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Information for Current Postgraduate Students

Welcome to the School of English and what we are sure will be an exciting and challenging phase of your education and personal development. This page provides a summary of necessary and useful information to help your transition to graduate studies.

Office space and facilities

Every postgraduate student will be provided with a large locker in the School of English or Faculty of Arts postgraduate common room where desks are available daily on a first-come-first-served basis. In the School of English postgraduate common room, students will also have access to a computer and a printer. Photocopying facilities are provided in the general office, in room 735, 7/F, Run Run Shaw Tower (Building B, Arts), Centennial Campus. Should you have tutorial duties for the term, you will be permitted to make 20 copies per student per semester on the school photocopying machine. You will receive a code for these copies. For your other photocopying needs, the library has many photocopying machines, and copy cards can be purchased in the library.

Duties of graduate students

Every funded graduate student is expected to contribute to the life of the School of English in a variety of ways.  You may be required to assist lecturers as teaching assistants, and give tutorials or seminars to undergraduate students.  You will also be asked to help in invigilating examinations, and helping with departmental functions, such as the seminars or the School of English Open Day.


You will be assigned a supervisor, or sometimes two supervisors, who will advise you on research work, as well as other relevant matters.  In addition Dr Dirk Noël also serves as the Graduate Studies Advisor for the school, and you are welcome to consult him on any matters relating to your work in the school. He is available for consultation during office hours and his email is dnoel@hku.hk.

Conferences and conference grants

Every graduate student in the school is encouraged to apply for a conference grant to attend an overseas conference dealing with their particular field of interest.  A graduate student normally attends such a conference towards the latter part of their studies and is expected to give a paper at this conference. Information on conferences, applications, and research support grants is posted on the Postgraduate Studies (PGS) bulletin board. The grants are usually to support your research, i.e. the order of interlibrary loans, photocopying needs, and books. Some students, however, use these grants to purchase equipment, but all big-item purchases must be approved by the Head of School, and receipts must be included before reimbursement is possible.

Research seminars

Research seminars are held regularly throughout the two university semesters, usually every Thursday evening during the academic term.  Graduate students are expected to give at least one paper at the Thursday night seminar, usually some time in their second year of enrollment.  You are also expected to attend all such seminars to hear papers from your peers, or from other academics, from HKU or other institutions, throughout the two semesters.

Library matters

Graduate students are entitled to a small grant to enable them to order books, and papers from overseas universities through a system of 'interlibrary loan'. The interlibrary loan system is now fully online under the HKALL and ILLiad systems of the library's computer network. The interlibrary loan desk is located in front of the main lending counters on the ground floor of the library. They are extremely helpful and efficient, although you should take the initiative to track the progress of books and papers you have ordered online. In addition, you are encouraged to take your requests for book orders to your supervisor, who may well be able to order such books for the university library.  Students are urged to do this as soon as possible after joining the school, as it often takes six months for the books to arrive.

Overseas students

Overseas students, for example from Malaysia and Singapore, may have special requirements for student visas, residence requirements, etc., and this is also the case if you are a student from mainland China. See the web pages of the Centre of Development and Resources for Students for more information. If you have any particular questions relating to such matters, you may call Ms Sylvia Wong, at the CEDARS, (Tel. 2857 8301; sylchan@hku.hk).

Coursework requirements for M.Phil. and Ph.D. students

As stipulated by the Regulations for the Degree of Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), newly registered MPhil and PhD students are required to complete a coursework programme to prepare themselves for research work and the writing of the thesis. The coursework programme includes courses offered by the Graduate School and additional courses required by the Arts Faculty and your registered School. Students should discuss their course selections with their supervisors before registration.

All newly registered MPhil and 4-year PhD students are required to take four compulsory courses offered by the Graduate School or their approved equivalents in the School of English (ENGL6070 Introduction to thesis writing in English studies and ENGL7011 Research methods). In addition, students will also be required to take one compulsory School of English course (ENGL6001 Research Seminar) and one School of English elective. Elective courses vary from year to year and current offerings can be found on the online course selection system.

3-year PhD students are only required to take GRSC6009 Research Ethics for Graduate Students: Arts and Architecture in addition to the School of English course requirements.

Graduate School courses
MPhil and 4-year PhD programme

The core courses (or their equivalents) must be passed by the end of the probationary period.

All students, unless they have prior teaching experience, will also be required to take a mandatory course on teaching skills if they are to be deployed as teaching assistants. This course is taught by staff from the Centre for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL).

For more details of Graduate School coursework requirements and courses, please check here.

School of English courses

All MPhil, 3-year and 4-year PhD students are required to take one compulsory course (ENGL6001 Research Seminar) and one elective course from the School of English. The list of available courses is shown below. Note that not all elective courses will be offered every year. A current list of courses on offer can be viewed under the online course selection system.

