public research university that spans 13 colleges and schools and 200 degree programs. At Texas Tech, you can earn a PhD in English with a specialization in literature.

One of the best parts of Texas Tech’s PhD in English is vast areas of study. You can choose any of the following concentrations:

  • Early British literature
  • Later British literature
  • English and American literature
  • Comparative literature, globalization, and translation
  • Creative writing
  • Linguistics
  • Book history and digital humanities
  • Film and media studies
  • Literature, social justice, and environment

No matter which concentration you choose, you will take courses such as:

  • Research Methods
  • Critical Methods
  • Writing for Publication
  • Teaching College Literature

Texas Tech employs a holistic assessment for applicants while looking for:

  • critical analysis skills
  • a focused academic purpose
  • strong letters of recommendation

University of South Florida

Tampa, Florida

University of South Florida

Located in the heart of Tampa Bay, the University of South Florida is one of the fastest-rising universities in the nation. U.S. News and World Report ranks it as the 46th best public university in the country. At UCF, you can earn a PhD in English with either a literature or rhetoric and composition concentration.

UCF’s top English PhD program requires at least 30 hours of coursework, including:

  • Scholarly Research and Writing
  • Teaching Practicum
  • Studies in Criticism and Theory

After completing your coursework, you must create and submit a portfolio and fulfill a foreign language requirement before you are admitted to doctoral candidacy. Then, the real fun starts: writing your dissertation.

USF graduate students can also earn graduate certificates in:

  • comparative literary studies
  • creative writing
  • digital humanities
  • professional and technical communication

UCF’s program is pretty competitive. You need:

  • a Master of Arts from an accredited university
  • at least a 3.7 GPA
  • “competitive” GRE verbal and analytical writing scores
  • recommendation letters
  • a scholarly writing sample
  • a personal statement

University of Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah

University of Utah

“Step One: Imagine. Step Two: Do.”

The University of Utah is fondly known by students, faculty, and alumni as “The U,”. It features a simple yet profound motto that has inspired many graduates to go on and make their mark on the world. Notable alumni include writer Orson Scott Card and award-winning actor Stephen Covey, among many others.

You, too, can imagine what is possible and then take action by checking out the top PhD in English . It has concentrations in rhetoric and composition or literacy and cultural studies. The program entails:

  • Ten seminar courses (including four concentration courses)
  • Four additional English courses
  • Two courses in writing and rhetoric studies
  • A qualifying exam
  • A successful dissertation

The Department of English features ample opportunities for publications, along with the graduate student reading series, Working Dog, where you can showcase your original work to not only other classmates, but the public.

University of Arizona

Tucson, Arizona

University of Arizona

The University of Arizona is a nationally ranked university in public research and best value. It features a rich Native American history. The first graduating class in 1895 included three students before Arizona was even a state!

Check out the PhD in rhetoric, composition, and teaching of English – perfect if you intend to teach at a four-year college or a writing program.  UA’s Department of English states that the graduates of this doctoral program are “distinguished for their public engagement and action-oriented research, published scholarship, and innovative teaching.” 

The University of Arizona has an outstanding 97% job placement. English PhD graduates find themselves as nationally recognized scholars teaching, researching, and writing all over the world.

In this top English PhD program, you will complete 66 credit units, which includes 18 dissertation credits. Courses include:

  • Research Methods in Rhetoric and Composition
  • Qualifying Portfolio Workshop

To apply, you need to submit:

  • a CV, a statement of purpose
  • unofficial transcripts
  • a writing sample in rhetoric or composition

Louisiana State University

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Louisiana State University

LSU is Louisiana’s flagship institution. Louisiana State University is known for its top-notch academics and impressive return on investments. Ninety-two percent of all students receive scholarships or financial aid. Two in three students graduate with absolutely no debt. LSU’s PhD in English arms graduate students with the knowledge and skills to become expert:

  • researchers

Similar to most English PhD programs, this program is organized into three phases:

  • dissertation

The coursework consists of 48 credit hours of literature that “range across periods, genres, and traditions,” and critical and theoretical methods. Students will then take their exams and progress into the dissertation phase.

Students typically write one chapter of their dissertation per semester while enrolled in the Dissertation Writing Workshop. A perk of this program is that you can apply if you have either a Bachelor’s or Master’s of Arts. If you already have a master’s degree, you can apply up to 24 credit hours toward this degree and finish the PhD in just four years.

Arizona State University

Tempe, Arizona

Arizona State University

Arizona State University boasts several national recognitions. This includes #1 in the country for most innovative school and the best graduate schools from U.S. News & World Report. Among the half a million alumni include notable:

  • politicians
  • actors and actresses

ASU features a PhD in English literature that is worth checking out!

The PhD in English literature emphasizes literary texts not only from a cultural and historical perspective but also from the “production, distribution, and reception.” The “texts” are defined as “folklore, oral traditions, popular culture, and film and digital media in addition to traditional literature.” The graduate program includes 42-72 hours in coursework. It also includes 12 hours of dissertation work.

This doctoral program is highly flexible and allows you to take courses in your interest areas. Sample courses include:

  • Methods and Issues in Teaching Composition
  • Rhetorical Traditions

To apply you need:

  • statement of purpose
  • an academic writing sample of 10-25 pages

The deadline to apply is January 1, and the GRE is not required.

University of California – Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California

UCLA

Have you ever wondered which U.S. city features the most museums and theaters than any other city? Well, it’s Los Angeles!  UCLA is proud to be right in the center of the excitement. (And in case you’re wondering, LA is home to 105 museums and 225 theaters!) At UCLA-Los Angeles, you can join the current 15,724 graduate students and earn a comprehensive PhD in English literature.

UCLA structures its PhD in three stages. Stage one entails 14 graduate seminars in English literature, with various requirements to ensure a diverse depth of literature. Stage one also includes a first qualifying exam before you proceed to stage two for a second qualifying exam. Stage three is the research, writing, and completion of a dissertation. It begins in year five and typically takes two years to complete.

Component of UCLA’s PhD program include:

  • dissertation project
  • teacher training

Teaching assistantships are available and encouraged for graduate students. To apply you need to submit:

  • a writing sample of 15-25 pages

Currently, the GRE exam requirement is waived because of Covid-19.

University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, Michigan

University of Michigan

The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor was voted #1 for Best Small College Town in America and Best U.S. Public University ( QS World University Rankings and Wallethub ). It is globally recognized for its exceptional academic quality. U-M Ann Arbor features a stellar doctoral program in English language and literature for those who aim to:

  • write in a collective community

This top English PhD program allows you to specialize in British, American, or anglophone literature. Also, to“explore a wide range of critical, theoretical, and cultural perspectives.” The program focuses on learning as a social process. This is one reason why English graduate students are guaranteed six years of program funding! A huge perk.

In your first year you will:

  • complete two basic languages or one advanced language
  • Introduction to Graduate Studies
  • three upper-level seminars

Your second year will be devoted to the preliminary examination. In the third year, a third-year review, which will provide feedback and direction. Finally, you will devote your last few years to your dissertation.

University of Missouri

Columbia, Missouri

University of Missouri

If you know what the Tiger Walk and Tiger Prowl are, you certainly are familiar with the University of Missouri. It is fondly known as Mizzou. With a long history of traditions, Mizzou’s pride is seen all over the world. You can earn a PhD in English in just five years, including 30 hours of coursework that provides “deep knowledge and methodological sophistication. with a concentration on creative writing or literature.

Sample courses include:

  • Literacy Criticism
  • The Theory and Practice of Teaching in English
  • English Linguistics
  • creative writing workshops if you choose the creative writing concentration

By the spring of your third year, you should begin writing your dissertation. This could be scholarly or creative, depending on your concentration. You will have two years to complete your dissertation before you defend it by the end of your fifth year.

Recent dissertation titles include:

  • “Medieval Romance, Fanfiction, and the Erotics of Shame” 
  • “Science Frictions: Science, Folklore, and ‘The Future ” 
  • “Magical Safe Spaces: The Role of Literature in Medieval and Early Modern Magic” 

University of Virginia – Main Campus

Charlottesville, Virginia

University of Virginia

The University of Virginia is one of the very best in the nation. Both U.S. News & World Report and Money Magazine rank UVA #2 and #4 as the best public university and the best value. UVA houses a PhD in English language, literature, and research that leads graduates to all types of careers in:

  • education administration

This best English PhD program entails 72 credits, including courses like:

  • Introduction to Literary Research
  • Dissertation Seminar

During the second semester of the fourth year, students will give a 40-min talk about their dissertation. This is a great opportunity for students to share their work with a formal venue before they defend their dissertation later.

In addition to this degree, you can earn graduate certificates in:

  • Comparative literature
  • Gender and sexuality studies
  • African studies
  • Environmental humanities
  • Digital humanities

Accepted students receive financial support and health insurance for at least five years of their duration in the program.

University of Tennessee Knoxville

Knoxville, Tennessee

University of Tennessee Knoxville

Founded in 1794, UT Knoxville is one of the oldest in the country. UT Knoxville spreads across 910 acres. The 294 buildings house 11 colleges and 900 programs of study! If you’re a teacher and want to continue your education studies, then UT’s PhD in literacy studies and education may be for you.

This program is not a standard PhD in English. It combines English and education and allows you to choose from a number of concentrations and specializations. You can choose between literacy studies and education. Then you can further choose an emphasis like:

  • children’s and young adult literature
  • ESL education
  • literacy education

This program includes 48 credit hours beyond a master’s degree. This includes six credits in a cognate area and 24 hours of doctoral research and dissertation courses. Comprehensive exams should be completed in five years. The dissertation should be completed within eight years. To apply to this program, you need at least three years of teaching experience.

University of Louisiana

Lafayette, Louisiana

University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Smart. Spirited. Solution-Driven.

Those are words to describe the University of Louisiana at Lafayette It is the second-largest university in Louisiana, home to over 19,000 students. We also must mention that UL’s sports teams are THE Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns®! With a PhD in English from UL, you will receive a strong background in British and American language and literature. You can further customize your program to match your career goals.

UL now has over 100 students in its PhD program, which is a lot for a PhD in English! You can specialize in four areas (out of 21!) such as:

  • critical theory
  • Africana literature
  • feminist theory and criticism

The degree requires 72 credit hours, which include 48 in coursework and 24 in dissertation research.

UL’s PhD program asks for application materials that “testify to solid academic preparation for advanced work.” These materials include:

  • Transcripts
  • Recommendation letters
  • A Statement of purpose
  • A CV with relevant academic/professional experience
  • A critical (or creative) writing sample
  • Optional GRE scores

To enter in the spring, submit your application by November 15.

New York University

New York City, New York

NYU

Imagine studying English in one of the most vibrant cities in the nation: New York City. New York University Steinhardt is a top university. It is ranked #10 among the Best Graduate Schools in Education ( U.S. News & World Report ). NYU Steinhardt offers a range of programs:

  • doctoral programs

This includes the notable PhD in English education: secondary and college.

This doctoral program at New York University prepares graduates to become:

  • university researchers
  • English curriculum specialists
  • post-secondary English language educators

You will enjoy small classes in one of the most diverse settings in the world: New York City! As a student, you will complete 48-60 credits, depending on the focus area and prior coursework.

