Postgraduate study

Comparative Literature PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Comparative Literature

Doctorate-level study is an opportunity to expand upon your interests and expertise in a community that really values research; and to make an original, positive contribution to Comparative Literature.

As the first UNESCO World City of Literature, and a major cultural hub, Edinburgh is the ideal place to study literary works of different linguistic and cultural systems, and to explore the relationship between literature and the other arts. In the course of your research, you will look comparatively at one or more literary themes, genres or historical periods.

Our programme draws on the expertise of staff from across the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC). Literature has been taught here for over 250 years and we offer one of the widest variety of languages of any UK university, particularly within European Languages and Cultures which comprises:

  • French and Francophone Studies
  • German
  • Italian
  • Russian Studies
  • Scandinavian Studies (Danish, Norwegian and Swedish)
  • Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies (Hispanic Studies)

Join our community and undertake a specialised research project under the guidance of experienced and well-published supervisors. We have particular strengths in:

  • European and world literature
  • Intermediality

Working with colleagues elsewhere in LLC, and across the wider University of Edinburgh, we are able to support PhD theses crossing boundaries between languages and/or disciplines, including film and theatre studies.

Over the course of your PhD, you will be expected to complete an original body of work under the expert guidance of your supervisors leading to a dissertation of usually between 80,000 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.

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 will find a further range of programmes and resources to help you develop your postgraduate skills.

You will also have access to the University’s fantastic libraries, collections and worldwide strategic partnerships.

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.

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 talks by visiting speakers and work-in-progress seminars, to reading groups, conferences, workshops, performances, online journals and forums, many of which are led by PhD candidates.

We have excellent links with Edinburgh’s European institutions, including the Institut français, Istituto Italiano di Cultura Edimburgo and the Consulado General de España en Edimburgo, as well as the organisers of the International, Fringe, Book and Film Festivals.

A UNESCO World City of Literature, Edinburgh contains exceptional resources for study and research in Comparative Literature.

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. Many of its Special Collections are digitised and available online.

Several important collections are a short walk from our buildings, including those in the National Museum, Galleries and Library of Scotland, which is particularly strong in French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish material.

Nearby theatres, museums, galleries and cinemas include the Traverse Theatre, Stills Gallery (Scotland’s Centre for Photography), Scottish Storytelling Centre, and Filmhouse.

These entry requirements are for the 2022/23 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2023/24 academic year will be published on 3 October 2022.

A UK masters degree, or its international equivalent, in a related subject.

If you intend to undertake aspects of the programme in any languages other than English, you should be competent in those languages.

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

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified*:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 23 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • CAE and CPE: total 185 with at least 176 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: 70 overall with at least 62 in each component.

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, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

(*Revised 17 November 2021 to add accepted PTE Academic qualifications.)

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.

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

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures
  • 50 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LH
Programme start dates Application deadlines
12 September 2022 31 July 2022
9 January 2023 31 October 2022

If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

You must submit two references with your application.

Pre-application guidance

Before you formally apply for this PhD, you should look at the pre-application information and guidance on the programme website.

This will help you decide if this programme is right for you, and help us gain a clearer picture of what you hope to achieve.

The guidance will also give you practical advice for writing your research proposal – one of the most important parts of your application.

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