Thank you for your interest in our Ph.D. program

The Berkeley English Department offers a wide-ranging Ph.D. program, engaging with all historical periods of British and American literature, Anglophone literature, and critical and cultural theory. The program aims to assure that students gain a broad knowledge of literature in English as well as the highly-developed skills in scholarship and criticism necessary to do solid and innovative work in their chosen specialized fields.

The application deadline is December 15, 2023, 8:59pm PST.

N.B.: the GRE General Test and Subject Test in English are no longer required to apply to our program. For general information about applying to U.C. Berkeley graduate programs, see the Graduate Division’s admissions page (where you will also find a link to the application).

For further information about English Department admissions, please contact us at

In order to complete the Ph.D. Program in English, students need to take a number of required and elective courses, demonstrate either proficiency in two foreign languages or an advanced knowledge of one, pass a qualifying examination, and complete a dissertation prospectus and a dissertation.  For more detailed information on these requirements, including a link to download the Handbook for Graduate Study in English, can be found here

In addition to required department coursework, students can also apply to pursue Designated Emphases or Concurrent Degrees in a number of different fields:

Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory

Designated Emphasis in European Studies

Designated Emphasis in Film and Media Studies

Designated Emphasis in Folklore

Designated Emphasis in Indigenous Language Revitalization

Designated Emphasis in Jewish Studies

Designated Empahsis in New Media

Designated Emphasis in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies

Designated Emphasis in Science and Technology Studies

Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality

Concurrent Degree in Medieval Studies

The English Department typically receives between 300-400 applications each year and seeks an incoming cohort of 12-14 students. We make our admissions decisions on the basis of the whole application. No one factor necessarily carries more weight than the others.

The Graduate Division requires an overall GPA of at least 3.0; however, the average GPA of successful applicants is considerably higher. We consider the kinds and number of the courses the applicant has taken and how well he or she has done, especially in the junior and senior years. The Bachelor's Degree need not be in English.


The Statement of Purpose should provide a clear sense of the applicant's interests and intentions in pursuing graduate study in English.  The Personal Statement should give the committee a sense of what particular qualities and experiences you would bring to the department and the university.  “This is,” as the Graduate Division’s website says, “also a good place to display your communication skills and discuss your ability to maximize effective collaboration with a diverse cross-section of the academic community.”  (For general guidance about both the Statement of Purpose and the Personal Statement, please see here.)

Letters of recommendation should come from professors who can attest to the quality and strength of the applicant's academic work.

The writing sample is an important element in our evaluation. Applicants should submit only one paper of no more than 20 pages, and it should be an example of scholarly or critical writing (not creative writing). The 20-page limit does not include the bibliography.  Applicants should not send a longer paper with instructions to read an excerpt, but should edit it themselves.

The Department keeps all applications on file for two years. If you have filed an application within the past two years but have not registered, you may reactivate your previous application (see the online application for instructions). The Department recommends that applicants submit new materials such as the Statement of Purpose, Personal Statement, and writing sample if the previous application was denied.

International applicants should consult the Graduate Division's web site,, for admissions requirements and estimated costs of graduate study for international students.

Dr. Alberto Ledesma is the Graduate Diversity Coordinator for the Arts & Humanities in the College of Letters & Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He works with both prospective and continuing graduate students, discussing graduate school preparation, admission criteria, the admissions process, university and extramural funding, academic issues, student life, and more.

The Office for Graduate Diversity (OGD) provides support services for prospective and continuing students on the Berkeley campus in an effort to maintain a more diverse graduate student community.

Graduate students in English are funded via a variety of university and departmental fellowships and teaching appointments.  All funding packages include full fellowship funding for the first two years of course-work and another for dissertation completion, in addition to multiple years of teaching in the English department. Additional fellowship opportunities are also available, both within and beyond the department. 

For a list of and information about department, university, and external sources of funding see here.

For additional university information on fellowships, financial aid, and housing, please consult the Graduate Division:

The Graduate Division also provides a variety of information about the cost of living in the Bay Area, additional financial aid for students with families, housing, etc.  Please see below for some of these resources:

Graduate Fellowships and Awards

Cost of Attendance for Graduate Students

Resources and Services for Graduate Students

Support for Student Parents

Thank you for your interest in our Ph.D. program.