Coursework includes:

  • teaching and learning seminars
  • two cognate courses
  • foundation requirements
  • research methodology classes

Before beginning your dissertation, you will complete a research experience course to prepare you. While many programs require full-time status, you can complete this PhD full-time or part-time. To apply, you need:

  • A statement of purpose
  • A writing sample (no more than 20 pages)
  • Three recommendation letters

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania

Benjamin Franklin once said, “well-done is better than well-said.” This statement, by the school’s founder, serves as the cornerstone tradition of the University of Pennsylvania. Since the 1740s, Penn continues to evolve into a place of social activism, touching all of its programs. Penn’s PhD in English combines English and American literature to produce a comprehensive program with a range of specializations.

This “intellectually dynamic and rigorous” PhD program prepares students to be scholars and educators of English. You can specialize in one primary field. Or you can specialize in two additional fields such as:

  • contemporary poetry

Penn recognizes that true learning comes when students become active participants in their academic and social community. The program’s emphasis is on the relationships between scholars and faculty.

In this top English PhD program , you will take courses such as Teaching of Literature and Composition. This is along with six literature courses spanning throughout various time periods. During your third year, you will choose a specialization as you start working on your dissertation. All PhD students receive the Benjamin Franklin Fellowship, which covers tuition and health insurance for five years.

Harvard University

Cambridge, Massachusetts

best country to do phd in english literature

Have you ever wondered which academic institution is our nation’s oldest? Well, it’s Harvard University, established in 1636! With over 400,000 alumni all over the world including:

  • 49 Nobel Laureates
  • 32 heads of state
  • 48 Pulitzer Prize winners

It’s no wonder Harvard University made our list of top English PhD rankings. After all, it’s Harvard! Check out Harvard University’s PhD in English that covers topics ranging from medieval literature to criticism and theory.

Harvard’s PhD in English provides a broad knowledge of English and teaches students to:

  • research and write well
  • teach effectively
  • present their research at conferences and seminars

The first two years are devoted to coursework and preparing for the PhD qualifying exam, while the rest of the time is spent working on the dissertation.

Check out the many past doctoral theses and dissertations published on Harvard University’s website. Harvard states that this program typically takes between four and seven years. Most students finishing in five or six years. While GRE scores are not required for admission, past English classes, strong writing samples, and excellent letters of recommendation are.

Columbia University in the City of New York

best country to do phd in english literature

A private Ivy League University, Columbia University has been a leader in higher education for over 250 years. Columbia University spans three undergraduate schools and 13 graduate schools. This includes the Teacher College, which opened in 1880. Columbia’s Teacher College features a PhD in English education for students who aim to become teachers and researchers in higher education.

This English PhD program includes 75 credits, and students may transfer up to 30 credits from previous graduate work. All PhD English education majors will take courses like:

  • Research Paper: Teaching of English
  • Professional Seminar: Foundational Texts

As a student, you stay on track through:

  • milestones of coursework
  • meeting with your dissertation committee

While most doctoral English PhD programs only admit students once a year, Columbia’s program allows entry in both the summer and fall. To apply you need:

  • a master’s degree in English
  • education or a related field
  • at least 3-5 years of full-time teaching experience
  • an academic writing sample

Cornell University

Ithaca, New York

best country to do phd in english literature

Cornell University is a private Ivy League research university in Ithaca, NY. It is home to over 24,000 students. This top-ranked university includes 15 colleges and schools, including The College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell University. You can earn a PhD in English and language literature. This English PhD program comes with a generous financial package for students.

Cornell’s PhD in English language and literature allows you to customize your plan of study to suit your interests. You will form a faculty committee that will work with you on selecting your courses and writing and revising your dissertation. You can choose from a myriad of areas such as:

  • Romance studies
  • Cultural studies

This graduate program also emphasizes teaching an essential part of this plan of study. As a student, you are required to teach writing-intensive courses for at least one year during your time at Cornell. As mentioned, Cornell University provides five years of funding that includes:

  • full tuition
  • health insurance

Syracuse University

Syracuse, New York

best country to do phd in english literature

Syracuse University, a highly-ranked private research institution, states that “being orange is more than just a color, a place or degree. It embodies a lifelong connection to a global network of innovators, thinkers, and creative solution finders.” Join the “Orange Community” of 22,000 other students when you earn a top PhD in English from Syracuse University.

Syracuse’s Ph.D. in English includes “specialized professional training in criticism, theory, research, and the teaching of literary and filmic texts”. It prepares you to teach at the college and university level.  You can apply whether you have a BA or master’s degree, and you will take between 12-18 courses, depending on your past academic records.

This PhD program is pretty straightforward. You will take courses like:

  • Introduction to Critical Theory
  • focused graduate seminars
  • a foreign language

You will also take two exams: the field exam and the qualifying exam. This will qualify you as a doctoral candidate to begin:

  • researching
  • defending your dissertation

Syracuse boasts an excellent job placement record for PhD in English graduates.

Washington University in St. Louis

St. Louis, Missouri

best country to do phd in english literature

Washington University was founded in 1853 in St. Luis. WashUis an independent university with more than 16,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. It offers many opportunities, including:

  • customizable programs
  • study abroad experiences
  • impressive financial aid options

You won’t want to miss the PhD in English and American literature from the College of Arts and Sciences.

Washington University’s PhD in English and American literature is described as “innovative, collegial, competitive, and generously funded, offering one of the top financial packages in the nation”. The program is rooted in literary history. As a student, you can tailor your plan of study to incorporate areas of English that you want to explore.

During your time at WashU, you will serve as both a graduate assistant and instructor in undergraduate English and literature courses. During year four, you will submit a dissertation prospectus. The next two years you will spend working on your dissertation. By April of year six, you will be ready to defend your dissertation and become a Doctor of English!

Northwestern University

Evanston, Illinois

best country to do phd in english literature

Ranked #9 in the U.S. News & World Report 2020 Best Colleges, Northwestern University is a comprehensive research university. It has more than 13,000 graduate students and an impressive student-to-faculty ratio of 6:1. Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University features a PhD in literature that emphasizes:

  • literary history
  • criticism, and theory
  • interdisciplinary studies

This best English graduate program includes:

  • lectures and workshops from global scholars
  • student-organized colloquia
  • reading groups, conferences
  • many ways to learn from not only the faculty, but from peers

You will complete 20 graduate-level courses in diverse historical periods during your first three years. In addition, you will complete a foreign language requirement by the end of year one.

At Northwestern, you will:

  • work as a graduate assistant
  • teach at least one course
  • work on your dissertation during years four and five

While this PhD program can be completed in five years, most students complete it in six. As a graduate student at Northwestern, you will receive:

  • full financial aid
  • travel grants
  • pedagogical training
  • job placement

University of Miami

Coral Gables, Florida

best country to do phd in english literature

Established in 1925, the University of Miami is a private research academic institution with numerous national recognitions in academic and research success. Check out UM’s Pride Points and what it means to be part of the Hurricane family. While you’re at it, check out the PhD in English with concentrations in Caribbean studies or early modern literature. This is a degree full of diversity and opportunity.

UM’s PhD in English is nationally ranked by the National Research Council for student and faculty diversity. As a student at UM, you will enjoy diverse topics such as:

  • Caribbean literature
  • early modern literature
  • cultural theory

The cohorts are only five to seven students, so you will be among a tight-knit community of English scholars.

UM admits incoming students with either a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in English, and your previous degree(s) will determine whether you need to take 54 or 36 credits of coursework. You will also receive:

  • at least five years of tuition remissions

UM reports that over 90% of its PhD graduates have full-time employment within nine months of graduating.

University of Chicago

Chicago, Illinois

best country to do phd in english literature

The University of Chicago, a highly-ranked private research university, is known for its value of free and open inquiry. This has led to research breakthroughs such as:

  • finding the cancer-genetics link
  • discovering revolutionary economics links
  • improving the graduation rates in urban cities

UChicago’s PhD in English language and literature involves intensive research for solutions, and open expression, staying true to UChicago’s values.

The University of Chicago’s PhD in English language and literature “prepares students for independent work as teachers, scholars, and critics by developing their abilities to pose and investigate problems in the advanced study of literature in English.” The four major elements of this program include:

  • the dissertation.

Part of the appeal of this program are the dynamic courses like:

  • The Print Revolution and New Readers: Women, Workers, Children
  • Early Science Fiction
  • Readings in Exile
  • scanned transcripts
  • 3-4 recommendation letters
  • a 15-20 page writing sample
  • a 1-3 page statement of purpose

Boston College

Newton, Massachusetts

best country to do phd in english literature

“Education with a heart and soul – and the power to transform” is Boston College’s motto. Boston College is the first higher education institution in Boston. This private Jesuit research university is among one of the nation’s leaders. Boston College’s PhD in English gives graduate students the choice of a wide range of courses to tailor the program to their interests and career goals.

As a student, you are required to take just four PhD seminars along with courses in composition theory and pedagogy and research colloquium. The rest is up to you, and you will work with your advisor to build your program. Teaching is another component and starting with your second year, you will become a teaching assistant in a British or American literature class.

We’ll be honest: the very thing that we love about this program—the small classes—means that each year Boston College only admits 4-5 students. Applications for the fall semester are due by January 2. To apply you need:

  • a critical writing statement

The Catholic University of America

Washington, D.C.

best country to do phd in english literature

Right in the heart of our nation’s capital, you will find the Catholic University of America. It is the only national research academic institution found by the U.S. bishops. CatholicU is a great place to earn a  PhD in English language and literature offering:

  • more than 250 academic programs
  • 5,700 students
  • 90,000+ alumni

And who wouldn’t want to study literature in Washington D.C.?

CatholicU’s English language and literature program includes 54 credit of coursework, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. The comprehensive exam consists of three parts:

  • literary theory
  • the history of criticism

After you pass the exam, you will begin your dissertation, described by CatholicU as “a substantial piece of original research,” which “gives the doctoral program its capstone.”

CatholicU’s location allows you to become fully immersed in literary history since you are among some of the most reputable museums, research collections, and libraries. Classes are small, so you will get personalized attention, including pedagogical training. CatholicU offers funding for this English language and literature PhD program for up to seven years.

University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame, Indiana

best country to do phd in english literature

Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters features a “flexible and dynamic” PhD in English that entails 42 credits of literary criticism courses, preparing you for:

  • individualized reading courses
  • independent study

Your written and oral exams in the third year will assess your knowledge and skills in your specialization, a secondary field, literary theory, and methodology.

You will then focus on researching for your dissertation, which you will defend in year five or six. 

Notre Dame also offers a 5+1 program that gives job incentives for students finishing this program in five years.

Frequently Asked Questions

PhD graduates can find rewarding careers in academia, journalism, media, and other communication fields. You can also become a content strategist or explore writing opportunities. Your expertise in language and literature opens doors to diverse fields of research and publishing.

Historical trends indicate PhDs in English graduates find jobs in academia, research, publishing, and related fields. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of postsecondary teachers (which includes university professors) is projected to grow 8% through 2032. This should result in about 118,000 new job openings each year, over the next 10 years.

Pay varies for PhD in English graduates, based on factors such as experience, location, and employment sector. In academia, assistant professors with a PhD in English start with salaries ranging from $60,000 to $80,000, while more experienced professors earn higher salaries.

