SOAS University of London

School of Arts

Research Degrees (MPhil/PhD) English (2020 entry)

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This research degree provides advanced training and research at doctoral level in English. The programme will be focussed on literary and interdisciplinary approaches to colonial and postcolonial studies. Staff expertise includes regional specialisms in South Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. English at SOAS ranges across the globe, with cutting-edge research in fiction, auto/biography, poetry, world literatures (especially literatures of the South), translation studies, critical theory, textual criticism. The programme emphasises intersections across the arts and humanities, especially in visual and sound cultures, cultural geographies, archives, and medical humanities.

Programme Code: N2Z1 (Full-Time) & N2ZA (Part-Time)

Start of programme: 2020

Mode of Attendance: Full-time or Part-time

Who is this programme for?:

The programme will offer a research pathway for English graduates in the School of Arts, with both traditional and creative-critical approaches, giving students an opportunity to develop their work across disciplines (including Music, History of Art, Film, Media) in a congenial and rigorous research environment.

Entry requirements

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Fees 2020/21

UK/EU fees:
Overseas fees:

Fees for 2020/21 entrants. The fees are per academic year. Please note that fees go up each year. Further details can be found in the Fees and Funding tab on this page or in the Registry Postgraduate Tuition Fees page



New students will be supervised by a panel of two academics consisting of a lead supervisor and a second supervisor. Occasionally a third supervisor may be appointed.

Lead supervisors will usually be located in the Centre for English Studies while second and third supervisors can be located in any of the SOAS Departments or Centres. Beyond this, the department research tutor has overall responsibility for SOAS research students, being available to discuss general problems.

The first, second and (if relevant) third supervisors form the students’ supervisory committee.

Current SOAS PhD students wishing to transfer to the PhD English programme who enrolled before 2018-19 and have a supervisory committee of 3 members will retain a 3 person supervisory committee after the transfer.

In year 1, students are required to follow a course of research training organised across the School of Arts, which will include dedicated break-out sessions for English. 

Students will also be encouraged by their supervisors to attend additional taught courses relevant to their research and training needs. These may be located in the home Centre or in other parts of the School of Arts or the School more widely. 

An annual research and training plan will be agreed by the primary supervisor and research student.

Students are expected to attend departmental and relevant research seminars at SOAS and across the University of London.

English staff and doctoral students are actively involved in organising conferences, writing and editing for journals, and curating exhibitions.

In term 3 of Year 1 (full-time) or term 3 of Year 2 (part-time), students submit a Research Proposal/Upgrade Paper of about 12,000 words, typically including the following elements:


  • Research rationale and context of proposed research
  • Main research questions
  • Literature review
  • Theoretical and methodological framework & considerations
  • Proposed research methods
  • Ethical issues (where applicable)
  • Work Plan and Budget
  • Bibliography

Adjustments to one or more of these sections, including additions or deletions where appropriate, are possible by prior arrangement between the student and supervisory committee.

This research proposal/upgrade paper is assessed by the student’s supervisory committee in an oral exam (viva voce), lasting up to one hour. Prior to the viva voce, the student will have presented an earlier version of the research proposal/upgrade paper in a departmental research seminar, involving a 20 minute oral presentation, followed by a discussion, also open to other staff and students.

On successful completion of the viva voce, students are formally upgraded to PhD and proceed to the second year (full-time) or third year (part-time).

If the assessors consider there to be shortcomings in the research proposal/upgrade paper, a student will be asked to revise it to their satisfaction before the upgrade to PhD status can be confirmed. Students are not permitted to proceed to the next year or to fieldwork until the upgrade process has been completed.

The thesis must be in English, not be more than 100,000 words, excluding bibliography and appendix, be reflective of the investigation carried out whilst a postgraduate research student and form a distinct contribution to the knowledge of the subject as set out in SOAS Postgraduate Research Degree Regulations.

Submission of the thesis is normally expected by the end of the third year, but when justified up to an additional three terms of enrolment may be agreed to enable the completion of writing-up of the thesis.

Students may not submit their thesis after four years of full-time registration (seven years for part-time) have elapsed.

Examination is by a minimum of two independent examiners at least one of whom is external to SOAS. Examination consists of an assessment of the thesis and a viva voce covering the thesis and the research upon which it is based.

Students successfully completing the programme are awarded a PhD in English

Students who do not meet the requisite standard to achieve a PhD may, if they meet the requirements set out in SOAS Postgraduate Research Degree Regulations, be awarded an MPhil English.

Notice for MPhil Upgrades, 2020

As previously advised in Doctoral School circulars, due to the current health crisis we will not be holding a School of Arts Upgrade symposium this year. MPhil students should submit the Upgrade portfolio on PhD Manager by May 15 to ensure timely reporting on the outcome to the Doctoral School by June 15. Extensions to this date can be granted in consultation with supervisors and the School of Arts Director of Doctoral Studies, Ashley Thompson, keeping in mind that we seek to keep students on track for progression mid-September whenever possible. Students should inform the Doctoral School of any extensions organised in this way by sending an email to:

Important notice

The information on the programme page reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session. If you are a current student you can find structure information on the previous year link at the top of the page or through your Department. Please read the important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.

Teaching and Learning

Fees and funding

Tuition Fees

Full details of postgraduate research tuition fees can be found on the Registry's Postgraduate Research Tuition Fees page.

Fees for 2020/21 entrants. The fees below are per academic year. Please note that fees go up each year. 

Research Degrees Full-time  Part-time 
UK/EU Overseas UK/EU Overseas
MPhil/PhD £4,440 £19,050 £2,220 £9,525
Extension of Writing-up Status - 3 Terms £990 £990 £990 £990
Visiting Research Students (charged pro rata for termly attendance) £4,440 £19,050 -  -

For further details and information on external scholarships visit the Scholarships section


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