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An image to illustrate studying English with The Open University

Research in the Department of English 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. The department hosts two long-established research groups – Postcolonial Literatures and Book History and Bibliography – with groupings in creative writing, literature and music, life-writing, and the writing of the romantic period. We currently have five full-time and 15 part-time PhD students in the department, working on a range of subjects such as spirituality in children’s literature, gardens in Rumer Godden’s fiction, John Le Carré, representations of the First World War, Virginia Woolf, Louis MacNeice and broadcasting, African, Caribbean and South Asian Literature. Creative writing candidates are also working on novels with wide ranging themes and eras. We warmly welcome applications from prospective research students.

Key facts

  • The Department of English was ranked 32 out of 87 submissions to the UK’s 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), an improvement of 22 places on the 2001 RAE.
  • 65 per cent of the English department’s 2008 RAE submission was graded as ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’.
  • PhD students are supported by at least two 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.
  • The department 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, as well as supporting many individual research projects.
  • The department hosts two international literary journals (Wasafiri and The Katherine Mansfield Journal); department members peer review and serve on the editorial boards of a wide range of other literary and interdisciplinary journals.
  • The department 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.


The Open University houses publically accessible digital archives based on the department’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:

Postgraduate Admissions Tutor
+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.