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An image to illustrate studying English with The Open University

Research in this area embraces a diverse range of periods, topics and approaches. Our research extends from the early modern to the contemporary, includes all the main literary genres, and is characterised by a strongly interdisciplinary approach and ethos.

Research in English is showcased via a well-established research collaboration – the History of Books and Reading (HOBAR) research collaboration – and a number of clusters or research groups, such as Postcolonial and Global Literatures; Contemporary Cultures of Writing; and Literature and Music. Colleagues in English are also active in interdisciplinary, cross-subject research groups, such as the Digital Humanities Research Collaboration, the Medieval and Early Modern Research Group, and the recently established Centre for Research in Gender and Otherness in the Humanities (GOTH).

Current PhD students are working on a wide range of topics, including terrorism in early modern Drama, the literary representation of Anglo-Indians, secrets and silences in the writings of Edith Wharton, the reading of C.S. Lewis, the German translation and reception of Katherine Mansfield, and the literature of the First World War, amongst others.

Creative writing candidates are working on collections of poetry, or novels with wide ranging themes and eras. We warmly welcome applications from prospective research students, and other full-time and part-time places. Please contact us using the email address below if you are interested in exploring PhD study with us.

Key facts

  • 100 per cent of our English research was assessed as 4* or 3* for impact in the Research Assessment Framework (REF) 2014.
  • PhD students are supported by two internal supervisors and a strong programme of training in research skills; they participate in a lively research culture, with regular seminar programmes, conferences and workshops in Milton Keynes, London and other Open University national/regional centres.
  • Each year in November, we run an annual English & Creative Writing subject specific PhD student conference, which allows students to present and share their work in progress in a supportive environment.
  • The discipline has an excellent track record in winning external research funding and has led large-scale collaborative projects like The Postcolonial History of the Book, the Reading Experience Database, 1450-1945, Making Britain: South Asian Visions of Home and Abroad, 1870-1950, Beyond the Frame: Indian-British Connections 1858-1950. Reading Communities: Connecting the Past and the Present, Reading Europe: Advanced Data Investigation Tool (READ-IT), Dreaming Europe, Romantic Europe: The Virtual Exhibition (RÊVE) as well as supporting many individual research projects.
  • Colleagues are centrally involved in a number of international literary journals, including (Wasafiri, The Katherine Mansfield Journal, The Spenser review and The Last Post (journal of the ford Madox ford Society).  Staff members peer review and serve on the editorial boards of a wide range of other literary and interdisciplinary journals.
  • The discipline contributes to interdisciplinary research at national and international levels both through the work of individual researchers, and through its links with The Open University's Ferguson Centre, and externally, with the University of London’s School of Advanced Study’s Institute of English Studies (IES).


The Open University houses publically accessible digital archives based on the English discipline's research projects:

  • The Reading Experience Database (RED)
  • Making Britain: South Asian Visions of Home and Abroad, 1870–1950
  • The Listening Experience Database (LED).

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research area please contact:

Siobhan Campbell
+44 (0)1908 652092

For general enquiries please contact the Research Degrees Team via the link under 'Your Questions' on the right of the page.