Philosophy and Theology brings together some of the most important approaches to understanding and assessing the intellectual claims of religion.
The study of Philosophy develops analytical rigour and the ability to criticise and reason logically. It allows you to apply these skills to many contemporary and historical schools of thought and individual thinkers, and to questions ranging from how we acquire knowledge and form moral judgements to central questions in the philosophy of religion, including the existence and nature of God and the relevance of religion to human life.
The study of Theology provides an understanding of the intellectual underpinning of religious traditions, and of the social and cultural contexts for religious belief and practice. It brings together a wide range of skills and disciplines, historical, textual, linguistic, sociological, literary-critical and philosophical.
Philosophy and Theology at Oxford
The degree is constructed in the belief that the parallel study of these related disciplines leads to a deeper understanding of each.
The Philosophy Faculty is the largest in the UK, and one of the largest in the world. Many faculty members have a worldwide reputation, and library and other facilities are acknowledged as among the best in the country.
The Faculty of Theology and Religion has more than 100 members ranging from experts in the ancient languages and literature of the world’s religions to church historians and systematic theologians. Its reputation and excellent library facilities attract scholars from all over the world.
Philosophy and Theology graduates enter careers including academic teaching and research, school teaching, commerce, banking and financial services, journalism and communications. Recent graduates have secured positions as authors, writers, newspaper and periodical editors and teachers, and include a student at the Royal Academy of Music, a journalist and a marketing executive for a philanthropy adviser. The Theology and Religion Faculty’s website has further information about careers for theologians.
Marc, who graduated in 1981, went on to take an MSc in Computing at Bradford University and now works as Consultant Manager at international services provider Sword Group. He says: ‘The transition from the fascinating, inspiring but unworldly dreaminess of a non-vocational degree to the more mundane but equally exciting world of IT is quite possible. I warmly recommend the transition via a vocational postgraduate course such as I took. I am less technical but more articulate than some of my whizz-kid colleagues, and my more rounded education has given me a broader vision which has been genuinely useful in my career.’
A typical weekly timetable
Work is divided between tutorials (usually one a week), lectures (typically six to eight weekly), and (when studying certain topics) some classes. A large part of your week will be spent in private study to prepare essays for tutorials.
Four papers are taken:
First University examinations: One written paper in each of four subjects
Compulsory core subjects:
Students take 8 papers, either five in Philosophy and three in Theology, or five in Theology and three in Philosophy, or four in each. A thesis may replace one of the eight papers.
All students study:
Final University examinations: Eight papers assessed either by written examination or by submitted coursework, depending upon the option, or seven papers plus a thesis
The content and format of this course may change in some circumstances. Read further information about potential course changes.
- A-levels: AAA
- Advanced Highers: AA/AAB
- IB: 39 (including core points) with 666 at HL
- Or any other equivalent (see details of international qualifications)
A subject involving essay-writing to A-level, Advanced Higher, or Higher Level in the IB or another equivalent can be helpful to students in completing this course, although this is not required for admission.
All candidates must also take the Philosophy Test as part of their application. Please see how to apply for further details.
Oxford University is committed to recruiting the best and brightest students from all backgrounds. We offer a generous package of financial support to Home/EU students from lower-income households. (UK nationals living in the UK are usually Home students.)
These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2016.
Total annual fees
& Isle of Man)
Despite what you may have heard, it's no more expensive to study at Oxford than at any other university. In fact, our world-class resources and college provision can help you to lower your living costs.
Living costs for 2016/17 are estimated to be between £970 and £1,433 for each month you are in Oxford. Our academic year is made up of three eight-week terms, so you would not usually need to be in Oxford for much more than six months of the year but may wish to budget over a nine-month period to ensure you also have sufficient funds during the holidays to meet essential costs. For further details please visit our living costs webpage.
A full loan is available from the UK government to cover tuition fees for students undertaking their first undergraduate degree*, so you don’t need to pay your tuition fees up front.
In 2016 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to those on a family income of £42,875 or less, with additional opportunities available to those from households with incomes of £16,000 or less. This support is available in addition to the government grants and loans. See further details.
Islands students are entitled to different support to that of students from the rest of the UK.
Please refer the links below for information on the support to you available from your funding agency:
Please refer to the "Other Scholarships" section of our Oxford support page.
*If you have studied at undergraduate level before and completed your course, you will be classed as an Equivalent or Lower Qualification student (ELQ) and won’t be eligible to receive government or Oxford funding
All candidates must follow the application procedure as shown in applying to Oxford. The information below gives specific details for students applying for this course.