A PhD in English typically takes 5 to 7 years. It involves coursework, comprehensive exams, dissertation research, and writing. Some online PhD programs allow students to finish their degree in less time, but the average is 6 years.

Many PhD programs in English offer financial support to students, which can include tuition waivers, stipends, and teaching or research assistant positions. Students often receive compensation for their teaching or research contributions, helping to offset costs during their doctoral studies. Stipends and compensation for teaching or research assistantships can range from a few thousand dollars to more substantial amounts, depending on the university, location, and program.

Yes, earning a PhD in English grants you the title of “Doctor.” When you successfully complete a doctoral program, including a PhD in English, you’re awarded the academic title of “Doctor of Philosophy.” You can use the prefix “Dr.” before your name in professional and academic contexts.

Yes, it is possible to pursue a PhD in English without a master’s degree. Some doctoral programs accept students with a bachelor’s degree directly into their PhD programs, providing specific academic and admission requirements are met.

  • Study Abroad

A Literary Odyssey: Explore PhD in English Literature Programs Abroad!

Updated on 12 december, 2023.

Shivangi Mishra

Shivangi Mishra

Sr. content editor.

Shivangi Mishra

For aspiring scholars of the English language , the allure of a PhD abroad is undeniable. From the hallowed halls of Oxford and Cambridge to the vibrant literary scenes of Paris and Florence, pursuing such a degree offers unparalleled access to world-renowned scholars, unique research opportunities, and a chance to immerse in a new cultural landscape. Choosing to pursue a PhD in English Literature abroad is a transformative decision indeed.

Table of Contents

  • United States of America:
  • New Zealand:

Best Universities to Study PhD in English Literature

  • Writing Sample:
  • Statement of Purpose:
  • Letters of Recommendation:

How to Apply

Best countries to study phd in english literature.

It's important to pick wisely while pursuing a PhD in English Literature abroad since every country has its unique blend of research possibilities, academic brilliance, and cultural richness.

England: 

With some of the most prominent colleges in the world and a long tradition of literary contributions, it is a global literary powerhouse. The UK offers a favorable environment for exploring both classic and modern literature, in addition to offering access to vast literary archives and a lively academic community.

United States of America: 

The US boasts a robust higher education system, with a multitude of universities offering cutting-edge research facilities and interdisciplinary programs in English Literature. The US academic landscape encourages innovative research and provides opportunities to engage with diverse literary traditions.

Canada: 

Canada is increasingly becoming a preferred destination for PhD candidates in English Literature. The country's inclusive learning environments, emphasis on multicultural literature, and strong support for research endeavors make it an attractive choice. 

Ireland: 

Birthplace of literary greats like Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, and James Joyce, Ireland offers a special environment for English literature doctoral study. The nation is renowned for emphasizing both classic and modern literary studies, having small class numbers, and having a supportive academic environment. . 

New Zealand: 

New Zealand offers a refreshing academic experience for PhD candidates in English Literature. With its stunning landscapes and a strong emphasis on indigenous and Pacific literature, New Zealand provides a unique perspective for literary studies.

Each of these countries presents a distinct academic and cultural landscape, allowing PhD candidates to tailor their research to specific interests within English Literature.

According to the "Open Doors Report" by the Institute of International Education, the US alone witnessed a notable 1.5% increase in international students pursuing humanities and arts doctorate programs. Graduates can pursue careers in academia, publishing, writing , and research.  

Numerous universities are offering top-notch PhD in English Literature abroad. A few of the best universities are mentioned below:

Documents Required for PhD in English Literature Abroad

When applying for a PhD in English Literature abroad, it's essential to prepare a comprehensive set of documents to meet the requirements of the respective universities:

Writing Sample: 

The applicant must submit two 15-page papers in 12-point type with 1-inch margins, in double-spaced, 12-point type. Rather than creative writing, the writing samples should demonstrate critical writing skills directly related to English.

Statement of Purpose: 

The statement of purpose is not a personal statement, and it should not be filled with personal anecdotes. It should be no longer than 1,000 words. Admissions committees should be able to see clearly what the applicants' interests and strengths are.

Test: 

All international applicants (whose primary language is not English) must submit official TOEFL (minimum score 100) and/or TSE scores via ETS.

Languages: 

No specific prerequisites are required for admission, but students who lack a strong language background will need to fill these gaps during their first two years of graduate study.

Grades: 

It is more important for a candidate to have an average of no lower than A- in literature (and related) courses.

Letters of Recommendation:  

A minimum of three letters of recommendation are required from faculty members or others who are qualified to assess the quality of the academic work and the potential for teaching. Letters of recommendation must be submitted online by the deadline for applications.

Applying for a PhD in English Literature abroad involves a strategic and meticulous process. Follow these essential steps:

  • Research and Choose Institutions:  

Explore universities renowned for their English Literature programs. Consider faculty expertise, research facilities, and program structure.

  • Check Eligibility Requirements:  

Review each university's eligibility criteria, including academic qualifications, language proficiency tests (such as IELTS or TOEFL ), and any specific prerequisites.

  • Prepare Required Documents:

Gather necessary documents, including academic transcripts , CVs, letters of recommendation , a statement of purpose, and any additional materials specified by the chosen institutions.

  • Take Language Proficiency Tests:  

If required, schedule and take English language proficiency tests. Ensure your scores meet the minimum requirements of the selected universities.

  • Submit Online Applications:  

Complete online application forms on the universities' official websites. Upload all required documents, paying attention to specific guidelines and deadlines.

  • Prepare for Interviews:  

Some institutions may require interviews as part of the selection process. Familiarize yourself with potential interview questions and be ready to discuss your research interests.

  • Apply for Scholarships:  

Explore available scholarships and apply for financial aid to support your studies. Check eligibility criteria and deadlines for scholarship applications.

  • Monitor Application Status:  

Keep track of your application status through the university portals. Respond promptly to any requests for additional information.

By meticulously following these steps, you enhance your chances of a successful application and embark on a rewarding PhD journey in English Literature abroad.

Conclusion 

Pursuing a PhD in English Literature abroad promises a transformative academic journey, as evidenced by the increasing global interest in humanities and arts doctorate programs. With diverse opportunities in academia, publishing, writing, and research, graduates are well-equipped for a fulfilling future. The selection of top universities, meticulous document preparation, and strategic application steps are essential for a successful PhD application. 

What is a PhD in English Literature abroad?

A PhD in English Literature abroad is an advanced doctoral program focused on literary theory, history, and criticism. Opting for this international academic journey opens up opportunities in academia, publishing, writing, and research, offering a rewarding and transformative experience.

Which countries are considered ideal for undertaking a PhD in English Literature abroad?

The optimal countries for pursuing a PhD in English Literature encompass the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand. Each presents a distinctive academic and cultural setting, enabling candidates to customize their research based on specific interests in the field.

What documents are necessary to pursue a PhD in English Literature abroad?

Required documents encompass transcripts, a completed application form, a comprehensive resume, letters of recommendation, English language proficiency test scores, a statement of purpose, GRE or relevant test results, passport-sized photographs, and an outline detailing the proposed research project.

How to initiate the application process for a PhD in English Literature abroad?

To commence the application process, it is essential to research and select institutions, review eligibility criteria, compile necessary documents, complete language proficiency tests, submit online applications, prepare for potential interviews, seek scholarships, and regularly check application status through university portals to ensure a successful application journey.

She is an experienced writer and journalist who has extensively covered the education sector in India and Abroad. Now helping Indian aspirants realise their foreign education dream by providing them with relevant content and information through upGrad Abroad. Amateur traveller, loves to read Architectural Digest!

Exams to Study Abroad

Top study abroad destinations, important resources to read, interested in studying abroad, similar articles.

best country to do phd in english literature

  • Schools & departments

Postgraduate study

English Literature PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: English Literature

Discovery Day

Join us online on 18th April to learn more about postgraduate study at Edinburgh

View sessions and register

Research profile

Doctorate-level study is an opportunity to expand upon your interests and expertise in a community that really values research; and to make an original, positive contribution to learning in literature and related fields.

As the oldest department of English Literature in the UK, based in one of the largest and most diverse Schools in the University of Edinburgh, we are the ideal place for PhD study.

Our interdisciplinary environment brings together specialists in all periods and genres of literature and literary analysis.

Research excellence

Based on our performance in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF), over 90 per cent of our research and impact is classed as world-leading and internationally excellent by Research Professional. 69 per cent is graded at the world-leading level – the highest of REF’s four categories.

In Times Higher Education's REF analysis, English at Edinburgh is ranked fifth in the UK (out of more than 90 institutions) for:

  • the overall quality of our publications and other outputs
  • the impact of our research on people’s lives
  • our supportive research environment

Given the breadth and depth of our expertise, we are able to support students wishing to develop research projects in any field of Anglophone literary studies. These include American studies, literary and critical theory, the history of the book, gender and sexuality studies, and global Anglophone literatures - where our specialisms include Pacific, African, South Asian, and African-American writing.

We have particular strengths in each of the main periods of English and Scottish Literature:

  • Renaissance/early modern
  • Enlightenment
  • 21st century
  • Contemporary

Emergent research themes in the department include the digital humanities, the economic humanities, the environmental humanities and literature and medicine.

  • Explore our range of research centres, networks and projects in English and Scottish Literature

Working with colleagues elsewhere in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, and across the wider University, we are able to support PhD theses crossing boundaries between disciplines and/or languages.

  • Be inspired by the range of PhD research in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures

Over the course of your PhD, you’ll be expected to complete an original body of work under the expert guidance of your supervisors leading to a dissertation of usually between 80,000 and 100,000 words.

You will be awarded your doctorate if your thesis is judged to be of an appropriate standard, and your research makes a definite contribution to knowledge.

  • Read our pre-application guidance on writing a PhD research proposal

Go beyond the books

Beyond the Books is a podcast from the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) that gives you a behind-the-scenes look at research and the people who make it happen.

Listen to a mix of PhD, early career and established researchers talk about their journey to and through academia and about their current and recent research.

  • Browse Beyond the Books episodes and hear our research community talk about their work

Training and support

Between the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC), the Careers Service, and the Institute for Academic Development (IAD), you’ll find a range of programmes and resources to help you develop your postgraduate skills.

You will also have access to the University’s fantastic libraries, collections and worldwide strategic partnerships.

Part of a community

As part of our research community, you will be immersed in a world of knowledge exchange, with lots of opportunities to share ideas, learning and creative work.

Activities range from talks by visiting speakers and work-in-progress seminars, to reading groups, conferences, workshops, performances, online journals and forums, many of which are led by PhD candidates.

Highlights include student reading for the James Tait Black Prizes, Britain's oldest literary awards which typically involve reading submissions across fiction and biography and advising the judges on the shortlists.

  • Read an interview with 2022 James Tait Black reader, Céleste Callen

Our graduates tell us that they value the friendliness of the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC), the connections they make here and the in-depth guidance they receive from our staff, who are published experts in their field.

A UNESCO World City of Literature, Edinburgh is a remarkable place to study, write, publish, discuss and perform prose, poetry and drama.

Take a PhD with us and you will be based in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) in the historic centre of this world-leading festival city.

