There is a vast amount of information available for those students who are thinking of studying philosophy at the postgraduate level. Information about funding, types of programmes, and career prospects are especially important, and those interested in postgraduate study should click on the relevant subsidiary links. Perhaps the best way to find out about MA and PhD programmes in the UK is to consult particular university websites; but applicants might also want to consult Brian Leiter’s Philosophical Gourmet Report for information about postgraduate study beyond the UK.
The British and Irish Postgraduate Philosophical Association has an excellent website with a useful ’resources’ section, including information about careers, publishing, and teaching.
UK masters programmes: information for prospective students
Masters degrees in the UK have a confusing range of names (e.g. MA, MLitt, MPhil, BPhil).
This is partly due to the fact that in Oxford and Cambridge MA is a courtesy title, given to those who have a BA, a few years after graduation, and in Scotland it is given to students after their fourth year of undergraduate study, in comparison to the normal three year programme in the UK. Hence there are no postgraduate programmes called ’MA’ at Oxford or Cambridge or in Scotland – but there are Masters programmes with different titles.
Also several universities have more than one Masters-level qualification. For example, London and Birmingham have both an MPhil and an MA; and Manchester, Liverpool and UEA all have MA and MRes programmes.
Consequently the names can be misleading.There are, however, a few basic distinctions to bear in mind:
- Whether the programme is one year or two years.
- Whether the programme is a ’general’ degree, or a ’specialised’ one (e.g. Philosophy of Mind, Indian Philosophy, Metaphysics, etc.). A general degree does not mean that one cannot specialise to at least some extent; however a specialised one commits the student to a particular area of study in advance, normally drawing on the specialisation within the department.
- Whether, or to what extent, the programme involves taught modules, and if so, what the balance of taught modules and dissertation is. All Masters degrees involve writing a thesis; however, the proportion of the programme that the thesis occupies can range from about a third to 100%. Some universities explicitly offer both ’taught’ Masters and ’research’ Masters programmes; some run different taught programmes, with one aimed at students who simply want to do one (or one more) year of philosophy, and another aimed at students who intend to pursue a PhD afterwards. Programmes in the latter category tend to focus more on research skills and/or have a larger thesis component.
- What kind of undergraduate-level (BA, BSc) qualification is required. Some programmes require a BA in Philosophy, or at least an undergraduate degree with a significant philosophy component (e.g. English & Philosophy, or PPE). Others do not. Some programmes have specific modules that must be taken by students without an undergraduate philosophy degree.
Funding for Philosophy postgraduates in the UK
There are several typical funders of UK postgraduate philosophy study:
The Arts and Humanities Research Council offers doctoral studentships.
Analysis Studentship: awards of £17375 to support a promising philosopher who does not have other means of support (eg doctoral stipend or employment) to enable them to conduct research. It cannot be combined with academic employment.
- Candidates must have competed at least three and no more than five years of full-time research or part-time equivalent.
- Research must be on a subject falling under the concerns of the journal Analysis.
- Application includes CV, research statement (<500 words), an official letter from the host institution and two references, submitted by email.
The British Society for the History of Philosophy offers one postgraduate fellowship: bursary of £4000 to postgrad of any nationality studying currently at a UK HE institution, or accepted an offer to start studying in the UK. Bursary offered for single academic year.
- Deadline 31st March each year. For those studying or researching any area of the history of philosophy.
Society for Applied Philosophy Doctoral scholarships: two scholarships annually for research at a UK university, and further scholarship for doctoral work carried out at any university in an EU country (up to £10,000, to be held for one year). Applications can be submitted from 1st May 2024, deadline: 10th July 2024.
British Society for the Philosophy of Science Doctoral Scholarships: doctorates in philosophy of science at a UK university. The scheme runs in odd years (the next is in 2025). Deadline usually in April, requiring two references (of whom at most one can be the proposed supervisor) and a supervisor statement. Scholarship are subject to renewal on a yearly basis.
The Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain: offers two kind of studentships for those studying topics in the philosophy of education.
- Staff-led doctoral studentships – for doctoral projects designed by the prospective lead supervisor.
- Doctoral studentships.
Finally, individual universities and departments often offer their own fee waivers, bursaries, teaching assistantships and scholarships. The easiest way to find out about these may be to browse department websites.