Theatre PhD

It has been amazing to study performance at Surrey, mostly because of the depth and breadth of expertise among a relatively small and friendly group of people.

Jocelyn Spence Theatre Studies/Digital World Research Centre PhD candidate

Why Surrey?

Theatre at Surrey provides postgraduate researchers with a supportive, collegiate and intimate research environment.

Our research-active staff focus on theories and philosophies of theatre and performance, as well as contemporary performance practices, and regularly publish and present work – an ethos that we would encourage you, as a prospective postgraduate researcher, to share with us.

Programme overview

Supervision in theatre and performance is offered by staff in both Theatre Studies and the Guildford School of Acting.

PhD students in all programmes in the School of Arts can expect three levels of research training:

  • University-level training provided by the Postgraduate Skills Development Programme and the University Library, including a PhD induction, workshops on writing skills and preparation for the confirmation and viva. There is also an annual student-led University Postgraduate conference.
  • School-level training is offered in the form of interdisciplinary seminars, reading groups, visiting speaker events and conferences.
  • Students will also receive subject-specific training that will vary depending on their programme. You may participate in research “intensives”, featuring formal presentations of work by students, keynote seminars, study groups on current themes in Arts research, and research skills training sessions. You may meet regularly for debate and discussion and participate in annual formal presentations of research.

Scholarly and practice-led research in the performing arts constitutes a key area of the University’s intellectual activity.

Academic members of staff within the School of Arts are well known internationally for their exceptionally strong research profile and success with large-scale competitive grants and graduate completions.

Selected areas of current staff research are outlined below, but supervision of other subjects may be accommodated – please enquire with the Director of Postgraduate Research:

  • 20th and 21st century experimental theatre and performance
  • Aesthetics, ethics and politics of spectatorship and participation
  • Audience immersion
  • Avant-garde and counter-cultural history
  • Devising and collaboration
  • Dramaturgy, directing and devising
  • Economies of performance
  • European theatre
  • Intercultural and anthropological theatre
  • Intermediality in performance
  • Labour and performance
  • Live Art
  • Performance Philosophy, especially Deleuzian and phenomenological approaches to performance
  • Postcolonial theatre and performance
  • Shakespearean drama
  • Theories of space, place and performance

Supervision can be offered by staff in both Theatre Studies and the Guildford School of Acting.

We cater for practice-based and academic study within a research environment distinguished by methodological innovation and intellectual pluralism.

Facilities include studios, rehearsal rooms, a 200-seat theatre, a gallery, digital media labs, high-quality recording facilities and extensive archives.


As a member of the TECHNE Doctoral Training Partnership, our highest quality students may be eligible to apply for Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) studentships (stipend and fee waiver). 

Faculty studentships are also available for top-quality students, covering tuition fees at the Home/EU rate and maintenance at current research-council rates for full-time or part-time study. Please see the Faculty studentships webpage for further information.


Before you submit your formal application form, please take a look at our list of School of Arts PhD supervisors.

Once you have found an appropriate supervisor, please make contact with them to discuss your proposal. You should then proceed to completing and submitting your formal application form.

Related research areas

Related departments/schools

Programme facts

Type of programme:


Programme length:

  • Full-time: 30-48 months
  • Part-time: 60-96 months

Start date:

October, January, April, July


Postgraduate Admissions Enquiries:

+44 (0)1483 686 509

Entry Requirements

For all our research degrees in performing arts, entry is on the basis of a good honours degree and usually an MA in a relevant arts subject or appropriate professional experience. Candidates submitting proposals that include practice-based research will be required to evidence appropriate experience and expertise in the relevant area of practice. Students are initially registered for a PhD with probationary status and, subject to satisfactory progress, are subsequently confirmed as having PhD status.

View entry requirements by country

English language requirements

Non-native speakers of English are required to have IELTS 6.5 or above. Auditions will be held for entry to some programmes.

We offer intensive English language pre-sessional courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.


Study mode UK/EU fees Overseas fees
Full-time TBC TBC
Part-time TBC TBC

Please note these fees are for the academic year 2017/18 only. All fees are subject to annual review.

Overseas students applying for 2017 entry should please note that annual fees will rise by four per cent (rounded up to the nearest £100) for each year of study.

A complete list of all fees for our research programmes

Researcher Development Programme

Our researcher development programme provides a range of workshops and support mechanisms for our postgraduate researchers.

More info

Contact Us

General Enquiries:

+44 (0)1483 681 681

Code of practice for research degrees

Surrey’s postgraduate research code of practice sets out the University's policy and procedural framework relating to research degrees.

The code defines a set of standard procedures and specific responsibilities covering the academic supervision, administration and assessment of research degrees for all faculties within the University.

Download the code of practice for research degrees (PDF).

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