PhD History / Programme details

Year of entry: 2024

Programme description

Stefano Locatelli, a recent succesful PhD research student in the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures at the University of Manchester presents his research as an 'elevator pitch'.

Our History PhD programme is a three-year course of study (or six years of part-time study) that enables you to carry out a piece of in-depth research in the area that most interests you.

Our research interests stretch from the early Middle Ages to the end of the 20th century, and our geographical range includes Britain, continental Europe, South and East Asia, Africa and the Americas.

You will prepare a thesis under the guidance of two supervisors with specialist expertise. Your progress is monitored at regular meetings of your research panel (two supervisors plus a reviewer who is independent of the supervisory team), which also provides guidance on research training and career development.

The aim of the programme is to turn you into a fully-fledged independent researcher, and you are from the outset encouraged to disseminate your work at seminars and conferences and by publishing in high-quality locations.

The programme culminates in the submission of an 80,000-word dissertation that makes an original contribution to historical knowledge.

As a postgraduate researcher in the History department, you will join a large and lively research community. We have over 40 established members of staff engaged in research, often in ways that help to re-shape their fields, and there are also many historians working in other departments and research institutes across the University.

The University is committed to investing in History, which has recruited 20 new staff in the last four years.

Special features

Find out more about the Graduate School

Research environment

We are ranked 4th among history departments in the UK for the quality of our research according to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014.

  • 82% of our overall research activity was recognised as 'world leading' or 'internationally excellent'. (REF 2014)
  • 100% of our research environment was judged to be 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent'. (REF 2014)
  • 80% of our research in history has also been judged to have 'outstanding' or 'very considerable' impact. (REF 2014)

Find out more about our History research .

Graduate School

All of our postgraduate students become members of the Graduate School when you start at Manchester. It has dedicated facilities for students and offers opportunities to collaborate with other postgraduates.

Additional programme information

Equality, diversity and inclusion  is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. 

We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact. 

We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status. 

All appointments are made on merit. 

The University of Manchester and our external partners are fully committed to equality, diversity and inclusion.

Teaching and learning

Your research will normally be supervised by two members of staff - usually from the History department, but if appropriate, from another department in the University.

Close supervision based on regular production of written work is at the heart of the PhD student's working life. But your supervisors will aim to nurture your capacities as an independent researcher, and equally central to the learning process is your ability to take advantage of the wider opportunities offered by the University - seminars, conferences, reading groups, training courses, and the like.

We offer one of the UK's fullest and most innovative training programmes in the humanities, artsmethods@manchester .

This provides a rich menu of courses on methods (eg using medieval manuscripts, interview methods, using newspapers in research) and theory ('Using Marx'. 'Using Foucault', 'Using Cultural Studies'), as well as researcher-led conferences organised by groups of PhD students (eg 'How does gender mean? Debates and applications in modern Britain').

Historians working on the interface with the social sciences also have access to the social sciences counterpart, methods@manchester , which offers a similar range of opportunities.

These two programmes are reinforced by the Humanities Researcher Development programme, which offers generic training - eg on academic networking, or how to prepare for your viva - and courses aiming to enhance your career development.

The Faculty of Humanities runs a placement programme which offers PhD researchers the opportunity to develop their public engagement skills and/or their employability skills by undertaking a period of work with an organisation outside academia - a museum, an archive, or a festival, for example.

Recent History PhDs have undertaken placements with the People's History Museum, the Greater Manchester Museum of Transport, and Bramall Hall.

We also have a well-established exchange with the European University Institute, Florence , under which one or two of our PhD researchers each year will be able to spend a semester at the EUI, enhancing their skills in international networking and benefiting from a different kind of research environment. 

Coursework and assessment

This programme requires regular attendance at the University, except during periods of approved 'fieldwork', ie archival research away from Manchester.

It is not available on a distance-learning basis, since regular engagement with the University's research environment as well as with your supervisors is integral to your development as a researcher.

Part-time students should ensure a minimum of two full days in the working week for their studies for the same reason; evening and weekend study on its own is unlikely to be sufficient.

Your progress will be reviewed by your research panel, consisting of your two supervisors and one other member of staff.

This will meet with you once per semester (or once per year for part-time students) to give you formal feedback on your work and report on your progress to the School.

Please note that the first year of the PhD programme and the first two years of the part-time programme are probationary: at the end of this period, your panel is required to confirm that you have made satisfactory progress towards completion and may therefore proceed.

Thereafter, progression through each year of the programme is dependent on your ability to produce evidence of continuing progression.

The PhD is assessed on the basis of a thesis up to 80,000 words. This is examined by two examiners, one of whom is external to the University.

An oral examination is an integral part of the assessment process.


Alan Gilbert Learning Commons Fly Through

Manchester is home to one of the UK's five National Research Libraries - one of the best-resourced academic libraries in the UK and widely recognised as one of the world's greatest research libraries.

Find out more about libraries and study spaces for postgraduate research students at Manchester.

We also have one of the largest academic IT services in Europe - supporting world-class teaching and research. There are extensive computing facilities across campus, with access to standard office software as well as specialist programmes, all connected to the campus network and internet.

Every student is registered for email, file storage and internet access. If more demanding computer access is required, our specialist computing division can provide high-end and specialist computing services.

The Graduate School offers dedicated state of the art facilities to research students, including common rooms and workstations.

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability Advisory and Support Service. Email: