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Postgraduate Courses 2017/18

Postcolonial Studies - MA



The MA in Postcolonial Studies develops your understanding of the politics of culture in relation to both the imperialist world’s interpretation of the colonial, and postcolonial assertions of autonomy.

In this context, while ‘postcolonial’ refers primarily to societies of the so-called ‘Third World’, it also includes questions relevant to cultures such as those of Ireland and Australia.

The University of Kent was one of the first universities to establish postcolonial literary studies in Britain and has continued to play a significant part in the development of the field. Among the teachers involved in the programme are Abdulrazak Gurnah, Caroline Rooney, Alex Padamsee and Donna Landry (see staff research interests for further details).

This programme can also be studied in Canterbury and Paris. This option allows you to spend your first term at our Canterbury campus, before relocating to our Paris centre for the spring term to study in the heart of historic Montparnasse.

Think Kent video series

Fra Mauro’s Mappa Mundi (1448-53) was one of the earliest maps to imagine the Indian Ocean as open waters rather than closed in by a southern land-mass. This lecture by Professor Abdulrazak Gurnah, acclaimed novelist and Professor of English and Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Kent, re-imagines it as a cosmopolitan site which preceded and survived colonialism, rather than another chapter in the grinding and inevitable consolidation of European power.

About the School of English

The School of English has a strong international reputation and global perspective, apparent both in the background of its staff and in the diversity of our teaching and research interests.

Our expertise ranges from the medieval to the postmodern, including British, American and Irish literature, postcolonial writing, 18th-century studies, Shakespeare, early modern literature and culture, Victorian studies, modern poetry, critical theory and cultural history. The international standing of the School ensures that we have a lively, confident research culture, sustained by a vibrant, ambitious intellectual community. We also count a number of distinguished creative writers among our staff, and we actively explore crossovers between critical and creative writing in all our areas of teaching and research.

The Research Excellence Framework 2014 has produced very strong results for the School of English at Kent. With 74% of our work graded as world-leading or internationally excellent, the School is ranked 10th out of 89 English departments in terms of Research Intensity (Times Higher Education). The School also received an outstanding assessment of the quality of its research environment and public impact work.

National ratings

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of English was ranked 10th for research intensity and 15th for research power in the UK.

An impressive 100% of our research-active staff submitted to the REF and 95% of our research was judged to be of international quality. The School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research.

Course structure

You take a compulsory module, at least one more specialist Postcolonial module and two other modules (four in total) during the autumn and spring terms. You are also expected to attend the Faculty and School Research Methods Programmes.

You then write the dissertation or editorial project between the start of the summer term and the end of August.


In 2015/16 the following core specialist module is available: EN852 – Colonial and Postcolonial Discourses. The list below should be considered indicative of the types of modules available, which may vary from year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.

EN852 - Colonial and Postcolonial Discourses (30 credits)

This module introduces you to a wide range of colonial and postcolonial theoretical discourses. It focuses on the construction of the historical narrative of imperialism, psychology and culture of colonialism, nationalism and liberation struggles, and postcolonial theories of complicity and resistance. The module explores the benefits and problems derived from reading literature and culture by means of a postcolonial and postimperial lens. Through the study of crucial texts and events, both historical and current, the module analyses the birth of imperialist narratives and their complex consequences for the world today.

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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MT864 - Reading the Medieval Town: Canterbury, an International City (30 credits)

This course will focus on a number of inter-related themes which will be studied through differing types of evidence from written and printed texts to objects and standing buildings. Consequently, certain seminars will take place outside the seminar room, looking at the evidence in situ. Topics will include the medieval topography, civic governance, urban defence, house and household, commercial practices and premises, parish church development, the place of religious houses, pilgrimage and city-crown relations, as a way of examining issues such as space, power, patronage and responses to changing social, political and economic conditions. Students will be encouraged to think comparatively, both nationally and internationally, to assess Canterbury’s place within medieval European society.

