Our PhD programme

There are a wide variety of routes you can take within our PhD programme

A postgraduate student in a lecture

Tomorrow's leading academic or a practitioner with specialist expertise on East Asia?

Either way, Sheffield will help you to realise your ambition as a full-time, part-time, or remote location PhD student. We provide unrivalled social science and humanities-based research training, quality research opportunities, as well as high standards of physical infrastructure including online access to vernacular newspapers and databases.

Our high-quality teaching team and excellent research environment are what led the Higher Educational Funding Council for England to designate our taught programmes as 'excellent' - the highest accolade given and for our researchers to be nominated for awards on a regular basis.

We are now one of the leading centres for the study of East Asia in the UK. 

Research topics

Our research topics are constantly responding to developments in the disciplines, as well as to the dynamic changes in the region.

East Asia's complex histories, diverse cultures, and differing political systems make it a fascinating and significant area of study.  Its growing economic power and geopolitical influence also make research  on the region an important pathway to employment.  At SEAS, our work combines disciplinary academic knowledge on theory and methodology with analysis of dynamic and changing real-world issues of culture, politics, and society.  Our research seeks to explain contemporary social issues and contribute to deeper understanding of one of the world's most rapidly growing and dynamic regions. 

Our students rate our teaching the highest of any East Asia Studies department in the UK, and 91% of our PhD students in our 2023 postgraduate student survey rated our research culture as positive or very positive (none rated it as negative).  Our graduates also have a first class track record in the job market.  

In SEAS, we are driven by research-led teaching and a passion that linking academic knowledge to real life issues helps us understand societies, cultures, and politics across East Asia.  Studying East Asia will prepare you for a career in one of the world's most exciting regions.  Researching East Asia is more than just a career option; it is a chance for you to understand and contribute new knowledge on the diverse cultural traditions and lived experience of more than 30% of the world's population.  By researching how people in China, Japan and Korea see the world and the world sees them, you will develop deep cultural knoweldge and comparative skills of analysis that will contribute to your development as an individual. 

We supervise dissertations across a wide range of disciplines, including politics, international relations, political economy, business and economy, demographics, sociology, culture and film, language and literature, and modern history.

Our geographical focus spans Japan, China, the Korean peninsula, and East Asia as a region. The topic of your dissertation can be thematic, country specific or regional.

Inter-disciplinary and inter-departmental supervision is also available for students wishing to pursue research involving another part of the world or involving other disciplines.

To get an idea of where our research strengths lie, and to identify a member of staff with relevant research experience in your area of interest take a look at our supervision page.

We are particularly keen to receive applications in the areas covered by our research clusters:

Degree programmes

The Sheffield degree

The Sheffield degree is a 3.5 year research degree of normal registration. As such, it is flexible, with the opportunity to audit graduate courses, participate in language training, and develop broader transferable skills.

We are recognised as a dedicated centre for scholarships offered by the Economic and Social Science Research Council (ESRC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Other funding is available though the Sasakawa and Daiwa Foundations as well as the China Scholarships Council. We also have a number of internal university schemes for supporting doctoral research.

From 2024/25, the School of East Asian Studies is also delighted to offer a PhD by Practice, to recognise the growing range of creative and applied research approaches in East Asian Studies. This has three paths, all of which require the combination of a practical component with a written thesis of a shorter length than a standard PhD. The practice-based output can take the form of:

  • a portfolio or substantial single piece of original work in a specific aspect of creative East Asian Studies practice (e.g. film, performance, writing, score, exhibition, audio or video);
  • completion of a set of applied research outputs emerging from substantial experience in a non-governmental or government body related to East Asia; or
  • a substantial original annotated translation from East Asian language source material.

Please contact seas-pgradmin@sheffield.ac.uk if you would like more information about the PhD by Practice, or discuss directly with your proposed supervisor. 

Double degree programmes

In the School of East Asian Studies we offer a double degree programme to a small number of students each year.

This programme allows you to spend at least one year of your PhD studying and undertaking research at The Graduate School of Law, Tohoku University, Japan.

At the end of your degree you will be awarded a degree from Sheffield and Tohoku.


Studying with SEAS

PhD training in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities

As part of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities you will have access to world class training alongside your doctoral study. The Doctoral Training programme is tailored to your individual needs to ensure you have the right skills you need to develop your research.

Spending part of your degree in East Asia

If, due to the nature of your research topic, you need to spend long periods of time conducting fieldwork in East Asia, this is actively encouraged. Many of our students spend a considerable part of their degree conducting research in the region and we have experience in ensuring you are fully supported whilst working outside of the U.K.

Research and publication

Since its inception in 1963, the School of East Asian Studies has trained leading academics who are now working at the cutting edge of East Asian studies in the UK, the East Asia region and more widely across the world. Many have published revised versions of their dissertations in international peer review journals.

Career enhancement and opportunities

We are committed to training the next generation of scholars working on East Asia. If you already hold a position in higher education, but want to add value to your career by conducting advanced research for the Ph.D., then we are able to help you to make optimal use of your existing academic experience.

Should you choose a career outside of academia, our doctoral programme will enhance your potential to succeed in a competitive market in which globally orientated skills are increasingly in demand.

Regardless of your own final career goal, as a Sheffield Ph.D. you will join that select group of graduates who have made their careers in government, world-class banks, brokerage firms, and as a range of professions, whether in Britain, Europe, East Asia, or the wider world.

Find a PhD

Search for PhD opportunities at Sheffield and be part of our world-leading research.