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MA / MPhil / DPhil in Biography by Research

Course Description

Course outline

The cutting-edge Taught MA in Biography was founded in 1996, remains unique to Buckingham and is consistently rated ‘excellent’ by external examiners and inspectors. Since then, in response to student demand, the available options have been extended to include postgraduate research degrees at three levels: MA by Research, MPhil or DPhil level. Study can be on either a full-time or a part-time basis.

Find out more about our School of Humanities on http://www.buckingham.ac.uk/humanities.

Course structure

For their first year of study students on all these courses attend the same weekly seminars as students taking the Taught MA in Biography. These provide the critical awareness of the subject which is an essential prerequisite for dissertation work and they are one of the most distinctive and valuable elements of the MA. They take place as follows:

- Autobiography (September to December)
- Special Paper in Biography (January to June)
- Research Methods (January to June)

The modules on Biography and Autobiography are designed to combine the study of classic biographies and memoirs with contemporary writing. In addition, the Research Methods module provides an invaluable and innovative training, especially devised for biographers.

Guest seminars on the course are led by leading biographers, critics, publishers and agents. Teachers and speakers on the course have included Andrew Motion, Kathryn Hughes, Frances Wilson, Frances Spalding, Jeremy Lewis, Rupert Shortt, Caroline Dawnay, Andrew Lownie and Miranda Seymour.

Research students are expected to produce, as a valuable preliminary to their own research project, written coursework for the Research Methods module (an annotated bibliography and a short biography, with supporting material, produced according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography format), and one other piece of written work, but the full amount of termly written work required for the taught course is not compulsory. During the early part of the course, research students refine their research proposal under the individual supervision of the course director for eventual discussion with the Research Officer. Once the research proposal has been accepted students concentrate on individual research and the preparation of a dissertation, under the supervision of the course director.

Teaching methods

One of the distinctive features of the programme is the value attached to the supervision which is provided for students working on dissertations. One-on-one supervisions are held every two or three weeks during term. While the dissertation must be the candidate’s independent work, it is the supervisor who offers advice on refining the topic (if necessary), on primary sources, on secondary reading, on research techniques and on writing the dissertation. Regular group discussions between research students at all degree levels (MA, MPhil and DPhil) allow the exchange of research experiences and mutual support.

Programme director

Professor Jane Ridley founded the Buckingham Biography MA in 1996. She is an Oxford-trained historian and biographer, and her publications include The Young Disraeli (1995) and The Architect and his Wife: A Life of Edwin Lutyens (2002), which won the Duff Cooper Prize. She has contributed widely to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and she is a regular reviewer for publications such as the Spectator, the Literary Review and the Times Literary Supplement. She is currently completing a biography of Edward VII, for which she was awarded a research fellowship by the Leverhulme Trust.


Teaching takes place in London. See the University's website for more information.


The normal periods of study for achieving these research degrees are as follows:

- MA Res– 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time
- MPhil – 2 years full-time or 4 years part-time
- DPhil – 3 years full-time or 6 years part-time

Administrative arrangements

A system of preliminary registration for all research degrees is in operation to allow students to prepare a formal proposal during the early part of their course. Admission to research degrees is normally on a provisional basis while the candidate, with the help of the supervisor, refines the proposal for the research, including developing a work plan and identifying the requirements for support and resources and how these will be met. Students for the MA degree in Biography by Research are registered initially for the taught MA until the research proposal has been accepted. Postgraduate students wishing to register for the DPhil programme in Biography must first register for the MPhil and seek conversion at a later stage. Registration is upgraded to DPhil, normally between 12 and 18 months from first registration, once the student has demonstrated through the submission of draft written work that he or she has the ability to conduct research at the advanced level required for the award of the degree. All research students must also subject their work to an annual progress review.

Changing the level of the research degree after the start of the course, although not impossible, can produce complications. Prospective students uncertain about the level or length of course best suited to them are strongly advised to discuss this with the course director before applying.

Apply here http://www.buckingham.ac.uk/humanities/mres/biography.

Visit the MA / MPhil / DPhil in Biography by Research page on the University of Buckingham website for more details!

Student Profiles

The Paul E H Davis Awards - 4 Awards

The Paul E H Davis Awards are in support of postgraduate studies and scholarship in English Literature by Research and in research in History or Biography as follows:- The Davis Research Scholarship – to the value of half fees for the MA in English Literature by Research (£2,000)
- Three Davis Research Exhibitions – to the value of £1,000 each; two exhibitions will be for the study of English Literature, and one for postgraduate History or Biography by Research.

Value of Scholarship(s)



Preference for the scholarship awards in postgraduate study in Literature by Research will be given to home students; candidates achieving their MA at Buckingham and pursuing an MPhil or DPhil in English Literature will also be eligible.Preference for the exhibition for History or Biography by Research, normally tenable for one year, is given to home students. In the case of part-time students, the award may be spread over two years.

Application Procedure

All candidates must complete an application for the exhibition or scholarship awards; the awards selection committees will consider the academic and other relevant qualifications of each candidate. Any award may be withdrawn if the recipient fails to maintain satisfactory progress with his or her research.The applications for awards for MA in Literature by Research are accepted throughout the year. Applications for the exhibition in History or Biography by Research are due by 31 October. Requests for applications should be forwarded to Claire Prendergast, University of Buckingham, Hunter Street, Buckingham MK18 1EG or emailed to [email protected]

Further Information



Postgraduate first class scholarship - No. of awards TBC

A first class scholarship is available to both home and international students following a taught postgraduate degree at the University. The scholarship will reduce tuition fees by 33%.

Value of Scholarship(s)

% discount


The scholarship will be automatically awarded to applicants who already have a first class honours degree that is recognised to UK standard.

Application Procedure

The scholarship will be automatically awarded to applicants who meet the criteria.

Further Information


Entry Requirements

The minimum entry level required for this course is a first or second-class honours degree from a recognised university or a recognised professional qualification with relevant work experience

Course Fees

International £13,280 p.a. Home £7,140 p.a.

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Recipient: University of Buckingham

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