Black Studies PhD

Qualification name
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Fact file

PhD Black Studies
Entry requirements
2:1 (or international equivalent) in an arts, humanities or social science subject; for PhD-level study, we would usually expect you to hold, or be working towards, a masters degree in a relevant subject
7.0 (no less than 6.5 in any element) If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available
Start date

Our standard start date is 1 October.

We also offer start dates of 1 December, 1 January, 1 February, 1 April, and 1 July.
University Park
Cultures, Languages and Area Studies
American and Canadian Studies PhD
Other requirements



The PhD programme in Black Studies at the University of Nottingham is the only programme of its kind in Europe. It is housed in the Department of American and Canadian Studies in the Faculty of Arts.

The department is the largest such department in Europe and has long-standing experience in supervising PhDs to successful completion. Our students’ and staff research expertise have consistently focused on black studies, African diaspora studies and African American studies. The growth and national reputation of the Centre for Research in Race and Rights (C3R), which is based in the department, has enabled  it to engage on a national level with organisations, governmental bodies, charitable groups, communities and activists interested in investigating the roles, lives, cultures, politics, representations, activism, art, histories and movements of people of African descent.

The opportunity of undertaking a Black Studies PhD comes at a crucial time within the UK, as students, communities and institutions of higher education increasingly begin to think through curriculum offerings and begin to re-centre the lives and voices of people around the globe within their research. As a programme steeped in interdisciplinary methods and critical reflection, the Black Studies PhD is a place for comparative study that allows postgraduates to consider the impact of racial systems, class formation, identity, creative expression, political futures, class, gender, sexuality and sexual expression, resistance, power and other topics as they emerge from and influence the lives of black people (variously defined) in the UK, the Americas, Europe, Africa and other global sites. Although housed in a department focusing primarily on North America, the Black Studies PhD programme is transnational in focus and intent. 



You will have access to dedicated study space, networked computers and printers, a photocopying and printing allowance, and an inter-library loan service. Funding is available for conference and research trips. 

A Graduate Centre for postgraduate students in the arts and social sciences is available on the first floor of Highfield House on the University Park Campus. Accessible 24/7, the centre provides computer stations, a social area with informal seating and areas where students can work individually or in groups. Students can also access a small seminar room and kitchen facilities.


Research support

You will be allocated two supervisors who will provide regular expert supervision and feedback on your progress. At least one supervisor must be a member of staff within the Department of American and Canadian Studies. The second supervisor may be from another department or faculty at the University of Nottingham, or potentially from within the Midlands 4 Cities consortium (consisting of Nottingham Trent University, the University of Birmingham, Birmingham City University, the University of Leicester, University of Warwick, University of Coventry and De Montfort University).

Additional critical support short of credited supervision may be obtained from an outside expert steeped in the research being undertaken. The Director of the Black Studies PhD programme will meet with each prospective student and work closely with the Postgraduate Director within the Department in order to identify the best supervisory team. Students can take part in the Postgraduate Professional Development Programme, which includes weekly work-in-progress seminars — where students and staff present their work — and a varied programme of visiting speakers. All students are required to attend the Arts Researcher Skills Programme, provided by the University's Graduate School. Additional reading groups and research skills development are offered by C3R.

The Director of the Black Studies PhD programme, along with the supervisory team, will provide advice on publishing and professional development and encourage students to organise and attend conferences, act as editors for postgraduate journals, and publish book reviews and articles. Students within the programme will benefit from the links and long-standing relationships that the Department of American and Canadian Studies, former students and current staff have with major presses including Oxford University Press, Manchester University Press, University of California Press, University of Illinois Press, Liverpool University Press, Routledge and Palgrave. In addition, the programme is establishing links with universities in the US, such as Columbia University, that we hope will offer international opportunities for exchange and research study. 

There are regular opportunities for postgraduate students to take part in outreach activities, public talks and Departmental events. In addition to serving as Departmental Outreach and Engagement Coordinators and Directors of our Black History and LGBT Month programmes, students are given logistical and financial support in order to run their own conferences and organise a week-long research retreat. Students within the Black Studies PhD programme will also have the opportunity to take on a Postgraduate Director role within the Centre for Research in Race and Rights, as well as the possibility of acting as a research assistant (depending on available hours) within specific research projects connected to C3R. 

Students may also act as teaching assistants, after appropriate teacher training offered by the University and the school within the Department of American and Canadian Studies, or other areas within the university, depending on interest, experience and abilities. Teaching Assistants are supported and monitored by module convenors, the Chair of Teaching Committee and the Director of Research within the Department of American and Canadian Studies and the Director of the Black Studies PhD programme.


Find a supervisor

We encourage you to get in touch with the Director of the Black Studies PhD, Dr Karen Salt, about your research proposal before submitting an application. They may be able to help you with your proposal and offer support to find funding opportunities in your area. 

