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PhD in English and Comparative Literary Studies

The Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick was ranked first in the country in the Research Excellence Framework 2014, and the 2015 QS World University Rankings placed us in the top 25 English departments in the world. Our staff are renowned experts across a broad spectrum of specialisms: see our staff research groupings and staff profile pages for more information, and our current PhD and MPhil students to give you a sense of the projects currently being pursued in our department. You can also check out profiles of some our recent PhD alumni.

The Department's PhD Admissions Tutor is Dr. Elizabeth Barry and you should contact her in the first instance with all queries relating to the course.

Applying to study for a PhD

The PhD is a demanding but intellectually and personally fulfilling degree. The final dissertation, which will be between 80,000 and 100,000 words, is expected to make an original contribution to knowledge and can be undertaken for a variety of reasons: as preliminary training for an academic career, an advanced degree that may contribute to a future career in other sectors, or simply as an exciting and rewarding pursuit in its own right.

A PhD in English is largely a self-determined project, and a crucial part of the process is identifying, before you start, a viable research topic that you will complete within three years (full-time) or five years (part-time).

Research proposal

Applicants should write a 500-1000 word proposal outlining their area of study. This is an important part of your application and you should take the time to hone it carefully: your proposal should make specific reference to the texts, authors, and/or themes that you will tackle, the theories or concepts that you will employ, and situate the project within current critical work in the area. You might cite a few secondary works which have interested, inspired, or provoked you. This is not the place for a personal statement about your past career or future aspirations. We recognise, of course, that all projects change and evolve during the process of doctoral study, and that it's difficult to define a project in advance of carrying it out. For us to assess your application and identify possible supervisors, however, it is crucial for us to have a clear idea of the scope and subject of your project.

Please click here to download some examples of recent successful research proposals

We recommend you take the time to look at the profiles of our staff who work in your research area in order to identify a potential supervisor or supervisors for your project. It can really help applicants to have corresponded with potential supervisors before submitting their formal application.

Successful applicants are assigned a supervisor and advisory mentor (who offers academic and pastoral support) from amongst the academic staff of the Department. On occasion it may be appropriate for a student to have two supervisors, sometimes with their second supervisor being in another department.


Students may be considered for the Doctoral programme if they hold, or are currently studying for, a Masters level qualification (or international equivalent) in a relevant discipline, with a final mark (or predicted final mark) of 65 or above. They should normally also have an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject. If you have any doubts about the suitability of your previous qualifications then please contact us.

For those whose previous degrees were taken in a language other than English, the department requires a language test. We prefer IELTS (overall score of 7.5 or above), but also accept TOEFL (108 overall, with no component below 23). See our Graduate Admissions page for further details on language requirements. Essentially, students starting a PhD need a very high level of written language competence. If you are in any doubts about your language eligibility, please discuss this over email with the PhD Admissions Tutor.

PhD students who have not already taken the MA in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies may be required to take part in the ‘Foundation Module’ of the taught MA. This will not be formally assessed but will ensure that you have acquired the necessary skills for further research.


You may apply for a place on the PhD program from August 1, 2016.

To be considered for funding, you must apply by Wednesday January 18th, 2017 (11.59pm GMT). Supporting documentation (two references and all transcripts) must then be submitted to the online application system by 1st February 2017. Results will be communicated to applicants in mid March 2017.


The application consists of two parts: a formal application form and the supporting documents.

(1) The formal application

The application is completed and submitted via the University's postgraduate online application form. The form will ask you to include, amongst other things:

  • Your personal and contact details
  • Your academic qualifications
  • Details of your referees; they will be contacted automatically once you submit your application
  • Scholarships/prizes already awarded, and further academic details
  • A research proposal of no more than 4500 characters (which is roughly 1000 words), which will also count as your application for funding if you are nominated. Please remember to give your project a provisional title

You can also upload supporting documents (see below).

You will also be asked to upload your academic transcript(s) AFTER you have submitted your online form. The Graduate School will contact you by email and provide a link to a page where you should upload an electronic copy of your transcript.

If you require a printed copy of the postgraduate application form please e-mail, remembering to include your postal address, or telephone them on +44 (0) 24 7657 23648. Consult the University's Graduate Prospectus for guidelines on the application process and frequently asked questions. Please indicate on the application form if you have entered into any discussions with staff members of our department about possible research, or if there is someone who would particularly like to work with. This enables us to deal with your application more quickly.

(2) Supporting documents

You should be able upload your supporting documents with your application, but if you encounter any technical diffculties please send them directly to the PhD Admissions Tutor.

  • A CV, listing all related academic achievements.
  • A sample of your recent written work; this should be an essay or dissertation chapter, ideally from your MA work, but can be a strong piece from your BA.


Applications are evaluated by the PhD Admissions Tutor and by at least one other staff member (usually the prospective supervisor). We occasionally try to interview students, including, for overseas applicants, interviews by telephone.

Admission is dependent upon: satisfactory academic qualifications, satisfactory English language competence, the identification of a suitable and feasible research project, and an agreement to supervise the project by suitable staff member(s).

We normally expect to make a decision on applications within four weeks of receipt (although bear in mind that we often have to wait for reference letters to be uploaded before we can formally accept anyone). If we cannot offer you a place, the Graduate School will formally write to you, and we may also get in touch to explain why.


If we can offer you a place, we will notify you by email informally, and the Graduate School will write to you with a formal offer.

Conditions of offer may be attached, such as passing at 65 or above the MA which you are currently taking, or a satisfactory IELTS/TOEFL score. You’ll also be asked to indicate whether you intend to accept or decline the offer.

The Graduate School Office will provide you with information about accommodation and (if relevant) about the International Office. It is sensible to establish informal contact with your prospective supervisor via email or letter well ahead of arrival, and to arrange a date for a first meeting. Note that when you come to Warwick, you will be registered initially as an MPhil student. During the course of your studies, you will be formally upgraded to PhD registration after a monitoring procedure (see full details of this in the department’s MPhil/PhD Handbook, in the section Monitoring Progress).


There are a number of scholarships available for both Home/EU and international applicants, through a variety of University schemes:

The Department will nominate outstanding applicants for these awards. Your application for admission also forms your application for these scholarships, so please take the time to hone your research proposal. You should indicate on your application which, if any, scholarships you wish to be considered for.

The 2017 deadline for these scholarships has now passed.


The University library's Rare Books and Special Collections include early editions of Smollett, Swift, Scott, and Goethe, and is home to the Modern Records Centre The University campus is approx. 15 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon, home to the Royal Shakespeare Company and the largest publically-available collection of Shakespeare material in the world. We are also just over an hour from London, home to world-class museums, galleries, and the British Library - the largest library in the world.

Our graduate students are an important part of our teaching faculty, and for those progressing satisfactorily with their research there are opportunities to gain valuable teaching experience across a variety of undergraduate modules.