You will have access to the University’s many literary treasures. These include the libraries of:

  • William Drummond
  • Lewis Grassic Gibbon
  • Hugh MacDiarmid
  • Norman MacCaig

The Centre for Research Collections holds the W.H. Auden collection; the Corson Collection of works by and about Sir Walter Scott; and the Ramage collection of poetry pamphlets.

It also holds a truly exceptional collection of early Shakespeare quartos and other early modern printed plays put together by the 19th century Shakespearean James Halliwell-Phillipps, the correspondence of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle (the focus of one of the major editorial projects in Victorian studies of the last half-century), and the extensive Laing collection of medieval and early modern manuscripts, as well as letters and papers by - and relating to - authors including:

  • Christopher Isherwood
  • Rudyard Kipling
  • John Middleton Murry
  • Walter de la Mare
  • George Mackay Brown
  • Compton Mackenzie

Many of the University's Special Collections are digitised and available online from our excellent Resource Centre, Computing Labs, and dedicated PhD study space in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC).

Look inside the PhD study space in LLC

In the city

Our buildings are close to the National Library of Scotland (where collections include the Bute Collection of early modern English drama and the John Murray Archive), Edinburgh Central Library, Scottish Poetry Library, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Writers’ Museum and a fantastic range of publishing houses, bookshops, and theatres.

We have strong links with the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which annually welcomes around 1,000 authors to our literary city.

Entry requirements

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

A UK masters, or its international equivalent, with a mark of at least 65% in your English literature dissertation of at least 10,000 words.

If your masters programme did not include a dissertation or included a dissertation that was unmarked or less than 10,000 words, you will be expected to produce an exceptional research proposal and personal statement to show your ability to undertake research at the level required by this programme.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

  • Entry requirements by country
  • English language requirements

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 23 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced ( CAE ) / C2 Proficiency ( CPE ): total 185 with at least 176 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE : ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 62 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS , TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE , in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

  • UKVI list of majority English speaking countries

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

  • Approved universities in non-MESC

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Fees and costs

Scholarships and funding, featured funding.

There are a number of scholarship schemes available to eligible candidates on this PhD programme, including awards from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Please be advised that many scholarships have more than one application stage, and early deadlines.

  • Find out more about scholarships in literatures, languages and cultures

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Search for funding

Further information

  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 4086
  • Contact: [email protected]
  • School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures
  • 50 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Programme: English Literature
  • School: Literatures, Languages & Cultures
  • College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Select your programme and preferred start date to begin your application.

PhD English Literature - 3 Years (Full-time)

Phd english literature - 6 years (part-time), application deadlines.

Due to high demand, the school operates a number of selection deadlines. We will make a small number of offers to the most outstanding candidates on an ongoing basis, but hold the majority of applications until the next published selection deadline when we will offer a proportion of the places available to applicants selected through a competitive process.

Deadlines for applicants applying to study in 2024/25:

  • How to apply

You must submit two references with your application.

The online application process involves the completion of a web form and the submission of supporting documents.

For a PhD programme, you should include:

  • a sample of written work of about 3,000 words (this can be a previous piece of work from an undergraduate or masters degree)
  • a research proposal - a detailed description of what you hope to achieve and how
  • Pre-application guidance

Before you formally apply for this PhD, you should look at the pre-application information and guidance on the programme website.

This will help you decide if this programme is right for you, and help us gain a clearer picture of what you hope to achieve.

The guidance will also give you practical advice for writing your research proposal – one of the most important parts of your application.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

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best country to do phd in english literature

English Literature PhD

Key information, full-time - 4 years, part-time - 8 years.

Research brochure

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Webinars and events

Why choose this programme

We perform innovative and world-leading research across literature, writing and linguistics.

We’re part of the interdisciplinary School of Literature and Languages, which has research-active staff who are at the forefront of knowledge in English literature, creative writing, film studies, translation studies, theoretical and applied linguistics, and literary and cultural studies.

Our research concentrates on a range of periods, themes and subjects, including:

  •  Medieval literature
  •  Shakespeare and the Renaissance
  •  Romanticism
  •  Victorian and 19th-century literature
  •  Modern and contemporary literature
  •  Creative writing
  •  Film studies.

Our diverse mix of subject specialities mean that we are a vibrant and imaginative community with lots of opportunity for intellectual exchange.

We’re part of  TECHNE , an  Arts and Humanities Research Council  (AHRC)-funded doctoral training partnership, which provides access to comprehensive academic and professional training programmes, as well as the possibility of funding for your studies.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 ranked the School of Literature and Languages 10th for research impact in the UK, with 75% of our case studies rated as having outstanding impacts, in terms of reach and significance (4*). Our submission to REF included contributions from the Guildford School of Acting (GSA).

Postgraduate Research at Surrey

Frequently asked questions about doing a PhD

What you will study

Our English Literature PhD will train you in critical and analytical skills, research methods, and knowledge that will equip you for your professional or academic career. It normally takes around three or four years to complete our full-time PhD.

You’ll be assigned a primary and secondary supervisor, who will meet with you regularly to read and discuss your work and progress. For us, writing is essential for understanding and developing new perspectives, so you’ll be submitting written work right from the start of your course.

In the first year of your PhD, you’ll refine your research proposal and plan the structure of your work with the guidance and support of your supervisors. As you go into your second and third year, you’ll gradually learn to work more independently, and your supervisors will guide you on how to present at conferences and get your work published.

After 12-15 months, you’ll submit a substantial piece of work for a confirmation examination. The confirmation examination will be conducted by two internal members of staff not on your supervisory team and will give you the opportunity to gain additional guidance on your research-to-date. The final two years of your PhD will be devoted to expanding and refining your work ready for submission of the final thesis.

As a doctoral student in the School of Literature and Languages, you’ll receive a structured training programme covering the practical aspects of being a researcher, including grant-writing, publishing in journals, and applying for academic jobs.

Your final assessment will be based on the presentation of your research in a written thesis, which will be discussed in a viva examination with at least two examiners. You have the option of preparing your thesis as a monograph (one large volume in chapter form) or in publication format (including chapters written for publication), subject to the approval of your supervisors.

Research support

The professional development of postgraduate researchers is supported by the Doctoral College , which provides training in essential skills through its Researcher Development Programme of workshops, mentoring and coaching. A dedicated postgraduate careers and employability team will help you prepare for a successful career after the completion of your PhD.

best country to do phd in english literature

Research themes

  • Women's writing (especially medieval women's writing, early modern women's drama and Victorian women writers)
  • Medieval romance
  • Romanticism
  • Victorian studies
  • Modernism and modernity
  • Travel and mobility
  • Western and global esotericisms
  • Sexuality and queer theory
  • Postmodern and post-postmodern writing
  • Contemporary fiction
  • Transnational literature.

Our academic staff

See a full list of all our  academic staff  within the School of Literature and Languages.

Research areas

Research facilities.

You’ll be allocated shared office space within the School of Literature and Languages and have full access to our library and online resources. Our close proximity to London also means that the British Library and many other important archives are within easy reach.

In addition to a number of excellent training opportunities offered by the University, our PhD students can take additional subject-specific training and take part in the School’s research seminars and events. These provide a valuable opportunity to meet visiting scholars whose work connects with our own research strengths across literature, theory, and creative writing.

Edwin Gilson profile image

Edwin Gilson

A real highlight for me was having an article published in a well-known journal in my field. This came out of a chapter I wasn’t expecting to write at the start of the thesis, on a novel I read during the PhD.

best country to do phd in english literature

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to hold a good first-class UK degree (a minimum 2:1 or equivalent) and an MA in a relevant topic.

International entry requirements by country

English language requirements.

IELTS Academic:  7.0 or above with a minimum of 6.5 in each component (or equivalent).

Application requirements

Applicants are advised to contact potential supervisors before they submit an application via the website. Please refer to section two of our  application guidance .

After registration

Students are initially registered for a PhD with probationary status and, subject to satisfactory progress, subsequently confirmed as having PhD status.

Selection process

Selection is based on applicants:

  • Meeting the expected entry requirements
  • Being shortlisted through the application screening process
  • Completing a successful interview
  • Providing suitable references.

Student life

At Surrey we offer the best of both worlds – a friendly campus university, set in beautiful countryside with the convenience and social life of Guildford on your doorstep.

Start date: July 2024

Start date: October 2024

Start date: January 2025

Start date: April 2025

  • Annual fees will increase by 4% for each year of study, rounded up to the nearest £100 (subject to legal requirements).
  • Any start date other than September will attract a pro-rata fee for that year of entry (75 per cent for January, 50 per cent for April and 25 per cent for July).

View the list of fees for all postgraduate research courses.

Additional costs

There are additional costs that you can expect to incur when studying at Surrey.

A Postgraduate Doctoral Loan can help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate doctoral course.

Apply online

If you are applying for a studentship to work on a particular project, please provide details of the project instead of a research proposal.

Read our application guidance for further information on applying.

To apply online first select the course you'd like to apply for then log in.

1. Select your course

Select the course you wish to apply for.

To apply online sign in or create an account.

Code of practice for research degrees

Surrey’s postgraduate research code of practice sets out the University's policy and procedural framework relating to research degrees. The code defines a set of standard procedures and specific responsibilities covering the academic supervision, administration and assessment of research degrees for all faculties within the University.

Download the code of practice for research degrees (PDF) .

Terms and conditions

When you accept an offer to study at the University of Surrey, you are agreeing to follow our policies and procedures , student regulations , and terms and conditions .

We provide these terms and conditions in two stages:

  • First when we make an offer.
  • Second when students accept their offer and register to study with us (registration terms and conditions will vary depending on your course and academic year).

View our generic registration terms and conditions (PDF) for the 2023/24 academic year, as a guide on what to expect.

This online prospectus has been published in advance of the academic year to which it applies.

Whilst we have done everything possible to ensure this information is accurate, some changes may happen between publishing and the start of the course.

It is important to check this website for any updates before you apply for a course with us. Read our full disclaimer .

Course location and contact details

Campus location

Stag Hill is the University's main campus and where the majority of our courses are taught. 

University of Surrey Admissions

University of Surrey Guildford Surrey GU2 7XH

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Top 5 Best PhD Programs in English [2024]

Lisa Marlin

Earning a PhD in English makes you an expert in language, literature, communication, research, critical thinking, and academic presentation. This qualification opens doors to a successful and well-paid career in a broad range of fields, including teaching, research, and media.

Read on for everything you need to know about the best PhD programs in English and the universities that provide them, along with career prospects, salaries, alternative streams, as well as pros and cons.

Table of Contents

Best PhD Programs in English

Harvard university, the graduate school of arts and sciences.

Harvard University logo

Graduate Program in English

Acceptance rate: 5%

Harvard University  is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The oldest institution of higher learning in the country, it was founded in 1636 and is one of the most prestigious universities in the world. This exclusive institution has an acceptance rate of only 5%.

It has one of the best English PhD programs in the the world. It is an integrated program that includes both a Masters of Arts in English as well as a PhD. It can take anywhere between four and seven years to complete, ending with a doctoral dissertation. The program will give you deep insight into the English language and literature, with an emphasis on cultural and critical theory. It will also equip you with exceptional skills in writing, helping you excel at conference presentations, teaching, and academic work.

The program has a tiered fee structure  where the fees reduce over time, and various forms of funding and financial aid  are available.