Details of research supervisors in American and Canadian Studies can be found on the department website

If you are exploring the option of a PhD in Black Studies, but have come from another field of study, such as the social sciences, you are still welcome to apply and are advised to contact the Director for specifically tailored advice on research opportunities with us. Postgraduates can enter the programme with a range of backgrounds in arts, social science or humanities subject areas. As a research-intensive programme, all applicants are offered the chance to acquire the expected skillsets through coursework, workshops or additional training.


Fees and funding

If you choose to study with us, there are various sources of funding to which you can apply. Some are administered by the school, others by research bodies to which the school has links, and others by the University and central government sources. These opportunities are often specific to particular degree programmes, or to the fee-status of a student, so it is important to read all related information very carefully.

AHRC funding for UK/EU doctoral students

Midlands4Cities funding

The Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Partnership supports the personal and professional development of the next generation of arts and humanities doctoral researchers. Studentships are available to UK/EU students.

How to apply to the University of Nottingham through Midlands4Cities

More information about additional sources of funding can be found on the following web pages.

School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies funding pages

University of Nottingham Graduate School funding pages

University of Nottingham International Office funding pages

Overseas applicants may also be eligible for a range of school scholarships open to graduates from our North American partner institutions. North American students may bring Stafford loans as Nottingham is a FAFSA approved institution (code G08920).

Government loans for doctoral study

The Government recently introduced doctoral student loans of up to £25,000 for PhDs and equivalent research programmes. Applicants must ordinarily live in England.

Doctoral training programmes

Linked to research councils, doctoral training programmes offer funding opportunities connected to our research priorities.

International and EU students

Research scholarships are available for outstanding international and EU students. You must already have an offer to study at Nottingham to apply. Please note closing dates to ensure your course application is submitted in good time.

Information and advice on funding your degree, living costs and working while you study is available on our website, as well as country-specific resources.



Visit the Department page for additional opportunities. 

Also, please visit the alumni page for successful postgraduates who completed a PhD within the Department of American and Canadian Studies.

Career opportunities

The University of Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers.*

Consequently - and owing to our reputation for excellence - over 95% of postgraduates from the Faculty of Arts entered employment, voluntary work or further study during the first six months after graduation in 2015. The average starting salary was £20,250 with the highest being £33,000.** 

* The Graduate Market 2013-2016, High Fliers Research. 
**Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates 2014/15. Salaries are calculated based on those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

Career prospects and employability

Those who take up a postgraduate research opportunity with us will not only receive support in terms of close contact with supervisors and specific training related to your area of research, but you will also benefit from dedicated careers advice from our Careers and Employability Service.

Individual guidance appointments, career management training programme, access to resources and invitations to events including skills workshops and recruitment fairs are just some of the ways in which they can help you develop your full potential, whether you choose to continue within an academic setting or are looking at options outside of academia.

A PhD in Black Studies can be a fulfilment of a life-long interest, a time for critical study on a topic for someone already working within a particular career or field or the continuation of research begun during an undergraduate programme. However you have come to the programme, you should know that your career or future prospects are bright. Globally, people who research or study Black Studies, Africana Studies or African Diaspora Studies work in government, industry, the medical field, journalism, law, the not-for-profit sector, teaching (especially in secondary schools), art and research.  


Karen Salt

Get in touch

+44 (0)115 951 5917
For additional information about the programme or to schedule an informal chat, please contact the Director, Dr Karen Salt

This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.

Explore it - Virtual Nottingham

The Department of American & Canadian Studies at Nottingham is the largest in Europe and welcomes proposals for postgraduate research. We have long-standing experience and expertise in supervising PhDs to successful completion. Over 75 PhD students have graduated from the department since 2000. Retention and completion rates are excellent and are underpinned by quality assurance mechanisms including a robust system of monitoring that includes an annual review process. While our research focuses on North America, work in the department reflects and leads a growing transnational agenda, examining the exchange of influences between North American cultures and those of Asia, Europe and the Americas. Research students are encouraged to think about America in a global context.

Key areas of research strength in the department

Topics of current research students

Examples of recent PhD topics include studies of:

  • The architecture of shopping malls
  • 1960s new social movements
  • The NAACP and visual culture
  • Southern culture and the novel of racial passing
  • The state funeral in the 1960s
  • The Vietnam War and US poetry
  • Race, rock`n`roll and Blues music
  • Female hobos
  • The 1960s in political cinema
  • Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X in international context
  • Frank Sinatra on film 
  • Chinese and Chinese-American Literature
  • Individual authors including Herman Melville, Cormac Mccarthy, Barbara Kingsolver, Dionne Brand, and Gwendolyn Brooks
  • Suburbia and twentieth-century fiction
  • US regionalism and the short story US and British Policies towards Israel Britain, the US and the Atomic Bomb
  • The American Far Right
  • The Know Nothing Party
  • The American Left post-1970 
Postgraduate and Research Office
School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies
The University of Nottingham
University Park
NG7 2RD 

Student Recruitment Enquiries Centre

The University of Nottingham
King's Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

t: +44 (0) 115 951 5559
w: Frequently asked questions
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