The vaulted ceiling of the Divinity School.
The ceiling of the Divinity School.
(Credit: Rob Judges)

Philosophy and Theology

Course overview

UCAS code: VV56
Entrance requirements: AAA
Course duration: 3 years (BA)

Subject requirements

Required subjects: Not applicable
Recommended subjects: Not applicable
Helpful subjects: A subject involving essay writing

Other course requirements

Admissions tests: PhilAT
Written Work: One piece

Admissions statistics*

Interviewed: 38%
Successful: 18%
Intake: 27
Successful for a different course: 4%
Applicant intake for a different course: 7

*3-year average 2021-23

Philosophy contact

Tel: +44 (0) 1865 276926
Email: [email protected]

Theology contact

Tel: +44 (0) 1865 270790
Email: [email protected]

Unistats information for this course can be found at the bottom of the page

Please note that there may be no data available if the number of course participants is very small.

About the 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. You will also apply these skills 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.

The Faculty of Theology and Religion includes more than 100 academics, including experts in the ancient languages and literature of the world’s religions, historians and systematic theologians. The Faculty’s reputation and excellent library facilities attract scholars from all over the world.

Astrophoria Foundation Year

If you’re interested in studying Philosophy and Theology but your personal or educational circumstances have meant you are unlikely to achieve the grades typically required for Oxford courses, then applying for a Foundation Year might be right for you.

Visit our Foundation Year course pages for more details. 

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

Unistats information

Discover Uni course data provides applicants with Unistats statistics about undergraduate life at Oxford for a particular undergraduate course.

Please select 'see course data' to view the full Unistats data for Philosophy and Theology. 

Please note that there may be no data available if the number of course participants is very small. 

Visit the Studying at Oxford section of this page for a more general insight into what studying here is likely to be like.

Philosophy and Theology

A typical week

Your weekly timetable will be divided 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 to prepare for tutorials. Each week you will also attend up to six lectures, or small classes for some course options.

Tutorials usually involve two students and a tutor. Class sizes may vary depending on the options you choose, but there would usually be no more than around 10 students. 

Most tutorials, classes, and lectures are delivered by academics who are specialists in their subject. Many are world-leading experts with years of experience in teaching and research. Some teaching may also be delivered by advanced postgraduate students.

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

Course structure

Year 1

Courses

Assessment

Four papers are taken:

  • General philosophy
  • Logic and moral philosophy
  • The figure of Jesus through the centuries
  • And one of the following:
    • Introduction to the study of the Bible
    • Religion and religions
    • Biblical Hebrew
    • Church Latin
    • New Testament Greek
    • Qur’anic Arabic
    • Pali
    • Sanskrit

First University examinations: four papers each assessed by written examination

Years 2 and 3

Courses

Assessment

Students take eight papers, either five in Philosophy and three in Theology, or five in Theology and three in Philosophy, or four in each subject. 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 Theology papers from about 40 options. Options cover a wide range of subject areas including:

  • Biblical Studies;
  • systematic and philosophical Christian theology;
  • religious ethics;
  • the study of religion;
  • science and religion;
  • history, teaching or practice in Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism and Islam.

The options listed on this page are illustrative and may change.

More information about current options is available on the Faculty of Philosophy website and Faculty of Theology and Religion website.

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 

Qualification

Requirement

A-levels:

AAA

Advanced Highers:                    

AA/AAB

International Baccalaureate (IB):

39 (including core points) with 666 at HL                                                                          

Any other equivalent qualification:

 View information on other UK qualifications, and international qualifications.

Wherever possible, your grades are considered in the context in which they have been achieved.

Read 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 a practical component forms part of any of your science A‐levels used to meet your offer, we expect you to pass it.

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

If your personal or educational circumstances have meant you are unlikely to achieve the grades listed above for undergraduate study, but you still have a strong interest in the subject, then applying for Philosophy and Theology with a Foundation Year might be right for you. Visit the Foundation Year course page for more details of academic requirements and eligibility.

