Theatre PHD

Why choose this course

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-active staff are internationally known for the quality and significance of their research, which includes taking on leading roles within national and international research organisations. All of our potential PhD supervisors regularly publish and present challenging work – an ethos that we would encourage you, as a prospective postgraduate researcher, to share with us. 

We have research strengths in a range of diverse areas including the politics of contemporary performance; performance philosophy; and scenography, directing and devising. 

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

The research activity in GSA at Surrey is supported through our new Institute of Performance. The Institute acts as the conservatoire’s research hub providing the base for all our postgraduate research and training. This includes regular research seminars with visiting speakers as well as bespoke training sessions on academic skills. The institute also hosts our Centre for Performance Philosophy, which supports innovative and creative research. 

PhD researchers on all programmes in 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, reading groups, visiting speaker events and conferences. This includes our annual Practice Research Festival as well as events supporting the Centre for Performance Philosophy.
  • PhD researchers also receive subject-specific training through regular reading groups and research seminars. We also host PhD researcher presentations that allow you to share and develop ideas in a supportive environment. 

As a research conservatoire, we are fully equipped to 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.

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 July 2018
PHD Part-time 96 months April 2018
PHD Part-time 96 months July 2018
PHD Full-time 48 months April 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

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: 

  • Aesthetics, ethics and politics of participation
  • Audience immersion
  • Dramaturgy, directing and devising
  • Costume and costuming
  • Intermediality, the digital humanities and performance
  • Live Art and contemporary performance practices
  • Performance Philosophy, especially Deleuzian and phenomenological approaches
  • Performing Shakespeare
  • Performer training
  • Theories of space, place and performance
  • Trauma, crisis and performance
  • Scenography, architecture and material cultures

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.

View 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. 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 status.


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 July 2018 £4,195 £16,000
Part-time April 2018 £2,100 £8,000
Part-time July 2018 £2,100 £8,000
Full-time April 2018 £4,195 £16,000

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
Surrey GU2 7XH