Film Studies PHD

Why choose this course

We perform innovative and world-leading research across literature, writing and linguistics, and have been ranked as one of the top ten English departments in the UK by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017 and the Guardian University Guide 2018 for our undergraduate programmes. 

We’re at the forefront of new knowledge in fields including literature, translation, language, linguistics, creative writing, and film studies. With a strong focus on research and writing in international contexts, we can provide you with a network of research links and support for your professional or academic career. 

Our film researchers work on a range of specialist topics within the areas of cinema studies and visual studies, including issues of gender, the connection between music and the cinema, documentary film and media, genre cinema, cognitive analysis of the moving image, and animation studies. Our researchers have close links to the Department of Music and Media at Surrey, which also carries out cutting-edge research. 

Our diverse mix of subject specialities means we’re a vibrant and imaginative community with plenty of opportunity for intellectual exchange.

What you will study

Our PhD in Film Studies will train you in critical and analytical skills, research methods, and knowledge that will equip you for your professional or academic career. It normally takes around three or four years to complete our full-time PhD. 

You’ll be assigned a primary and secondary supervisor, who will meet with you regularly to read and discuss your work and make sure that you’re on track. For us, writing is essential for understanding and developing new perspectives, so you’ll be submitting written work right from the start of your course. 

In your first year, you’ll refine your research proposal and plan the structure of your work with the guidance and support of your supervisors. As you go into your second and third year, you’ll gradually learn to work more independently, and your supervisors will guide you on how to present at conferences and get your work published. 

After 12-15 months, you’ll submit a substantial piece of work for a confirmation examination.  The examination will be conducted by two internal members of staff not on your supervisory team, and will give you the opportunity to gain additional guidance on your research-to-date. Following submission of your completed thesis, a viva will be conducted by a panel of one or more external examiners as well as an internal examiner.

Course facts

Qualification Study mode Course length Start date
PHD Full-time 48 months October 2018
PHD Part-time 96 months January 2019
PHD Part-time 96 months October 2018
PHD Full-time 48 months April 2018
PHD Full-time 48 months July 2018
PHD Part-time 96 months April 2018
PHD Part-time 96 months July 2018

Additional costs

There are additional costs that you can expect to incur when studying at Surrey. Find out more.

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).

Research themes

  • Environmental humanities
  • Animation
  • Documentary
  • The film industry and popular film / culture

Research facilities

You’ll be allocated a desk within the School of Literature and Languages, and have full access to our Library and online resources. Our close proximity to London also means that the British Library and many other important archives are within easy reach.

You’ll also be able to take advantage of a wide range of services to support and develop your writing and research skills, including the University’s Researcher Development programme. In addition to a number of excellent training opportunities offered by the University, our PhD students can take additional subject-specific training and take part in the School’s ‘Cultures in Contact’ seminar series, which provides a valuable opportunity to meet visiting scholars whose work connects with our own research strengths across literature, theory, and creative writing.

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to hold a good first degree (a minimum 2:1 or equivalent) and an MA in a relevant topic.

View entry requirements by country

English language requirements

IELTS Academic: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category and at least 7.0 in the writing component.

View the other English language qualifications that we accept.

If you do not currently meet the level required for your programme, we offer intensive pre-sessional English language courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here. The University of Surrey is also an IELTS test centre.

Selection process

Selection is based on applicants meeting the expected entry requirements, assessment of application, successful interview and suitable references where required.

Students are initially registered for a PhD with probationary status and, subject to satisfactory progress, are subsequently confirmed as having PhD.


Study mode Start date UK/EU fees Oversees fees
Full-time October 2018 £4,260 £16,000
Part-time January 2019 £2,130 £8,000
Part-time October 2018 £2,130 £8,000
Full-time April 2018 £4,195 £16,000
Full-time July 2018 £4,195 £16,000
Part-time April 2018 £2,100 £8,000
Part-time July 2018 £2,100 £8,000

For fees payable in 2018/19, these will increase by 4 per cent, rounded up to the nearest £100 for subsequent years of study. Any start date other than October will attract a pro-rata fee for that year of entry (75 per cent for January, 50 per cent for April and 25 per cent for July).

Overseas students applying for 2018 entry should note that annual fees will rise by 4% rounded up to the nearest £100.

View a complete list of all fees for our research programmes.


We have a host of partly and fully-funded studentship opportunities available.

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences studentship

Funding information:
This studentship includes a tuition fee waiver (home/EU or international) and a maintenance stipend at current research-council rates for a full-time PhD.

Development of novel radiation-grafted powder ionomers for use in high performance alkali membrane fuel cells

Funding information:
Funding status: Directly Funded Project (European/UK Students only) EU/UK  fees for 3 years: 2018-19 level £4195 Standard stipend for 3 years: 2017-18 level £14,553 £5k bench fees across three-year project

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University of Surrey
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