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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EN889 - Literary Theory (30 credits)

On this module we conduct a broad survey of modern literary and critical theory, but in a revisionist spirit, asking what were the moments that generated certain critical turns, and examining the broad historical impetus of change, such as the Russian Revolution, the Cold War, and the revolts of 1968. In the first part of the module we look at developments in the early twentieth century which gave shape to modern literary studies; in the second part of the module we look at developments from the second half of the century to the present day. As well as reading the texts of theory, we aim to understand its historical and institutional contexts, and our overall objective is to understand and analyse some of the recent turns in critical discourse, such as transnationalism, and the turn away from theory to the archive.

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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EN895 - Jane Austen and Material Culture (30 credits)

Austen makes a particularly interesting subject for advanced study because her work is both widely enjoyed and the focus of much specialist academic work. The Austen of the (feminist) academy is often initially unrecognisable to the general (´feminine´) reader, and part of the project of this module is to explore the gap between these kinds of reading through the medium of material culture. ´Material Culture Studies´, focussing on the function and significance of physical objects in literary texts, has been increasingly important to scholars of the long eighteenth century in the last decade, and this approach raises questions that are especially pertinent to readings of Austen´s fiction. Is domesticity a trap or a refuge? Does the female body require liberation or control? Is material wealth the realisation of every woman´s dream or the basis of moral corruption? Is the 'improvement' of landscapes and estates a sign of culture or of arrogance? Approaching Austen´s writing through the objects which populate her fiction, we will situate these questions in relation to modern literary criticism and the unfamiliarity of early nineteenth-century artefacts.

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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EN897 - Advanced Critical Reading (30 credits)

This module is designed to extend and develop skill, enjoyment and confidence in reading critical, literary and theoretical texts. We reflect on the pleasures and challenges of the reading process, moving slowly through a single major text. We will pause over exciting, complex or important passages, taking time to follow up references and footnotes, identify important themes and ideas, consult works of art and writings that share those themes, explore how the texts touch us and how they think. The module is designed to help you come away with an in-depth knowledge of the main text and of texts and ideas surrounding it, as well as gaining deeper understanding of how you read.

Our ten weekly seminars will usually function as a two-hour guided reading-group. Seminars will incorporate student presentations introducing a particular passage, focusing on issues raised by the text or on relations between these issues, the text and other module reading. Total study hours: 20 per week. Students will be assessed on a piece of written work of 5,000 words presented at the conclusion of the module on a topic agreed with the teacher.

In 2016-17 the central text is Philippines by Hélène Cixous.

Philippines was published in 2009 and Laurent Milesi's English translation came out in 2010. It concerns telepathy, and we will be looking at texts on telepathy by Freud, Derrida and Nicholas Royle, as well as George Du Maurier's very popular novel Peter Ibbetson (1891), and the film version of Peter Ibbetson from 1935 starring Gary Cooper and mentioned in Cixous' book. We will also think about love, dreaming, literature and childhood as they emerge out of these texts.

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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EN865 - Post-45: American Literature and Culture in the Cold War Era (30 credits)

This module is designed to introduce postgraduates to high level research in the field of post-45 American literature and culture, spanning the period from the end of World War Two to the late twentieth century. Proceeding in chronological fashion, it will address key issues such as the cultural Cold War, Black Power, feminism and cosmopolitanism through the close analysis of cultural items in their historical moment. These will include texts such as novels by Ralph Ellison and, Thomas Pynchon; essays by Susan Sontag and Joan Didion; cultural criticism by Clement Greenberg and Lionel Trilling; and sociological analysis by C. Wright Mills. In addition, painting and film will be discussed where appropriate. Students will be encouraged to approach and understand aesthetic texts and objects both on their own terms and in relation to broader historical phenomena such as shifting geopolitical configurations, changing race and gender relations, and the rise of neoliberalism. Ultimately they will be in a position to address fundamental questions about the nature and function of "culture" itself in the period. Throughout the module, students will also explore the latest research in the field, reading influential contemporary scholarship and acquainting themselves with salient critical debates concerning methodology, including those over the sociology of culture, the demise of postmodernism as a critical paradigm, and periodization.