Stanford University, School of Humanities and Sciences

Stanford university logo

PhD in English Program

Acceptance rate:  4%

The second Ivy-League school on our list, Stanford University is a private research university located in Stanford, California. It was founded in 1885 and today is a world-renowned and highly competitive institution, with an acceptance rate of 4%. The university’s location in the heart of Silicon Valley gives it a uniquely entrepreneurial approach to arts and sciences.

Stanford has one of the best PhD English programs in the country, with a focus on literary history. The program follows new approaches to technology, media, and performance to help students become scholars and literary critics. You’ll be required to complete a dissertation at the end of the program.

There are many options for fellowships  and funding  available. In fact, 80% of all Stanford students receive some form of financial assistance.

Cornell University, The Department of Literatures in English

Cornell University logo

PhD Program in English Language and Literature

Acceptance rate: 8.7%

Cornell University, based in Ithaca, New York, is a private Ivy League university and a land-grant institution. It was established in 1865 and offers exceptional educational opportunities for students at various levels, and has an acceptance rate of 8.7%.

Cornell’s PhD in English in English Language and Literature offers a range of concentrations, including African American literature, American literature, English poetry, colonial literature, and cultural studies. The program is very flexible, and students can choose electives from various fields such as German studies, women’s studies, linguistics, and philosophy. Since the program only accepts around 10 students each year, the school offers funding  to everyone admitted.

The University of Texas at Austin, Department of English

University of Texas logo

PhD Program in English

Acceptance rate: 32%

The University of Texas at Austin is a public research university that offers affordable education to a diverse student population. Established in 1883 and located in Austin, Texas, the university has an acceptance rate of 32%.

Its PhD program in English has a strong focus on research, mentoring and training for pedagogy, and benefits from resources from both the Department of English and the Department of Rhetoric and Writing. The program takes at least three years to complete, with an average annual intake of between 10-12 students. Full funding  for up to six years is available through teaching assistantships and fellowships.

The University of Pennsylvania, School of Arts & Science

Peen State logo

PhD in English

Acceptance rate:  9%

The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia is a private, Ivy-League research university. Founded in 1740, it is one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the Declaration of Independence. The university has an acceptance rate of 9%.

Their PhD in English gives students a broad understanding of English and American literature. The program has a much broader vision than just submitting dissertations and passing exams; rather, it encourages students to actively participate in the intellectual and social community of the department to produce a collective body of knowledge. The tuition  per academic year is $37,678, and the university offers various funding options .

What Jobs Can You Get with a PhD in English?

Having a PhD in English leads to a broad range of career opportunities. You could work in the fields of education, writing, publishing, research, or government, among others.

Here are some of the most common roles for professionals holding a doctorate in English, with annual median salaries for each:

  • English Professor, Post-secondary/Higher Education ( $88,934 ):  A post-secondary or higher education professor delivers lectures to students, tutors them, and assists them with their research and dissertations. They may also conduct academic research.
  • Correspondent ( $81,965 ):  A correspondent works for a media organization or agency to provide news reports for print and digital media.
  • Public Relations (PR) Manager ( $71,632 ):  Public relations managers are responsible for maintaining a positive public image of their organization. To do this, they may oversee PR campaigns, deal with the media, and develop branding strategies.
  • Research Analyst ( $57,562 ) : A research analyst analyzes large amounts of data to draw conclusions and validate or disprove certain assumptions or theories.
  • Fundraising Manager ( $55,460 ):  A fundraising manager works for an organization, typically a non-profit to generate funds through grants and donations. They may conduct campaigns, write grant applications, and communicate with a range of stakeholders.
  • Editor ( $55,297 ):  An editor reviews written content to correct errors in grammar, spelling, structure, and style before it is published.

Pros and Cons of English PhD Programs

A PhD in English could be a valuable qualification that puts you on track for your dream career, but it’s not for everyone. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of completing a PhD in English that you should keep in mind.

Pros of Studying a PhD in English:

  • Make a Valuable Contribution: When you study for an English PhD, you have the chance to explore uncharted waters in the literary and language sphere. You’ll conduct independent research to come up with original findings that will add to the existing knowledge in the field.
  • Qualify for a Higher-level Job:  A PhD in English will enable you to apply for roles that are simply out of reach if you only have a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
  • Professional Networking Opportunities:  A PhD in English can advance your career and put you in constant contact with high-level professionals in the field. This can help you become part of an elite professional community, especially if you gain your doctorate from one of the best universities for English majors.

Cons of an English PhD:

  • S olitary Pursuit:  Unlike a master’s, studying a PhD involves a great deal of independent research. You will often work alone on your project, without much opportunity to interact with other students.
  • Limited Job Openings:  While earning a PhD in English can help you apply to some well-paid jobs, these roles are often limited.
  • Tough Competition for Admission: Getting admitted to a PhD program is not as easy as it is for a master’s degree. Doctorate programs have very strict admission requirements, and you’ll need a high GPA and strong GRE scores  to get into the best English grad schools for PhD

Alternatives to a PhD English

Just because you have a bachelor’s or master’s in English doesn’t mean you have to get your PhD in English. You may get a taste for a related discipline while pursuing your master’s.

You have a range of options for doctorates that will help you to pursue similar career paths. For example, you can go for a PhD in Linguistics, Comparative Literature, Cultural Studies, or Education .

Frequently Asked Questions about PhD in English Programs

What salary can i get with a phd in english.

Having a PhD in English can lead to a broad range of career options, with various salary brackets depending on the exact role, as well as your level of experience. Having said that, the annual median salary for English PhDs is $60,000 .

Which PhD is Best After an MA in English?

After completing your MA in English , you may pursue a PhD in one of the many options available, such as literature, linguists, or teaching English as a foreign language. It all depends on your personal preferences and passions.

Is a PhD in English Worth It?

There is no doubt that a PhD in English will help advance your career and attract a better salary than most master’s degree holders, especially if your degree is from one of the best schools for English majors. If you are determined and willing to pay in the time and effort, you will enjoy the pay off in the long run.

What Can I Do After Finishing My PhD in English?

With a doctorate in English, you’ll enjoy a range of opportunities in various fields. You may work in academia, the publishing industry, or the media. This advanced degree can also lead to jobs in the government and research sectors, or you may choose to pursue an independent career as a writer or lexicographer.

Final Thoughts

A doctorate in English will not only make you an expert in language and literature, but it will also help you hone your critical thinking skills and build valuable professional connections.

The best PhD programs in English will give you a valuable qualification, as well as the option to focus on your preferred specialization. Specializations can vary greatly from one English PhD program to another, so be sure to do your research and find a school amidst the list of the top English PhD programs that best suits your passions and ideal career path. Don’t just look at the top three best English programs in the US; instead, look for programs that have courses you’re interested in.

If you’re looking for a flexible option that will allow you to earn your doctorate while balancing work and personal commitments,  take a look at our list of the top 20 online PhDs .

Lisa Marlin

Lisa Marlin

Lisa is a full-time writer specializing in career advice, further education, and personal development. She works from all over the world, and when not writing you'll find her hiking, practicing yoga, or enjoying a glass of Malbec.

  • Lisa Marlin https://blog.thegradcafe.com/author/lisa-marlin/ BA vs BS: What You Need to Know [2024 Guide]
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  • Lisa Marlin https://blog.thegradcafe.com/author/lisa-marlin/ Top 5 Best Psychology PhD Programs in 2024

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best country to do phd in english literature

PhD Program in English Language and Literature

The department enrolls an average of ten PhD students each year. Our small size allows us to offer a generous financial support package. We also offer a large and diverse graduate faculty with competence in a wide range of literary, theoretical and cultural fields. Each student chooses a special committee that works closely along side the student to design a course of study within the very broad framework established by the department. The program is extremely flexible in regard to course selection, the design of examinations and the election of minor subjects of concentration outside the department. English PhD students pursuing interdisciplinary research may include on their special committees faculty members from related fields such as comparative literature, medieval studies, Romance studies, German studies, history, classics, women’s studies, linguistics, theatre and performing arts, government, philosophy, and film and video studies.

The PhD candidate is normally expected to complete six or seven one-semester courses for credit in the first year of residence and a total of six or seven more in the second and third years. The program of any doctoral candidate’s formal and informal study, whatever his or her particular interests, should be comprehensive enough to ensure familiarity with:

  • The authors and works that have been the most influential in determining the course of English, American, and related literatures
  • The theory and criticism of literature, and the relations between literature and other disciplines
  • Concerns and tools of literary and cultural history such as textual criticism, study of genre, source, and influence as well as wider issues of cultural production and historical and social contexts that bear on literature

Areas in which students may have major or minor concentrations include African-American literature, American literature to 1865, American literature after 1865, American studies (a joint program with the field of history), colonial and postcolonial literatures, cultural studies, dramatic literature, English poetry, the English Renaissance to 1660, lesbian, bisexual and gay literary studies, literary criticism and theory, the nineteenth century, Old and Middle English, prose fiction, the Restoration and the eighteenth century, the twentieth century, and women's literature.

By the time a doctoral candidate enters the fourth semester of graduate study, the special committee must decide whether he or she is qualified to proceed toward the PhD. Students are required to pass their Advancement to Candidacy Examination before their fourth year of study, prior to the dissertation.

PhD Program specifics can be viewed here: PhD Timeline PhD Procedural Guide

Special Committee

Every graduate student selects a special committee of faculty advisors who work intensively with the student in selecting courses and preparing and revising the dissertation. The committee is comprised of at least three Cornell faculty members: a chair, and typically two minor members usually from the English department, but very often representing an interdisciplinary field. The university system of special committees allows students to design their own courses of study within a broad framework established by the department, and it encourages a close working relationship between professors and students, promoting freedom and flexibility in the pursuit of the graduate degree. The special committee for each student guides and supervises all academic work and assesses progress in a series of meetings with the students.

At Cornell, teaching is considered an integral part of training in academia. The field requires a carefully supervised teaching experience of at least one year for every doctoral candidate as part of the program requirements. The Department of English, in conjunction with the  John S. Knight Institute for Writing  in the Disciplines, offers excellent training for beginning teachers and varied and interesting teaching in the university-wide First-Year Writing Program. The courses are writing-intensive and may fall under such general rubrics as “Portraits of the Self,” “American Literature and Culture,” “Shakespeare,” and “Cultural Studies,” among others. A graduate student may also serve as a teaching assistant for an undergraduate lecture course taught by a member of the Department of English faculty.

Language Requirements

Each student and special committee will decide what work in foreign language is most appropriate for a student’s graduate program and scholarly interests. Some students’ doctoral programs require extensive knowledge of a single foreign language and literature; others require reading ability in two or more foreign languages. A student may be asked to demonstrate competence in foreign languages by presenting the undergraduate record, taking additional courses in foreign languages and literature, or translating and discussing documents related to the student’s work. Students are also normally expected to provide evidence of having studied the English language through courses in Old English, the history of the English language, grammatical analysis or the application of linguistic study to metrics or to literary criticism. Several departments at Cornell offer pertinent courses in such subjects as descriptive linguistics, psycholinguistics and the philosophy of language.

