School of English and Drama

How to Apply for a PhD

We welcome applications from those wishing to join the Department of English’s internationally recognised academic community.

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To find out more about the Department, we invite you to attend an Open Evening or to contact Professor David Duff, the Director of Graduate Studies for English.


See below for information on:

Entry Requirements and Qualifications

Your previous academic qualifications and other relevant experience will be taken into account when your application is assessed. While each application is assessed on its merits, applicants are normally expected to hold a good undergraduate degree (a solid 2.1 or above) and a master’s degree (with an average of 65 or above in the dissertation,  and at least one elements of distinction, either in coursework or in the dissertation) in a fields related to your proposed area of PhD research. 

Before applying for postgraduate research at Queen Mary, all candidates should ensure they have graduated, or are about to graduate, from an internationally recognised MA programme, achieving at least one element at distinction level relevant to their proposed field of research, and (if coming from a programme taught in a language other than English) be able to show a certificate of proficiency in English at the standard required by Queen Mary. The School of English and Drama cannot consider any applications without an MA. This requirement may be waived in accordance with College regulations but only under exceptional circumstances.

IMPORTANT: We understand that you may not have completed your master’s degree at the time of application, in which case we will consider results available at that point.  If successful you will be offered a conditional place. This will normally be conditional on your successfully completing the MA and gaining at least one mark at Distinction level, and you will be asked to send a final transcript for your MA degree as soon as it is available.


Advice and Support

If you have the requisite qualifications we encourage prospective applicants to make their initial enquiry by completing the PhD Enquiry Form and emailing it to David Duff (, who will advise you on your project and answer any queries you might have about pursuing doctoral research in English at Queen Mary.

Prospective applicants who have already developed full research proposals presented in accordance with our guidelines and who have consulted our staff pages to identify potential supervisors are also encouraged to contact David Duff ( for advice in advance of making a formal application.

Further information on the application process is supplied by the College Admissions Office.



Please visit our funding page for information, or the College’s site on funding research degrees.

You will need to make a formal application to the Department via the College Admissions Office.

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This page contains details about this formal application, as well as additional advice about:

For students seeking QMUL funding, the deadline for applications for 2021 is TBC.


To Apply

For students seeking QMUL funding, the deadline for applications for 2021 is TBC.

To make a formal application, you have to:

  • complete the application form (available on the central Queen Mary website). Where you are asked to specify your research group, please put classical, medieval, early modern, eighteenth-century, Romanticism, nineteenth-century, modern or postcolonial
  • write a full research proposal (1500 words maximum) and statement of purpose (one side, A4; approximately 350 words). For further details, see below
  • supply a current academic CV
  • send two references, which should be by academics familiar with your recent work in literary studies wherever possible
  • supply your degree certificate and university transcripts
  • IELTS scores (if applicable)

Your hardcopy or electronic version of the College application form should be sent direct to the College Admissions Office along with all accompanying material.


Research Proposal

This 1500-word proposal should outline the thesis you wish to undertake, explaining its scope, development, and how you will bring it to successful completion. The proposal should, at minimum, cover the following areas:

  • A concise description of the project. What is the topic you propose to investigate?
  • Research context. What scholarship is relevant to your inquiry and how do you situate your own project in relation to it?
  • Research questions. What are the key research questions your inquiry aims to address?
  • Research methods. How do you intend to address your research questions?
  • What is the repertoire of core material – critical, historical, archival etc. – which you intend to examine in the thesis? What is the rationale for the selection of this material? How do you envisage structuring the thesis?
  • Timescale (not included in the word count). How will you plan the project such that it is completed within 3 years of full-time study or 5 years of part-time study? (College maximums are 4 years of full-time study and 7 years of part-time study). Note: a full-time Queen Mary studentship covers a three-year period (a LAHP studentship covers 3.5 years)
  • Bibliography (not included in the word count). Identify texts, resources, archives etc. that are central to your investigation

Many potential supervisors are willing to read a final draft of your proposal, but only if you are able to send it well in advance of submitting the final application.


Statement of Purpose

This one-page (one-side, A4) statement should be used by candidates to provide information which is not necessarily contained in their Research Proposal. This can include:

  • previous academic and other experience relevant to their proposed research
  • why the candidate wishes to undertake their specific research at Queen Mary, and how it might fit with the research interests and strengths of their chosen Department/School, and supervisor(s)
  • what research training and professional preparation the candidate has already received, and what further training they think they will need to complete the doctorate
  • what ethical issues (if any) need to be considered in undertaking the research


When selecting referees for your application, please choose those who can testify to your preparedness to undertake PhD research.  In most cases this means academic staff with whom you have studied previously.  Where relevant, referees from outside the university may be appropriate, but they should still be able to speak effectively to your potential to undertake research at a doctoral level.

Application Form

You can find the electronic application form to complete on Queen Mary's central website.