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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.

Student profiles

Junko

"There was a real sense of camaraderie. I loved the fact that after the seminars, lectures and talks, the discussion often continued"

“I was working as professional photographer in Taiwan and although I had a successful career, there was a part of me which really missed academia. I was invited to teach as visiting artist at City University of Hong Kong. I had always wanted to do a PhD. However, like most people, it was a matter of financial costs and time, which had made it seem difficult and unrealistic after having finished my masters degree at the Sorbonne.

I chose Goldsmiths and the Centre for Cultural Studies because of its excellent reputation, interdisciplinary approach, and also knowing that I would be working with the top scholars in the field. My project could not have happened elsewhere.

The whole atmosphere of CCS was stimulating and exciting. My classmates came from different disciplines. Within the peer group, there was a wide range of projects; we shared ideas and problems- - you get to know one another very closely. There was a real sense of camaraderie. I loved the fact that after the seminars, lectures and talks, the discussion often continued and eventually ended in the pub as the night went on!

There is the opportunity for students to organise conferences and workshops and to meet leading thinkers in their field- you can always discuss ideas with other staff who are very welcoming. There is an inspiring breadth of knowledge from staff members. Every year, students are asked to submit their written work to a summer panel. I found the experience amazing- although it was also terrifying! The annual summer panel was something to look forward to and it provided a wonderful opportunity for students at the end of the year to have three experts giving feedback; staff read your work so thoroughly and give such invaluable advice. It helps you to formulate your thoughts. This is very unique to CCS. I really appreciate the dedication of staff members who support and encourage students to pursue their individual projects.

You have to be very passionate about your research project even though it may be quite nebulous in the beginning. CCS enabled me to realise my project. I guess doing a PhD allows you to learn about yourself- and how far you can push yourself intellectually. Once you have done a PhD, anything is possible! You learn how to analyse various phenomena and discourse; you understand how your mind works.  The writing process is fascinating; it is intensely cerebral as well as physical. The experience opens up new possibilities regarding how you understand your being in the world. I really miss those years, even though there are always worries (financial pressure, being an overseas student, producing work) but to have that support and a critical voice is a great luxury.”

Susan

"As a researcher/artist, its easy to follow your own interests. But when you come into a programme of study, you encounter people who insist that you engage with ideas that you might not have naturally encountered."

“It was always my life ambition to do a PHD. I was living in a somewhat isolated city in Canada, so I wanted to move somewhere that was a nexus ― a city where interesting people from around the world would move through on a daily basis ― this is what initially attracted me to London and consequently Goldsmiths.

Goldsmiths is very progressive. The way in which it tackles its objects of study is very innovative, and that was hugely important to me. The demand to think differently about the world is always present, and I do not think I would have had that at any other university.

As a researcher or artist, it is very easy to follow your own interests. But when you come into a programme of study, you have an encounter with people who insist that you engage with ideas that you might not have naturally encountered. And when you do, everything changes ― you are transformed by that. I can quite candidly say that I am a different person having spent my time here."

The programmes in the Centre for Cultural Studies and Centre for Research Architecture (in which I was based) allow you to be promiscuous about your research project. Of course you need to be rigorous, but eccentricities of imagination are also always encouraged. The experience gave me a whole new set of tools for thinking.

In London I was also able to hear a lot of people speak whom I had only previously read, including Isabelle Stengers. Her work played an important part in my dissertation, so that was great for me.

With a shift in geography, come new opportunities to mobilise your work in other cities and other situations. Through Goldsmiths I met all kinds of people who created opportunities for me to develop artworks, projects and writing. I also went to lots of conferences and presented my work in the UK, Copenhagen, Zurich, Barcelona, Frankfurt and New York.

This is crucial to assessing your own work outside of the immediate context in which it was developed, to see if it can perform in the way you claim it can without relying upon the specifics of the environment in which it was developed to attain its legibility or coherence.

