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PhD programmes – University of Reading

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PhD programmes

Become part of a large and vibrant community, and work alongside a thriving group of postdoctoral researchers.

As a postgraduate research student in the Department of Languages and Cultures at the University Reading, you will become 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.

An introduction to the department

The Department of Languages and Cultures 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.

"My supervisor is of pivotal importance during my PhD journey. Although she gives me guidance when appropriate, she also gives me the space and confidence to grow as a writer and researcher and to discover my own answers to theoretical challenges. On a practical level, although there are challenges involved in my status both as a working away student with limited access to the University, and, as part-time student in full-time work, Par meets my needs with flexibility and understanding."

Emma Jackson, PhD Researcher

World-leading research

Colleagues in the Department are 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 in Impact (4th in the UK) and Research Intensity (5th in the UK). We were also commended for the effective integration of doctoral students into our research environment.

Our department's research is organised 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 the Department contribute to several university centres:

  • the Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies
  • the Early Modern Research Centre
  • the Centre for Film Aesthetics and Cultures
  • the Centre for War and Conflict
  • the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism
  • the Centre for Collections-based Research
  • the Archive for East German Studies
  • the Beckett Institute.

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


What we offer

We offer flexible modes of study designed to fit with your needs. Our PhD is available for study on a full-time basis over three years and part-time over four to six years. Both full-time and part-time variants are available for study in Reading, or at a distance for students who live outside the UK.


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, organise 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.


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.

"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, PhD Researcher

Have an idea for a research proposal?

If you already have an idea for a research proposal, please take a look at our staff profiles to find the right supervisor for you. You can email them directly before you submit a full proposal.

Languages areas

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

French studies

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).

"My experience of doctoral research at Reading has been much more varied than writing my thesis alone at my desk. Thanks to the supportive Languages and Cultures 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,a SWW DTP-funded PhD Researcher in French Studies

German 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.

    "I have really loved my PhD experience at Reading and I'm sad it's nearly over. The Languages and Cultures 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, a SWW DTP-funded PhD Researcher in German Studies

Italian Studies

Since its foundation, 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).

"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, a SWW DTP-funded PhD Researcher in Italian Studies

Spanish and Latin American studies

The research of the Spanish and Latin American studies strand of the Department of Languages and Cultures 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).

"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, a Leverhulme-funded PhD Researcher in Latin American Studies


In many ways, Translation is at the heart of research in Modern Languages. Modern Languages researchers are always also cultural and linguistic mediators. As a field of enquiry, Translation Studies looks at processes and techniques of cross-linguistic and cross-cultural mediation. We offer expertise in Translation Studies both for more linguistics or discourse focused projects as well as for those looking into literary translation across languages taught in the Department. Our research expertise spans a range of literary genres and periods across different languages as well as (transnational) literary movements and networks and research into publishing. We also have expertise in linguistics and discourse analysis across different modes, domains and media.

PhD in Comparative and Intercultural Studies

This PhD programme accommodates researchers with a background in literary studies, culture studies or linguistics, with knowledge of cultures and languages in addition to English, and with an interest in comparative and intercultural studies. Research projects within this programme can include comparative literature and cultural transfer, cross-linguistic comparison of discourses and language use as well as intercultural communication. It is underpinned by related research expertise of staff in and across English Literature, English Language and Applied Linguistics as well as in the Department of Languages and Cultures.

What to do next

If you are interested in pursuing a PhD project in the Department of Languages and Cultures, please get in contact to discuss your ideas and possible application with the Director for Postgraduate Research in the Department of Languages and Cultures, Dr Melani Schroeter:

Further information

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