Applying

All candidates must follow the application procedure as shown on our Applying to Oxford pages.

The following information gives specific details for students applying for this course.

Admissions tests

Test: 

PhilAT

Test date:

To be confirmed

Registration deadline:                   

To be confirmed                                                                                         

All candidates must take the PhilAT as part of their application. 

Guidance on how to prepare can be found on the PhilAT page.

We will be putting in place new arrangements for our admissions tests for 2024 onwards. We will provide more information on these arrangements at the earliest opportunity.

Written work

Description:

One piece written in English, which you have composed as part of a current or recent course of study, not exceeding 2,000 words in length (and shorter is fine). It should demonstrate your ability to:

  • think clearly and to reason coherently
  • structure work and arguments in a logical way
  • write clearly (and grammatically), with clear expression of thought
  • provide evidence of independence of thought.


Your work may be on any subject and not necessarily Philosophy, Theology or Religion. There is no restriction as to the kind of work you may submit, providing it is your own work. You might choose to submit, for example, a mock A Level essay completed under examination conditions or a homework essay from your IB course. You should submit the work that you think best demonstrates the qualities outlined above.

It is not usually necessary to write something especially for your application and if you have composed a suitable piece of work as part of a recent or ongoing course of study, you should submit it. However, if you do not have any recent, suitable written work available, tutors are pleased to accept a piece that has been written for submission.

Please read the further guidance available in the answers to FAQs on the Theology and Religion Faculty’s website.

Submission deadline:  

10 November 2024

Read our further guidance on the submission of written work for more information, and to download a cover sheet.

If you have any questions, please contact the college handling your application, or email the Faculty of Theology and Religion at [email protected]

What are tutors looking for?

Tutors consider your whole application very carefully. They look for evidence of a consistently excellent academic record, for example in GCSE or other examination results.

Your submitted piece of work should demonstrate your ability to: 

  • think clearly and to reason coherently
  • structure work and arguments in a logical way
  • write clearly (and grammatically), with clear expression of thought
  • provide evidence of independence of thought.

Your UCAS personal statement should focus on your academic reasons for wishing to study Philosophy and Theology. References should comment primarily on academic performance.

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 religious, 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.

Visit the Philosophy website and the Theology and Religion website for more detail on the selection criteria for this course. 

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. Visit the Theology and Religion Faculty website for more information about careers.

John, now a KC 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.’

Note: These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2024. Course fee information for courses starting in 2025 will be updated in September.

We don't want anyone who has the academic ability to get a place to study here to be held back by their financial circumstances. To meet that aim, Oxford offers one of the most generous financial support packages available for UK students and this may be supplemented by support from your college.

Fees

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home£9,250
Overseas£38,550

Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

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.

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 2024 are estimated to be between £1,345 and £1,955 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

A tuition fee loan is available from the UK government to cover course fees in full for Home (UK, Irish nationals and other eligible students with UK citizens' rights - see below*) students undertaking their first undergraduate degree**, so you don’t need to pay your course fees up front.

In 2024 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to Home students with a family income of around £50,000 or less, with additional opportunities available to UK students from households with incomes of £32,500 or less. The UK government also provides living costs support to Home students from the UK and those with settled status who meet the residence requirements.

*For courses starting on or after 1 August 2021, the UK government has confirmed that EU, other EEA, and Swiss Nationals will be eligible for student finance from the UK government if they have UK citizens’ rights (i.e. if they have pre-settled or settled status, or if they are an Irish citizen covered by the Common Travel Area arrangement). The support you can access from the government will depend on your residency status.

 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

Unistats course data from Discover Uni provides applicants with statistics about a particular undergraduate course at Oxford. For a more holistic insight into what studying your chosen course here is likely to be like, we would encourage you to view the information below as well as to explore our website more widely.

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 tutorials will be doing the same course as you. 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.

Read more about Oxford colleges and how you choose