BPhil in Philosophy | University of Oxford
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BPhil in Philosophy

About the course

The Bachelor of Philosophy (BPhil) in Philosophy is a two-year taught graduate degree, which is an intellectually demanding course requiring a background in philosophy, usually from undergraduate study. It is regarded both as training for doctoral study and a basis for teaching a range of philosophical subjects.

The main purpose of the BPhil is to provide future doctoral students with:

  • a basis of knowledge and understanding of five philosophy subjects that they can develop into areas of teaching competence;
  • the skills to conduct independent research in philosophy in their chosen area; and
  • the ability to produce written work that displays sustained argument, independent thought and lucid structure and presentation.

Tuition on the BPhil is through a combination of classes, one-to-one supervisions and independent research.

The Pro-Seminar, which is compulsory for all incoming BPhil students, is held in the first term and introduces students to graduate study by covering important papers in theoretical philosophy and value theory.

You will also be required to attend eight graduate classes during the first four terms of study, two per term. Graduate classes are normally provided for the most popular subjects in the BPhil syllabus. You may also attend any other classes, seminars and lectures in the Faculty of Philosophy which are of interest to you and any classes, seminars and lectures in other faculties that are open to you.

During the first four terms of study you should receive eight individual, one-to-one supervisions on two chosen subjects, normally two supervisions per term. The four supervisions on a given subject are in consecutive terms. Prior to each supervision, you will submit an essay that will be discussed with your supervisor in the supervision. The essay topics and literature to be covered should be agreed in advance between you and your supervisor.

In the last two terms of study, you will research and write a 30,000-word thesis, under the guidance of a supervisor with subject expertise. The thesis will be on a topic of your choice, approved by the Graduate Studies Committee.

BPhil examination is by submission of a thesis of up to 30,000 words and six assessed essays, each of no more than 5,000 words, across at least five subjects with no more than two essays in any one subject. At least one essay must be in theoretical philosophy, at least one must be in practical philosophy and at least two essays must be on the history of philosophy, of which at least one must be concerned with philosophy written before 1800.

If you are interested in the philosophy of physics or ancient philosophy you may wish to study the specific pathways for these subjects in the BPhil in Philosophy. These are not separate courses, but a way of maximising the study of these topics within the existing BPhil structure. A student on these tracks would study primarily the philosophy of physics/science or ancient philosophy during the first four terms and go on to write a 30,000-word thesis on a philosophy of physics/science or an ancient philosophy topic in the final two terms.

Most students join the BPhil course with the intention of progressing to a doctoral programme in Philosophy. BPhil students who progress to the DPhil in Philosophy programme at the University of Oxford have the advantage of skipping the first year of the DPhil (as a Probationary Research Student) and being allowed to incorporate the contents of their entire 30,000-word BPhil thesis into their 75,000-word DPhil thesis. Such students also have only another six terms (instead of the usual nine terms) of fee liability for their DPhil.

The course has no fieldwork, industrial placement or year abroad element, but students may decide to attend conferences, workshops or research training elsewhere.

MSt in Philosophy

The Master of Studies (MSt) in Philosophy is the one-year version of the BPhil. The entry requirements for the MSt are the same as for the BPhil. However, the Graduate Studies Committee considers applications for the MSt alongside applications for the BPhil in Philosophy (for the same admissions quota) and only rarely and in exceptional circumstances accepts students to this course.

The examination for the MSt consists of four essays on at least three subjects. There is no thesis element. The MSt is considered to be a terminal degree and students who complete this course are not permitted to continue onto the DPhil in Philosophy. It is also an exit award for students who fail or withdraw from the BPhil but have completed the requirements for the MSt.

Graduate destinations

The vast majority of BPhil in Philosophy graduates progress to doctoral programmes, either at the faculty itself or elsewhere. Some, however, have pursued non-philosophical academic careers, or careers outside academia, including banking, information technology, law, management consultancy, teaching and public service.

The faculty aims to assist students and graduates in securing academic jobs. The faculty appoints a Placement Officer who, in conjunction with the Graduate Studies Assistant, runs the faculty’s placement scheme. The Placement Officer also helps job applicants with the preparation of their CVs, provides advice about the presentation of material in an application dossier, arranges practice interviews and generally attends the Eastern Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association to support candidates who have interviews there.

Related courses

Changes to the course

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2017-18

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in philosophy or a closely related discipline. 

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.

However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a GPA of 3.7, a first-class degree or the equivalent. 

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.  

Publications

You are not required to have any publications but these may be an advantage as admission to the course is very competitive.

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the Faculty of Philosophy to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Faculty of Philosophy, and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. 
  • Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Faculty of Philosophy.

The assignment of the academic supervisor normally depends on the subject being studied, but supervision could be changed during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.

As a BPhil student you are eligible to apply for a place on the DPhil in Philosophy. Students who achieve a distinction are automatically eligible for progression to the DPhil, provided only that the Philosophy Graduate Studies Committee is satisfied that their proposed thesis topic and outline indicate that they can be adequately supervised by members of the Faculty of Philosophy. Students who pass the BPhil without a distinction may be admitted to the DPhil at the Committee’s discretion.

Applications are assessed by the Philosophy Graduate Studies Committee as a gathered field, and offers are made on a strictly comparative basis. Applications come from all over the world and intake on the BPhil reflects this.

The BPhil is not suitable as a conversion course for students changing to philosophy from another subject.

Applications for the one-year MSt in Philosophy are considered by the Philosophy Graduate Studies Committee only in exceptional circumstances and students are rarely admitted to this course. MSt applications are considered alongside BPhil applications (for the same admissions quota) and are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Resources

Oxford is one of the world’s great centres for philosophy, and is widely recognised to be amongst the best. More than 150 professional philosophers work in the University and its colleges, between them covering a vast range of subjects within philosophy, and many are international leaders in their fields. 

Many philosophy subjects at Oxford are ranked at or near the top in the Philosophical Gourmet Report’s breakdown of programmes by speciality: metaphysics, epistemology, philosophical logic, ethics, political philosophy, philosophy of law, applied ethics, philosophy of science, philosophy of physics, decision, rational choice and game theory, philosophy of mathematics, mathematical logic, ancient philosophy, early modern philosophy - 18th century, and the history of analytical philosophy (including Wittgenstein). 

The Philosophy Centre in the Radcliffe Humanities building on Woodstock Road acts as a focal point for the faculty’s activities and contains, as well as lecturing and teaching space, a graduate computing room and a graduate common room. A wireless network runs throughout the Philosophy Centre.

The Centre also contains the Philosophy Library, with over 25,000 volumes, a collection of approximately 80 periodicals, online access to many philosophical databases, and librarians trained in the specific bibliographic needs of philosophers. Many college libraries also have extensive holdings in philosophy.

Each term more than a dozen graduate classes and research seminars are organised by faculty members in which graduate students are full and important participants.

Graduates are encouraged to organise their own seminars and reading groups, and they also run two societies: one invites distinguished speakers from the UK and around the world, while another gives graduates the opportunity to present papers to a graduate audience.

Each year there is an Oxford Graduate Philosophy Conference, in which most graduate philosophy students participate in some way.

Funding

There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.

A number of awards are available from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) each year, to support graduate students in a range of disciplines. To be considered for any of these studentships you must apply before the January admissions deadline.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
£8,715£3,021£11,736
Overseas£18,080£3,021£21,101

The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; for courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Tuition and college fees are payable each year for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay tuition and college fees).

For more information about tuition fees, college fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details on the impact of the result of the UK referendum on its membership of the European Union.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs.  However, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Please note that, depending on your choice of topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Living costs

In addition to your tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2017-18 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between £1,002 and £1,471 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our Living costs page.

How to apply

You should not make contact with an academic member of staff before you apply.

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

CV/résumé

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
One page

You should submit a statement in English explaining your motivation for applying for the course, in which you may wish to consider the following questions:

  • what relevant academic and/or research experience do you have?
  • why are you applying to this particular programme of study?
  • which areas of study within the subject interest you?
  • why would you be an excellent candidate for this course?
  • how does this course fit in with your future career plans?

This will be assessed for evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study.

Your statement should focus on philosophy, rather than personal, extra-curricular achievements and interests.

Written work:
Either one essay of 5,000 words or two essays of 2,000 to 2,500 words each

Your written work(s) should be academic essays or other writing samples on philosophical topics. All essays should be recent and not of a primarily expository nature.

The one longer essay or either/both shorter essays may be part of longer pieces of work, but if so, the relevant sections for consideration by assessors must be clearly identified.

Written work should be typed, written in English and clearly marked with your name and the date of composition. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for:

  • clarity and accuracy of thought and writing
  • intellectual independence
  • willingness and ability to reach conclusions by reasoned argument rather than assertion
  • a critical and attentive reading of any texts discussed
  • understanding of philosophical ideas and theories
  • if required by the topic of the work, appropriate technical skills.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally academic

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

Academic references are usually required. However, if you have been out of education for a long time, or if you have substantial relevant working experience, then a maximum of one professional reference may replace an academic reference provided that it speaks to your ability to undertake philosophy studies at graduate level.

Your references should support success in current or previous studies and a likelihood of success in the BPhil in Philosophy. In particular, references should provide evidence of outstanding academic achievement, intellectual ability and strong motivation for the intended graduate course.