Philosophy and Theology | University of Oxford
Philosophy and Theology
Water ripples.
(Image credit: Shutterstock).

Philosophy and Theology

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.

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.

P&T careers

Philosophy and Theology graduates have secured wide-ranging positions as authors, writers, newspaper and periodical editors, academics and teachers. Recent graduates include a barrister, a member of a political think tank, a student at the Royal Academy of Music and a marketing executive for a philanthropy adviser. Others have entered careers such as commerce, banking, financial services and communications.

John, now a QC says: ‘I could not recommend Philosophy and Theology at Oxford more highly. It was such a wide-ranging ‘Liberal Arts’ type degree with so many subject options. On a practical level theology encourages deep thought and creative thinking whilst my philosophical tutors taught me to question and doubt every claim. That was an ideal preparation for the Bar.’

Related courses

Students interested in this course might also like to consider Classics, Theology and Religion, or Religion and Oriental Studies.

A typical week

Work is divided between tutorials (usually one or two weekly), 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.

Tutorials are usually up to three students and a tutor. Class sizes may vary depending on the options you choose. There would usually be no more than around 10 students though classes for some of the more popular papers may be up to 20 students.

Most tutorials, classes, and lectures are delivered by staff who are tutors in their subject. Many are world-leading experts with years of experience in teaching and research. Some teaching may also be delivered by postgraduate students who are usually studying at doctorate level.

To find out more about how our teaching year is structured, visit our Academic Year page.

1st year

Courses

Four papers are taken:

  • The figure of Jesus through the centuries
  • General philosophy
  • Logic and moral philosophy

and one of the following:

  • Introduction to the study of the Bible
  • Religion and religions
  • New Testament Greek
  • Biblical Hebrew
  • Qur’anic Arabic
  • Church Latin
  • Pali
  • Sanskrit

Assessment

First University examinations: Four papers each assessed by written examination

2nd and 3rd years

Courses

Students take eight papers, either five in Philosophy and three in Theology, or five in Theology and three in Philosophy, or four in each. A thesis in either subject may be offered as one of these.

All students study:

  • Early modern philosophy or Knowledge and reality
  • Ethics or Plato’s Republic or Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics
  • Philosophy of religion

Remaining papers are chosen from a wide range of options in Philosophy and Theology.

Students may choose freely from Theology papers that cover

  • Biblical Studies
  • Systematic theology and ethics
  • History of religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism)
  • Religion and religions (Contemporary Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism)

The options listed above are illustrative and may change. More information about current options is available on the Philosophy and Theology and Religion websites.

Assessment

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.

If English is not your first language you may also need to meet our English language requirements.

Wherever possible, your grades are considered in the context in which they have been achieved.  (See further information on how we use contextual data.)

A subject involving essay writing to A-level, Advanced Higher, Higher Level in the IB or another equivalent can be helpful to students in completing this course, although this is not required for admission.

We expect you to have taken and passed the practical component in any chosen science subjects.

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.)

Fees

These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2019.

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU£9,250
Islands
(Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
£9,250
Overseas£26,235

For more information please refer to our course fees page. Fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Living costs

Living costs at Oxford might be less than you’d expect, as our world-class resources and college provision can help keep costs down.

Living costs for the academic year starting in 2019 are estimated to be between £1,058 and £1,643 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.

Financial support

Home/EU

A tuition fee loan is available from the UK government to cover course fees in full for Home (UK)/EU students undertaking their first undergraduate degree*, so you don’t need to pay your course fees up front.

In 2019 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to those on a family income of around £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 living costs support.  See further details.

Islands
(Channel Islands and Isle of Man)

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:

States of Jersey
States of Guernsey
Isle of Man

Overseas

Please refer to the "Other Scholarships" section of our Oxford Bursaries and Scholarships 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

Fees, Funding and Scholarship search

Additional Fees and Charges Information for Philosophy and Theology

There are no compulsory costs for this course beyond the fees shown above and your living costs.

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.

Written test

All candidates must take the Philosophy Test in their own school or college or other approved test centre on Wednesday 31 October 2018. Candidates must make sure they are available to take the test at this time. Separate registration for this test is required and the final deadline for entries is Monday 15 October 2018. It is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that they are registered for this test. We strongly recommend making the arrangements in plenty of time before the deadline.

Further information about all our written tests can be found on our tests page. Information about the Philosophy Test can be found on the Philosophy Test website.

Written work

For Philosophy and Theology, candidates are required to submit one essay by Saturday 10 November 2018. 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.

What are tutors looking for?

In interviews, tutors look 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.

For more detail on the selection criteria for this course, please see the Philosophy and Theology and Religion websites.

Suggested reading

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.

Apply

Patrick Milner

Watch a series of short videos of students talking about some aspect of their time at Oxford.

Tom

'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.'

Megan

'Choosing to read Philosophy and Theology was a controversial choice in my heavily science-based school - many of my friends were confused why I was taking what they believed to be an ‘old-fashioned’ degree however, they could not have been more wrong. My experience of joint honours has been one of a steady introduction to logical, creative thinking with an overarching emphasis on empathy for those of all different faiths and creeds. I sincerely believe it is one of the most pertinent degrees given current affairs because most importantly of all: it is about how to think.'

Contextual information

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.

More information about tutorials

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.

More about Oxford’s unique college system and how to choose a college

Was this page useful?*