Click on the Course Code for details.

C = compulsory
E = elective
** = ENGL6070 can be taken in lieu of the Graduate School Core Course I "Introduction to Thesis Writing" but not as a School elective course.
*** = ENGL7011 can be taken in lieu of the Graduate School Core Course II "Introduction to Quantitative Research Methods (The Humanities and Related Disciplines)" but not as a School elective course.

Course Code   Course Title C / E Pre-requisites
ENGL6001   Research Seminar C Nil
ENGL6003   Guided Reading Course E Nil
ENGL6053   Special Topics in English Studies E Nil
ENGL6056   Cultural Semiotics E Nil
ENGL6070   Introduction to Thesis Writing in English Studies ** Nil
ENGL6073   Introduction to Literature and Cross-cultural Theory E Nil
ENGL6075   The Politics of English E Nil
ENGL6079   World Modernisms E Nil
ENGL6080   Travel Writing and Culture E Nil
ENGL6081   Global Fictions E Nil
ENGL6083   Post-colonial Representations E Nil
ENGL7011   Research Methods *** Nil
ENGL7101   Introduction to Language and Communication E Nil
ENGL7102   Global Englishes E Nil
ENGL7103   New Media and Discourse E Nil
ENGL7104   Global Shakespeare E Nil
ENGL7105   Intercultural Communication E Nil
ENGL7106   The Global History of English E Nil
ENGL7107   Race in America: The Novels of William Faulkner and Toni Morrison E Nil
ENGL7108   Imagining Asia E Nil
ENGL6001 Research Seminar

This course will take place in the first semester of the candidate’s programme. The students and supervisors will draw up a programme of reading aimed to meet particular needs in terms of the acquisition of background knowledge, understanding of different theoretical approaches, etc. Mode of assessment: production of a substantial annotated bibliography.

Assessment: 100% coursework (pass/fail) 

ENGL6003 Guided Reading Course

A course of individual study with a syllabus drawn up and agreed by the student and the supervisor.  Student and supervisor will meet regularly for discussion of the readings.

Assessment: 100% coursework (pass/fail) 

ENGL6053 Special Topics in English Studies

The aim of the course is to introduce students to the topics which are of relevance to their research study but have not been taken previously.  Students will be instructed to attend one undergraduate course or a combination of undergraduate courses from the school as prescribed by the supervisor(s) and/or the Chairman of the Departmental Research Postgraduate Committee.  Students will also be required to do further guided readings and/or attend extra tutorials.  Assessment will be in the form of written assignments at postgraduate level.

Assessment: 100% coursework (pass/fail) 

ENGL6056 Cultural Semiotics

This course introduces students to the fields of semiotics and semiology, i.e. the study of signs, with particular reference to theories of the sign and what they have to tell us about ‘culture’ and ‘society’. While the course includes reflections on any type of signs, the main focus will be on language and linguistic communication. Students will be introduced to some of the major schools in semiotics and semiology, including structuralism, behaviourism, idealism, realism, social constructivism, some of the contemporary ideological currents, i.e. humanism and posthumanism, and to some of the key modern thinkers in the field, among others John Locke, Ferdinand de Saussure, Charles S. Peirce, Roman Jakobson, Leonard Bloomfield, Roland Barthes, Erving Goffman, William Labov, Basil Bernstein, Thomas Sebeok, Jakob von Uexkuell, Roy Harris and Jacques Derrida. We will inquire into how signs function, how they mediate between us and others, between us and ‘reality’, and how abstract terms like ‘discourse’ and ‘ideology’ are theorized. We will consider signs as abstract entities and as material ‘things’ and analyse them with respect to our personal (linguistic) experience. We shall also think about signs in connection with humans vs. non-humans and the contemporary critique of 'meaning'.

Assessment: 100% coursework (pass/fail)

ENGL6070 Introduction to Thesis Writing in English Studies (6 credits)

This course offers students a framework within which they discuss the genre of thesis writing, in particular the various stages of a research thesis, with reference to the thesis format required by the University.

** This course can be taken in lieu of the Graduate School Core Course I "Introduction to Thesis Writing and Research" but not as a School elective course.

Assessment: 100% coursework (pass/fail)
Please click here for the course details

ENGL6073 Introduction to Literature and Cross-cultural Theory

The theme of cross-cultural study is implicit in all of the courses in the MA in English Studies. This foundation course prepares students by introducing them to the historical development of literature by studying different authors and genres within diverse cultural contexts. Traditional, western literature will be read alongside other ‘national’ and world literatures from post-colonial and global contexts to examine the sense of interconnectedness between various genres, movements and time periods. The primary texts will be supported by the work of critics who have tried to formalize cross-cultural relations through particular historical, ethnographic, literary and linguistic studies of cultural interaction. This might include work by Benedict Anderson, Homi Bhabha, Frantz Fanon, Mary Louise Pratt, Edward Said, and others.

