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Information for Applicants


1. Programme Offered

The School of English at the University of Hong Kong offers full- and part-time research postgraduate programmes for the degrees of MPhil and PhD.



3. Research Areas

The School of English at HKU has an international academic staff and postgraduate student body, working in these areas:

  • Literatures in English
  • Cross-cultural Studies in English
  • English Language and Linguistics
  • Language and Communication

For PhDs, we would particularly encourage applications in the following areas:

  • Postcolonial Literary Studies
  • Cross-cultural Writing
  • Law, Language and Literature
  • Psycholinguistics, Phonetics, and Phonology
  • Sociolinguistics, Discourse Analysis and Pragmatics
  • Integrational Linguistics
Areas of research: literary studies

Literary and cultural research in theoretical and textual studies in the School of English concentrates on work from the 16th century through to the 21st century. We have particular strengths in cross-cultural studies; post-colonial theoretical, literary and cultural studies; Hong Kong and other Asian literatures in English; literature and the law; and travel writing.

Areas of research: language studies

Most of the linguistic research going on in the School of English can be situated in the interdisciplinary areas of sociolinguistics and discourse analysis. Linguistic research in the School of English focuses on English language data. Specific areas of expertise include World Englishes, linguistic anthropology, the politics and ideology of language, language in workplace and institutional settings, language and the law, language and gender, cognitive sociolinguistics, second language acquisition, applied linguistics, phonetics and psycholinguistics.

Individual research specialisms

Take a look at the staff profiles to learn more about individual scholars in the School. Staff members have indicated they are particularly interested in research proposals related to the following specific areas and topics of ongoing research:

You can click on the staff name to find more details.

Dr Anya Adair: Book History; Digital Humanities; Law And Literature; Legal History; Manuscript Studies; Medieval English Literature; Old English; Old Norse.
Dr Ricky Chan: Experimental Phonetics; Forensic phonetics; Prosody; Psycholinguistics; Second language acquisition; Implicit and explicit language learning; English in Hong Kong.
Dr Hanwool Choe: Discourse Analysis; Interactional Sociolinguistics; Digital Discourse; Language and Food; Family Interaction; Life Stories.
Dr Brandon Chua: 17th and 18th Century British Literature; Literature and Jacobitism; Critical Theory; History of Sexualities; Religion and Literature; History of the Novel; Shakespeare Adaptation Studies.
Dr Anjuli Gunaratne: Global Anglophone and World Literature; Postcolonial Literature and Theory; Law and Literature; Literary and Critical Theory; Trauma Theory; Ecocriticism; Psychoanalysis.
Dr Elizabeth Ho: Contemporary literature; Postcolonial theory and fiction; Neo-Victorian studies; Comics and graphic novels; Global literatures in English; Geo-humanities.
Professor Christopher Hutton: Language and politics; Sociolinguistics; Language and law; History of linguistics.
Professor Kendall Johnson: American literature, colonial through early-twentieth centuries; Native American literatures; race studies; Law and literature; Anthropology and literature; Visual aesthetics; Postcolonial theory; History of the novel; Transnational dimensions of the China Trade.
Dr Brian King: Discourse analysis; Critical sociolinguistics; Gender; Sexuality; Linguistic landscapes; Health communication (particularly in relation to intersex and differences of sexual development).
Professor Don Kulick: Interspecies communication; Disability studies; Language shift and language death; Language socialization; Language and sexuality; Queer studies; Sex work; Trans studies; Language and psychoanalysis; Melanesia.
Professor Tong King Lee: Intercultural and nonverbal communication; East Asian Englishes; Translanguaging and translation.
Dr Nicholas Luke: Shakespeare; Early modern literature; Drama; Literary theory; Religion and literature; Law and literature; Aesthetics.
Dr Page Richards: Poetry; Creative writing; Life writing, drama; Interdisciplinary theatre practice.
Dr Daniel Weston: Gatekeeping; Linguistics and education; Dialectology; Historical sociolinguistics; World Englishes.
Dr Olga Zayts: Discourse analysis; (Interactional) Pragmatics; Conversation analysis; Intercultural communication; Professional communication (in particular, in healthcare and business contexts); Politeness; Identity; Leadership.
Dr Nan Zhang: 19th and early 20th century British Literature; Global modernism; Cosmopolitan studies; History of political thought; Aesthetics and ethics; Economics


4. Application Information

The next round of admissions is for the academic year 2024/25, with entry in September 2024. The deadline for submission of applications in the Main Round is 1 December 2023.

  • How do I apply?
    There are three application deadlines for MPhil or PhD studies: early December, end April, and end August. Most people apply in the first round, in December, when the majority of places are assigned. The second and third rounds, in April and August, are clearing rounds, and very few places are available at these times.

