About the course
The MSt in Ancient Philosophy is a one-year, full-time taught graduate course offering graduate training in ancient philosophy of high quality, and aims to provide a foundation on which you can go on to pursue doctoral work in the area. This course is not available in part-time mode of study and is not offered via distance learning.
Teaching and learning on the MSt in Ancient Philosophy normally consists of individual supervisions with members of the faculty during term-time, classes and lectures, and ongoing independent research.
During the course, you will take two subject options. The first must be chosen from the following list of undergraduate papers in ancient philosophy:
- Plato: Republic
- Plato on Knowledge, Language & Reality in the Theaetetus and Sophist
- Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics
- Aristotle on Nature, Life and Mind
- Knowledge and Scepticism in Hellenistic Philosophy
- Latin philosophy
Tuition for these subjects is offered in the form of supervisions, as well as lectures and classes.
The second subject option consists of two classes, which change every year, and you must attend both classes. In the last four years, the following classes have been on offer, which give an idea of the sort of subjects that have been tackled: Plato on Education, Happiness and Time in Ancient Philosophy, Seneca’s Moral Letters, Aristotle’s Defence of Natural Slavery and its Legacy, Techne in Ancient Philosophy, Vice in Ancient Philosophy, Virtue and Eros in Stoic Philosophy, The Ontology of Action: Aristotle and After, The Stoics on Emotions, Plato and Aristotle on Truth, Prudence in Aristotle’s Ethics, Sophistry and Fallacy in Plato and Aristotle, and Plato’s Political Philosophy.
Finally, you will write a thesis of 10,000 to 15,000 words on a topic you have chosen in consultation with the course coordinator and a prospective supervisor.
In a typical fortnight during term-time, a student can expect to spend around one hour receiving one-to-one supervision, between four and eight hours attending ancient philosophy seminars, and up to six hours of Ancient Greek tuition (voluntary). This translates as around 20–30% of a full-time working week. Students can expect to spend the remaining time on self-directed study.
It is not a course requirement for students without any (or with little) Ancient Greek to attend the language classes currently run by the Faculty of Classics, but it is highly recommended that they do so, as being able to read philosophical texts in the original language is an advantage for Ancient Philosophy students. Students with intermediate or advanced Greek may choose to attend more advanced Ancient Greek classes.
Each term many graduate classes and research seminars are organised by faculty members in which graduate students are full and important participants.
Moreover, during term-time the Faculty of Philosophy normally offers a weekly workshop that allows members of the faculty and graduate students to discuss work in progress in ancient philosophy by speakers from Oxford and elsewhere. All graduate students specialising in ancient philosophy are encouraged to attend this workshop.
You may also decide to attend any graduate or undergraduate classes, seminars and lectures in and outside of the Faculty of Philosophy which are of interest to you, provided those classes, seminars and lectures are open to you.
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 the other 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.
The course has no fieldwork, industrial placement or year abroad element, but you may decide to attend conferences, workshops or research training elsewhere.
Upon completion of the course, you should have:
- pursued a course requiring a high standard in each of the three examined elements (a thesis and two subject options);
- selected at least two areas of ancient philosophy and studied them through individual supervisions with an expert supervisor and either by lectures (offered by an expert or experts in the relevant field) or by classes (convened by an expert or experts in the relevant field) at which students give presentations;
- written a thesis under the guidance of an expert supervisor;
- had the opportunity to attain some knowledge of Ancient Greek, or consolidate and increase existing knowledge;
- had many opportunities to hear and give talks in philosophy, by attending the annual Graduate Philosophy Conference, talks by invited speakers, philosophy societies, and discussion groups; and
- been a member of a college graduate community, associating with graduates from many countries, cultures, and academic disciplines.
For this course, 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 and Faculty of Classics.
You should normally expect to have four one-hour supervision sessions per term with your appointed supervisor for that term. Before each supervision you will research, write and submit a formative supervision essay on which you receive detailed feedback in the one-to-one supervision session. This should then allow you to further improve your essay for assessment.
In addition to writing your thesis, you will be assessed through written work. The first subject option will be assessed by one 5,000-word essay on a topic chosen by you and approved by the course co-ordinator.
Assessment of the second subject option is by two 5,000-word essays on topics linked to the area covered in the two classes you have taken. You may choose to write both essays on topics linked to one class or to write one essay on a topic linked to the first class and the other essay on a topic linked to the second, but overlap in subject material between the essays is to be avoided.
If you pass the MSt in Ancient Philosophy, you will have the opportunity to apply to continue to the DPhil in Philosophy via a year as a Probationary Research Student. However, if you have no to little Ancient Greek and you would like to progress to the DPhil in Philosophy, you should attend the Ancient Greek classes as attendance and progress in these classes will normally be an academic condition for admission to the DPhil in Philosophy.
MSt in Ancient Philosophy graduates often 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 graduate destinations of past MSt students are available on the MSt alumni webpages.
Changes to this course and your supervision
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. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic, epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.
Entry requirements for entry in 2024-25
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in philosophy, classics or a closely-related discipline.
However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.6 out of 4.0. However, most successful applicants have a GPA of 3.7.
If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.
GRE General Test scores
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
You are not required to have any publications.
