Navigation

MPhil & PhD in Cultural Studies

  • Length
    3-4 years full-time or 4-6 years part-time
  • Department
    Centre for Cultural Studies

Course overview

On this programme we interrupt theory with practice, and practice with theory – we aim to engage you, intellectually and critically, and with enthusiasm, in a cultural studies project that questions everything.

The MPhil/PhD programme offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of culture. We'll introduce you to a wide variety of perspectives and traditions, animated via a creative interface between disciplines.

You'll develop a fundamental grounding in social and cultural theory, cultural studies and cultural research, as well as skills in ethnography, digital media, textual and audio-visual analysis.

The programme encourages you to deploy these methods to articulate your appreciation of crucial debates in the public domains of the media, the culture industries, formal and informal institutions, and in the wider contemporary cultural scene.

Many students write text-based theses, but approximately one third of our candidates produce theses that incorporate practical work in media and/or arts.

Find out more about:

Contact the department

If you have specific questions about the degree, contact Luciana Parisi

Structure

Registration and study

Initially, you register for a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) programme to train you in the research methods you will need to complete a PhD.

You can apply to upgrade to PhD registration when you have satisfactorily completed an agreed part of the research and training programme; this usually happens after 18 months if you are studying full-time, or 24 months if part-time.

You should aim to complete and submit your PhD thesis within an agreed period, usually three to four years for full-time students, and four to six years for part-time.

If you decide not to upgrade to PhD registration, you can submit your thesis for an MPhil after two years if you are studying full-time, or after three years if part-time.

With the agreement of your supervisor, you can change your registration from full to part-time or vice versa; the necessary form is available from the Student Records Office.

North American applicants especially should note that the British system does not include preparatory taught classes or examinations as part of the MPhil/PhD programme, except for an initial module in research methods.

Research supervision

Research students are normally co-supervised by one staff member from the centre and a staff member from the academic department whose expertise is best suited to your needs.

Often one supervisor will see you for a term or two and then the other co-supervisor will take over for an extended period, depending on the sort of work you are undertaking at the particular point in time.

Some students are single-supervised by a member of the Centre's staff. In cases of co-supervision, you will normally meet with one co-supervisor at a time.

You'll be able to draw on wide-ranging and interdisciplinary supervisory teams and if your thesis is partly by other media, specialist supervision will be provided. For example:

  • A student of consumer culture might be supervised by a media studies analyst of material culture and a specialist in digital design
  • A student investigating postcolonial cultural forms could be supervised by an art/architectural historian and an anthropologist versed in hybrid cultures in Brazil or India
  • A student inquiring into performativity may have one supervisor who is an expert in theatre studies and another who is an expert in the sociology of the body
  • An inquiry into the sources of European identity could be supervised by specialists in the history of English and European literatures
  • A thesis presented through multimedia installation could be co-supervised by a practitioner from the Department of Art

Research topics are wide ranging; from the historical and comparative study of literature, art and architecture to the future of digital media and the informational city; from border cultures in Malaysia, Mexico or South London to the future of the self-organizing city; from philosophical considerations of Heidegger's idea of Technik, to empirical studies of new forms of work in the information society.

Research training

A College-wide programme of research training is provided, which involves an induction module (which all students should attend), introduction to information technologies and the use of library and bibliographic resources, basic training in qualitative and quantitative research methods, and sessions on research planning, presentation skills and ethics.

Find out more about research degrees at Goldsmiths

Assessment

Written thesis and viva voce. It is possible to submit work in other media, by arrangement.

Department

In the Centre for Cultural Studies (CCS) we’re dedicated to
theoretical and practical explorations in contemporary culture

Centre for Cultural Studies

We specialise in the study and design of culture: media technologies, software, art, urban space, and interventions in global geo-politics, for example. We engage at the same time in serious theoretical enquiry.

As a student in CCS you can benefit from our extensive events programme, which includes regular talks, workshops and film screenings. We also work closely with the Media, Sociology and Art departments at Goldsmiths, all of which have world-leading reputations.

Find out more about the Centre for Cultural Studies.

Skills & careers

Throughout the research degree you will develop skills in ethnography and cultural research, and be able to deploy these to articulate your appreciation of crucial debates in the public domains of the media, the culture industries, formal and informal institutions and in the wider contemporary cultural scene.

Profiles

Alix

"You need a lot of self-belief to pursue a PhD, and I really think I couldn’t do it anywhere else."

"I have met a real mix of people, including those who have also spent some time in the world of work, who are still working or/and are not from a ‘traditional’ higher-educated background. This has really helped me gain confidence and build some great support networks. I have made some firm friends on the course, which I did not expect from a PhD. You need a lot of self-belief to pursue a PhD, and I really think I couldn’t do it anywhere else."

Joel

"Goldsmiths does not shy away from addressing big societal issues and it encourages students to make meaningful links between subjects"

"I was interested in the interdisciplinary openness of Goldsmiths, the college’s emphasis on the study of political and aesthetic theory, and its overall focus on issues of contemporary visual culture. The Centre for Cultural Studies appeared to foster creative research approaches, while also maintaining a high degree of scholarly rigour.

The college’s close connections to galleries, institutions and discussions across London also made the course very attractive.

It may sound somewhat grandiose, but the course helped me better conceptualise the large-scale patterns of cultural, political and economic change that are affecting our contemporary world. Goldsmiths does not shy away from addressing big societal issues and it encourages students to make meaningful links between subjects and disciplines that are often held at a distance in more conservative academic settings.

I was particularly inspired by Professor John Hutnyk’s reading group on Karl Marx, Professor Scott Lash’s seminar on cultural theory, and Professor Howard Caygill’s seminar on the history of contemporary thought. I also greatly enjoyed the camaraderie of my fellow PhD students and the various reading groups and conferences we organised together.

The interdisciplinary research skills I gained at Goldsmiths helped me both obtain my current position teaching and researching at the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh, and work within it. I believe I was granted the fellowship because the faculty at Pittsburgh recognised that I brought an unusual perspective to architectural studies, one informed by political theory, cultural studies and contemporary philosophy.

For perspective students I would recommend being prepared to take advantage of all of the resources Goldsmiths offers that are of interest to you, regardless of what department they reside in. This can require having the courage to knock on a professor’s door or request to be enrolled in a seminar outside your home discipline. The many points of connection between departments at Goldsmiths is one of the college’s strengths.”

Christine

'I think it is this ability to embrace a cross-disciplinary approach that makes Goldsmiths unique'

“I became interested in doing a PhD whilst I was completing my MA at Epsom. I realised that academics and artists with a Goldsmiths connection wrote many of the texts that I was reading and being inspired by, for example, Gilroy, Mercer, Jefferies and Shonibare. Goldsmiths has always had a reputation for creativity, for robust critical debate, for the breaking down of boundaries and that to me was really exciting. I think it is this ability to embrace a cross-disciplinary approach that makes Goldsmiths unique – The Centre for Cultural Studies typifies this way of working. Speaking as someone who doesn’t really fit into a neat pigeonhole, Goldsmiths CCS seemed to be the right place for me!

Much of my work was and still is underpinned by Stuart Hall’s writings and I knew of his connections with CCS. I was specifically interested in exploring post-colonial studies; no other centre offered expertise in this area.

As a creative practitioner, it was important to me to have a supervisor that also had a practice background as well as someone rooted in post colonial studies. CCS made this possible through it’s links with the then Visual Art department. The relationship with the supervisor is key to doing a research project; they become almost like personal trainers – they have to push you when you need pushing! They also need to inspire. I was very fortunate.

At CCS my eyes were opened to so many different things. I remember being encouraged to present papers and publish articles. The first conference that I spoke at was in St Kitts – exciting and scary in equal measure as this was during my first year as a research student! One of my first articles was published in “Kunapipi: The Journal of Postcolonial Writing”; again, this opportunity came directly from one of my supervisors suggestions.

Since graduating, I’ve worked on a number of freelance projects with INIVA – The Institute for International Visual Arts. Second Skins: Cloth and Difference brought together a dynamic group, working in the fields of textiles, cloth and fashion exploring the role that cloth plays in the re-fashioning of identities in geographical and symbolic border crossing. Similarly, Social Fabric is an exhibition examining the role of textiles in social and economic processes.

Publications include Social Fabric (Iniva Publications, 2012) and Every Mickle Mek a Mockle: Reconfiguring Diasporic Identities in Beyond Borders (Pavement Books, 2012), drawn directly from my research project and examining the notion of dress as a creolized non-verbal “Nation Language”.

My aspirations have certainly changed. My interest in curating came directly out of my time as a research student. Similarly, I now view writing as part of my creative practice.

It’s important to find the right department/centre and the right combination of supervisors that meet your academic needs, your style of working and aspirations. Doing a PhD is a long process and can sometimes feel a little isolating – you have to really connect with your topic; it’s the “spark” between you, your topic, your supervisor and your peers that keeps you going.”

Cristobal

“The Centre for Cultural Studies was an interesting place to develop my PhD"

The Centre for Cultural Studies was an interesting place to develop my PhD. It gave me the opportunity to consider that it was possible to write a thesis about the Bombing of Poems in the first place. I found out, for example, how the Bombing of Poems can be thought of as a practice that deserves research because it can bring out ideas and relations between concepts and different fields. It made me think of it as the tip of an iceberg, with most of its structure hidden. My thesis perhaps illuminates a crack within this hidden geography.

The bombing of poems is a symbolic intervention, and as such makes references to other acts of air bombardment - indiscriminate death raining from the sky – and in this way confirms the brutality of total war. The use of such bombing oscillates between being proscribed by international treaty to being used for 'just war', as well as for pedagogical purposes in which the waging of war against civilians becomes legitimate. My thesis takes these air bombardments as critical background for the research, but also points to a different type of air bombing – that is to say, one realized using poems. The Bombing of Poems takes place in cities that have experienced aerial bombing during military confrontations and has so-far been carried out in Santiago de Chile, Gernika, Dubrovnik, Warsaw, Berlin and recently in London.

Following one of Umberto Eco's ideas, the Bombing of Poems, in my understanding, is an open act (Eco, 1989), and as such is located in an intermediary space that permits it to be studied from different perspectives. For example, the Bombing of Poems is situated within a tradition of practices that use the sky to form an image through movement from high places, without it mattering whether these projects are defined as artistic works, literary scenes, cinematographies, psychological warfare, political propaganda, or marketing strategy. In their own contexts these interventions are both inside and outside of art, politics and publicity. Obviously our work recognizes this ambivalence and plasticity, but it also tries to situate itself as a public intervention and a performance – which is to say in the terrain of the poetic.

The papers that are dropped from the helicopter are poems printed on bookmarks. The bookmarks are suspended in the air before they become gifts – that is, before they arrive to the streets, the people and the buildings. They are a reference to the pamphlets used as propaganda and in psychological warfare to demoralize the enemy. This image comprises the act of bombing and constructs the visual effect of rain or snow falling from the sky. The poems are written by authors who are younger than 42 years-old and who are from Chile and other countries where the event occurs. Poetry is important precisely because it speaks for itself. In this way, poetry is located in the Bombing of Poems as an instance of the poetic, and for this reason there is no specific theme to be found in the particular contents or messages of the poems.

The helicopter over the city poses a dichotomy to the public. On the one hand, it creates a sensation of fear due to the impossibility of escaping from the omnipresence of this machine of war. On the other hand, and in the opposite sense, it gives a sense of rescue and liberation that comes from the sky, partly due to the helicopter's ability to land in difficult terrain. In between the tension of fear and relief, the Bombing of Poems relocates not only the audience, but also urban space. It does this by means of a symbolic intervention that extends a violent event in order to change its meaning within a radical opening of the memory (Opazo-Ortiz, 1997).

CCS gave me the chance to outline a research project, not only as an academic question but also a biographical one related to the past thirteen years of working with poetry in public space as well as experimenting with publishing through different technologies. My classmates made the experience of the PhD much more real, productive and friendly.

I have had the chance to present the Bombing of Poems and share this research at cities in many countries. I did presentations at the New School in New York, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Prague, Wales, Dresden, Guernica, Belfast and Göteborg. In London I presented at Middlesex University, Central Saint Martins Design School, The London School of Communication and This is not a Gateway Festival (2009). This year I will present a paper at Yale University in the symposium Architecture and Performance and at the cultural week in the University of Bristol.”

For further information about the Bombing of Poems project you can e-mail Cristobal at cristobianchi@gmail.com

Craig

"There are innumerable opportunities and global influences all on that skinny plot of land in New Cross!"

“I completed my MFA in photography and visual theory about five years before starting a PhD. During the non-academic time I began teaching as well as continuing to work as an artist. What I realized when I started teaching (in 2000 at NYU and Hofstra University) was that I did not know the background of the theoretical models 'imported' by post '68 art practices (minimalism, conceptualism, performance, video, some photography, …), nor did I understand the etymology of the terms being 'applied' to art practices. That was my incentive to seek a post-graduate program in which I could continue to work as an artist and to utilize my background as an artist, as well as interest in teaching, in my research.

My first conversation with Scott Lash was about all of this. He shared his sort of wild-eyed optimism about what I was doing. I don't think he confused me with a scientific scholar or analyst, etc... I think he thought I would make art as PhD. But what I liked about the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths is that I could use art practice as an element, but not final outcome, of my PhD dissertation. So my wife and I moved to England (for her it was a return home) and I started the program at CCS. At that time there were about 45 students, maybe 15-20 at the seminars, and no one really knew what a 'practice-led' PhD meant or how it should be assessed. I decided immediately that I would write a thesis as thesis, the same as my colleagues. This helped me to move my practice away from 'representation' and into a materialization of some theoretical modeling.

I had a great group of colleagues at Goldsmiths. All of us attended the CCS seminars weekly as well as seminars in "contemporary thought' every other week. It was through the discourse with these colleagues that the combination of practice/theory developed. I think this might happen in other places as well, but our balance between CCS seminars and other platforms available in the college was a tremendous influence. 

The CCS faculty (Lash, Hutnyk, Verges) gave me my first opportunity to organize conferences and invite internationally recognized artists and theorists into a single forum for presentations and discussion. Couple this with the access to so many lectures at Goldsmiths or in London and the influence upon my own language, objectives, and aesthetics of presentation were profound. It was at Goldsmiths where I was able to sit at a table with Eric Alliez or Bruno Latour, or sit next to Stuart Hall at a dinner and be 'schooled' about the local. It's a rich, deep, do - it - yourself environment. You have to be self-organized (that's all of the vitalism influencing the pedagogy i think!!) – there are innumerable opportunities and global influences all on that skinny plot of land in New Cross – but you have to be on top of the scheduling and ask for the time with your supervisors, etc.

My PhD thesis looked at the spatial and temporal criteria or forms used in group, participatory, socially-engaged artworks. I created an artwork integrating computer aided audience engagement, sound, cardiovascular training equipment, and weight training equipment and presented/ performed this work during the Frieze and Scope art fairs. The artwork itself became my demonstration of the spatial and temporal criteria of relational artworks. The audience engagement and successive form production created in the performance itself provided me with examples of both 'participation' and 'interactivity' with artworks. The key objective of the thesis became the differences in kind between 'participation' and 'interactivity'

I continue to teach, to exhibit artworks (live and installed), and write/record. I'm currently working on an exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. with my colleague Colin Beatty. We are analysing the manipulation of market value and use-value in/of objects traded through the art market. We've created a corporate entity ("The Gun Club") as well as a financial trust. Through the trust we purchase the weapons, disassemble them into their individual operating parts, and distribute these parts to individual 'shareholders' of the Gun Club. Exploring the systems of regulation, the networks of power, that not only are demonstrated by the firearm itself (and opinions of them) but also by government agencies is of key interest to Colin and I. I'm also working on a book for I.B. Tauris publishers (UK) that is on Relational Art. I'll be looking at other artists rather than myself. It should be out in 2014.”

Entry requirements

You should normally have (or expect to be awarded) a taught Masters in cultural studies or in a related field with good results, especially in the dissertation. 

You might also be considered for some programmes if you aren’t a graduate or your degree is in an unrelated field, but have relevant experience and can show that you have the ability to work at postgraduate level.

Equivalent qualifications
We accept a wide range of international qualifications. Find out more about the qualifications we accept from around the world.

English language requirements
If English isn’t your first language, you’ll need to meet our English language requirements to study with us.

For this programme we require:

IELTS 7.0 (including 7.0 in the written test)

If you need assistance with your English language, we offer a range of courses that can help prepare you for postgraduate-level study.

How to apply

You apply directly to Goldsmiths using our online application system. 

Before submitting your application you'll need to have: 

  • Details of your education history, including the dates of all exams/assessments
  • The email address of your referee who we can request a reference from, or alternatively an electronic copy of your academic reference
  • Contact details of a second referee
  • personal statement – this can either be uploaded as a Word Document or PDF, or completed online
  • If available, an electronic copy of your educational transcript (this is particularly important if you have studied outside of the UK, but isn’t mandatory)
  • Details of your research proposal

You'll be able to save your progress at any point and return to your application by logging in using your username/email and password.

Before you apply for a research programme, we advise you to get in touch with the programme contact, listed above. It may also be possible to arrange an advisory meeting.

Before you start at Goldsmiths, the actual topic of your research has to be agreed with your proposed supervisor, who will be a member of staff active in your general field of research. The choice of topic may be influenced by the current research in the department or the requirements of an external funding body. 

If you wish to study on a part-time basis, you should also indicate how many hours a week you intend to devote to research, whether this will be at evenings or weekends, and for how many hours each day.

Research proposals

Along with your application and academic reference, you should also upload a research proposal at the point of application. 

This should be in the form of a statement of the proposed area of research and should include: 

  • delineation of the research topic
  • why it has been chosen
  • an initial hypothesis (if applicable)
  • a brief list of major secondary sources

When to apply 

We accept applications from October for students wanting to start the following September. 

We encourage you to complete your application as early as possible, even if you haven't finished your current programme of study. It's very common to be offered a place conditional on you achieving a particular qualification. 

If you're applying for external funding from one of the Research Councils, make sure you submit your application by the deadline they've specified. 

Selection process 

Admission to many programmes is by interview, unless you live outside the UK. Occasionally we'll make candidates an offer of a place on the basis of their application and qualifications alone.

Find out more about applying.

Fees & funding

Find out more about funding opportunities for home/EU applicants, or funding for international applicants. If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline.

Find out more about tuition fees.

Related content links