I think the programme at CCS really helped me enormously in terms of giving me a different vantage point to try out new ideas. A PhD never replaces the knowledge you already had, but begins to solve the problems you brought to it differently.

To do a meaningful PhD, you need to embark on that adventure with total commitment. It should never be a means to a job or merely continuation of studies. You have to take the risk that everything will change, and be open to the potential that the ways in which you previously thought about the world will fundamentally be transformed. You should never come out the same person as you went in.”

Daisy

"In addition to the academic life of the centre, one of the great things I loved about the PhD was the fieldwork."

“I wanted to do my PhD in a human-sized department where people are committed to research, where both staff and students are involved, and not in a place where I would become anonymous. I changed disciplines from Comparative Literature to Cultural Studies as I wanted my research to be move beyond the text and to be more relevant to my environment.

The Centre for Cultural Studies is a a great centre where not only the staff are committed, but also the students. The best thing about CCS is the people. Everyone's project is interesting and inspiring, and people reach out to each other. I learned so much from my fellow students. No one seems to count the hours they put into organizing and attending activities - reading groups, workshops, conferences, talks, etc. Their interest drives their work, and that's not something you find everywhere.

In addition to the academic life of the centre, one of the great things I loved about the PhD was the fieldwork. I sold apples at Borough Market for five years, and that was one of the highlights. I loved doing it and I wouldn't have done it without the encouragement of my supervisor. Because I did, the whole thesis changed, and the whole way I saw London changed.

New CCS people - be brave, be open, be a pioneer in what you do, don't be afraid and don't stick to your comfort zone. Enjoy! I loved my time in the centre and hope that you will also find your own story to tell in the future...”

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.”

Richard

"Doing a PhD revolutionised every aspect of my life"

"I work mainly at the intersection of Continental philosophy and Animal Studies, which is set to become a key area of radical political change over the next few years. I have a number of articles published or forthcoming, and am involved with a number of action groups concerned with the mutual articulation of apparently disparate oppressions (how speciesism underwrites racism & sexism, for example), and with ending the exploitation and oppression of nonhuman others. At the moment I am working on my first monograph, based on my PhD dissertation, which is to be published next year.

I wanted to do a PhD to prove something to myself, I guess, and because it would give me space and time to study whilst at the same time providing a structure and a goal of sorts (I’ve never been a fan of the “taught at & take notes” style of study). This latter too goes some way to explain my choice of Goldsmiths, which I applied to for two simple reasons: radical politics and creativity.

After an unorthodox interview with John Hutnyk (the main thing I remember was the brooding b&w portrait of Marx on the wall), I started in Sep 2006. The influence of Continental Philosophy and Theory was immediately evident in the seminars, and this immediately inspired me to begin an intensive course of reading that is still continuing today (well, maybe not immediately – during most of the first year, I often felt to be somewhat adrift, that I’d been accepted by mistake, although I guess this was a combination of lack of confidence and of not having the right supervisor). Yeah, so even though I was adrift in the first year, I still read a great deal of Nietzsche & Marx in particular, it was still a productive time. Eventually, at my first panel Bhaskar (who was not connected to my study) basically gave me another list of books to read, which was (no irony intended) incredibly important. In my second year I changed supervisors and, although it was unnecessary for us to meet often, these were the two major events which changed the course of my study for the good.

Doing a PhD revolutionised every aspect of my life, although upon completion it does turn out that old habits die hard. It enabled me to understand and articulate a great number of those things which previously I had perceived only in a vague sense as problematic or unjust, as well as provide ways for trying to change things. At the same time, it made me realise that universities are not bastions of truth and free discussion (an illusion all too quickly dispelled), but both suffer and inflict injustice and reactionary politics.

Choose a subject you are passionate about, and read, read, read – widely, slowly, and in-depth. If you have the passion, you will never get bored. If you simply want to be a Dr., or think you will earn lots of money then don’t bother – there are much easier ways of doing both.

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.

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