Assessment: 100% coursework (pass/fail)

ENGL6075 The Politics of English

This course examines the contemporary politics of English, looking at debates over local and regional cultural identities, English as the language of modernity and social mobility, English as a ‘killer language’ within linguistic imperialism, cross-cultural discourse and globalization. The historical roots of the rise of English will be traced, and its current world-wide profile analyzed, with special reference to the sharply divergent attitudes found in socio-political debate. Special reference will be made to English in Hong Kong.

Assessment: 100% coursework (pass/fail)

ENGL6079 World Modernisms

'Modernism', as a movement in literature and the other arts, is traditionally studied in national or regional contexts, predominantly from a Eurocentric perspective. This course will pursue the idea of a "world modernism", by looking at selected works of fiction and visual culture from around the world, between (roughly) 1900 and 1950, written in English or translated into English. How differently do these works respond to modernity, and how do they relate to each other -- by influence, and shared or contrasted preoccupations or procedures -- in the network of "world modernisms"?

Assessment: 100% coursework (pass/fail)

ENGL6080 Travel Writing and Culture

Cross-cultural or intercultural issues are necessarily central to most travel writing. This course explores such issues in a wide range of travel narratives by writers from the medieval period to the present day. The approach is more thematic than historical and themes covered will include travel and imperialism, East-West meetings, mapping self and nation, mobilization of knowledge, postcolonial journeys and travels in globality.

Assessment: 100% coursework (pass/fail)

ENGL6081 Global fictions

Since its inception, the novel has maintained a close relationship with nation. A cohesive time-space can be identified where the narrator's point of view and that of an implied reader coincide with the interests of an identifiable country or region. But after cross-cultural journeys and globalization, how strong is the idea of the nation in the public imagination? To what extent is the idea of national belonging weakened, and what kind of transnational affinities are being engendered? Where are the power lines of this transnationalism? Should we be worried about losing the protection of the nation state? What new possibilities arise for cultural production?

This course explores some of these questions through fictions that emphasise the transnational, moving beyond socio-geographical boundaries of nation. While we will consider how postcolonial, postmodern and world literatures might give rise to global fictions, we will also see if there is evidence of a newly emerging cultural form.

Assessment: 100% coursework (pass/fail)

ENGL6083 Post-Colonial Representations

This course will examine a fundamental issue in post-colonial studies: Representation. This issue will be examined through its various forms, including Gender, Race, Culture, from the perspective of critical, fictional and visual texts.

Assessment: 100% coursework (pass/fail)

ENGL7011 Research Methods

This course offers an introduction to research methods in English literary and language studies. It will be conducted on a one-on-one basis with the student’s supervisor. Topics to be followed include: development of theoretical framework, identification of research questions, use of primary and secondary materials, and thesis writing. Each student, with their supervisor’s guidance, will first draw up an individual programme of reading appropriate to the student’s research project. This reading schedule may focus on acquiring background knowledge or exploring a variety of theoretical approaches to a topic. The student should then produce a substantial essay drawing on the reading done, demonstrating writing skills and the ability to think critically. The course structure should allow for the correction of a draft before the final submission of the term paper.

***This course can be taken in lieu of the Graduate School Core Course II "Introduction to Quantitative Research Methods (The Humanities and Related Disciplines)" but not as a School elective course.

Assessment: term paper of 5-6000 words (pass/fail)

ENGL7101 Introduction to Language and Communication

This course introduces students to core research areas within the field of language and communication, with a focus on theories, approaches and applications drawn from sociolinguistics. Contemporary issues such as globalisation, language spread, and bi/multilingualism will be discussed. Key themes addressed in the course include: culture, ideology, identity, language policy, varieties of English, World Englishes and global Englishes. To facilitate introduction to these themes, the course will present students with basic knowledge in linguistics and sociolinguistic theory and approaches, as well as empirical examples drawn from the literature. Based on these insights, students will regularly be encouraged to bring along their own examples of linguistic data, to discuss and interpret in class.

Assessment: 100% coursework (pass/fail)

ENGL7102 Global Englishes

At the turn of the century, the globalisation of world trade and culture has led to the global spread of English. While the social, political and economic complexities brought about by globalisation have established the contemporary place of English as the world’s primary international language, there are some crucial and controversial issues that need critical analysis, particularly as regards the persistent exonormative model of Standard English, non-standard variations in New Englishes or postcolonial Englishes, the emergent variant forms of ‘glocal’ Englishes in the so-called Expanding Circle, i.e. what is commonly referred to as English as a Lingua Franca (EFL), and ‘Translingua Franca English’ (TFE) as the fluid social processes that includes all global uses of English. Students in this course will critically examine this polycentric development of English today and the current academic debate on the ideology of Standard English, the discourses of postcolonialism, the relationship between language and power, the attitudes to and the linguistic rights of non-native speakers of English, and the future of English.