All PhD degree candidates are guaranteed five years of funding (including a stipend , a full tuition fellowship and student health insurance):

  • A first-year non-teaching fellowship
  • Two years of teaching assistantships
  • A fourth-year non-teaching fellowship for the dissertation writing year
  • A fifth-year teaching assistantship
  • Summer support for four years, including a first-year summer teaching assistantship, linked to a teachers’ training program at the Knight Institute. Summer residency in Ithaca is required.

Students have also successfully competed for Buttrick-Crippen Fellowship, Society for the Humanities Fellowships, American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), Shin Yong-Jin Graduate Fellowships, Provost’s Diversity Fellowships, fellowships in recognition of excellence in teaching, and grants from the Graduate School to help with the cost of travel to scholarly conferences and research collections.

Admission & Application Procedures

The application for Fall 2024 admission will open on September 15, 2023 and close at 11:59pm EST on December 1, 2023.

Our application process reflects the field’s commitment to considering the whole person and their potential to contribute to our scholarly community.  Applicants will be evaluated on the basis of academic preparation (e.g., performance in relevant courses, completion of substantive, independent research project). An applicant’s critical and creative potential will be considered: applicants should demonstrate interest in extensive research and writing and include a writing sample that reveals a capacity to argue persuasively, demonstrate the ability to synthesize a broad range of materials, as well as offer fresh insights into a problem or text. The committee will also consider whether an applicant demonstrates a commitment to inclusion, equity, and diversity and offers a substantive explanation for why study at Cornell is especially compelling (e.g., a discussion of faculty research and foci). Admissions committees will consider the entire application carefully, including statements and critical writing, as well as transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a resume/cv (if provided). Please view the requirements and procedures listed below, if you are interested in being considered for our PhD in English Language and Literature program.

Eligibility: Applicants must currently have, or expect to have, at least a BA or BS (or the equivalent) in any field before matriculation. International students, please verify degree equivalency here . Applicants are not required to meet a specified GPA minimum.

To Apply: All applications and supplemental materials must be submitted online through the Graduate School application system . While completing your application, you may save and edit your data. Once you click submit, your application will be closed for changes. Please proofread your materials carefully. Once you pay and click submit, you will not be able to make any changes or revisions.

Deadline: December 1st, 11:59pm EST.  This deadline is firm. No applications, additional materials, or revisions will be accepted after the deadline.

PhD Program Application Requirements Checklist

  • Academic Statement of Purpose Please describe (within 1000 words) in detail the substantive research questions you are interested in pursuing during your graduate studies and why they are significant. Additionally, make sure to include information about any training or research experience that you believe has prepared you for our program. You should also identify specific faculty members whose research interests align with your own specific questions.  Note that the identification of faculty is important; you would be well advised to read selected faculty’s recent scholarship so that you can explain why you wish to study with them. Do not rely on the courses they teach.  Please refrain from contacting individual faculty prior to receiving an offer of admission.
  • Personal Statement Please describe (within 1000 words) how your personal background and experiences influenced your decision to pursue a graduate degree and the research you wish to conduct.  Explain, for example the meaning and purpose of the PhD in the context of your personal history and future aspirations.  Please note that we will pay additional attention to candidates who identify substantial reasons to obtain a PhD beyond the pursuit of an academic position. Additionally, provide insight into your potential to contribute to a community of inclusion, belonging, and respect where scholars representing diverse backgrounds, perspectives, abilities, and experiences can learn (productively and positively) together.
  • Critical Writing Sample Your academic writing sample must be between 3,000 and 7,500 words (12-30 pages), typed and double-spaced. We accept excerpts from longer works, or a combination of shorter works.
  • Three Letters of Recommendation We require 3 letters of recommendation.  At the time of application, you will be allowed to enter up to 4 recommenders in the system.  Your application will be considered “Complete” when we have received at least 3 letters of recommendation.   Letters of recommendation are due December 1 . Please select three people who best know you and your work. Submitting additional letters will not enhance your application. In the recommendation section of the application, you must include the email address of each recommender. After you save the information (and before you pay/submit), the application system will automatically generate a recommendation request email to your recommender with instructions for submitting the letter electronically. If your letters are stored with a credential service such as Interfolio, please use their Online Application Delivery feature and input the email address assigned to your stored document, rather than that of your recommender’s. The electronic files will be attached to your application when they are received and will not require the letter of recommendation cover page.
  • Transcripts Scan transcripts from each institution you have attended, or are currently attending, and upload into the academic information section of the application. Be sure to remove your social security number from all documents prior to scanning. Please do not send paper copies of your transcripts. If you are subsequently admitted and accept, the Graduate School will require an official paper transcript from your degree-awarding institution prior to matriculation.
  • English Language Proficiency Requirement All applicants must provide proof of English language proficiency. For more information, please view the  Graduate School’s English Language Requirement .
  • GRE General Test and GRE Subject Test are NO LONGER REQUIRED, effective starting with the 2019 application In March 2019, the faculty of English voted overwhelmingly to eliminate all GRE requirements (both general and subject test) for application to the PhD program in English. GRE scores are not good predictors of success or failure in a PhD program in English, and the uncertain predictive value of the GRE exam is far outweighed by the toll it takes on student diversity. For many applicants the cost of preparing for and taking the exam is prohibitively expensive, and the exam is not globally accessible. Requiring the exam narrows our applicant pool at precisely the moment we should be creating bigger pipelines into higher education. We need the strength of a diverse community in order to pursue the English Department’s larger mission: to direct the force of language toward large and small acts of learning, alliance, imagination, and justice.

General Information for All Applicants

Application Fee: Visit the Graduate School for information regarding application fees, payment options, and fee waivers .

Document Identification: Please do not put your social security number on any documents.

Status Inquiries:  Once you submit your application, you will receive a confirmation email. You will also be able to check the completion status of your application in your account. If vital sections of your application are missing, we will notify you via email after the Dec. 1 deadline and allow you ample time to provide the missing materials. Please do not inquire about the status of your application.

Credential/Application Assessments:  The Admission Review Committee members are unable to review application materials or applicant credentials prior to official application submission. Once the committee has reviewed applications and made admissions decisions, they will not discuss the results or make any recommendations for improving the strength of an applicant’s credentials. Applicants looking for feedback are advised to consult with their undergraduate advisor or someone else who knows them and their work.

Review Process:  Application review begins after the submission deadline. Notification of admissions decisions will be made by email by the end of February.

Connecting with Faculty and/or Students: Unfortunately, due to the volume of inquiries we receive, faculty and current students are not available to correspond with potential applicants prior to an offer of admission. Applicants who are offered admission will have the opportunity to meet faculty and students to have their questions answered prior to accepting. Staff and faculty are also not able to pre-assess potential applicant’s work outside of the formal application process. Please email [email protected] instead, if you have questions.

Visiting: The department does not offer pre-admission visits or interviews. Admitted applicants will be invited to visit the department, attend graduate seminars and meet with faculty and students before making the decision to enroll.

Transfer Credits:  Students matriculating with an MA degree may, at the discretion of the Director of Graduate Studies, receive credit for up to two courses once they begin our program.

For Further Information

Contact [email protected]

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UCL English

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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 ( [email protected] ) is the English Department's Graduate Tutor. Application enquiries can also be directed to Natasha Clark ( [email protected] ), Senior Education Administrator.

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. 

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):

  • British Library
  • University of London Library (Senate House Library)
  • Guildhall Library
  • London Library
  • Library of the London School of Economics
  • Dr Williams’s Library
  • Bishopsgate Institute Library
  • Library of the Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Archives of the Royal Society
  • The Women’s Library at London School of Economics

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.

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

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.

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 ( [email protected] ) .

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 ( [email protected] ) .

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.

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 ( [email protected]

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 ( [email protected] ) 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 .

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 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.

UCL prospectus page for the MPhil/PhD programme.

For further information, please email Natasha Clark ( [email protected] ).

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

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 .

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"I am currently completing my PhD on Shakespeare. The English department at UCL is a very special place: the academic staff are dedicated, supportive. I would whole-heartedly recommend applying to study English at UCL."

Shani Bans, PhD Candidate

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Earning a master's degree or doctorate in English can improve your writing skills, sharpen your analytical abilities and broaden your literary knowledge. These are the top schools for a graduate degree in English. Each school's score reflects its average rating on a scale from 1 (marginal) to 5 (outstanding), based on a survey of academics at peer institutions. Read the methodology »

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Best Universities for Literature in Europe

Updated: February 29, 2024

  • Art & Design
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Below is a list of best universities in Europe ranked based on their research performance in Literature. A graph of 9.3M citations received by 703K academic papers made by 1,036 universities in Europe was used to calculate publications' ratings, which then were adjusted for release dates and added to final scores.

We don't distinguish between undergraduate and graduate programs nor do we adjust for current majors offered. You can find information about granted degrees on a university page but always double-check with the university website.

Please note that our approach to subject rankings is based on scientific outputs and heavily biased on art-related topics towards institutions with computer science research profiles.

1. University of Oxford

For Literature

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2. University of Cambridge

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3. University College London

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4. University of Manchester

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5. University of Edinburgh

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6. King's College London

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7. University of Birmingham

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8. University of Leeds

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9. University of Glasgow

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10. University of Amsterdam

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11. Catholic University of Leuven

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12. University of Bristol

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13. University of Warwick

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14. University of Sheffield

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15. University of Nottingham

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16. Utrecht University

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17. Durham University

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18. Pierre and Marie Curie University

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19. Lund University

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20. University of Exeter

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21. University of Helsinki

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22. Imperial College London

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23. Lancaster University

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24. University of Sussex

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25. University of Southampton

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26. University of Copenhagen

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27. Aarhus University

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28. University of Oslo

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29. London School of Economics and Political Science

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30. University of London

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31. University of Liverpool

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32. University of York

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33. Queen Mary University of London

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34. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich

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35. Radboud University

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36. University of Groningen

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37. Newcastle University

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38. University of St Andrews

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39. Cardiff University

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40. Leiden University

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41. University of Bologna

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42. Uppsala University

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43. Stockholm University

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44. University of Vienna

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45. University of Liege

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46. Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne

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47. Sapienza University of Rome

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48. Ghent University

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49. Complutense University of Madrid

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50. Heidelberg University - Germany

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51. University of Zurich

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52. University of Milan

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53. University of Leicester

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54. University of Reading

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55. Loughborough University

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56. Free University of Berlin

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57. University of Padua

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58. University of Barcelona

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59. University of Kent

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60. University of Pisa

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61. University of East Anglia

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62. University of Gothenburg

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63. Goethe University of Frankfurt am Main

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64. University of Munich

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65. Royal Holloway, University of London

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66. Delft University of Technology

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67. University of Geneva

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68. Technical University of Munich

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69. Free University Amsterdam

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70. University of Turin

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71. Moscow State University

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72. Autonomous University of Barcelona

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73. University of Warsaw

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74. University of Cologne

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75. University of Florence

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76. Queen's University Belfast

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77. National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

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78. Trinity College Dublin, University of Dublin

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79. University of Aberdeen

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80. University of Hamburg

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81. University of Tubingen

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82. KTH Royal Institute of Technology

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83. University College Dublin

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84. University of Lisbon

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85. University of Surrey

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86. University of Wales

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87. Linkoping University

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88. Birkbeck, University of London

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89. Keele University

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90. Tilburg University

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91. Goldsmiths, University of London

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92. Erasmus University Rotterdam

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93. Humboldt University of Berlin

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94. University of Stirling

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95. Aalborg University

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96. University of Granada

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97. University of Bergen

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98. University of Essex

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99. Autonomous University of Madrid

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100. University of Valencia

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Course type

Qualification, university name, phd degrees in english literature.