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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EN866 - The Awkward Age: Transatlantic Culture and Literature in Transition, 18 (30 credits)

This module explores the affinities, disjunctions, and dialogue between American, British, and Irish literary traditions from 1880 to 1920. The turn of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth gave writers on both sides of the Atlantic an acute sense of epochal drama and self-consciousness: they brooded over ideas of decadence, apocalypse, progress, revolution, and the nature of the zeitgeist; heralded endings, transitions, repetitions, reversals, and beginnings; and explored the ambivalences and confusions provoked by the idea of the 'modern'. We will pay particular attention to how writers conceptualise and represent history and time, and seek to anatomise the varieties of pessimism, nostalgia, and utopian thinking that the turn of the century inspired.

This module focuses on texts by both canonical and non-canonical writers that often fall through the cracks of conventional literary history because they were published in the 'awkward age' and are often considered neither solidly Victorian nor yet programmatically modernist. We will interrogate standard national narratives of literary history (in the case of Britain, the compartmentalisations of the fin de siècle and the Edwardian, and in the case of America, those of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era), as well as the assumption that national literary traditions were distinct and coherent in the period. We will consider how American, British, and Irish writers reckoned with the forces shaping transatlantic intellectual and cultural life, especially post-Darwinian science, imperialism, socialism, feminism, and cosmopolitan ideals of culture. We will also consider how writers made the awkwardness of the age not simply a thematic preoccupation but a complex aesthetic challenge, prompting innovations as well as efforts to sustain the ideal of a literary tradition.

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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EN872 - Provocations and Invitations (30 credits)

This module introduces the challenges and pleasures of postmodern poetry and poetics. We will consider a range of poetic texts, and essays on poetry, that between them raise profound questions of nation, agency, language, politics and gender in the post-war period. Starting with Charles Olson’s groundbreaking inquiries into ‘open field poetics’, we will investigate a range of American and British poets for whom the poem has been a way of generating new modes of thought and life. In particular we will explore the ways in which poetry of the period enables us to think through the implications of globalization. We will consider how poetry can escape the constraints of place, and how it can imagine new forms of collective identity.

Among the poets we will consider are: Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Frank O’Hara, Denise Riley, Lyn Hejinian, J. H. Prynne, and Tony Lopez. The work of these writers will be read alongside contemporary philosophy and political theory, and will be considered in relation to other art forms, especially painting. Students on the module will benefit from the activities of the Centre for Modern Poetry, including regular readings, research seminars and the reading groups.

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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EN876 - Dickens and the Condition of England (30 credits)

The module will be based on a study of the following works by Dickens:

Bleak House

Hard Times

Little Dorrit

Charles Dickens: Selected Journalism

A Christmas Carol

These will be studied in relation to:

Specific social, cultural and political issues in early and mid-Victorian England: e.g. class division; privilege and meritocracy; the experience of the metropolis; sanitary reform; industrialisation and work; domestic ideology;

The call by Carlyle and others to writers to engage with the Condition-of-England Question; and the reception of the politicised novel;

The narrative and structural strategies developed by Dickens to address Condition-of-England issues;

The formal and substantive relationships between Dickens’s fiction and his journalism.

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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EN842 - Reading the Contemporary (30 credits)

'Reading the Contemporary' is a cross-disciplinary module the aim of which is to find out what it means to read the contemporary period through its aesthetic practices. The module will be co-taught by staff from the School of English, the School of Arts and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, with seminars alternating between the Canterbury campus and the ICA (London).

