Literatures, Languages & Cultures

PhD programmes

Develop your original ideas in a supportive community of researchers.

Why take a PhD in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures?

Doctorate-level study is an opportunity to expand upon your interests and expertise in a community that really values research and seeks to make an original, positive contribution to learning in the arts and humanities.

As one of the largest and most diverse Schools in the University of Edinburgh, our research environment is the ideal place to challenge yourself and share your ideas with others.

You will be supervised by at least two members of academic staff, and there are many ways in which you can collaborate with the wider School community, from regular research and work-in-progress seminars to conferences, workshops and online journals and forums. We are also home to a number of established research centres and networks.

Between the School, the Careers Service and the Institute for Academic Development, you will find a range of programmes and resources to help you develop your doctorate-level skills. Our PhD student community is also highly active, running reading groups and other meet-ups to support each other through the opportunities and challenges of PhD life.

PhD study at a glance

  • Over the course of your PhD, you will be expected to complete an original body of work - your thesis - culminating in a dissertation of around 80,000 words which you'll defend in an oral examination (viva voce).
  • You will study for a minimum of 36 months (three years). If you’d like to study part-time, you may take up to 72 months (six years) to complete your PhD; eligiblity criteria apply.
  • You will be supervised by at least two members of academic staff with expertise in your area of research. 
  • You will typically be based at the heart of the University of Edinburgh, in the city’s historic centre, close to the Main University Library and the National Library of Scotland. Our in-house facilities include a dedicated Postgraduate Study Room, and our festival city, the first UNESCO World City of Literature, is a treasure trove of cinemas, theatres, music venues, museums, galleries and collections.

What can I study?

All links in our table take you to the University of Edinburgh's online Degree Finder, where you can find out more about what's involved in each PhD.

Celtic and Scottish Studies Chinese
Comparative Literature Creative Writing
East Asian Studies English Literature
European Theatre Film Studies
French German
Intermediality  Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies
Italian Japanese
Korean Medieval Studies
Russian Scandinavian Studies
Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American (Hispanic) Studies Translation Studies

Be inspired!

If you'd like to see what our current PhD students are up to, including what their thesis title is and who is supervising them, check out our directory.

Browse our directory of current PhD research

How and when do I apply?

You apply for your programme through the University of Edinburgh’s online Degree Finder and its associated application service, EUCLID.

To increase your chances of being eligible for a range of scholarships and other awards, you are strongly encouraged to apply for your PhD as early as possible.

Applications to start a PhD programme in September 2024 are now open.

Take me to Degree Finder

Before applying, we suggest that you read the University’s general guide to applying for Postgraduate Study, which includes advice on:

  • entrance requirements
  • writing a personal statement
  • choosing your referees
  • writing a research proposal, and more

Take me to the guide to applying for Postgraduate Study on the University of Edinburgh website

We also suggest you read any guidance published by the subject area where your PhD will be based. We welcome interdisciplinary applications that cross subject areas – in this case, begin by choosing what you consider to be the most relevant area for your research project:

Asian Studies

PhD/MScR in Asian Studies

Enquiries: Professor Natascha Gentz

Celtic and Scottish Studies

PhD in Celtic and Scottish Studies

Enquiries: Dr Anja Gunderloch

English Literature

PhDs in English Literature or Creative Writing

Enquiries: Dr Aaron Kelly

European Languages and Cultures

PhDs in French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese & Latin American (Hispanic) Studies, Scandinavian Studies, Comparative Literature, Intermediality, and European Theatre.

Enquiries: Dr Jessica Gordon-Burroughs

Film Studies

PhDs in Film Studies

Enquiries: Dr David Sorfa

Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies

PhD in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies

Enquiries: Dr Ebtihal Mahadeen 

Translation Studies

PhD in Translation Studies

Enquiries: Translation Studies


Fees and funding

Fees are determined by your nationality and the country where you are ‘ordinarily resident’. When applying for a programme, you should take into account that fees increase each year.

Find out more about fees for PhD study on the University's Tuition Fees website

Postgraduate study can be expensive, and the funding available is highly competitive. Many scholarship schemes have early deadlines so, to increase your chances of being eligible for a range of scholarships and other awards, you are strongly encouraged to apply for your PhD as early as possible.

Find out more about funding for PhD study

Visit us... virtually

Thinking of joining us? Explore what it's like to live and study in Edinburgh.

Get in touch

Many of us work on a hybrid basis - a mixture of on-campus and digitally.

Our working hours are Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm (UK time).

Please email us in the first instance, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

Email our Postgraduate Research Office

Research Excellence Framework 2021

Graphic saying Top 5 in the UK for the quality and breadth of our research

The University of Edinburgh is ranked Top 5 in the UK for research in Modern Languages and in English Literature.

As reported in Times Higher Education, the rankings are based on the quality and breadth of our research in Modern Languages and the overall quality of our research in English Literature.

They come from the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021) – the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.

Read more about our performance in REF 2021

QS World Rankings by Subject 2023

Graphic with the text #3 in the UK, World Top 10

The University of Edinburgh is ranked 3rd in the UK for Modern Languages and for English Language and Literature.

We are also 3rd in the UK in the broad subject area of Arts & Humanities.

Globally, we’re in the World Top 10 for Modern Languages (7), English Language and Literature (9) and Arts & Humanities (10).

The Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings are based on research citations and the results of major global surveys of employers and academics.

They are International Ranking Expert Group (IREG) approved.

Are you currently studying with us?

There’s lots more information on our LLC Student Information Hub. You will need your student log in to access the site.

Take me to the LLC Student Information Hub

Take me straight to...

Information for current PhD students

Related links

Research centres and networks in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures

The Institute of Academic Development resources for doctoral researchers