Students who achieve a distinction on the MSt in Ancient Philosophy are eligible for progression to the DPhil in Philosophy, provided 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 Philosophy Faculty. If they started the MSt with no or limited knowledge of Ancient Greek, they are normally also required to have attended relevant classes in Ancient Greek. Students who pass the MSt in Ancient Philosophy without a distinction may be admitted to the DPhil at the Committee’s discretion.
All applications are assessed by the faculty's Graduate Studies Committee at the same time, after the application deadline has passed, and offers are made on a strictly comparative basis.
This course is suitable as a conversion course for students changing to philosophy from classics or other related disciplines.
Please note that there is also an option to study an Ancient Philosophy track in the Faculty of Philosophy's two-year master's course in philosophy, the BPhil in Philosophy.
English language proficiency
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.5||7.0|
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
†Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.
Declaring extenuating circumstances
If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.
You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview
Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading.
References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process. Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed.
Shortlisting and selection
Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:
- socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
- country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
- protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.
Processing your data for shortlisting and selection
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
Other factors governing whether places can be offered
The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
- the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
- minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.
Offer conditions for successful applications
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about offers and conditions.
In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:
If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.
Disclosure of criminal convictions
In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.
Oxford is one of the world’s great centres for philosophy, and is widely recognised to be amongst the best. In the most recent Philosophical Gourmet Report (2021-22) Oxford University’s Faculty of Philosophy was once again ranked top in the list of Philosophy Faculties in the United Kingdom and still ranked second in the overall ranking of philosophy faculties in the English Speaking World. 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.
Specifically, Oxford is widely acknowledged to contain one of the leading groups of ancient philosophers in the world. Ancient philosophy at Oxford is still ranked top in the most recent Philosophical Gourmet Report’s breakdown of programmes by speciality (2021-22) and the faculty attracts and selects the best possible national and international scholars in the subject.
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 student study space and a graduate common room. A wireless network runs throughout the Philosophy Centre.
The Philosophy Centre also contains the department's 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.
In some years the Faculty of Classics and Faculty of Philosophy jointly offer the Nellie Wallace lectures, which enable scholars from outside the University to visit Oxford in order to lecture and conduct seminars in a subject in the field of Literae Humaniores.
Over 150 Oxford academics are employed by or associated with the Faculty of Philosophy, making it one of the largest philosophy departments worldwide.
The Faculty of Philosophy is widely recognised to be amongst the best philosophy departments in the world, ranked first in the UK and second in the English-speaking world by the most recent Philosophical Gourmet Report (2021-22).
The faculty offers a wide range of graduate classes, seminars and supervisions, providing you with high-quality tuition in philosophy. This includes its flagship course, the BPhil in Philosophy, which we believe provides the perfect graduate level training for further studies to doctoral level and is usually studied as the first two years of a four- to five-year doctoral program.
The University expects to be able to offer over 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2024-25. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential.
For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.
Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:
Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the faculty's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2024-25
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Information about course fees
Course 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 course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
The Philosophy Graduate Studies Committee has a research and travel fund for graduate students to which students may apply for assistance with, for example, the costs of attending conferences or workshops. BPhil and MSt students may only apply for funding if they are presenting a paper. Probationary Research Students and DPhil students are entitled to apply for funding to attend a workshop, conference, etc, whether or not they are presenting a paper.
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.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2024-25 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,345 and £1,955 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. The current economic climate and high national rate of inflation make it very hard to estimate potential changes to the cost of living over the next few years. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2024-25, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of around 5% each year – although this rate may vary depending on the national economic situation. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
Students enrolled on this course will belong to both a department/faculty and a college. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 43 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as societies and permanent private halls (PPHs).
If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. Before deciding, we suggest that you read our brief introduction to the college system at Oxford and our advice about expressing a college preference. For some courses, the department may have provided some additional advice below to help you decide.
The following colleges accept students on the MSt in Ancient Philosophy:
Before you apply
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance.
Application fee waivers
An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:
- applicants from low-income countries;
- refugees and displaced persons;
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and
- applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.
You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.
Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?
You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.
Completing your application
You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents.
For this course, the application form will include questions that collect information that would usually be included in a CV/résumé. You should not upload a separate document. If a separate CV/résumé is uploaded, it will be removed from your application.
If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.
Three overall, academic preferred
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 MSt in Ancient Philosophy. In particular, references should provide evidence of outstanding academic achievement, intellectual ability and strong motivation for the intended graduate course.
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.
Statement of purpose/personal statement:
A maximum of 500 words
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:
- why are you applying to this particular programme of study?
- what relevant academic and/or research experience do you have?
- 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.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
Either one essay of between 4,000 and 5,000 words or two essays of between 2,000 and 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.
Written work should be word-processed, written in English and clearly marked with your name and the date of composition. The word count does not need to include the end bibliography. Footnotes and in-text referencing are included.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
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 important philosophical ideas and theories
- if required by the topic of the work, appropriate technical skills.
Instructions for submitting one long piece of work instead of two short pieces
To submit one longer piece of work in your application instead of two shorter pieces, you should upload this document in the first 'Written work' slot on the 'Supporting Documents' tab of the Application Form. In the second 'Written work' slot, you should upload a PDF document with the following statement:
'I have included one long essay in lieu of two short essays. I have checked the course page to confirm this is permitted for this course.'