Why choose this programme
Our PhD in Theatre will provide you with a supportive and collegiate research experience within our conservatoire, the Guildford School of Acting (GSA).
Our research, which encompasses traditional and practice-based forms, addresses performance in history and contemporary culture. It ranges from Shakespeare to performance philosophy and includes:
- work in theatre history
- contemporary dance
- performance and the nonhuman
- actor training
- musical theatre
- performance and cognitive science
- mental health and disability arts.
You will benefit from first-class conservatoire facilities including a 200-seat theatre, 15 rehearsal studios, six performance studios, an art gallery, a design studio, digital media labs, and high-quality recording facilities. The University Library also hosts the long-standing and internationally renowned National Resource Centre for Dance.
We’re part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s TECHNE doctoral training partnership, which offers funding and a fully-formed training programme for academic, professional and early-career development.
What you will study
GSA’s research activity at Surrey includes access to our two research centres hosted within the school: the Centre for Performance Philosophy and the Surrey Shakespeare Centre.
PhD researchers on all programmes at GSA can expect three levels of research training and support:
University-level training provided by the Researcher Development Programme and the University Library, including a PhD induction, workshops on writing skills and preparation for your confirmation and viva. There is also an annual student-led university postgraduate conference.
School-level training is offered in the form of interdisciplinary seminars, visiting speaker events and conferences. This includes events supporting the Centre for Performance Philosophy and the Surrey Shakespeare Centre.
PhD researchers also receive subject-specific feedback at our biannual GSA postgraduate symposium that allows you to share and develop ideas in a supportive environment.
As a research conservatoire, we can offer dedicated time and support to practice research experiments and practical modes of knowledge enquiry. We welcome proposals that will result in an 80,000-word thesis or a practice research curated portfolio. (c. 40,000).
Your final assessment will be based on the presentation of your research in a written thesis, which will be discussed in a viva examination with at least two examiners. You have the option of preparing your thesis as a monograph (one large volume in chapter form) or in publication format (including chapters written for publication), subject to the approval of your supervisors.
The professional development of postgraduate researchers is supported by the Doctoral College, which provides training in essential skills through its Researcher Development Programme of workshops, mentoring and coaching. A dedicated postgraduate Careers and Employability team will help you prepare for a successful career after the completion of your PhD.
Selected areas of current staff research are outlined below:
- Actor training
- Animals and performance
- Disability and performance
- Equality, diversity and inclusion in the arts
- Musical theatre
- Performance and cognitive science
- Performance philosophy
- Phenomenology and time
- Theatre making in an era of climate crisis.
Supervision of other subjects may be accommodated – please enquire with the Director of Postgraduate Research, Professor Robert Shaughnessy.
Our academic staff
See a full list of all our academic staff within the Guildford School of Acting (GSA).
Our first-class conservatoire facilities include a 200-seat theatre, 15 rehearsal -studios, six performance -studios, an art gallery, a design studio, digital media labs, and high-quality recording facilities.
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.
International entry requirements by country
English language requirements
IELTS Academic: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category.
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.
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 status.
Start date: October 2021
Start date: January 2022
Start date: April 2022
Start date: July 2022
For fees payable in 2020/21, 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 2021 entry should note that annual fees will rise by 4% rounded up to the nearest £100.
There are additional costs that you can expect to incur when studying at Surrey. Find out more.
A Postgraduate Doctoral Loan can help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate doctoral course.
How to apply
If you are applying for a studentship to work on a particular project, you should enter the details of the specific project that you wish to apply for rather than your own research proposal.
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).
Terms and conditions
When you accept an offer of a place at the University of Surrey, you are agreeing to comply with our policies and regulations, and our terms and conditions. These terms and conditions are provided in two stages: first when we make an offer and second when students who have accepted their offers register to study at the University. View our offer terms and conditions and our generic registration terms and conditions (PDF) as a guide as to what to expect.
Please note: our offer terms and conditions will be available in the September of the calendar year prior to the year in which you begin your studies. Our registration terms and conditions will vary to take into account specifics of your course.
This online prospectus has been prepared and published in advance of the academic year to which it applies. The University of Surrey has used its reasonable efforts to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content or additional costs) may occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for a course with us. Read more.