Postgraduate study

Korean Studies PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Placements/internships

Programme website: Korean Studies

The Korean peninsula lies at the centre of landmark geopolitical developments in the early 21st century. A PhD in Korean Studies is an opportunity to expand upon your interests and expertise in the two Koreas in a community that really values research, and to make an original, positive contribution to learning in this area.

Join our community and undertake a specialised research project under the guidance of experienced and well-published supervisors. Part of an Asian Studies department with a unique combination of disciplinary expertise in Korean Studies, Japanese, Chinese, and East Asian Relations, we have particular strengths in history, society and culture, economics, urban studies, security, public policy, political science, and international relations.

Working with colleagues elsewhere in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, and across the wider University, we are able to support PhD theses crossing boundaries between languages and/or disciplines, including comparative literature, film studies, and translation studies.

Over the course of your PhD, you’ll be expected to complete an original body of work under the expert guidance of your supervisors leading to a dissertation of between 70,000 and 100,000 words. You will be awarded your doctorate if your thesis is judged to be of an appropriate standard, and your research makes a definite contribution to knowledge.

Although not mandatory, you will be encouraged to take on an internship in either the UK or South Korea. Potential partners may include the East Asia Institute, Asan Institute for Policy Studies, Seoul National University Asia Centre and the Yun Posun Democracy institute in South Korea.

As a PhD student, you may be actively involved in organising international events such as conferences and workshops hosted by Korean Studies. During the programme you will also have the opportunity to attend professional development events and training, aiming to equip you with research and other transferable skills.

This programme includes optional training on research skills, methods and problems.

Between the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC), the Careers Service and the Institute for Academic Development (IAD), you’ll find a further range of programmes and resources to help you develop your postgraduate skills, as well as having access to the University’s fantastic libraries, collections and worldwide strategic partnerships.

Part of a community

As part of our research community, you will be immersed in a world of knowledge exchange, with lots of opportunities to share ideas, learning and creative work. Activities range from a regular seminar series in Asian Studies (with talks by staff, research students and visiting speakers) to the annual Korean Film Festival, and year-round screenings and workshops. We also play a key role in the yearly symposium held in honour of Edinburgh alumnus Yun Posun, bringing together leading scholars from South Korea, Europe and beyond.

Our graduates tell us that they value LLC’s friendliness, the connections they make here and the in-depth guidance they receive from our staff, who are published experts in their field.

Based in the Main University Library, the Centre for Research Collections is unique in the UK, bringing together a collection of more than 400,000 rare books, six kilometres of archives and manuscripts, and the University’s collections of art, historical musical instruments and other objects.

Notable collections include the East Asian Studies Collection of some 50,000 print and digital resources, including a dedicated Korea Collection supported by the Korea Foundation.

As a PhD candidate here, you will be based at the heart of the University of Edinburgh in a world-leading festival city with a thriving East Asian cultural scene. Many important collections are a short walk from our buildings, including those in the National Library, Museum and Galleries of Scotland.

You will acquire an interdisciplinary understanding of the major issues in Korean society, politics, culture, economy and international relations, and history and will be able to relate those to broader social, political and economic trends in the East Asian region and globally. Drawing on different analytical and methodological tools, you will be able to engage various disciplinary and theoretical perspectives and apply concepts to empirical cases.

You will gain the necessary knowledge and skills to analyse, compare and assess competing claims and make informed judgements about them. You will additionally gain transferable skills, including analysis presentation, communication, the use of new technologies in a learning environment, and team work.

Having acquired the tools to analyse and understand the complexities of the two Koreas and East Asian relations in a global context, you could apply your skills in professional areas, such as diplomacy, national and international organisations, and research institutions. If you choose to pursue a career in an alternative field, you will find the skills you gain in research, communication, presentation and analysis will give you an edge in the competitive employment marketplace.

A UK 2:1 honours degree and a masters degree, or their international equivalents, in a related subject. We may also consider your application if you have equivalent qualifications or experience; please check with your potential supervisor before you apply.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

For 2021 entry we will accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS: total 7.0 (at least 6.5 in each module)
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition): total 100 (at least 23 in each module). We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 176 in each module)
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about our language requirements:

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhD3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhD6 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

There are a number of scholarship schemes available to eligible candidates on this PhD programme, including awards from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Edinburgh.

Please be advised that many scholarships have more than one application stage, and early deadlines.

*(Revised 27 November 2020 to update featured funding information.)

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures
  • 50 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LH

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. We may consider late applications if we have places available, but you should contact the relevant Admissions Office for advice first.

You must submit two references with your application.

The online application process involves the completion of a web form and the submission of supporting documents.

For a PhD programme, you should include:

  • a sample of written work of about 3,000 words (this can be a previous piece of work from an undergraduate or masters degree)
  • a research proposal - a detailed description of what you hope to achieve and how

You will also need to supply two references.

Before you apply, you should also look at the interests and expertise of our research community on the programme website. This will help you decide if this programme is right for you and your supervision needs.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures
  • 50 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LH