Applying for PhD English Lit as a non-UK student

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annawiktoria
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Hello Everyone,

I'm currently pursuing an MA in English Studies at a university in Central Europe. I've been considering applying to several British unis for a PhD in English Literature. However, I'm not sure how realistic my plans are. I graduated from my BA programme with a First and might finish my MA with a Distinction, but there are certain problems that I think could seriously affect my chances:

1. I'll probably be far behind other applicants in terms of university prestige. I don't know how much that matters, but my current uni (although probably one of the top 2 in my country) isn't prestigious worldwide, and my previous uni is probably not known at all (again, despite being considered decent over here).

2. There isn't really anything in my CV to make up for my average-at-best background, apart from my grades and several scholarships. I mean, I haven't presented at any conferences or published any articles. I will be attending one conference next year, perhaps several more, though I don't know how relevant this fact will be.

3. I'll need to obtain full funding. I'm an EU student, so by the time I apply the only option for me will be university funding. I know these studentships are extremely competitive, which is slightly discouraging for me.

The universities I'm considering are QMUL, Manchester, Lancaster, Birmingham, and Durham. I wanted to apply this year, but I might put it off until next year to have more time to work on my proposal and attend several conferences in the meantime. That would mean one year's break after my MA, which I'd rather avoid if my chances were slim to none. Are they?

Sorry it got so long. Do any of you have any thoughts on this?
Last edited by annawiktoria; 1 month ago
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threeportdrift
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(Original post by annawiktoria)
Hello Everyone,

I'm currently pursuing an MA in English Studies at a university in Central Europe. I've been considering applying to several British unis for a PhD in English Literature. However, I'm not sure how realistic my plans are. I graduated from my BA programme with a First and might finish my MA with a Distinction, but there are certain problems that I think could seriously affect my chances:

1. I'll probably be far behind other applicants in terms of university prestige. I don't know how much that matters, but my current uni (although probably one of the top 2 in my country) isn't prestigious worldwide, and my previous uni is probably not known at all (again, despite being considered decent over here).

2. There isn't really anything in my CV to make up for my average-at-best background, apart from my grades and several scholarships. I mean, I haven't presented at any conferences or published any articles. I will be attending one conference next year, perhaps several more, though I don't know how relevant this fact will be.

3. I'll need to obtain full funding. I'm an EU student, so by the time I apply the only option for me will be university funding. I know these studentships are extremely competitive, which is slightly discouraging for me.

The universities I'm considering are QMUL, Manchester, Lancaster, Birmingham, and Durham. I wanted to apply this year, but I might put it off until next year to have more time to work on my proposal and attend several conferences in the meantime. That would mean one year's break after my MA, which I'd rather avoid if my chances were slim to none. Are they?

Sorry it got so long. Do any of you have any thoughts on this?
1. Isn't a major factor in admission, if it's one of the to two in your country that says something about your ability.

2. Is not a major issue in admissions, those sort of thing are what you are expected to do during the PhD, but not before.

3. That's the big issue. The advice becoming more common in the UK is to take a year out between Masters and PhD so that your referees can comment on the whole of your Masters work and final grade. It will also help in funding applications. You have a few more months you work on your research proposal (but it really doesn't take a year) and you can either do some relevant work and or earn some money.
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Kerzen
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(Original post by annawiktoria)

3. I'll need to obtain full funding. I'm an EU student, so by the time I apply the only option for me will be university funding. I know these studentships are extremely competitive, which is slightly discouraging for me.
Anna

Will the situation re funding from your perspective be different next year because of the end of the UK's transition period?

If funding were available this year but not next year, would you be able to apply this year?
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annawiktoria
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(Original post by threeportdrift)
1. Isn't a major factor in admission, if it's one of the to two in your country that says something about your ability.

2. Is not a major issue in admissions, those sort of thing are what you are expected to do during the PhD, but not before.

3. That's the big issue. The advice becoming more common in the UK is to take a year out between Masters and PhD so that your referees can comment on the whole of your Masters work and final grade. It will also help in funding applications. You have a few more months you work on your research proposal (but it really doesn't take a year) and you can either do some relevant work and or earn some money.
Thank you for your reply. I've been worrying about issues 1. and 2., even though I logically knew these factors shouldn't be much of an obstacle It's good to hear that.

And yeah, I think the year off would be wise. Although the anticipation will probably drive me crazy

(Original post by Kerzen)
Anna

Will the situation re funding from your perspective be different next year because of the end of the UK's transition period?

If funding were available this year but not next year, would you be able to apply this year?
I think my fee status will already be different for 2021/2022 (changed from EU to Overseas), which I'm assuming also means that I will no longer be eligible for AHRC funding. I would be able to apply this year, but I'm pretty sure EU funding won't be available anymore
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Lancaster Student Ambassador
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(Original post by annawiktoria)
Hello Everyone,

I'm currently pursuing an MA in English Studies at a university in Central Europe. I've been considering applying to several British unis for a PhD in English Literature. However, I'm not sure how realistic my plans are. I graduated from my BA programme with a First and might finish my MA with a Distinction, but there are certain problems that I think could seriously affect my chances:

1. I'll probably be far behind other applicants in terms of university prestige. I don't know how much that matters, but my current uni (although probably one of the top 2 in my country) isn't prestigious worldwide, and my previous uni is probably not known at all (again, despite being considered decent over here).

2. There isn't really anything in my CV to make up for my average-at-best background, apart from my grades and several scholarships. I mean, I haven't presented at any conferences or published any articles. I will be attending one conference next year, perhaps several more, though I don't know how relevant this fact will be.

3. I'll need to obtain full funding. I'm an EU student, so by the time I apply the only option for me will be university funding. I know these studentships are extremely competitive, which is slightly discouraging for me.

