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(Study in London)

Part time
​(Study in London)

Full time
​(Distance Learning)

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​(Distance Learning)

Undertaking doctoral research allows you to develop in-depth knowledge, while making a meaningful contribution to your chosen field.

With guidance from our expert supervisors, you'll carry out extensive independent research culminating in a thesis of up to 100,000 words. Broadly speaking the area covered by the Institute’s expertise is French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese studies; Literature; Cultural studies; and, Comparative and interdisciplinary studies are also available in a number of subject areas.

This degree presents the opportunity to gain expertise in your area of interest while also honing a range of transferable skills. On completing this course, you'll be well prepared for specialist career paths both within academia and beyond.


Subject Areas and Supervision

The Institute of Modern Languages Research offers doctoral research supervision in the following broad areas:

  • French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese studies
  • Literatures in a Modern Langauae
  • Cultural studies

Comparative and interdisciplinary studies are available in:

  • Borders
  • Cities and cultures
  • Comparative/World literature
  • Exile writing
  • Film and cultural studies
  • French and Francophone studies
  • Gender and sexuality
  • German philosophy
  • German studies
  • Iberian and Latin American studies
  • Italian studies
  • Jewish writing
  • Literary translation
  • Memory studies
  • Photography and memory in Latin America
  • Women's writing

Before submitting an application you are advised to contact a member of the Institute's academic staff who has interests in your proposed field of study to discuss your proposal. A list of academic staff and their interests can be found here.

The Institute of Modern Languages Research

The Institute is committed to initiating, facilitating, and promoting dialogue and research for the Modern Languages community both nationally and internationally. It fosters and contributes to national and international collaborative, cross-disciplinary, and cross-cultural research through seminars, lectures, workshops, colloquia, conferences, a fellowships programme, and its five research centres.

The Institute's research strength lies in its combination of the study of several language fields: French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.

Its academic staff specialise in literature, cultural studies, history of ideas and comparative studies: the city (especially Berlin, Trieste), borders, the body, psychoanalysis, gender and sexuality, feminism, women's writing, Jewish writing, exile writing, children's literature, etc.

Because of its function as a centre for academic events in European culture, the Institute has national and international contacts with researchers in its fields. The Insitute is thus particularly well placed to offer supervision for projects that cross national and disciplinary boundaries.

The School of Advanced Study

The School of Advanced Study at the University of London brings together nine internationally renowned research institutes to form the UK's national centre for the support of researchers and the promotion of research in the humanities.

Course Structure

Full-time study for the PhD degree entails three or a maximum of four years' independent research, culminating in the writing of a thesis of not more than 100,000 words. Part-time students complete the same programme in five, or a maximum of six years.

After submission of the thesis, you will attend an oral examination conducted by an internal examiner, from the University of London, and an external examiner, normally from another British university.

There is no formal coursework, but you will be expected to participate in a weekly seminar on Work in Progress and to present a paper every year from their second year onwards. In your first year you are required to attend a weekly class on Techniques of Scholarship. You are also encouraged to participate in the regular seminars held at the Institute during the academic year.

Distance Learning

The School of Advanced Study will offer students with an appropriate topic and level of local resource the opportunity to undertake a PhD by distance learning. These students are required to attend our London campus at set intervals to complete an intensive research training module, for upgrade, and for the viva but will otherwise study at their own location. This option is available to UK, EU and international students on the same basis as our on-campus PhD programmes (three years full time, six years part time). Fees are the same as for our on-campus PhD programmes. Please note that not all institutes and supervisors offer this option, and that some topics are not appropriate to be studied this way.

If you would like to be considered for our Research Degree programme via Distance Learning, please download and fill out the Research Degrees by Distance Learning form, to attach to your online application.

Opportunities and Facilities

IMLR provides researchers with unique opportunities to develop projects that show genuine potential to set pioneering research agendas. To this end, the Institute and its six research centres run and contribute to national and international collaborative, cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural research seminars, lectures, workshops, colloquia and conferences. It also hosts a thriving publications series, a regional conference scheme and a fellowships programme.

In addition to supporting individuals, networks and organisations, nationally and internationally, the IMLR leads on debates that stimulate innovative thinking. It actively develops research services and resources, and offers research degrees and doctoral training. It aims to ensure that the social, cultural and economic benefits of Modern Languages research are widely recognised.

The IMLR publishes the Journal of Romance Studies. Its outstanding Germanic Studies Collection is located in Senate House (4th floor) with holdings devoted principally to German language and literature from their beginnings to the present day, comprising a substantial collections of books, journals, microfiches, theses and archives.

More broadly, the School of Advanced Study itself offers excellent resources for inter-disciplinary research by bringing together nine internationally renowned research institutes that support the promotion of research in the humanities.

The School of Advanced Study is also home to Senate House Library, the central library for the University of London. The art deco building, which the School and Senate House Library are part of, is a literary landmark in the heart of Bloomsbury, located next to the British Museum. The Library occupies the fourth to the nineteenth floors of the building,  with a range of historic library reading rooms and collections. 

Much like the Institute itself, the School offers a broad range of events, seminars and conferences that we encourage our research students to engage with.

Our research students can also take advantage of a varied and challenging research training programme, with general research skills training and research methodologies courses provided through the School and subject-specific training provided within the institutes.

How to Apply

Before submitting an application you are advised to contact a member of the Institute's academic staff who has interests in your proposed field of study to discuss your proposal. A list of academic staff and their interests can be found here.

Before agreeing to accept you, the School will require you to submit a research proposal, so it is worthwhile having this drafted ahead of a formal application. Guidelines on drafting your research proposal.

