Skip to main content

Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

Trinity Menu Trinity Search

You are here Postgraduate > Ph.D. and Research degrees

Ph.D. and M.Litt.


The School of English welcomes applications for two research degrees: the M.Litt. and the Ph.D. Both involve a student working closely with one or more supervisors to undertake an original independent research project, resulting in a dissertation thesis. The M.Litt. normally takes two years and the dissertation is up to 60,000 words. The Ph.D. takes up to four years and the dissertation is up 100,000 words. As well as the more conventional research dissertation, we offer the Ph.D. in Literary Practice, which comprises of an original piece of creative writing and a critical essay. We also have a Distance Ph.D. programme, to enable students to pursue a research degree remotely.

The diversity of our Faculty’s research interests means we are well-placed to supervise research in a very wide variety of areas of anglophone literary studies. The print and archival holdings of Trinity’s remarkable library underpins many of our research students’ projects. While here you will receive access to training that will develop your skills and knowledge as a researcher.  You will also join a supportive and dynamic community of students, scholars, and writers in a world-leading English department right at the heart of one of the world’s great literary cities.

Eva Burke
Ph.D. Student

As I approach the end of my Ph.D., I’m so grateful for the encouragement and support that I’ve found within the School of English, and for the opportunities it has given me.

Dr Jenny Daly

The time I spent doing my Ph.D. in the School of English was the most fulfilling and intellectually stimulating experience for which I could ever have hoped. Having the time and space to work on my research while being supported by an excellent mentor was an immense privilege, but it also prepared me for life beyond the Ph.D.

Structured Ph.D.

The School of English provides doctoral training through a structured programme of research and study. Alongside pursing their original research project, Ph.D. students participate in other modules, seminars and workshops. These broaden the knowledge and skills of students in ways that are complementary to their research. They also support their wider professional development, including in aiding their entry into the academic and non-academic job markets. During the programme, Ph.D. students undergo various review processes, offering important evaluation and feedback on their progress.

Ph.D. in Literary Practice

The Ph.D. in Literary Practice is aimed at those interested in undertaking a combination of creative and critical writing at doctoral level. The main body of the thesis dissertation is an extended piece of creative writing, normally between 60,000 and 80,000 words in length. This may take the form of a novel, a collection of short stories or poetry, or a work of non-fiction, such as a memoir or piece of travel writing, or another form of output as agreed with the project’s supervisors. This accompanied by a critical essay that intersects with the creative project. This might take the form of a scholarly investigation or commentary of some kind, or offer a reflection on the student’s own aesthetic practice. Again, its exact nature and scope will be decided by the student in consultation with their supervisors. The Ph.D. in Literary Practice is normally supervised by two members of the School of English, one a specialist in creative writing and the other a researcher with expertise in an area connected to the critical portion of the project.

Non-Resident/Distance Ph.D. Programme

The Non-Resident/Distance Ph.D. programme allows students to undertake a research degree within the School of English remotely.  As part of this programme, you will receive the same quality of supervision as is offered to those based on campus. You will have full access to our library and other resources. A programme of online seminars and discussion groups will also be made available to you, enabling you to connect remotely with fellow Trinity students and researchers. The programme is available full-time, over four years, and part-time, over six years. 

When an interested applicant initially contacts a potential supervisor, they should clearly state that they are interested in the Non-Resident/Distance Ph.D. programme. On their application, distance applicants will need to explain the reasons why they are suited to this mode of study. They will also need to confirm that they have access to a suitable workspace, and the equipment and technology necessary to engage in this mode of study. 

It is important to note that Distance PhD study may not be suitable for some non-EU students, as students will need to travel to Dublin at specified points in their studies and will require the appropriate visa to do so. By undertaking a non-resident Ph.D., students should note that they may also be ineligible for university funding schemes, as well as funding from other bodies. We encourage applicants to consider carefully the practical, academic and personal ramifications of undertaking a Ph.D. remotely. Non-EU prospective applicants are advised to carefully check the visa requirements pertaining to their country of origin (and if necessary, to verify this information with our Academic Registry) before making a formal application. Non-Resident/Distance PhD applicants must be given permission by the School of English to apply for this programme before being permitted to proceed with their application. 

Admissions Information

Admissions deadlines for September 2021/March 2022: 

We do not have a strict deadline, but we do strongly encourage prospective applicants to finalise and upload their application materials (including academic references) by the beginning of March 2021. Later applications may be considered on case-by-case basis, but such candidates may be ineligible for College and School funding schemes if they apply after the internal assessment period for these schemes has passed (these deadlines vary from year to year). 

March 2022 applicants are strongly encouraged to finalise their applications by the end of August 2021. 

Ahead of making an application, you should consult the list of staff research interests and contact the member or members of our faculty whose interests seem most relevant to your proposed area of research. It is advisable to develop your proposal in consultation with relevant staff members. Please do not contact MORE THAN ONE staff member in the School with your initial query. It causes confusion and a potential delay in efficiently processing new applications when a prospective applicant simultaneously emails several different staff members with the same query, at the same time. 

Your Ph.D. proposal should be around 2,000-3,000 words. This normally includes: an overview indicating the contribution to scholarship the proposed project will make in relation to the existing critical literature; a chapter-by-chapter outline of the proposed dissertation; a statement on methodology; and a short preliminary bibliography (listing 30-50 items of primary and secondary literature).

In addition to the research proposal, as part of your application you will need to submit: transcripts; degree certificates; a CV; proof of English competency, if English is not your native language; two academic references; and a writing sample (approximately 5,000 words). Please note that applicants for the Ph.D. in Literary Practice will need to submit two writing samples as part of their application: one piece of creative work and one critical essay. Applications may not be considered until all documents are submitted, including both references.

Acceptance depends on several criteria: your undergraduate degree (normally at least an upper-second class standard or GPA of 3.3 is required), the viability and originality of your research proposal, and the strength of your supporting academic references. Applicants should note that that the demand for research places in the School of English at Trinity College Dublin is high, and that sometimes excellent candidates have to be turned down because of the unavailability of staff to supervise in that area.


There are a number of funding opportunities available to incoming research students. Trinity College offers various scholarships. These include the Ussher Awards, which cover annual fees and provide a maintenance grant for a three-year period, and the 1252 Postgraduate Research Studentships, which cover annual fees and provide a smaller contribution towards maintenance. Further details on these and other funding opportunities can be found here.

Various external bodies also offer funding. The Irish Research Council runs an annual scheme for doctoral candidates, advertised early in the autumn of each year. These awards are the most substantial funding available to our Ph.D. candidates. Students should note that awards are regularly made by the IRC to applicants who have previously been unsuccessful. Prospective students may also be eligible for a grant via Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI). Further advice and information on funding is also available on from the Higher Education Authority.

Fitzroy Pyle Postgraduate Entry Bursary 2021

The School of English is delighted to announce a new PhD entry Bursary, now open to applicants intending to begin their studies in September 2021.

Professor William Fitzroy Pyle (1907-89) was a central figure in the Department of English at Trinity College Dublin, and a scholar of Renaissance English Literature, with a particular interest in Shakespeare and Milton. The Fitzroy Pyle Postgraduate Bursary is supported by his family in his honour, and is open to all applicants to research degrees in the School of English. The successful applicant will be announced in May 2021 and the Bursary will commence in September 2021.

The Fitzroy Pyle Postgraduate Bursary will cover fees and a stipend each year for up to 3 years.