At present, successful applicants for the PhD programme can commence their studies on the first day of any calendar month. Most, however, prefer to start in September, at the start of the academic year. A September starting date also suits the department best, since studentship holders will be assigned their teaching duties at that time.

You can apply through the Graduate School website at https://gradsch.hku.hk/prospective_students/application/how_to_apply.

  • What about funding?
    Composition fees for full-time MPhil and PhD students, which are subject to revision, are currently HK$42,100 per year. Applicants for full-time study normally apply at the same time for a Postgraduate Studentship (HK$18,390 per month w.e.f. 1 September 2023). Studentship holders will be required to do up to 100 hours per year tutoring work, or research assistantship, in the School.

  • Where can I find out more?
    Full details about application and admission procedures, awards and financial assistance, and the amenities and services provided by the University, can be found at the Graduate School website.


5. General Information

In addition to the coursework programmes MA in English Studies (MAES), the MFA in Creative Writing in English, and the MA in Creative Communications (MACC), the School of English also accepts postgraduate students for research studies leading to the degrees of MPhil and PhD.

The MPhil and PhD are research degrees. Their chief component is the production of a scholarly thesis of original work in some area of English studies. Of the two, the PhD is the senior degree, requiring a more substantial thesis of publishable quality.

If you are thinking of applying to join our MPhil or PhD programme, you should begin by studying the information given here online. We also give important advice below about the application process, the qualifications needed, and the research proposal you must submit. In planning your research proposal, you should bear in mind the research strengths and interests of potential supervisors, shown below. You can also find out about our teaching staff and undergraduate teaching programmes.

All students in these programmes have to attend and pass certain courses offered by the Graduate School. They must also take a number of courses in the School, as well as writing their thesis.

Research students are assigned a supervisor, or sometimes two, to act as their advisor, help them plan their research project, meet for regular discussion of their work, and oversee and comment on their writing. MPhil students taking courses in the School will have regular contact with the teachers of those courses, and often postgraduates find other teachers (and students) in the School with whom they can discuss aspects of their work. Staff from the Graduate School offer instruction in research methods, thesis writing and other matters.

There is a regular School research seminar, at which staff and research students get together to share and discuss their work, and sometimes to hear distinguished visiting scholars. The School also has a Research Postgraduate Advisor who can offer further help and support. However, research degree students have to take responsibility for their own work. In the end, their success in the programme depends on their own resources of hard work, discipline and intellectual creativity.

MPhil Programme



24 months

36 months


3-year PhD Programme

4-year PhD Programme





36 months

54 months

48 months

72 months


The period of full-time study for MPhil students is 24 months, and for PhD students it is normally 48 months. In exceptional cases the School will accept students who wish to do research studies on a part-time basis.

Research students are from Hong Kong, but we also have international research students. In recent years they have come from Belgium, Canada, Iran, Japan, Macau, Mainland China, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.


6. Frequently asked questions

What qualifications do I need?

Candidates for admission to our research programmes must have a good first degree in a relevant discipline from a reputable university. Normally, candidates are not admitted straight into PhD studies unless they have some research experience in a postgraduate programme. If you have a first degree from a university where the language of teaching and examination is not English, you must have obtained an overall score of 85 or above in the TOEFL (Test of English as Foreign Language - Internet-based test - taken within 2 years) and a score of 25 or above in the Writing section. We also accept the International English Language Testing System (IELTS - Academic Module - taken within 2 years) but you must have at least a score of 7 with no subtest lower than 6. You will be expected to have good academic references. Applicants for both MPhil and PhD studies are required to submit a research proposal (see below), and the School may ask for further information from you, in an interview or in writing.

This may not be enough! Entry is competitive and places are limited. Sometimes the School is not able to accept a well-qualified applicant because there are no places, or no appropriate supervision, available at the time.

Research Proposal

What is required for the research proposal?

The research proposal for MPhil studies should be 1000-1500 words in length. Your proposal should present your idea for an MPhil research project, including a description of the project, why you think it is important, a literature review, and a bibliography. It should also include a brief account of how your academic background prepares you to complete this project and why you want to undertake your research at HKU. We understand that your proposal at this stage will be provisional, but it should show that you have some knowledge of the field, have started the relevant reading, and have a sense of the project’s methodology and the resources it will require. You should append a preliminary bibliography; the bibliography is not included in the word count.

The research proposal for PhD studies should be 1500-2500 words in length. It should outline a clearly considered and defined research topic, with an account of the research questions and methodology proposed, an explanation of the value and originality of the research, a chapter-by-chapter description, and a bibliography. The bibliography is not included in the word count.


7. Enquiries

If you have questions about research studies in the School of English that are not covered in the information above, you can direct them to the Postgraduate Advisor, Dr Nan Zhang, by e-mail at nzhang@hku.hk.