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Research overview

Through your own unique research:

  • develop your knowledge of critical theory
  • learn to apply critical theory approaches to contemporary social, political and cultural phenomena

Much of our work is guided by a transnational and transcultural agenda. You'll be studying in an environment with a strong interdisciplinary and international perspective.  This provides a stimulating and vibrant community with debate encouraged between staff and students.

Staff expertise

We have particular strengths in:

  • modern theory
  • political philosophy and politics
  • aesthetics
  • feminist, queer and gender studies
  • cultural, literary, media and visual studies
  • psychoanalysis
  • art history
  • postcolonial, sensory, science and technology studies

The Centre for Research in Critical Theory provides a home for much of the Critical Theory research activity and you will be encouraged to get involved and contribute.

Find out more about the department's research culture and activity.

Course content

The course is made up of 180 credits split as follows:

  • Dissertation - 160 credits
  • Optional module - 20 credits

You are also required to:

  • attend the Traditions of Critique lecture series
  • take part in the weekly work-in-progress research seminars and contribute a paper in semester 2
  • complete a course of guided reading in an agreed field related to critical theory under the supervision of the appropriate member(s) of staff

Dissertation

You'll complete a 30,000 word dissertation.

The topic will be agreed with your supervisors (usually two co-supervisors) and supported by a course of guided reading.

The dissertation is submitted at the end of the year and is marked by both an internal and external examiner. There is the possibility of a viva to agree the pass.

Optional modules

Example modules available to you include:

Put ‘theory to work’ on contemporary themes such as:

  • globalization and digital cultures
  • new media and technology
  • social movements and networked activism

You'll use approaches that may include - but are not limited to - media and communication studies, feminism and critical race studies, science and technology studies as well as discourse analysis and political economy.

The module also helps to prepare you for your dissertation. It includes four workshops covering topics such as:

  • refining a research question
  • building a theoretical framework
  • establishing an appropriate methodology
  • identifying relevant primary and secondary sources

 

This module is worth 20 credits.

You will explore the links between aesthetics and politics as they have become manifest:

  • within particular social and cultural constellations
  • in the philosophical tradition that informs contemporary critical and cultural theory

Starting with debates in and around the work of the Frankfurt School before and after World War II, the module will trace out:

  • historical connections in discussions of aesthetics and politics - from the 'visual strategies' of Hobbes's Leviathan to contemporary 'shock and awe' and the society of the spectacle
  • conceptual affiliations and applications (such as Romanticism and the literary absolute, modernist art movements and Bergsonian philosophy, 'ethico-aesthetics' and subjectivity, kitsch and cultural capital)
  • specific aspects of creative practices - from montage and collage to cutting and pasting, glitch and digital aesthetics - with a view to exploring the complexities of the relationship between theory and practice.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Explore the role of technology in:

  • shaping processes of symbolic exchange
  • the material organisation of cultures
  • the growth of communication 'power' and subjective capacities for action

The module draws together research in media and communication theory, history and philosophy of technology, geography and the sociology of communication, material cultures.

You'll consider debates about:

  • the division between technical and cultural understandings of the world
  • links between technology and experience
  • critical appraisals of ideas about network and information society
  • technological determinism
  • digital infrastructures
  • theories of socio-technical organisation

 

This module is worth 20 credits.

This module has been developed to introduce you to a range of research techniques and methodologies. It will also help you develop a variety of valuable transferable skills for your future career.

You will achieve:

  • greater confidence in dealing with original research
  • a recognition of the huge range of approaches that can be used to address research questions.

We build on the research skills you have already developed during both your undergraduate degree and discipline-specific MA modules. The emphasis is on:

  • ensuring you are possessed of a range of practical ways to approach research
  • making you think about the nature of your discipline-specific approaches within a context of growing interdisciplinarity.

You will have the chance to consider topics as varied as:

  • academic publishing
  • digital transformations
  • use of illustrations in dissertations.

You will also have the opportunity to hear academics from across the Faculty talk about the problems they have confronted and how they overcame them.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Mastering the Arts introductory video 

We will help you to apply your arts MA across society to enhance your career and contribute to wider society.

We'll demonstrate how the arts can be used to:

  • transform society, politics and culture
  • enhance the careers of arts and humanities MA students.

