Philosophy and Theology | University of Oxford
ceiling
The ceiling of the Divinity School.
(Credit: Rob Judges)

Philosophy and Theology

mortar boardUCAS codeVV56calendarDuration3 years (BA)
pencilEntrance requirementsAAAHeadSubject requirements  A subject involving essay writing
tickAdmissions test(s)ox.ac.uk/philtickWritten workOne piece
bar chartAdmissions statistics*

Interviewed: 49%
Successful: 21%
Intake: 29
*3-year average 2016-18

phoneContact

+44 (0) 1865 276926
Email Philosophy
+44 (0) 1865 270790
Email Theology

Subject requirements:       Essential       Recommended       Helpful – may be useful on course

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.

Central to this degree is a recognition that 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 its library and other facilities are acknowledged as among the best in the country. Members of the Faculty of Theology and Religion include more than 100 academics ranging from experts in the ancient languages and literature of the world’s religions to historians and systematic theologians. The Faculty’s reputation and excellent library facilities attract scholars from all over the world.

Library students socializing
“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.”
TOM
 “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.”
MEGAN

A typical week

Your weekly timetable will be divided usually between one or two tutorials, which may take place at your college or at the college of a specialist tutor. A large part of your week will be spent in independent study preparing essays for tutorials. You will also attend about four to six lectures each week as well as classes for some topics, all of which take place in the faculty or central University buildings.

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.

Course structure

YEAR 1

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

YEARS 2 AND 3

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.

Academic requirements 

A-levels:AAA
Advanced Highers:                    AA/AAB
IB: 39 (including core points) with 666 at HL                                                                          
Or any other equivalent (see other UK qualifications, and international qualifications

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

Subject requirements

  Helpful: 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.

If, and only if, you have chosen to take any science A-levels, we expect you to take and pass the practical component in addition to meeting any overall grade requirement.

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

Applying

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.

Admissions tests

Test: The Philosophy Test
Test date:30 October 2019            
Registration deadline:                   6pm 15 October 2019                                                                                                      

All candidates must take the Philosophy Test as part of their application. Separate registration for each test is required and it is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that they are registered for these tests. We strongly recommend making the arrangements in plenty of time before the deadline.

Everything you need to know, including guidance on how to prepare, can be found on the Philosophy Test page.

Written work

Description:One piece which has been marked in the normal process of school or college work. In place of this essay you may send an examination or test answer to an unseen question, which has been supervised and marked by your school or college. All written work must be in English. Please ensure that work is not overly long (no more than 2,000 words) and conforms as far as possible to the published guidelines on the submission of written work, as tutors want to evaluate the succinctness and pertinence of your work. 
Submission deadline:  10 November 2019

If you have any questions, please contact your first choice or allocated college. 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. You may be asked to consider a philosophical or ethical question or to study a brief text. Whatever the subject of discussion, interviewers are interested in how you think and how you approach questions. Students are not expected to have prior subject knowledge.

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

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.’

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.)

Latest information for UK and EU undergraduates who will begin their course in 2020 can be found here. Further information for EU students starting in 2020 is available here.

The fees and funding information below relates to those who will start at Oxford in 2019.

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.

Contextual information

The Key Information Sets provides applicants with statistics about undergraduate life at Oxford. But there is so much more to an Oxford degree that the numbers can’t convey.

The Oxford tutorial

College tutorials are central to teaching at Oxford. Typically, they take place in your college and are led by your academic tutor(s) who teach as well as do their own research. Students will also receive teaching in a variety of other ways, depending on the course. This will include lectures and classes, and may include laboratory work and fieldwork. However, tutorials offer a level of personalised attention from academic experts unavailable at most universities.

During tutorials (normally lasting an hour), college subject tutors will give you and one or two tutorial partners feedback on prepared work and cover a topic in depth. The other student(s) in your college tutorials will be from your year group, doing the same course as you and will normally be at your college. Such regular and rigorous academic discussion develops and facilitates learning in a way that isn’t possible through lectures alone. Tutorials also allow for close progress monitoring so tutors can quickly provide additional support if necessary.

Read more about tutorials and an Oxford education

College life

Our colleges are at the heart of Oxford’s reputation as one of the best universities in the world.

  • At Oxford, everyone is a member of a college as well as their subject department(s) and the University. Students therefore have both the benefits of belonging to a large, renowned institution and to a small and friendly academic community. Each college or hall is made up of academic and support staff, and students. Colleges provide a safe, supportive environment leaving you free to focus on your studies, enjoy time with friends and make the most of the huge variety of opportunities.
  • Each college has a unique character, but generally their facilities are similar. Each one, large or small, will have the following essential facilities:
    • Porters’ lodge (a staffed entrance and reception)
    • Dining hall
    • Lending library (often open 24/7 in term time)
    • Student accommodation
    • Tutors’ teaching rooms
    • Chapel and/or music rooms
    • Laundry
    • Green spaces
    • Common room (known as the JCR).
  • All first year students are offered college accommodation either on the main site of their college or in a nearby college annexe. This means that your neighbours will also be ‘freshers’ and new to life at Oxford. This accommodation is guaranteed, so you don’t need to worry about finding somewhere to live after accepting a place here, all of this is organised for you before you arrive.
  • All colleges offer at least one further year of accommodation and some offer it for the entire duration of your degree. You may choose to take up the option to live in your college for the whole of your time at Oxford, or you might decide to arrange your own accommodation after your first year – perhaps because you want to live with friends from other colleges.
  • While college academic tutors primarily support your academic development, you can also ask their advice on other things. Lots of other college staff including welfare officers help students settle in and are available to offer guidance on practical or health matters. Current students also actively support students in earlier years, sometimes as part of a college ‘family’ or as peer supporters trained by the University’s Counselling Service.

More about Oxford colleges and how you choose