Please apply by clicking the links to the appropriate online application form for the October 2020 session.

Location Mode Duration Apply
London Full Time 3 years Apply
London Part Time 6 years Apply
Distance Learning Full Time 3 years Apply
Distance Learning Part Time 6 years Apply

Candidates will normally receive an initial response to their application within 28 working days. Those who have been formally interviewed will normally be informed within one week as to whether they are to be offered a place.

Note: in accordance with regulations research students will be registered for the MPhil degree in the first instance. Upgrading to PhD will be considered in the second year for full-time students and in the third or fourth year for part-time students.


Fees and Funding


We offer online guidance and information regarding our tuition fees, payment and fee status.


Our students fund their studies in a variety of ways including scholarships, bursaries and fellowships, as well as government loans and postgraduate loans.

We offer a range of bursaries and studentships for applicants on our programmes, including Institute and course specific scholarships.

The School is part of the London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP), through which we are able to offer a number of studentships in humanities disciplines.


Dr Dominic Glynn

Lecturer (French)

Email | Research Profile


Dr Glynn has wide-ranging research interests, but his main area of scientific enquiry is contemporary French theatre and literature. He has written about the work of writers and directors active in the latter part of the 20th century and early 21st. His book (Re)telling Old Stories honed in on two landmark productions by directors Peter Brook and Ariane Mnouchkine, in order to outline general characteristics of the theatrical field in the 1980s and 1990s.

His latest research project addresses the central question of the writer’s standing within French theatre over the last 30 years. The specific objectives of this multi-annual research venture are three-fold.

First, to identify the emergence of new authorial voices and to reflect on opportunities available for living writers. Second, to consider the strategies used by writers to promote their work and to establish themselves. Third, to highlight how these strategies relate to the emergence of un- or post-dramatic forms of writing for the stage.

Dr Glynn’s expertise in contemporary French theatre and literature has been honed not only by his academic research, but also by working as a dramaturge and translator in France. Moreover, he is the author of a short work of fiction, Lignes de fuite.


  • Modern Languages

Dr Johan Siebers 

Associate Fellow

Email | Research Profile


Dr Johan Siebers (Associate Fellow, IMLR/Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion, Middlesex University) is available for dissertation and thesis supervision in the area of post-Kantian German philosophy.

His own work investigates the possibilities of metaphysical thinking today and he is committed to the idea that the purpose of philosophy is the liberation of the mind. His research interests include critical theory; German idealism; metaphysics; being and speculative philosophy; aesthetics; philosophy of language, dialogue and communication; religious experience; temporality and futurity; existentialism and psychoanalysis.

He is also interested in the relations between German and classical American thought (Transcendentalism, Emerson, pragmatism, Whitehead and process philosophy). He has a special, but not exclusive, interest in the philosophy of Ernst Bloch and lead the Ernst Bloch Centre at the IMLR.


  • Post-Kantian German philosophy. 

Dr Anne Simon

Associate Fellow

Email | Research Profile


Dr Simon specializes in German Studies in the mediaeval and early modern periods, with particular reference to the impact of these periods on subsequent eras.

Her book The Cult of Saint Katherine of Alexandria in Nuremberg: Saint and a City draws on a wide variety of textual and visual sources to explore interrelated themes: the shaping of urban space through the cult of Saint Katherine, her role in the moulding and advertising patrician identity and alliances through cultural patronage; and patrician use of the saint to showcase the city's political, economic, cultural and religious importance at the heart of the Holy Roman Empire.

Her research and publications also encompasses travel literature from all periods; Early Modern women’s letters; the history of the book; didactic literature for women; and the relationship between text and image.


  • Middle Ages to the present, including artistic and cultural patronage
  • The Reformation
  • Hans Sachs
  • Travel literature
  • Publishing history
  • Marginal groups
  • The National Socialist use of the Middle Ages
  • Nuremberg’s contemporary self-marketing

    Dr Godela Weiss-Sussex

    Reader in Modern German Literature and Acting Director of the Institute of Modern Languages Research

    Email | Research Profile


    Dr Weiss-Sussex's main research interests lie in the German culture and literature of the 19th and 20th centuries, particularly in the representation of the city in literature, women's writing and modernism.

    Her current research project investigates concepts of Jewishness and femininity in the work of German-Jewish women writers in early 20th-century Berlin. It builds on the conference volume 'Not an Essence but a Positioning': German-Jewish Women Writers (1900-1938) (co-edited with Andrea Hammel, 2009).

    Her other publications include the monograph Metropolitan Chronicles. Georg Hermann’s Berlin Novels, 1897 to 1912 (2001) and the edited volumes BerlinKultur und Metropole in den Zwanziger und seit den Neunziger Jahren (2007, with Ulrike Zitzlsperger) and The Cultural Identities of European Cities (2011, with Katia Pizzi).


    • The culture of the Weimar Republic
    • Post-1945 literature

    Dr Joseph Ford

    Early Career Researcher (French Studies); Director, Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory​

    Joseph Ford

    Email | Research Profile


    I joined the IMLR in January 2019 as Early Career Researcher, where I lead in the facilitation and support of UK-wide research, public engagement and widening participation in French Studies. I previously taught at Durham University (2016–19), the University of Leeds (2014–15) and Université Paris-Est (2015–16).

    I specialise in contemporary French and Francophone Literature and Culture, with specific interests in Algeria and what has become known as the Algerian Civil War or "Black Decade" of the 1990s. My wider research interests are in postcolonial studies, world literature, literary translation, and French and Francophone intellectual culture of the 20th and 21st centuries.


    • Colonies & Colonization
    • Emigration & immigration
    • Language and Literature (French) 
    • Literatures in a modern language


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