31 degrees at 27 universities in the UK.

Customise your search

Select the start date, qualification, and how you want to study

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Related subjects:

  • PhD English Literature
  • PhD Shakespeare

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  • Course title (A-Z)
  • Course title (Z-A)
  • Price: high - low
  • Price: low - high

English PhD

Bangor university.

  • 3 years Full time degree: £4,712 per year (UK)
  • 6 years Part time degree: £2,356 per year (UK)

English Literature PhD

Anglia ruskin university.

  • 2 years Full time degree: £4,712 per year (UK)
  • 2.5 years Full time degree: £4,712 per year (UK)
  • 3 years Part time degree: £2,356 per year (UK)
  • 3.5 years Part time degree: £2,356 per year (UK)

English Literature and Language MPhil/PhD

University of worcester.

  • 3 years Full time degree: £4,950 per year (UK)
  • 5 years Part time degree: £2,475 per year (UK)
  • RSDP4003: Approaches to Research 2
  • RSDP4004: Planning Your Research Project
  • RSDP4002: Approaches to Research 1
  • RSDP4001: Developing as a Researcher
  • View all modules

University of Surrey

  • 4 years Full time degree: £4,712 per year (UK)
  • 8 years Part time degree: £2,356 per year (UK)

PhD in Creative Writing and English Literature

Manchester metropolitan university.

  • 3 years Full time degree: £4,850 per year (UK)
  • 6 years Part time degree

PhD Postgraduate research in English Language and Literature

University of wolverhampton, english literature, phd, swansea university, english literature phd, university of brighton.

  • 7 years Part time degree: £2,356 per year (UK)

PhD English

Aberystwyth university.

  • Ways of Reading (10 Credits) - Core
  • Principles of Research Design (10 Credits) - Core

Shakespeare Studies PhD (On-Campus or by Distance Learning)

University of birmingham.

  • 3 years Distance without attendance degree: £2,389 per year (UK)
  • 3 years Full time degree: £4,778 per year (UK)

University of Glasgow

  • 5 years Part time degree: £2,356 per year (UK)

University of Hull

English literature mphil, phd, newcastle university.

  • 36 months Full time degree
  • 72 months Part time degree

University of Nottingham

  • 48 months Online/Distance degree: £5,100 per year (UK)
  • 96 months Online/Distance degree

University of West London

  • 4 years Full time degree: £3,995 per year (UK)
  • 6 years Part time degree: £2,000 per year (UK)

English Literature PhDs and MPhils

University of portsmouth, english literature phd (on-campus or by distance learning), english literature phds and mphils (distance learning).

  • 6 years Distance without attendance degree: £2,356 per year (UK)

University of Hertfordshire

  • 3 years Full time degree: £5,925 per year (UK)
  • 6 years Part time degree: £2,960 per year (UK)

1-20 of 31 courses

About PhD Degrees in English Literature

A PhD in English literature in the UK offers an in-depth academic programme tailored for individuals dedicated to deepening their exploration of literary analysis, history and cultures. Graduates o f this programme are well-suited for diverse professional paths, including roles as academic scholars, published authors, literary analysts and researchers in literary studies, contributing substantially to the field of literary criticism and theory.

For advanced academic pursuits in English literature, there are more than 30 PhD options in the UK. These programmes appeal to candidates with a strong foundation in English literature, demonstrated through a master's degree or equivalent in humanities disciplines. The focus of these programmes is to develop critical analysis, research expertise and literary analysis.

What to Expect

English literature PhD programmes involve a significant focus on independent research, encouraging students to delve into specialised areas such as specific literary periods, genres, works of individual authors, or theoretical frameworks.

The core of the programme is the doctoral dissertation, a comprehensive original research project that makes a significant contribution to the study of literature. Evaluation is predominantly based on the doctoral thesis, with candidates also engaging in academic seminars and conferences, contributing to scholarly publications, integral for developing their academic profiles and networking opportunities.

Graduates of these PhD programmes emerge as experts in English literature, equipped with the skills to critically analyse and interpret literary works, contextualise literature within their cultural and historical milieus and contribute new perspectives to literary discourse. Graduates are prepared for impactful academic and research roles in publishing, cultural institutions and various sectors where advanced analytical and interpretative skills are valued.

Course type:

  • Distance learning PhD
  • Full time PhD
  • Part time PhD

Qualification:

Universities:.

  • Cardiff University
  • University of Buckingham
  • University of Sussex
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • University of Reading
  • University of Lincoln
  • University of Liverpool
  • Queen's University Belfast
  • Lancaster University
  • University of Bristol

Related Subjects:

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Ph.d. in literature.

Professor Mike Ziser leading discussion

Our PhD students are involved in a range of interdisciplinary and public initiatives. For example, some affiliate with interdisciplinary  Designated Emphases ; others have received grants to create  podcasts , convene interdisciplinary  working groups , or organize and annual graduate student conferences . Each year one student participates in a year-long exchange program with the  Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies  in Mainz, Germany; some have worked as Graduate Assistants and researchers for research centers such as the  Medieval and Early Modern Studies Program , the experimental media  Modlab , and the university’s  Datalab .

Students graduate with the qualitative and quantitative skills necessary for professional research and teaching in English, as well as extensive pedagogical training and a range of teaching experience that includes writing and composition, as well as designing and teaching Introduction to Literature courses. Our Alumni Directory  includes titles of recent dissertations, as well as information about the diverse careers for which the PhD has helped prepare our graduates. There is an option to complete an MA in literature , but it is not a stand-alone program.

Questions? Contact:

Aaron Barstow Graduate Program Coordinator, Ph.D. Program in Literature [email protected]   (530) 752-2738 Pronouns: he/they

Admissions / Online Application

Degree requirements for the Ph.D. program   (links to more details) include 50 units of coursework with at least 44 units taken for a letter grade, proficiency in one foreign language proficiency before degree conferral, preliminary and qualifying examinations, and a dissertation. In addition, there are also opportunities for students to pursue a Designated Emphasis and gain teaching experience.

Coursework Requirements

2 Core Courses (8 units)

  • English 200: Introduction to Graduate Studies (taken as Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory)
  • One survey course in literary theory (Critical Theory 200A or 200C taken for a grade).

1 Workshop (2 units)

  • English 288: Prospectus Workshop (taken as Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory); students may petition to complete this course independently with a Prospectus Adviser.

10 Graduate-level Seminars (40 units)

  • All courses must be taken for a grade.
  • Five courses must satisfy the breadth requirement (see below).
  • Five courses will be comprised of electives (see below).
  • Students may count one undergraduate 100-level course as one of their ten required courses.
  • Aside from ENL 200, no course graded Satisfactory-Unsatisfactory may count as one of the twelve required seminars. Independent and group studies may not be taken for a grade.

13 Total Graduate Courses (50 units; 44 units taken for a grade)  Additionally, students who enter the Ph.D. program without a MA degree can earn one en route to the Ph.D. degree.

The English Ph.D. requires a reading knowledge of one foreign language before completing the degree; it is not an admissions requirement. This could be satisfied through previous or current coursework or an exam. Any of the following demonstrates proficiency:

Completion within the past eight years of 3 semester-length, or 4 quarter-length courses in a foreign language at the undergraduate level. Students must earn a passing grade, but courses may be taken on a Pass/No Pass basis.

Students may take the Placement Test offered by the UC Davis Language Center , testing out of the language at the intermediate level.

A Pass in the language exam offered in the English Department at the beginning of Fall or Spring quarter each year.

The breadth requirements must be fulfilled by coursework in the Department of English or coursework taught by English Department faculty.  Five courses (of the total 40 units above) will satisfy this requirement. Students must complete two Earlier Period courses, and two Later Period courses, and one Focus course. 

Earlier Period Courses Pre-1800; or Pre-1865 if the course focus is on American literature

Later Period Courses post-1800; or post-1865 if the course focus is on American literature

Focus Course Interdisciplinary, Identity, Genre, Other National, Method, Theory

Faculty and/or the Graduate Advisor may choose to designate a course as fulfilling more than one category, but students may use the course to fulfill only one requirement. For instance, a student could use a course on women in Early Modern literature to satisfy the Earlier Period requirement, or the Focus (Identity) requirement, but not both. A student could use a course on Cold War Drama to satisfy the Later Period requirement or the Focus (Genre) requirement, but not both.

The electives requirement can be fulfilled by actual offered seminars inside or outside the English Department.  Five elective courses will satisfy degree requirements. UWP 390 is acceptable as one of the electives. Also, be aware 299s are ungraded but still count towards overall units. With the approval of the Graduate Adviser, students may also enroll in a graduate class at another University of California campus through the Intercampus Exchange Program .

Students who enter the Ph.D. program with MA coursework from another institution may petition the Graduate Adviser for a Course Waiver up to three of the twelve required seminars; each approved petition will reduce the number of required courses by one. Students may not reduce their coursework to fewer than nine seminars.

Students holding an MA may also petition the Graduate Adviser for course relief for up to five of the breadth requirements; each approved petition allows the student to substitute elective courses. ENL 200 may not be waived or relieved.

For each waiver or relief request, students must submit to the English Graduate Office a Course Waiver or Relief Request form (available in the office) along with the syllabus from the course and the student's seminar paper.

Graduate students may participate in a Designated Emphasis (DE) , a specialization that might include a new method of inquiry or an important field of application which is related to two or more existing Ph.D. programs. The DE is awarded in conjunction with the Ph.D. degree and is signified by a transcript notation; for example, “Ph.D. in Literature with a Designated Emphasis in Native American Studies.”  More information .

In the Spring Quarter of the second year or Fall Quarter of the third year of graduate study, students take a Preliminary Examination in two historical fields and one focus field. Three faculty members conduct the oral examination, each representing one of the fields. Prior to taking the Preliminary Examination, students must have completed the following:

Introduction to Graduate Studies (ENL200)

Survey of Literary Theory (CRI200A or CRI200C)

Four of five Breadth Requirements

Four of five Elective Requirements

Additionally, students select one focus field. A student may devise her/his own focus list in collaboration with two faculty members or, as is more common, choose one from among the following:

Black Studies

Critical Theory

Disability Studies

Ecocriticism and Environmental Humanities

Film Studies

Media Technologies

Performance Studies

Postcolonial Theory

Psychoanalysis

Queer Feminisms

Queer Theories

Race and Ethnicity Studies

Science and Literature

Science Fiction

English 299 (Independent Study) is ordinarily used the quarters before the Preliminary Examination to prepare for the oral  examination and is graded Satisfactory-Unsatisfactory. Students may register for ENL 299 under the Graduate Advisor or a faculty member in the field of their exam for the quarter(s) they intend to study.

In the event that the student does not pass the exam, the exam chair will report the decision to the Graduate Adviser, who will work with the committee to decide whether the student should be given a chance to retake the exam (no less than six months later) or whether the student should be dismissed from the program. The Graduate Adviser will report this final decision to the student within 72 hours of the exam’s conclusion.