Assessment: 100% coursework (pass/fail)

ENGL7103 New Media and Discourse

This course offers a contemporary approach to key concepts in mediated communication within the field of language and new media, with a focus on media as language use. With a strong emphasis on the anthropological and social dimensions of mass communication, the course encourages students to consider the ways in which media discourse is different from everyday face-to-face interactions and critically reflect upon the ways in which media technologies extend human language capabilities. Key themes addressed in the course include: the discursive practices and performances that are taking place within the new media environments, the uneven distribution of technology across the globe, ideologies and semiotic resources deployed in (re)producing certain discourses by different social groups, the exploration of the ways in which new media are localised into everyday practices and performances of social actors in their diverse geographical localities. To facilitate introduction to these themes, the course will present students with a series of theories and approaches drawn from language and media studies. So as to also develop their analytical skills, students will be encouraged to carry out their own investigations, i.e. to complete a personal media and communications audit, then to reflect on what new media mean for them and for accomplishing artful/playful discursive practices and performances.

Assessment: 100% coursework (pass/fail)

ENGL7104 Global Shakespeare

The course seeks to introduce students to Shakespeare’s plays and their many afterlives across the globe.  It examines how and why Shakespeare has become a global phenomenon, performed and studied from Asia to Africa, the Pacific to the Balkans. What is it about the plays that inspires such global interest?  What aspects of Shakespeare have been emphasised in different times and contexts?  And how have the language and emotions of early modern England been translated into distant cultures?

Assessment: 100% coursework (pass/fail)

ENGL7105 Intercultural Communication

The forces of globalization have impacted the social, cultural, political and linguistic aspects of communities around the world. Their effects can be seen in the complexity of communications taking place between speakers from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. This course presents an overview of relevant concepts, theories and approaches to intercultural communication. We will survey the interdisciplinary sources of inquiry into culture and cultural difference, compare models and approaches to the study of intercultural encounters, and analyze specific examples of intercultural communication using research from diverse, multilingual contexts. The course draws on concepts from a range of disciplines, including communications, sociolinguistics, anthropology, social psychology and organizational communication.  

Assessment: 100% coursework (pass/fail)

ENGL7106 The Global History of English

The English language began as a set of obscure dialects on an island at the edge of the world. Today, it is spoken by almost two billion people, and functions as the lingua franca of a vast global network. But the history of English before the twentieth century is also a global story: one involving international politics, power, religion, technology, commerce, music and literature, the oppressor and the oppressed. This course examines the history of the English from its Proto-Indo-European roots to the nineteenth century as a language shaped and changed by global forces. The course begins at the end, with early nineteenth-century English, and traces the language back through the centuries, and through a range of textual forms and formats. It has a particular focus on the external forces of politics, religion, war and language interaction that influenced English, and on the role played by the imported technologies of writing and printing. How has English changed over the centuries—and what international influences have governed this change?

Assessment: 100% coursework (pass/fail)

ENGL7107 Race in America: The Novels of William Faulkner and Toni Morrison

In this course, we will examine the works of two Nobel Prize-winning American authors and examine their explorations of American identity, American culture, in particular racial conflict in America. Reading several novels by William Faulkner and Toni Morrison, we will attempt to construct a conversation between the works of these very different authors, who nonetheless share many of the same concerns and narrative strategies. Active class participation, close readings of the primary texts and various critical readings, an oral presentation, and a final research essay will be required.

Assessment: 100% coursework (pass/fail)

ENGL7108 Imagining Asia

This course will explore the way several different British and American writers have imagined Asia in their literary texts. We will examine both the similarities and the differences in the way Asia and Asians are represented in texts that span the twentieth century, span the continent, and challenge one another in their various perspectives. In addition, we will read several post-colonial theorists as a tool for understanding with more nuance and depth the contested notions of what constitutes the East and the West and the dynamic relationships between them that are presented in these texts.

Assessment: 100% coursework (pass/fail)

1. Undergraduate courses taken as part of the M.Phil curriculum will carry extra tutorial and written work.
2. Students will normally complete all but one of their coursework units in the first year of study.

Current Postgraduate Students and Recent completed theses

Please click here for current Postgraduate Students and Recent completed theses.

Further advice

If you have any queries concerning the above or related matters, please contact Dr Dirk Noël, our Graduate Studies Advisor.
Email: dnoel@hku.hk;
Office: Room 739, 7/F, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU