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 and apply for 2022 entry.

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

How and when do I apply?

Please read the guidance from the subject area of your PhD. 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: Dr Xuelei Huang 

Celtic and Scottish Studies

PhD in Celtic and Scottish Studies

Enquiries: Professor Rob Dunbar

English Literature

PhDs in English Literature or Creative Writing

Enquiries: Professor Andrew Taylor 

European Languages and Cultures

PhDs in French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Portguese & Latin American (Hispanic) Studies, Scandinavian Studies, and Comparative Literature

Enquiries: Dr Jessica Gordon-Burroughs

Film and Theatre

PhDs in Film Studies or European Theatre

Enquiries: Dr David Sorfa

Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies

PhD in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies

Enquiries: Dr Anthony Gorman

Translation Studies

PhD in Translation Studies

Enquiries: Dr Mavis Ho


We also 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


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 2022 are now OPEN.

Take me to Degree Finder

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

Take a virtual tour of the central campus, and explore what it's like to study and live in Edinburgh through vlogs, photos, and more.

Get in touch

As a response to COVID-19, many of us are working on a hybrid basis - a mixture of on-campus and digitally.

Our working hours are Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm BST.

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

Email our Postgraduate Research Office

You may also be interested in the University's Online Mini Open Days which run monthly throughout the year.

Take me to listings for future Online Mini Open Days on the University of Edinburgh website

QS World Rankings by Subject 2022

Rocket graphic with 3 UK and World Top 10 in bubbles

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 English Language and Literature (8), Arts & Humanities (9) and Modern Languages (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 pages for continuing PhD students.

Take me to content for continuing 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