You'll be able to explore, explain and then detail how your disciplinary skills can impact upon wider issues to emphasise the applicability of the arts and humanities. From the role of the scholar activist to understanding ‘knowledge transfer’ and ‘public engagement’, you'll develop professional skills in preparation for a career within academia or across a range of sectors.

You will:

  • harness the ways in which the arts and humanities enable us to think differently and to innovate
  • work on issues of research, networking, grant-writing and cultural exchange
  • learn how to engage, communicate and create.

This module is worth 20 credits.

 

An introduction to some of the key research skills required to become a more effective researcher and successfully complete your MRes.

You'll also develop a range of transferable professional skills - from writing and presentation to public engagement and project management.

You will also engage with key methdological concepts and debates within the arts and humaniities.

This module runs in the Autumn semester and is worth 20 credits.

Develop the practical and intellectual skills required to bring your MRes dissertation to completion.

You'll typically cover:

  • research planning
  • archive mining
  • data management
  • practical training in thesis presentation and structuring
  • key theories and approaches relevant to all students in the areas of arts and humanities

It is not necessary to do MRes Research Skills 1 to enrol on this module.

This is a full-year module worth 40 credits.

Traditions of Critique lecture series

This module introduces you to the key thinkers, themes and debates that constitute the European critical tradition. The module provides a contextual overview of primarily post-Kantian critical philosophy and critical theory mainly in the German tradition of the 19th and 20th Centuries.

It is likely to cover thinkers such as Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud as well as Heidegger, Adorno and Benjamin. Each thinker will be presented both in terms of their interlocutors and respective historical contexts, and in terms of their subsequent interpretations and uptake in a variety of disciplines and approaches.

Discussion is structured around several overarching themes that have driven critical and philosophical debate. These are likely to include:

  • the limits of reason;
  • power and knowledge;
  • history and historicity;
  • subjectivity;
  • the politics of culture.

This module explores the work of a range of thinkers who have interrogated the work of the philosophers who constitute the “canon” of thinkers schooled in the European critical tradition.

It follows on from and engages with the work explored in Traditions of Critique but the structure of the discussion it presents can be followed without attendance on that module.

Following in its thematic development the exploration of the limits of critique, it revisits the history and geography of critique by offering an introduction to a number of thinkers, from a range of backgrounds, including postcolonial theory, feminism, structuralism and post-structuralism, and considers the variety of ways in which such thinkers have problematised central tenets of European Enlightenment thinking.

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules.

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2022 entry.

QualificationMRes
Degree

2:1 (or international equivalent) in an arts, humanities or social science subject

QualificationMRes
Degree

2:1 (or international equivalent) in an arts, humanities or social science subject

International and EU equivalents

We accept a wide range of qualifications from all over the world.

For information on entry requirements from your country, see our country pages.

IELTS7.0 (no less than 6.5 in each element)
English language requirements

As well as IELTS (listed above), we also accept other English language qualifications.

This includes TOEFL iBT, Pearson PTE, GCSE, IB and O level English.

Meeting our English language requirements

If you need support to meet the required level, you may be able to attend a presessional English course. Presessional courses teach you academic skills in addition to English language. Our Centre for English Language Education is accredited by the British Council for the teaching of English in the UK.

If you successfully complete your presessional course to the required level, you can then progress to your degree course. This means that you won't need to retake IELTS or equivalent.

For on-campus presessional English courses, you must take IELTS for UKVI to meet visa regulations. For online presessional courses, see our CELE webpages for guidance.

We recognise that applicants have a variety of experiences and follow different pathways to postgraduate study.

We treat all applicants with alternative qualifications on an individual basis. We may also consider relevant work experience.

If you are unsure whether your qualifications or work experience are relevant, contact us.

Applying

Our staff group cover many diverse areas. You are encouraged to get in touch with the most appropriate person to discuss your research proposal with before applying.

Critical Theory staff and their specialisations

Our step-by-step guide contains everything you need to know about applying for postgraduate research.

How to apply

Fees

UK fees are set in line with the national UKRI maximum fee limit. We expect fees for 2022 entry to be confirmed in February 2022.

Additional information for international students

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you will pay international tuition fees in most cases. If you are resident in the UK and have 'settled' or 'pre-settled' status under the EU Settlement Scheme, you will be entitled to 'home' fee status.

Irish students will be charged tuition fees at the same rate as UK students. UK nationals living in the EU, EEA and Switzerland will also continue to be eligible for 'home' fee status at UK universities until 31 December 2027.

