Philosophy (MA)

This uniquely flexible programme offers postgraduate teaching in central aspects of Western philosophy in the broadly analytic tradition. The curriculum is research-led, with specialist modules taught by leading figures in their fields, and with a consistent focus on the fostering of intellectual curiosity and the development of independent thinking. The programme allows you to follow your own philosophical interests and provides a sound platform for those wishing to proceed to more advanced research work in philosophy.

    The MA is open to those with a first degree in philosophy wishing to progress to more advanced levels of study and also to those without undergraduate training in philosophy. If you did not study philosophy as an undergraduate, you take a special route through the programme.

      Highlights

      • In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), Philosophy at Birkbeck was ranked 15th in the UK, with a research environment judged conducive to producing internationally excellent research.
      • Our uniquely flexible MA may be studied in the evening or in the day, over one or two years, and with or without prior philosophical study.
      • In the Philosophical Gourmet Report 2014-2015, Philosophy at Birkbeck was ranked among the strongest in the UK, and was highly ranked in philosophy of action, philosophy of art, seventeenth-century philosophy and feminist philosophy.
      • As a philosophy student, you will be part of the thriving philosophical community in the University of London and eligible to attend the extensive range of seminars and conferences put on by the Institute of Philosophy.

      Course structure

      The MA is designed to allow you to choose your own balance of depth and breadth in your coverage of different subject areas. You take:

      • any six option modules (see below for an indicative list of available options). Each option module consists of 10 lectures and 10 seminar sessions run by the lecturer, with set readings every week and assessment by a final essay.
      • Philosophical Research Methods: this compulsory module consists of 10 intensive two-hour seminar sessions focused on the close reading of philosophical texts
      • Dissertation in Philosophy: this may be on any topic that falls within the competence of the Department. Once you are assigned a supervisor - usually an expert in your chosen field - you will have one initial meeting followed by up to three individual supervisions to discuss drafts of your work.

      The ‘Conversion’ MA

      If you do not already have an academic background in philosophy, you may be admitted to the 'Conversion' MA. This is an alternate version of the programme with a special structure designed to help you to transfer into the discipline at postgraduate level. You take:

      • any four option modules (see below for an indicative list of available options). Each option module consists of 10 lectures and 10 seminar sessions run by the lecturer, with set readings every week and assessment by a final essay.
      • Introduction to Philosophy: this double module consists of 20 lectures and 20 seminars, designed to introduce you to the central questions and ideas in four core areas of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and political philosophy. It also includes lessons in study skills and practice in philosophical writing.
      • Introduction to Philosophical Argument: this compulsory module consists of 10 lectures and 10 classes and is designed to introduce you to some of the basic formal and informal tools of philosophical argument.
      • Dissertation in Philosophy: this may be on any topic that falls within the competence of the Department. Once you are assigned a supervisor - usually an expert in your chosen field - you will have one initial meeting followed by up to three individual supervisions to discuss drafts of your work.

      To find out more, read our programme handbook.

      Module groups

      Compulsory module

      'Conversion' MA compulsory modules

      MA Philosophy dissertation

      Option modules

      In order to provide maximum flexibility, half of our modules are taught during the evening and half during the day. Each year we flip the previous year's daytime modules to the evening and the evening modules to the daytime, thus ensuring that evening-only part-time students can access our full range of modules over two years.

      Please note that the following list is intended only as a guide. For the most up-to-date information on our option modules, please contact the Department of Philosophy.

        Indicative option modules

            • Entry Requirements

              Entry requirements

              Good upper second-class degree, not necessarily in philosophy.

              Sample of written work prior to interview.

              International entry requirements

              If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, our usual requirement is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 6.5, with not less than 6.0 in each of the sub-tests.

              If you don't meet the minimum IELTS requirement, we offer pre-sessional English courses, foundation programmes and language support services to help you improve your English language skills and get your place at Birkbeck.

              Visit the International section of our website to find out more about our English language entry requirements and relevant requirements by country.

              Visa requirements

              If you are not from the European Economic Area (EEA) and/or Switzerland and you are coming to study in the UK, you may need to apply for a visa.

              The visa you apply for varies according to the length of your course:

              • Courses of more than six months’ duration.
              • Courses of less than six months’ duration.
              • Pre-sessional English language courses.

              International students who require a Tier 4 visa should apply for our three-year evening study BA/BSc/LLB degrees, as these are classified as full-time study and qualify for student visa status. If you are living in the UK on a Tier 4 visa, you will not be eligible to enrol as a student on Birkbeck’s part-time evening study degrees.

              For full information, read our visa information for international students page.

              Credits and Accredited Prior Learning (APL)

              If you have studied at university previously, you may have accumulated credits through the modules you studied. It may be possible to transfer these credits from your previous study to Birkbeck or another institution. You should discuss this with the Programme Director when you are making your application.

              Find out more about credits and Accredited Prior Learning (APL).

            • Fees

              Fees

              Part-time home/EU students: £4075 pa
              Full-time home/EU students: £8175 pa
              Part-time international students: £7425 pa
              Full-time international students: £14850 pa

              Students are charged a tuition fee in each year of their programme. Tuition fees for students continuing on their programme in following years may be subject to annual inflationary increases. For more information, please see the College Fees Policy.

