The cutting-edge Taught MA in Biography was founded in 1996, remains unique to Buckingham and is consistently rated ‘excellent’ by external examiners and inspectors. Since then, in response to student demand, the available options have been extended to include postgraduate research degrees at three levels: MA by Research or PhD level. Study can be on either a full-time or a part-time basis.
For their first year of study students on all these courses attend the same weekly seminars as students taking the Taught MA in Biography. These provide the critical awareness of the subject which is an essential prerequisite for dissertation work and they are one of the most distinctive and valuable elements of the MA. They take place as follows:
- Autobiography (September to December)
- Special Paper in Biography (January to June)
- Research Methods (January to June)
The modules on Biography and Autobiography are designed to combine the study of classic biographies and memoirs with contemporary writing. In addition, the Research Methods module provides an invaluable and innovative training, especially devised for biographers.
Guest seminars on the course are led by leading biographers, critics, publishers and agents. Teachers and speakers on the course have included Andrew Motion, Kathryn Hughes, Frances Wilson, Frances Spalding, Jeremy Lewis, Rupert Shortt, Caroline Dawnay, Andrew Lownie and Miranda Seymour.
Research students are expected to produce, as a valuable preliminary to their own research project, written coursework for the Research Methods module (an annotated bibliography and a short biography, with supporting material, produced according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography format), and one other piece of written work, but the full amount of termly written work required for the taught course is not compulsory. During the early part of the course, research students refine their research proposal under the individual supervision of the course director for eventual discussion with the Research Officer. Once the research proposal has been accepted students concentrate on individual research and the preparation of a dissertation, under the supervision of the course director.
Professor Jane Ridley founded the Buckingham Biography MA in 1996. She is an Oxford-trained historian and biographer, and her publications include The Young Disraeli (1995); The Architect and his Wife: A Life of Edwin Lutyens (2002), which won the Duff Cooper Prize; and Bertie: A Life of Edward VII (2012), for which she was awarded a research fellowship by the Leverhulme Trust. She has contributed widely to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and she is a regular reviewer for publications such as the Spectator, the Literary Review and the Times Literary Supplement.
Watch a lecture by Professor Ridley on “The Thrills and Spills of Writing Biography”, given to the Swan and Pen Literary Society in June 2013.
Teaching takes place at the University’s London premises:
51 Gower Street
24 January 2017
The Mail on Sunday on 22 January 2017 published a 2-page article by Claudia Joseph: “The not so shy Lady Di: An aristocratic beauty trapped in a loveless marriage whose scandalous affair gripped the nation.” Click here to read the…
6 October 2015
Two Biography DPhil students have been short-listed for a prestigious literary prize. The Biographers’ Club awards the annual Tony Lothian Prize of £2,000 for the best proposal for a biography by an unpublished author. Five submissions were shortlisted. Two of…
29 June 2015
Ridley, J., Victoria (Penguin Monarchs): Queen, Matriarch, Empress (London: Allen Lane, 2015). 160 pp. ISBN: 978-0-14-197718-8. This book is part of the Penguin Monarchs series which provides short, fresh, expert accounts of England’s rulers. Queen Victoria inherited the throne at…
The normal periods of study for achieving these research degrees are as follows:
- MA Res – 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time
- PhD – 3 years full-time or 6 years part-time
A system of preliminary registration for all research degrees is in operation to allow students to prepare a formal proposal during the early part of their course. Admission to research degrees is normally on a provisional basis while the candidate, with the help of the supervisor, refines the proposal for the research, including developing a work plan and identifying the requirements for support and resources and how these will be met. Students for the MA degree in Biography by Research are registered initially for the taught MA until the research proposal has been accepted. At the higher level, students are registered for the degree of PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), although their status is probationary until the first Annual Review has taken place, normally between 12 and 18 months from first registration.
All research students must also subject their work to an annual progress review.
Changing the level of the research degree after the start of the course, although not impossible, can produce complications. Prospective students uncertain about the level or length of course best suited to them are strongly advised to discuss this with the course director before applying.