For further guidance, check our information for applicants from the EU.

These fees are for full-time study. If you are studying part-time, you will be charged a proportion of this fee each year (subject to inflation).

Additional costs

There are no extra compulsory fees to be paid beyond your standard tuition fees. You'll be able to access most of the books you’ll need through our libraries, though you may wish to buy your own copies of core texts. The Blackwell's bookshop on campus offers a year-round price match against any of the main retailers (i.e. Amazon, Waterstones, WH Smith). They also offer second-hand books, as students from previous years sell their copies back to the bookshop.

Funding

There are many ways to fund your research degree, from scholarships to government loans.

Check our guide to find out more about funding your postgraduate degree.

Postgraduate funding

Support

Postgraduate Professional Development Programme

We provide opportunities for you to develop knowledge, experience and skills beyond your immediate research topic.

Work-in-progress seminars

Time and space for staff and students to present their own research for critique in a supportive and constructive atmosphere. As well as presenting your own work you'll also learn more about the ongoing process of academic research.

Visiting speakers and symposia

There's an extensive programme organised by both staff and students that give opportunities to hear from, and debate with, academics outside the department.

A recent example is the Toxic Positivity series of events, organised by Critical Theory postgraduate students.

Expert supervision

Your supervisors will regularly read and advise on your work and attend your works-in-progress presentation.

Researcher training and development

The Researcher Academy is the network for researchers, and staff who support them. We work together to promote a healthy research culture, to cultivate researcher excellence, and develop creative partnerships that enable researchers to flourish.

Postgraduate researchers at Nottingham have access to our online Members’ area, which includes a wealth of resources, access to training courses and award-winning postgraduate placements.

Graduate centres

Our graduate centres are dedicated community spaces on campus for postgraduates.

Each space has areas for:

  • studying
  • socialising
  • computer work
  • seminars
  • kitchen facilities

Student support

You will have access to a range of support services, including:

  • academic and disability support
  • childcare services
  • counselling service
  • faith support
  • financial support
  • mental health and wellbeing support
  • visa and immigration advice
  • welfare support

Students' Union

Our Students' Union represents all students. You can join the Postgraduate Students’ Network or contact the dedicated Postgraduate Officer.

There are also a range of support networks, including groups for:

  • international students
  • black and minority ethnic students
  • students who identify as women
  • students with disabilities
  • LGBT+ students

SU Advice provides free, independent and confidential advice on issues such as accommodation, financial and academic difficulties.

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Where you will learn

University Park Campus

University Park Campus covers 300 acres, with green spaces, wildlife, period buildings and modern facilities. It is one of the UK's most beautiful and sustainable campuses, winning a national Green Flag award every year since 2003.

Most schools and departments are based here. You will have access to libraries, shops, cafes, the Students’ Union, sports village and a health centre.

You can walk or cycle around campus. Free hopper buses connect you to our other campuses. Nottingham city centre is 15 minutes away by public bus or tram.

Careers

Whether you are considering a career in academia, industry or haven't yet decided, we’re here to support you every step of the way.

Expert staff will work with you to explore PhD career options and apply for vacancies, develop your interview skills and meet employers. You can book a one-to-one appointment, take an online course or attend a workshop.

International students who complete an eligible degree programme in the UK on a student visa can apply to stay and work in the UK after their course under the Graduate immigration route. Eligible courses at the University of Nottingham include bachelors, masters and research degrees, and PGCE courses.

Our postgraduates go on to work in a wide range of fields, from university lectureships and post-doctoral fellowships to roles in the media, art councils and the creative industries, or in University administration. Many of our research students publish high-quality books and articles and have secured teaching positions in universities both in the UK and abroad.

The average annual salary for postgraduates from the School of Cultures, Languages and Areas Studies was £21,855*

*HESA Graduate Outcomes 2020. The Graduate Outcomes % is derived using The Guardian University Guide methodology. The average annual salary is based on graduates working full-time within the UK.

Related courses

Research Excellence Framework

We are ranked 8th in the UK for research power (2014). The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system used by UK higher education funding bodies to assess research quality in universities.

  • More than 97% of research at Nottingham is recognised internationally
  • More than 80% of our research is ranked in the highest categories as world-leading or internationally excellent
  • 16 of our 29 subject areas feature in the UK top 10 by research power

This content was last updated on 01 July 2021. Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, but changes are likely to occur between the date of publishing and course start date. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply.