PhD in English Literature Oxford University

Last Updated on September 2, 2023

PhD in English Literature ‍at Oxford University: A Journey Towards Academic⁣ Excellence


Oxford University, renowned for its‌ historical significance​ and academic prestige, offers a unique opportunity to pursue⁢ a PhD in‌ English Literature. This esteemed program attracts aspiring scholars from all over the world, providing an unrivaled platform for intellectual growth and the exploration of literary texts spanning centuries. ‍In this article, ⁢we delve into the distinctive features ​of pursuing a PhD in English Literature at Oxford University, highlighting the program’s rigorous academic framework, research opportunities, and ⁢the remarkable ‌cultural environment that fosters literary scholarship.

Program Overview:

Enrolling in the‌ PhD in English Literature program ‍at Oxford University ‍immerses candidates in a world-class academic experience. With faculty members⁣ boasting exceptional expertise and a rich literary heritage,⁢ the program‌ sets high⁢ standards for research
A Day in the Life of a PHD English Student - Oxford Scholastica

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The DPhil in English is intended to develop the skills and understanding necessary to undertake and present original research at a high level, and provide a thorough foundation for a career in research.
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The DPhil in English is intended to develop the skills and understanding necessary to undertake and present original research at a high level, and provide a thorough foundation for a career in research.

Oxford’s Faculty of English Language and Literature is the largest English department in the UK, with over 300 graduate students. The faculty has a very distinguished research and teaching record covering all periods of English literature.

The faculty’s taught master’s courses are designed to serve both as autonomous degrees and as a solid foundation for the pursuit of more advanced research in literature in Oxford or elsewhere. One of the special features of these courses is that, unlike many master’s programmes, they offer you the opportunity to pursue topics across period boundaries if you so wish.

Research in English at Oxford covers a wide range of work in literature and language over all periods to the present. The Faculty has a lively programme of research seminars in which staff and students have the opportunity to give papers on their work, and to meet specialists from other universities and institutions from the UK and abroad.

Course structure

DPhil in English | University of Oxford

Under the guidance of your supervisor, you will complete a thesis of 80,000 to 100,000 words. A typical term will involve a great deal of independent research, punctuated by meetings with the supervisor who will be able to suggest direction and address concerns throughout the writing process. 

In addition you will have the opportunity to attend a wide range of classes, seminars and lectures in order to learn bibliographic and research skills, interact with other researchers or gain new perspectives on your work. You may also be encouraged to attend the research skills courses available as part of the master’s (MSt) programme, depending how much of this training has been covered previously.

The English Faculty is not responsible for providing teaching opportunities for research students as most undergraduate teaching in Oxford is organized by individual colleges. Teaching is not a compulsory part of the DPhil. But research students may wish to gain some teaching experience, so long as it does not interfere with their own progress. Those research students who wish to gain teaching experience are invited to attend Faculty-run preparatory teaching workshops and seminars, as well as enrolling on a Teaching Mentor Scheme. 

Research Proposals

The following remarks are intended to help those applying for a place to study for the PhD, as well as those applying for a place on one of the Faculty’s MPhil courses. They are also intended to help with subsequent applications to funding bodies. For further details on available funding see ‘Funding for Home and EU Students’ or ‘Funding for Overseas Students’.


Introducing our courses | University of Oxford

The Research Proposal

An MPhil research proposal should be 500 words long while a PhD proposal should be 800 words long. It needs to give those assessing your application an impression of the strength and originality of your proposed research, and its potential to make a contribution to knowledge. It should be written in clear, jargon-free, and unexceptionable prose. Grammatical mistakes and typographical errors give a very bad impression. You should make sure you cover the following areas (without explicitly dividing the proposal into headings):

  • the research topic
    briefly outline the area and topic of your research.
  • the research context
    relate your proposed research to other work in its field or related fields, and indicate in what ways your research will differ; you might mention monographs on the subject, as well as important theoretical models or methodological exemplars: this is a chance to show your understanding of the background against which your research will be defined.
  • the contribution you will make
    this is your chance to show how you have arrived at your position and recognised the need for your research, and what it is that makes it both new and important; you should indicate what areas and debates it will have an impact on, what methodological example it sets (if appropriate) – in short how it contributes to knowledge and to the practice of our subject. Give examples of the sort of evidence you might consider, and of the questions it might help you to raise. Show that you are already thinking about the area in detail and not only in outline.
  • your methods
    in some cases there will be little to say here, but if there is something striking about your methodology, you should explain it.
  • the sources and resources you will use
    you should delimit your field of enquiry, showing where the project begins and ends; in certain cases, Cambridge will have unique collections and resources of central relevance to your project, and you should mention these.
  • how the project will develop
    you might indicate some of the possible ways in which the project could develop, perhaps by giving a broader or narrower version depending on what materials and issues you uncover

You may find it helpful to look at the following examples of successful research proposals.

  • MPhil – American Literature
  • MPhil – Criticism and Culture
  • MPhil – 18th Century and Romantic MPhil
  • MPhil – Medieval
  • MPhil – Renaissance
  • PhD 1
  • PhD 2
  • PhD 3
  • PhD 4

It is vital that you show that your research is necessary. It is not enough that it happens to interest you. You should make clear that it will be of use and interest to others working in your field, or on a particular author, or indeed in neighboring fields. You should show how your work will make a contribution to knowledge and to the practice of our subject.

MA by Research in English

What is a DPhil? It's a PhD, full stop. Read on for more… | by Graduate  Study at Oxford | Aug, 2020 | Medium | Applying for graduate study at Oxford

This MA by Research in English provides an excellent opportunity for students to obtain a Masters qualification focussed on a research project of particular interest to themselves, whilst benefitting from all the facilities, training, research seminars and support at Oxford Brookes University.

The School of English and Modern Languages at Oxford Brookes offers research expertise from the early modern period up to the present day. Our work encompasses a wide range of interests, from literature (including Drama and American Literature), through visual culture, to critical theory and politics. The Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre hosted by the School of English and Modern Languages is also a source of academic expertise and research.

The main research areas relevant to this degree are:

  • Poetry and Poetics
  • Ecology and Ecocriticism
  • Medicine, Science, Technology and Literature
  • Comparative Literature
  • Communities
  • Postcolonialism
  • Modernism
  • Early Modern Drama
  • The Contemporary Novel
  • Textual Scholarship and Editorial Practice
  • Theatre practice and Performance-as-Research
  • Creative Writing
  • Cognitive Poetics
  • Witchcraft and the Supernatural
  • Life Writing
  • Utopia and Utopianism

Programme structure

The MA by Research in English builds on the School’s expertise to give you a unique and clearly focussed programme of study. You will have the opportunity to develop a high level of subject knowledge, together with the ability to develop and undertake independent research in your own particular area of interest. The programme will be attractive to applicants seeking to pursue intellectual interests beyond first degree level for further personal or professional development. The MA route is also designed to prepare you to undertake further research at MPhil or PhD level.

At the heart of the MA by Research is the close working relationship between candidate and supervisor. While the final thesis must be the candidate’s independent work, it is the supervisor who offers advice on refining the topic (if necessary), on primary sources, on secondary reading, on research techniques and on writing the final thesis. Supervisors and candidates meet frequently throughout the year, and not less than twice a term.

Research Training

Graduate Admissions | Faculty of English

You will also receive training in research methods and skills appropriate to the stage they have reached and the nature of their work. This includes:

  • guidance on planning and writing your thesis
  • using bibliographic and archival resources (both electronic and printed)
  • handling research data
  • making conference presentations
  • preparing and submitting material for publication

You will embark on a substantial piece of independent research (an MA thesis of up to 30,000 words) guided by your supervisor in regular meetings. A shorter assessment of 5,000 words, conceived as a formative essay precedes the dissertation in the programme. A viva voce examination is held at the end.

University of Oxford International Acceptance Rate

Oxford is one of the most international universities in the world. Today, one-third of its students, including 17% of undergraduates, are international citizens and come from over 150 countries. Oxford welcomes applications from international students. 

Applicants to Cambridge in 2016 had a 26% chance of getting in – with applicants to Oxford having just a 17% chance of success.

Application Guide

This guide explains how to apply for graduate study at Oxford, including how to complete the application form and provide supporting documents.

1. Starting your application

This section covers when to apply, how to start an application, and how to complete the first two tabs of the application form.

  • Deadlines and when to apply
  • How to apply
  • Choosing an application type
  • The ‘Course’ tab
  • College preference

2. Your details

This section covers how to complete the following two tabs of the application form:

  • Contact details
  • About you

3. References

This section of the Application Guide covers how to provide references as part of your application.  

  • Choosing and registering your referees
  • Tracking your references
  • Adding or changing a referee

4. Qualifications, languages and funding

This section covers how to complete the ‘Qualifications’, ‘Languages’ and ‘Funding’ tabs of the application form, and our requirements for English language proficiency:

  • Qualifications
  • Extenuating circumstances
  • English language proficiency
  • English language test waivers
  • Funding

5. Supporting documents

This section explains how to complete the ‘Supporting Documents’ tab of the application form, and the requirements for supporting documents.

  • Requirements
  • Official transcript
  • Statement of purpose / research proposal
  • Written work
  • Other documents

6. Declaration and payment

This section explains how to complete the ‘Declaration’ tab of the application form and pay the application fee.

  • Submitting your application
  • The application fee
  • Application fee waivers (low-income countries)
  • Application fee waivers (low-income UK backgrounds)
  • Application fee waivers (Oxford PGT students)
  • Application fee waivers (related courses)

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