For Theology, candidates are required to submit two essays by 10 November 2015. Please see the Theology and Religion page for further details.
For more information, and to download a cover sheet, please see our further guidance on the submission of written work.
All candidates must take the Philosophy Test, normally at their own school or college, on 4 November 2015 and the deadline for final entries is 15 October 2015. Separate registration for this test is required. It is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that they are registered for this test. See www.admissionstestingservice.org/phil for further details.
What are tutors looking for?
During the interview, tutors are looking for interest in the proposed fields of study, a critical and analytical approach to abstract questions and the ability to defend a viewpoint by reasoned argument.
There are many introductions to philosophy: we recommend Myles Burnyeat and Ted Honderich’s Philosophy as it is a very useful collection. Martin Hollis' An Invitation to Philosophy and Simon Blackburn’s Think are also recommended but feel free to pick up any introductory or beginners’ text.
At present we do not produce a specific Theology reading list for people who are considering making an application, though we always advise prospective candidates to read beyond what they are reading in school and to explore areas that interest them.
Patrick Milner, 2nd year
Tom, 3rd year
'The course itself exceeded my expectations, not only in the way it was taught, but in the extraordinarily wide range of topics that it was possible to study. It is a course that allows the study of Byzantine church history alongside the philosophical problems of the mind and of language, to name just a few diverse areas. This has really allowed me to follow what I found I was genuinely interested in. The freedom the course gives me to follow my passions in the subject is a massive boost.'
Edward, who graduated in 1980
He is now a senior solicitor and currently Deputy Head of the Legal Department in an overseas affiliate of Royal Dutch Shell. He says:
‘Studying at Oxford has provided me with the necessary analytical skills to thrive as a practising lawyer. To my mind, I am at a distinct advantage when pitting my legal skills against an opposite number who lacks the intellectual discipline which an Oxford-taught course provides you with.’
The Key Information Sets provide a lot of numbers about the Oxford experience – but there is so much about what you get here that numbers can’t convey. It’s not just the quantity of the Oxford education that you need to consider, there is also the quality – let us tell you more.
Oxford’s tutorial system
Regular tutorials, which are the responsibility of the colleges, are the focal point of teaching and learning at Oxford. The tutorial system is one of the most distinctive features of an Oxford education: it ensures that students work closely with tutors throughout their undergraduate careers, and offers a learning experience which is second to none.
A typical tutorial is a one-hour meeting between a tutor and one, two, or three students to discuss reading and written work that the students have prepared in advance. It gives students the chance to interact directly with tutors, to engage with them in debate, to exchange ideas and argue, to ask questions, and of course to learn through the discussion of the prepared work. Many tutors are world-leaders in their fields of research, and Oxford undergraduates frequently learn of new discoveries before they are published.
Each student also receives teaching in a variety of other ways, depending on the course. This will include lectures and classes, and may include laboratory work and fieldwork. But the tutorial is the place where all the elements of the course come together and make sense. Meeting regularly with the same tutor – often weekly throughout the term – ensures a high level of individual attention and enables the process of learning and teaching to take place in the context of a student’s individual needs.
The tutorial system also offers the sustained commitment of one or more senior academics – as college tutors – to each student’s progress. It helps students to grow in confidence, to develop their skills in analysis and persuasive argument, and to flourish as independent learners and thinkers.
The benefits of the college system
- Every Oxford student is a member of a college. The college system is at the heart of the Oxford experience, giving students the benefits of belonging to both a large and internationally renowned university and a much smaller, interdisciplinary, college community.
- Each college brings together academics, undergraduate and postgraduate students, and college staff. The college gives its members the chance to be part of a close and friendly community made up of both leading academics and students from different subjects, year groups, cultures and countries. The relatively small size of each college means that it is easy to make friends and contribute to college life. There is a sense of belonging, which can be harder to achieve in a larger setting, and a supportive environment for study and all sorts of other activities.
- Colleges organise tutorial teaching for their undergraduates, and one or more college tutors will oversee and guide each student’s progress throughout his or her career at Oxford. The college system fosters a sense of community between tutors and students, and among students themselves, allowing for close and supportive personal attention to each student’s academic development.
It is the norm that undergraduates live in college accommodation in their first year, and in many cases they will continue to be accommodated by their college for the majority or the entire duration of their course. Colleges invest heavily in providing an extensive range of services for their students, and as well as accommodation colleges provide food, library and IT resources, sports facilities and clubs, drama and music, social spaces and societies, access to travel or project grants, and extensive welfare support. For students the college often becomes the hub of their social, sporting and cultural life.