The module has three main objectives. First, it will consider what it means, in a theoretical sense, to think about our contemporary moment. Second, it will address key themes and issues in contemporary culture and will consider how they bear on and are shaped by recent aesthetic forms. Third, through the seminars delivered at the ICA, which will arise directly out of the ICA's programme, students will be introduced to examples of current aesthetic practice.

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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EN818 - American Modernism 1900-1930 (Teaching Period I) (30 credits)

This course examines the growth and development of the 'modernist aesthetic' in American Literature during the first three decades of the twentieth century. The emphasis in American Modernism 1 is on fiction, but there will be room for students to pursue particular interests they may have in drama and the visual arts in the United States during ‘the modernist phase’. Some attempt will be made to consider American Modernism in the wider international context; suggested reading in European Modernism is appended to this reading list.

The seminar programme is arranged along chronological lines; we can, however, adjust our 'itinerary' according to student interests. We’ll take ‘reading weeks’ at some point in mid-term (in consultation with students in the group) and in the final week of term, week 12 (when you’ll need time to work on your essays).

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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EN832 - Hacks, Dunces and Scribblers: Authorship and the Marketplace in the Eig (30 credits)

This module explores the construction and contestation of authorship between the publication of Alexander Pope’s brilliant Grub Street satire, The Dunciad (1728) and of James Boswell’s Life of Johnson (1791). In this period, notions of authorship underwent significant change as the image of the author as craftsman (or less flatteringly as tradesman) gave way to the image of the author as original creator or genius – an image that still informs our understanding of authorship to this day. Through an exploration of a wide variety of novels, satires, periodicals, and biographies, as well as visual images we will explore how the modern author’s fortunes were shaped by such factors as the decline of the patronage system, the growth and democratisation of the literary marketplace, the emergence of the woman writer and the labouring-class or unlettered genius.

Topics for discussion will include the myth and reality of Grub-Street; the gendering of authorship; the relationship between authorship and nation; the economics of authorship; the birth of the literary critic; canon-formation; literary celebrity and scandal.

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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Teaching and Assessment

Assessment is by a 5-6,000-word essay for each module and a 12,000 word dissertation.

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • explore a wide range of writing resulting from the encounter between imperialist and colonised countries and cultures
  • examine this writing in the wider context of colonial and postcolonial history
  • study how this writing and its history have been theorised
  • develop your research skills to the point where you are ready to undertake a research degree
  • develop your oral skills to the point where you are able to present a conference-type paper to your peers.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You will gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • a wide range of colonial and postcolonial texts, primarily but not exclusively in English
  • the interaction between colonial and postcolonial texts, in terms of the imperialist world’s rendering of the colonial and postcolonial assertions of autonomy
  • the relation between critical theory in general, and various kinds of postcolonial theory
  • the concepts, terminology and modes of thought specific to postcolonial theory and criticism
  • the cultural conditions of production of contemporary postcolonial literatures
  • the wider intellectual and academic context from which postcolonial studies has developed.

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

  • the application of the skills needed for academic study and enquiry at graduate level.
  • the evaluation of research findings
  • the ability to synthesise information from a range of primary and secondary sources in order to gain a coherent understanding of theory and practice
  • the ability to make discriminations and selections of relevant information from a wide source and large body of knowledge
  • the ability to think conceptually and to criticise analytically.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • advanced skills in the close critical analysis of colonial and postcolonial writing
  • developed and critical understanding of the variety of critical and theoretical approaches to the study of postcolonial literatures
  • developed scholarly practice in the presentation of formal written work, of bibliographic and annotation practices, and of structuring and developing an argument over an extended piece of written work
  • a nuanced understanding of how cultural norms and assumptions influence questions of judgement.

