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PhD programmes – University of Reading

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PhD programmes

Canals of Venice, Italy


As a postgraduate research student in the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies at Reading, you will be part of a vibrant community. You will contribute to the Department's interdisciplinary research culture, and benefit from the mentoring provided by an integrated and supportive research community.


The Department of Modern Languages and European Studies offers a friendly and supportive environment to research students. The collaboration between the programmes of French, German, Italian and Spanish and Latin American studies within the Department, as well as with complementary departments within Reading, cognate departments in neighbouring universities, and foreign universities provides further opportunities for contact with other researchers. We have established doctoral partnership agreements with the University of Trieste and University of Naples 'L'Orientale, in Italy. Over the years, we have welcomed several doctoral scholars for study visits and internships from a variety of European countries including Italy, France, Switzerland, and Spain.

World-leading research

Colleagues in MLES have been consistently successful in grant capture, with projects funded by the AHRC, British Academy, ESCR, Marie Curie Action, and the Leverhulme Trust. Our performance in REF 2014 (Modern Languages submission) was exceptionally strong nationally in Impact (4th in UoA28), as well as in Research Intensity (5th nationally).

Our department's research is organized around the following research clusters:

  • Migration, Identity and Conflict
  • Intellectuals and Networks
  • Corpus, Manuscripts and Archives

Our research is interdisciplinary and archive-based, and it spans from the Middle Ages to the present. We cover French, Italian, German, Spanish and several related languages (Dutch, Catalan, Neo-Latin, medieval Occitan).

Colleagues in MLES contribute to several university centres: the Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies (GCMS); the Early Modern Research Centre (EMRC); the Centre for Film Aesthetics and Cultures (CFAC); the Centre for War and Conflict; the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM); the Centre for Collections-based Research; the Archive for East German Studies; the Beckett Institute.

The University of Reading's research strategy places MLES research within a Research Division embracing Modern Languages and Linguistics.


PhD opportunities


We offer flexible modes of study designed to fit with your needs. Our PhD is available for study on a full-time basis over 3-4 years and part-time over 5-6 years. Both full-time and part-time variants are available for study in Reading or working away.


Over the course of your PhD you will also be involved in opportunities to communicate your work and network with other researchers, present research papers at conferences and workshops, organize workshops and symposia, and visit or host researchers from elsewhere.


In the first two years of your degree course, you will benefit from a programme of relevant postgraduate courses which will be agreed between you and your supervisor/s as well as a programme of transferable skills organised by the Graduate School.

The Graduate School

All postgraduate research students automatically become members of the University-wide Graduate School. The Graduate School provides training, professional development, study space, advice and administrative support in a dedicated building for the postgraduate research community at Reading.


Our PhD students go on to work in academia as postdoctoral researchers and lecturers, but also quickly find employment in a variety of sectors such as publishing and the media; library-related services; advertising; and secondary school education.

PhD programmes: Detailed Offer Information

'Doing a PhD at Reading, you always have staff and other PhDs to ask questions, learn from and importantly have a bit of a laugh with now and again. I really have felt that no question is a stupid question. My supervisors have been absolutely great throughout my PhD, with regular meetings, useful advice, lots of encouragement, and help with keeping calm when life gets stressful!'

Nicola Thorn

Current PhD student


Research in the department is organised by language into several interdisciplinary research groups:


Research in French Studies staff has a wide chronological span, ranging from medieval and Renaissance to contemporary culture. Our research is deeply interdisciplinary and has strengths in Medieval cultures; Renaissance and Humanism; history of war and conflict; and contemporary literary cultures including Francophone literatures, theatre and children's literature. Staff in French Studies have served as Directors of the Graduate Centre of Medieval Studies (GCMS), and are active members of the Early Modern Research Centre (EMRC) and Centre for Film Aesthetics and Cultures (CFAC).

Research in French studies welcomes PhD applications in the following areas of critical inquiry:

  • Medieval and Renaissance literature (French, Occitan, Anglo-Norman, neo-Latin)
  • Modern French literature and culture, including women's writing and theatre
  • Children's literature in French
  • Francophone literatures, in particular of the Indian Ocean
  • Twentieth century history, including war and conflict studies
  • Twentieth century philosophical writing in French
  • Publishing History
  • Film Studies


All postdoctoral researchers and research students in French Studies are associated with 'Réseau-F' (formally called the 2001 Group), whose members currently include Reading, Exeter, Oxford Brookes, Queen Mary College, Southampton (lead institution), Surrey and Warwick (lead institution). Réseau-F holds regular study days at the different member institutions.

'My experience of doctoral research at Reading has been much more varied than writing my thesis alone at my desk. Thanks to the supportive MLES department, I have benefited from excellent guidance and fantastic teaching opportunities. Being funded by the SWW DTP has also been fantastic because it has provided me with the opportunity to create and edit Gendered Voices magazine, set up a research network, organise conferences, and meet other PhD students. Come to Reading and leave with so much more than a thesis!'