Any remaining requirements after taking the Preliminary Examination must be completed before scheduling the Qualifying Examination.

Students will select two historical fields from among the following list.   Students who would like to do non-consecutive historical fields need to get prior approval from the Graduate Adviser.  These lists and additional helpful documents can be accessed via our box folder "Preliminary Exam" in the English Graduate Program file.

The Qualifying Examination  happens as early as the spring of the third year and should be taken no later than the spring of the fourth year . The reading list for this exam, which is conducted orally, is constructed by the student in consultation with his or her three-person dissertation committee. When making their lists, students may consult the standard lists for preliminary exams available on the department's Box site. If the student has elected a designated emphasis (DE), materials from that field should also be incorporated into the Qualifying Exam reading list.

Graduate Studies requires the Qualifying Examination Application (GS319) to be submitted at least 30 days prior the the scheduled exam date.

Qualifying Examination Committee  The student, in consultation with their Prospectus Adviser and, if needed, the Graduate Adviser, nominates  four   faculty to serve on the Qualifying Examination Committee: 

  • The three proposed Dissertation Committee members 
  • One member must be from outside the English graduate program (this may be a member of the Dissertation Committee). 

The QE Committee is responsible for administering the exam. Neither the “Prospectus Adviser” nor the Dissertation Director (in many, though not all, cases these will be same) may be the chair of the QE Committee. Students with a designated emphasis (DE) must include one faculty member affiliated with the DE on both their qualifying and dissertation committee. DE paperwork must be approved before the QE application is submitted. The exam will focus on the Prospectus and the Qualifying Exam reading list. The bibliography of the prospectus will normally overlap substantially with the Qualifying Exam reading list.

The Qualifying Exam Report (GS343) must be submitted withing 72 hours of the exam. Upon successful completion, students receive the Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Plan B (GS321) .

If you are disabled, you are entitled to accommodations for all requirements of the program you’re enrolled in, a process formally handled by the Student Disability Center . We recommend starting the process of coordinating with the SDC early in your graduate school journey, as it can take time for the Center to process information.  We must work with the SDC to implement your accommodations for your exams.  Please indicate your need for accommodations to us as soon as possible, so we can include the Center in our exam scheduling process.  Please notify us by the fourth week of the quarter in which you intend to sit the exam.

The dissertation must be an original work of scholarship and/or interpretation. It may be critical, bibliographical, historical, or biographical in its subject. Students work with a dissertation director and consult with two official readers as well as with other faculty knowledgeable about the project. A dditional details . 

Oxford Summer School 2024 – Final Places Left

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A Day in the Life of a PHD Student

best country to do phd in english literature

Ellen Brewster is studying for a PhD in English Literature.

Having completed her undergraduate degree, she went on to a Master’s before returning to her original college for her PhD. Her area of specialism is UK domestic readership in the eighteenth century.

You can also find her on Instagram: @_ellenbrewster

Table of Contents

How did I become a PhD student?

Hello! I’m Ellen, and I’m a first-year doctoral student at the University of Oxford. I’m studying for a PhD (or DPhil as it’s known here) in English Literature. I’ve got an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in English Literature too, and these qualifications have allowed me to go on to do a graduate research degree. This means I’m still a full-time student after five years (so far) at uni! I’m able to do this full-time thanks to a generous scholarship, which pays for both my university fees and my living costs.

I wanted to do a PhD because I’m passionate about studying literature, and love to be able to find out new things and tell people all about them!

The length of a PhD can vary, depending on your subject and how long it takes you to research and write up your thesis. In the UK, you’re usually expected to finish your project within 3-5 years. Your thesis is a long piece of writing: I’m aiming to have written between 80,000 to 100,000 words, which is basically a long book! It will have several chapters looking at different aspects of my research topic.

I’m studying how people used to read in the past, particularly in the eighteenth-century. I want to understand how people at the time wanted to improve their reading-aloud skills through attending lectures, reading books, and joining book clubs; people viewed reading primarily as a social activity. To do this kind of research, I have to read a lot of books by other scholars about my topic, but I also have to do my own (metaphorical) digging in archives and libraries that have eighteenth-century books. Oxford is a great place for this, as the Bodleian Library is home to lots of modern and old books relevant to the history of reading.

Curious to experience what studying at Oxford University is really like? Attend an Oxford High School Summer Program and get a real taste of university life.

What does PhD research involve?

Generally, with PhD research, I am doing one of two things: reading, or writing.

When I say ‘reading’, I also mean note-taking – while a form of writing, the main focus of taking notes is understanding what I’m reading and remembering it for later.

When I’m not writing notes, I’m writing parts of my thesis – drafts of paragraphs or sections, or even an entire chapter! All this reading and writing helps me to think about my topic in great depth – both by thinking about what other people have said, and thinking about the things I’ve discovered for myself. Some weeks tend to be more reading-focused; other weeks tend to be about trying to articulate my ideas into readable forms for my supervisor to read. She’s the person guiding my project, giving me feedback on the things that I write, and helps me work out what I should research next.

PhD student English Literature

IMAGES

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COMMENTS

  1. Top Countries and Colleges PhD in English Literature Abroad

    Best Universities to Study PhD in English Literature. According to the "Open Doors Report" by the Institute of International Education, the US alone witnessed a notable 1.5% increase in international students pursuing humanities and arts doctorate programs. Graduates can pursue careers in academia, publishing, writing, and research.

  2. QS World University Rankings for English Language and Literature 2023

    Discover the top universities in Australia, according to the QS World University Rankings 2024. 20 years of the QS World University Rankings:…. QS founder and President Nunzio Quacquarelli speaks about the origins of the rankings and his reflections on what preparing to launch the 20th edition means to him personally.

  3. The 6 Best Countries to Study English Lit Abroad

    The Caribbean. The islands of the Caribbean use English, French, Spanish, Dutch, Caribbean Hindustani, and European Creoles, so there are a range of study abroad opportunities possible in the region. English majors should look to places like Jamaica, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, and Puerto Rico.

  4. 6 Surprising English-Language PhD Destinations

    Here are a few you might not have thought of. If you're looking to study a PhD abroad, you've probably already considered some of the major anglophone postgraduate destinations: the UK, USA, Canada and Australia are extremely popular with international doctoral students, and with good reason. But it's worth widening your search to include ...

  5. 35+ Doctorate English Literature Courses to Study Abroad

    Don't miss this opportunity for English Literature - Apply now for 2024 intake! Choosing to study Doctorate in English Literature abroad is a decision that will hugely benefit your future. With a Doctorate in English Literature you will excel in the subject and set yourself up for a prosperous career. Five countries in total are best to consider.

  6. 30 Best PhD Programs in English

    U.S. News and World Report ranks it as the 46th best public university in the country. At UCF, you can earn a PhD in English with either a literature or rhetoric and composition concentration. UCF's top English PhD program requires at least 30 hours of coursework, including: Scholarly Research and Writing.

  7. Top Countries and Colleges PhD in English Literature Abroad

    For aspiring scholars of the English language, the allure of a PhD abroad is undeniable. From the hallowed halls of Oxford and Cambridge to the vibrant literary scenes of Paris and Florence, pursuing such a degree offers unparalleled access to world-renowned scholars, unique research opportunities, and a chance to immerse in a new cultural landscape.

  8. List of PHD Programs in English Language And Literature in Europe

    Find the list of all PHD Programs in English Language And Literature in Europe with our interactive Program search tool. Use the filters to list programs by subject, location, program type or study level.

  9. English Literature PhD

    Be inspired by the range of PhD research in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures. Over the course of your PhD, you'll be expected to complete an original body of work under the expert guidance of your supervisors leading to a dissertation of usually between 80,000 and 100,000 words. You will be awarded your doctorate if your ...

  10. English Language and Literature MPhil/PhD

    About this degree. With access to vast collections of research materials and supervision from world-leading experts* in a wide range of literary periods and topics, UCL provides an exceptionally strong environment in which to study for an English PhD. UCL English Department has specialists in every period of English and American literature, as well as English language, with an outstanding ...

  11. English Literature PhD research course

    Our English Literature PhD will train you in critical and analytical skills, research methods, and knowledge that will equip you for your professional or academic career. It normally takes around three or four years to complete our full-time PhD. You'll be assigned a primary and secondary supervisor, who will meet with you regularly to read ...

  12. PhD programmes in Literature in Europe

    Why do we ask this? By confirming your nationality, we can personalise the content on our site for you. (i.e. we can show you the scholarship, visa and tuition information that is most relevant to you). Also, tell us which currency you'd like to have the fees displayed in.

  13. Top 5 Best PhD Programs in English [2024]

    PhD Program in English Language and Literature. Acceptance rate: 8.7% Cornell University, based in Ithaca, New York, is a private Ivy League university and a land-grant institution. It was established in 1865 and offers exceptional educational opportunities for students at various levels, and has an acceptance rate of 8.7%.

  14. Study English Literature Abroad

    Best universities to study english literature. Bath Spa University. University of Greenwich. University of the West of England - UWE Bristol. Trent University. Florida Atlantic University. See all universities offering english literature programs.

  15. PhD Program in English Language and Literature

    The PhD candidate is normally expected to complete six or seven one-semester courses for credit in the first year of residence and a total of six or seven more in the second and third years. The program of any doctoral candidate's formal and informal study, whatever his or her particular interests, should be comprehensive enough to ensure ...

  16. MPhil/PhD in English Literature and Language

    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

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    University of Michigan--Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor, MI. #8 in English (tie) Save. 4.6. Earning a master's degree or doctorate in English can improve your writing skills, sharpen your analytical ...

  18. Europe's 100+ best Literature universities [2024 Rankings]

    Please note that our approach to subject rankings is based on scientific outputs and heavily biased on art-related topics towards institutions with computer science research profiles. 1. University of Oxford. 2. University of Cambridge. 3. University College London. 4. University of Manchester.

  19. PhD Degrees in English Literature

    The University of Edinburgh. University of Sussex. University of Reading. University of Lincoln. Lancaster University. Queen's University Belfast. University of Liverpool. University of Bristol. Find PhD Degrees in English Literature using the UK's most comprehensive search engine for postgraduates.

  20. Ph.D. in Literature

    Students in our PhD program gain advanced knowledge of literature from the British Middle Ages and colonial America to global/postcolonial and U.S. contemporary, as well as knowledge of literary theory, literary analysis, and interdisciplinary methods. The course of study balances coverage of national literary traditions with innovative methods and topics such as literature and science ...

  21. English Literature PhD Projects, Programmes & Scholarships

    English PhD (option of joint PhD with Hong Kong/Singapore/Humboldt Berlin) King's College London Faculty of Arts & Humanities. 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.

  22. A Day in the Life of a PhD English Student

    Ellen Brewster is studying for a PhD in English Literature. Having completed her undergraduate degree, she went on to a Master's before returning to her original college for her PhD. Her area of specialism is UK domestic readership in the eighteenth century. You can also find her on Instagram: @_ellenbrewster.

  23. PhD English Literature Course Admission, Entrance Exam Syllabus

    PhD English Literature Job Prospects and Career Options. After completion of a PhD English Literature, candidates usually look for a job in educational institutions. ... They also have an option to work in the public sector in English speaking countries because they have excellent spoken and written communication skills and because of their ...