The universities I'm considering are QMUL, Manchester, Lancaster, Birmingham, and Durham. I wanted to apply this year, but I might put it off until next year to have more time to work on my proposal and attend several conferences in the meantime. That would mean one year's break after my MA, which I'd rather avoid if my chances were slim to none. Are they?

Sorry it got so long. Do any of you have any thoughts on this?
Hi annawiktoria,
I got in touch for the English department for you and here's what they said:
I don't think you need to worry too much about conference papers and journal articles. The Dept of English Literature at Lancaster certainly doesn't expect that applicants will already have presented conference papers or published articles. Applicants are judged on their academic track record and on their research proposal. In addition to this, we often ask for a work sample and arrange a Skype interview. Good luck!
I hope this okay and let me know if you need anymore help or guidance - or general questions about Lancaster!
Charlotte
3rd year Biological Sciences with Biomedicine
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annawiktoria
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(Original post by Lancaster Student Ambassador)
Hi annawiktoria,
I got in touch for the English department for you and here's what they said:
I don't think you need to worry too much about conference papers and journal articles. The Dept of English Literature at Lancaster certainly doesn't expect that applicants will already have presented conference papers or published articles. Applicants are judged on their academic track record and on their research proposal. In addition to this, we often ask for a work sample and arrange a Skype interview. Good luck!
I hope this okay and let me know if you need anymore help or guidance - or general questions about Lancaster!
Charlotte
3rd year Biological Sciences with Biomedicine
Thank you very much, Charlotte, it's really kind of you and very helpful
The reason why I was wondering if it's the norm for PhD candidates to have published articles or attended conferences is because it is a factor (although not a key one I think) in my country. And I thought that maybe it might be taken into consideration when it comes to funding, which I assume is quite competitive.
Again, thank you very much for your help!
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Helloworld_95
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(Original post by annawiktoria)
Thank you very much, Charlotte, it's really kind of you and very helpful
The reason why I was wondering if it's the norm for PhD candidates to have published articles or attended conferences is because it is a factor (although not a key one I think) in my country. And I thought that maybe it might be taken into consideration when it comes to funding, which I assume is quite competitive.
Again, thank you very much for your help!
UK universities are a lot more focused on people publishing in high quality journals and going to high quality conferences, and they know that this is very hard for anyone below PhD level to do. They might consider whether someone's master's dissertation is at that level but they wouldn't expect anyone to have actually published before they start a PhD. It could even be argued that it's sometimes preferred for people not to have published as having articles in your name in low quality journals can look bad, though journals/conferences aimed at undergrads e.g. BCUR are excepted.
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annawiktoria
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(Original post by Helloworld_95)
UK universities are a lot more focused on people publishing in high quality journals and going to high quality conferences, and they know that this is very hard for anyone below PhD level to do. They might consider whether someone's master's dissertation is at that level but they wouldn't expect anyone to have actually published before they start a PhD. It could even be argued that it's sometimes preferred for people not to have published as having articles in your name in low quality journals can look bad, though journals/conferences aimed at undergrads e.g. BCUR are excepted.
Thank you for the information.
I'm actually aiming at graduate journals & conferences mostly. I don't know if they're considered low-quality
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Helloworld_95
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(Original post by annawiktoria)
Thank you for the information.
I'm actually aiming at graduate journals & conferences mostly. I don't know if they're considered low-quality
"Graduate journals" sounds a bit suspicious, because postgraduate researchers should be publishing in proper journals.

You will need to consult someone in the field to get a better idea, but my guess would be any journal on the first page of this link would be ok, while ones beyond that won't be as reputable https://www.scimagojr.com/journalrank.php?category=1208

For conferences you generally want one which is connected to a reputable journal. Going for other ones, especially if you're not receiving very close guidance from someone who is experienced in attending conferences, risks you attending a predatory conference, which will be a huge waste of money.

You should also try to make sure that your university will pay for any fees involved in publishing or attending a conference. For respected journals these can be very high if you do it by yourself (as much as €2,000), but if your university is involved then it will be covered by the subscription fees they pay.
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annawiktoria
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(Original post by Helloworld_95)
"Graduate journals" sounds a bit suspicious, because postgraduate researchers should be publishing in proper journals.

You will need to consult someone in the field to get a better idea, but my guess would be any journal on the first page of this link would be ok, while ones beyond that won't be as reputable https://www.scimagojr.com/journalrank.php?category=1208

For conferences you generally want one which is connected to a reputable journal. Going for other ones, especially if you're not receiving very close guidance from someone who is experienced in attending conferences, risks you attending a predatory conference, which will be a huge waste of money.

You should also try to make sure that your university will pay for any fees involved in publishing or attending a conference. For respected journals these can be very high if you do it by yourself (as much as €2,000), but if your university is involved then it will be covered by the subscription fees they pay.
What's suspicious about graduate journals though? As far as I'm aware, plenty of universities have their own peer-reviewed graduate journals (Birmingham has one, Durham does as well I think). And, as you mentioned earlier, MA students rarely publish in 'reputable' journals.
As to conferences, I assure you that the ones I'm thinking of attending are fine And yes, my university covers the costs.
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Helloworld_95
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(Original post by annawiktoria)
What's suspicious about graduate journals though? As far as I'm aware, plenty of universities have their own peer-reviewed graduate journals (Birmingham has one, Durham does as well I think). And, as you mentioned earlier, MA students rarely publish in 'reputable' journals.
As to conferences, I assure you that the ones I'm thinking of attending are fine And yes, my university covers the costs.
Those kinds of journals are designed for work which can't get published in normal journals. Peer review doesn't automatically mean high quality, it just means someone has said yes to it. I mentioned MA students don't usually get published in normal journals but I also mentioned that expectations for any publishing are zero because of this.
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