            • Teaching and assessment

              Teaching

              At Birkbeck, almost all of our courses are taught in the evening and our teaching is designed to support students who are juggling evening study with work and other daytime commitments. We actively encourage innovative and engaging ways of teaching, to ensure our students have the best learning experience. In the 2017 Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the government’s system for rating university teaching, Birkbeck was allocated a Silver award.

              Teaching may include formal lectures, seminars, and practical classes and tutorials. Formal lectures are used in most degree programmes to give an overview of a particular field of study. They aim to provide the stimulus and the starting point for deeper exploration of the subject during your own personal reading. Seminars give you the chance to explore a specific aspect of your subject in depth and to discuss and exchange ideas with fellow students. They typically require preparatory study.

              Our distance-learning and blended-learning courses and modules are self-directed and we will provide you with interactive learning opportunities and encourage you to collaborate and engage via various learning technologies. These courses involve limited or no face-to-face contact between students and module tutors.

              In addition, you will have access to pastoral support via a named Personal Tutor.

              Methods of teaching on this course

              Contact hours

              On our taught courses, you will have scheduled teaching and study sessions each year. Alongside this, you will also undertake assessment activities and independent learning outside of class. Depending on the modules you take, you may also have additional scheduled academic activities, such as tutorials, dissertation supervision, practical classes, visits and fieldtrips.

              On our taught courses, the actual amount of time you spend in the classroom and in contact with your lecturers will depend on your course, the option modules you select and when you undertake your final-year project.

              On our distance-learning and blended-learning courses, discussion, collaboration and interaction with your lecturers and fellow students are encouraged and enabled through various learning technologies, but you may have limited or no face-to-face contact with your module tutors.

              Timetables

              Timetables are usually available from September onwards and you can access your personalised timetable via your My Birkbeck Profile online (if you have been invited to enrol).

              Indicative class size

              Class sizes vary, depending on your course, the module you are undertaking, and the method of teaching. For example, lectures are presented to larger groups, whereas seminars usually consist of small, interactive groups led by a tutor.

              Independent learning

              On our taught courses, much of your time outside of class will be spent on self-directed, independent learning, including preparing for classes and following up afterwards. This will usually include, but is not limited to, reading books and journal articles, undertaking research, working on coursework and assignments, and preparing for presentations and assessments.

              Independent learning is absolutely vital to your success as a student. Everyone is different, and the study time required varies topic by topic, but, as a guide, expect to schedule up to five hours of self-study for each hour of teaching.

              On our distance-learning and blended-learning courses, the emphasis is very much on independent, self-directed learning and you will be expected to manage your own learning, with the support of your module tutors and various learning technologies.

              Study skills and additional support

              Birkbeck offers study and learning support to undergraduate and postgraduate students to help them succeed. Our Learning Development Service can help you in the following areas:

              • academic skills (including planning your workload, research, writing, exam preparation and writing a dissertation)
              • written English (including structure, punctuation and grammar)
              • numerical skills (basic mathematics and statistics).

              Our Disability and Dyslexia Service can support you if you have additional learning needs resulting from a disability or from dyslexia.

              Our Counselling Service can support you if you are struggling with emotional or psychological difficulties during your studies.

              Our Mental Health Advisory Service can support you if you are experiencing short- or long-term mental health difficulties during your studies.

              Assessment

              Assessment is an integral part of your university studies and usually consists of a combination of coursework and examinations, although this will vary from course to course - on some of our courses, assessment is entirely by coursework. The methods of assessment on this course are specified below under 'Methods of assessment on this course'. You will need to allow time to complete coursework and prepare for exams.

              Where a course has unseen written examinations, these may be held termly, but, on the majority of our courses, exams are usually taken in the Summer term, during May to June. Exams may be held at other times of the year as well. In most cases, exams are held during the day on a weekday - if you have daytime commitments, you will need to make arrangements for daytime attendance - but some exams are held in the evening. Exam timetables are published online.

              Find out more about assessment at Birkbeck, including guidance on assessment, feedback and our assessment offences policy.

              Methods of assessment on this course

              Introduction to Philosophy and Introduction to Philosophical Argument are assessed by written examination; Philosophical Research Methods is assessed by seminar participation and student presentation; option modules are assessed by submitted essays.

            • Careers and employability

              Careers and employability

              Graduates go in to careers in management, politics, recruitment, and journalism. Possible professions include further/higher education lecturer, secondary school teacher, or Civil Service fast streamer. This degree can also be useful in becoming a local government officer, marketing executive, or recruitment consultant.

              Find out more about these professions.

              We offer a comprehensive Careers and Employability Service to help you advance your career, while our in-house, professional recruitment consultancy, Birkbeck Talent, works with London’s top employers to help you gain work experience that fits in with your evening studies.

            • How to apply

              How to apply

              You apply directly to Birkbeck for this course, using the online application link below.

              Birkbeck can give you all of the information and help you need to complete your application form.

              Application deadlines and interviews

              We recommend you apply as early as possible. Later applications may also be considered, subject to availability of places.