Transferable skills

You will gain the following transferable skills:

  • developed powers of communication and the capacity to argue a point of view, in extended oral and written form, with clarity, organisation, cogency and sophistication
  • the ability to think independently, analytically, critically and self-critically
  • the ability to assimilate and  organise  substantial quantities of complex information of diverse kinds
  • an advanced level of competence in the formulation, planning and execution of extended written projects
  • an advanced level of competence in the formulation, planning and formal oral presentation of research papers
  • the experience of collaborative intellectual work
  • the ability to understand, interrogate and apply a variety of theoretical positions and weigh the importance of alternative perspectives
  • trained research skills, including scholarly information retrieval skills
  • IT skills: word-processing, email communication, the ability to access electronic data.


Many career paths can benefit from the writing and analytical skills that you develop as a postgraduate student in the School of English. Our students have gone on to work in academia, journalism, broadcasting and media, publishing, writing and teaching; as well as more general areas such as banking, marketing analysis and project management.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

The Templeman Library is well stocked with excellent research resources, as are Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library. There are a number of special collections: the John Crow Collection of Elizabethan and other early printed texts; the Reading/Raynor Collection of theatre history (over 7,000 texts or manuscripts); ECCO (Eighteenth-Century Collections Online); the Melville manuscripts relating to popular culture in the 19th and early 20th centuries; the Pettingell Collection (over 7,500 items) of 19th-century drama; the Eliot Collection; children’s literature; and popular literature. A gift from Mrs Valerie Eliot has increased the Library’s already extensive holdings in modern poetry. The British Library in London is also within easy reach.

Besides the Templeman Library, School resources include photocopying, fax and telephone access, support for attending and organising conferences, and a dedicated postgraduate study space equipped with computer terminals and a printer.

Conferences and seminars

Our research centres organise many international conferences, symposia and workshops. The School also plays a pivotal role in the Kent Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, of which all graduates are associate members. The Institute hosts interdisciplinary conferences, colloquia, and other events, and establishes international links for all Kent graduates through its network with other advanced institutes worldwide.

School of English postgraduate students are encouraged to organise and participate in a conference which takes place in the summer term. This provides students with the invaluable experience of presenting their work to their peers.

The School runs several series of seminars, lectures and readings throughout the academic year. Our weekly research seminars are organised collaboratively by staff and graduates in the School. Speakers range from our own postgraduate students, to members of staff, to distinguished lecturers who are at the forefront of contemporary research nationally and internationally.

The Centre for Creative Writing hosts a very popular and successful weekly reading series; guests have included poets Katherine Pierpoint, Tony Lopez, Christopher Reid and George Szirtes, and novelists Abdulrazak Gurnah, Ali Smith, Marina Warner and Will Self.

The University of Kent is now in partnership with the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). Benefits from this affiliation include free membership for incoming students; embedded seminar opportunities at the ICA and a small number of internships for our students. The School of English also runs an interdisciplinary MA programme in the Contemporary which offers students an internship at the Institute of Contemporary Arts.

Dynamic publishing culture

Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. They also edit several periodicals including: Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities; The Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature: 600-1500; The Dickensian; Literature Compass; Oxford Literary Review; Theatre Notebook and Wasafiri.

Global Skills Award

All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.  

Entry requirements

A first or upper-second class honours degree in a relevant subject (or equivalent).

General entry requirements

Please also see our general entry requirements.

English language entry requirements

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.

Research areas

Research in the School of English comes roughly under the following areas. However, there is often a degree of overlap between groups, and individual staff have interests that range more widely.

Eighteenth Century

The particular interests of the Centre for Studies in the Long Eighteenth Century converge around gender, class, nation, travel and empire, and the relationship between print and material culture. Staff in the Centre pursue cutting-edge approaches to the field and share a commitment to interdisciplinary methodologies.

The Centre regularly hosts visiting speakers as part of the School of English research seminar programme, and hosts day symposia, workshops and international conferences.

Nineteenth Century

The 19th-century research group is organised around the successful MA in Dickens and Victorian Culture and the editorship of The Dickensian, the official publication outlet for new Dickens letters. Other staff research interests include literature and gender, journalism, representations of time and history, sublimity and Victorian Poetry.

American Literature

Research in North American literature is conducted partly through the Faculty-based Centre for American Studies, which also facilitates co-operation with modern US historians. Staff research interests include 20th-century American literature, especially poetry, Native American writing, modernism, and cultural history.

Creative Writing

The Centre for Creative Writing is the focus for most practice-based research in the School. Staff organise a thriving events series and run a research seminar for postgraduate students and staff to share ideas about fiction-writing. Established writers regularly come to read and discuss their work.

Medieval and Early Modern

The Faculty-based Canterbury Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies has a distinctive brand of interdisciplinarity, strong links with local archives and archaeological trusts, and provides a vibrant forum for investigating the relationships between literary and non-literary modes of writing in its weekly research seminar.

Modern Poetry

The Centre for Modern Poetry is a leading centre for research and publication in its field, and participates in both critical and creative research. Staff regularly host visiting speakers and writers, participate in national and international research networks, and organise graduate research seminars and public poetry readings.


Established in 1994, the Centre for Colonial and Postcolonial Research has acquired an international reputation for excellence in research. It has an outstanding track record in publication, organises frequent international conferences, and regularly hosts leading postcolonial writers and critics. It also hosts a visiting writer from India every year in association with the Charles Wallace Trust.

Staff research interests

Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.

Dr Stella Bolaki: Lecturer in American Literature

Multi-ethnic American literature (especially with a focus on migration/diaspora and transnational approaches); the Bildungsroman; gender theory; life writing and illness/disability; medical humanities. 


Professor Abdulrazak Gurnah: Professor of English and Postcolonial Literature

Colonial and postcolonial discourse as they relate to African, Caribbean and Indian writing. 


Professor Bernhard Klein: Professor of English

Early modern literature and culture; Irish studies; travel writing and cartography; maritime history and culture. 


Professor Donna Landry: Professor of English and American Literature

Eighteenth-century literature, culture, and empire; colonial discourse and postcolonial theory; Middle Eastern, especially Turkish, literature; Ottomanism and Enlightenment; travel writing; queer theory; animal studies; sea and desert studies; historical re-enactment. 


Dr Ariane Mildenberg: Lecturer in English and American Literature

Modernist poetry; Wallace Stevens; Gertrude Stein; Virginia Woolf; the kinship of method and concern between phenomenology and modernist literature and art; the interaction of contemporary philosophy with theology; the relationship between modernism and postcolonial writing; translation of Scandinavian poetry.


Dr Alex Padamsee: Lecturer in English and American Literature

Postcolonial literature and theory; South Asian literatures; British writing on India; race, empire and colonisation in 19th and 20th-century British literature; partition and trauma studies.


Professor Caroline Rooney: Professor of African and Middle Eastern Studies

African and Middle Eastern literature, especially Zimbabwean and Egyptian; colonial discourse and postcolonial theory; the Arab Spring; liberation literature and theory; terror and the postcolonial; global youth cultures, especially hip-hop and spoken word; contemporary visual arts; sea and desert studies; queer theory; psychoanalysis.


Dr David Stirrup: Senior Lecturer in English and American Literature

First nations and Native American literature; 20th-century North American literature; the American and Canadian Midwest; border studies.


Enquire or order a prospectus



Admissions enquiries

T: +44 (0)1227 827272


Subject enquiries

T: +44 (0)1227 823054

E: englishpg@kent.ac.uk

School website


The 2017/18 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Postcolonial Studies - Taught MA at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £6500 £14670
Part-time £3250 £7340

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact information@kent.ac.uk

The University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that the information contained in its publicity materials is fair and accurate and to provide educational services as described. However, the courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Full details of our terms and conditions can be found at: www.kent.ac.uk/termsandconditions.

*Where fees are regulated (such as by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills or Research Council UK) they will be increased up to the allowable level.

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