Maria Tomlinson

SWW DTP-funded PhD Student in French Studies

Find out about research in French Studies


Staff in German Studies cover a variety of disciplines and is focussed on cultural production from 19th century to the present. Historically, research in German Studies at Reading has benefited from the resources held in the Archive for East German Studies which continues to enrich research in the literary cultures and film history of the GDR. Staff at Reading are engaged in innovative research in literary cultures of modernity, film studies, linguistics, and translation studies:

  • Gender and narrative theory; twentieth-century German literature (especially Anna Seghers and Bertolt Brecht);
  • Film and literature of the GDR
  • Political and media discourse, silence and concealment, language and gender
  • Corpus linguistics and Critical Discourse Analysis
  • Translation studies, in particular the role of women in the translation of scientific texts
  • The translation and reception of Anglophone Modernist writing in German culture.

German Studies is host to the Archive for East German Studies, a unique resource with materials and journals detailing the politics and culture of the former GDR and post-unification East Germany. We collaborate closely with the Stiftung zur Aufarbeitung der SED-Diktatur, a government-funded foundation in Berlin that facilitates study of the East German regime and its legacy after the unification of 1990.

German Studies staff have successfully supervised PhD thesis in collaboration with the Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics and the Institute of Education on projects involving discourse analysis and corpus linguistics.

'I have really loved my PhD experience at Reading and I'm sad it's nearly over. The Modern Languages and European Studies Department is a hugely welcoming and supportive space, and my supervisor has always been there for guidance and advice about academic life more generally, as well as giving me great feedback on my thesis. There is a friendly wider PhD community and these last three years have been some of the most sociable and enjoyable years of my life.'

Sophie Payne

SWW DTP-funded PhD Student in German Studies

Find out about research in German Studies


Since its foundation, the Italian Studies research has been multi-disciplinary. It covers not only Italian literature from the Middle Ages to the present, but also film, linguistics and migration studies, and modern cultural history. Staff are active members of the Graduate Centre of Medieval Studies (GCMS), the Centre for Film Aesthetics and Cultures (CFAC), and the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CELM).

Italian Studies at Reading has a reputable PhD programme, attracting large numbers of postgraduate students from overseas as well as from this country. Several PhD graduates in Italian Studies from Reading have established academic positions in the UK, Italy, and the US.

Italian Studies at Reading is also the lead institution of a regional consortium providing postgraduate training in Italian Studies, together with Departments of Italian in Oxford, Cambridge, Royal Holloway University London, and University College London.

PhD students in Italian Studies at Reading have launched ReadingItaly a successful blog on topical issues in Italian Studies research.

Staff welcome PhD inquiries in the following areas of research activity:

  • Medieval literature and Dante
  • Nineteenth- and twentieth-century Italian literature and culture
  • Cultural and intellectual history
  • Publishing history and periodical studies (1860-present)
  • Italian cinema: Auteurs, Industry, Genres
  • History of the Italian Language, linguistics and dialectology
  • Migration studies: Media, Policies, Discourses
  • History of Literary Translation: Genres, Agents, Markets

'A PhD at University of Reading is the perfect starting point for the development of your skills (yes, even those you haven't previously thought about!) and a springboard for one's professional and academic future: the extensive range of training offered covers in fact both academic and non-academic aspects of your research project. For instance, I have organized an international symposium and an exhibition of rare archival material related to my thesis. I truly feel that the experience and the knowledge I have gained throughout my PhD could soon be transformed in practical skills for a career either inside or outside academia!'

Marta Pozzolo

SWW DTP-funded PhD in Italian Studies

Find out about research in Italian Studies


As a new subject to the University of Reading, the research of the Spanish and Latin American Studies strand of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies is essentially multi-disciplinary. It covers not only the cultural production of the Iberian Peninsula but also Latin American and Caribbean nations and their sociocultural realities, with research areas that encompass literary analysis as well as cultural studies approaches. Spanish and Latin American Studies at Reading is also founding links with colleagues in other departments and subject areas at the University, including the Henley Business School via LACRUS (Latin American and Caribbean Rural and Urban Studies Group).

Staff welcome PhD applications and inquiries in the following areas:

  • Modern and contemporary Spanish and Latin American literature
  • Spanish and Latin American popular culture
  • Literary and print culture in Spain and Latin America
  • Cuban literature and culture
  • Realism in Spanish literature

'I had never planned on doing a PhD until a few weeks before it started, and I never would have made it through those chaotic first few weeks and months (and the years since) without the incredible support of my supervisor. She has provided invaluable guidance at every step, whilst still always challenging me and pushing me to believe in the strength of my work. Although at first I was timid about meeting other researchers, I've also made some great friends at Reading through the postgraduate events run by the Graduate School and RU DocSoc'

Miranda Lickert

Leverhulme-funded PhD student in Latin American Studies



Researcher development programme

Graduate School homepage

How To Apply

Our postgraduate taught offer

PhD programmes: Detailed Offer Information




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