The Berkeley English Department offers a wide-ranging Ph.D. program, engaging in all historical periods of British and American literature, Anglophone literature, and critical and cultural theory. The program aims to assure that students gain a broad knowledge of literature in English as well as the highly-developed skills in scholarship and criticism necessary to do solid and innovative work in their chosen specialized fields.

UC Berkeley Graduate Division Admissions Requirements can be found here:

General Information about Applying for Graduate Admission can be found here:

Frequently Asked Questions – Admissions Process Ph.D. Program

Q: How can I apply to the Ph.D. Program?

A: You can apply online here.  Generally, applications can be submitted from early September to mid-December for the following fall semester.

Q: What does the online graduate application consist of?


  • Statement of Purpose and Personal Statement.
  • Transcripts of all college-level work.
  • Three letters of recommendation.
  • A critical or scholarly writing sample of no more than 20 pages.

Q: Is the GRE required?


Q: Why is the GRE no longer required for my application?

A: The Admissions Committee uses a holistic approach when considering applicants and will examine all aspects of your application. Your application should show why you are interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in English as well as why you’d like to get your Ph.D. in the English Department at UC Berkeley. 

Q: My letter of reference might arrive late at the English Department. Will my application still be considered?

A: Please get in touch with the English Department Graduate Office if you have this concern.

Q: My letters of reference are several years old. Can I still use them for my application?

A:  Yes, the decision about what to submit is yours, but bear in mind that letters of reference should give the Admissions Committee a clear picture of why your recommenders consider you qualified for graduate school.

Q: Do I have to have a MA degree to get in?

A: No, we admit many students with only the BA degree.

Q: Does the English Department at UC Berkeley offer a MA program?

A: No, the English Department does not offer a MA program.

Q: I can’t afford the application fee. Can the English Department waive the fee?

A:  The department is not in charge of the application fee. The form to request a fee waiver is included in the payment section of the online application.  To be considered, applicants need to select the waiver payment option before submitting the online application. Please consult this page for more information. 

Q:  Can I meet with faculty or graduate office staff at the English Department to discuss details of my application?

A: The English Department is happy to answer your questions about the application process, but can’t reply to detailed questions regarding the content of individual applications. Thank you for your understanding.

Q: Will I get funding upon admission?

A: We offer funding to every admitted student, but cannot guarantee funding for the entire length of the program.

Q: Does the English Department offer additional language or conference travel funding?

A: The English Department offers one conference travel and one archive travel reimbursement for up to $600 each academic year. In addition, graduate students can apply for language study funding once during their academic careers in the department.

Q: How much does living in Berkeley cost?

A: Please refer to the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office's Graduate Student Cost of Attendance Information.

Q:  Can I work as a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) while I am enrolled in the program?

A: Yes, we encourage students to work as Graduate Student Instructors, Graduate Student Researchers, and Readers if they are eligible to do so and working as a GSI does not interfere with their academic progress.

Q: How can I find out about GSI salaries?

A:  Graduate Student Instructor Appointments are 50% time appointments. Please review the current rates for GSIs at the UC Berkeley People and Culture website.

Q: Can I work full time off or on campus while I get my Ph.D. in English at UC Berkeley?

A: Working full time while going to class full time (12 units per semester) is not recommended. The Graduate Division asks students to not work over 50% time on campus. If you must work over 50% time you need the Head Graduate Advisor’s approval. If you must work over 75% time you will need the Dean’s approval.

Q: Can I take some or all of the graduate classes for the UC Berkeley English Ph.D. program online?

A: We do not offer graduate courses online.

Q: Can I get credit for prior course work?

A: Students who have completed graduate-level course work at other institutions may submit a written petition to the Graduate Chair requesting that specific courses be considered for credit (transferred) toward satisfying course and breadth requirements.  The petition should provide a brief description of the course(s) to be considered.  In no case will such credit be given for more than three courses.

Q: How long does it take to finish the program?

A:  The normative time for the program is 6 years. The first three years are considered “time to candidacy,” during which students satisfy course and language requirements and take their qualifying oral examination. Having passed the qualifying exam, students “advance to candidacy,” and proceed to the prospectus and dissertation.. For more information, please refer to our Handbook for Graduate Study in English found here.

Q:  I am a parent. Does the university offer additional financial support for graduate student parents?

A:  The University offers various sources of support for graduate student parents. While working as GSIs, for example, graduate students can be reimbursed by the university for some of their daycare expenses. The university also offers affordable family housing. For detailed information, please refer to this page.