The MA (Hons) in Philosophy will familiarise you with the views put forward by the principal figures of the philosophical tradition. It will also provide you with the means of rationally and independently assessing arguments. Studying Philosophy is about acquiring skills of criticism and analysis, of clear thinking and principled debate.
During your studies, you will explore some of the oldest and most complex questions asked by human beings from Greek antiquity to the present day. For example: what differentiates truth from falsehood, and reality from appearance? Are we really free in our decisions and actions, or is freedom an illusion? Are moral values objective, and if so in what sense? What justifies some in exercising power over others?
If you started this programme in 2019, you can find information about 2019 entry on the 2019 Philosophy MA page. Information about all programmes from previous years of entry can be found in the archive.
These grades are the overall standards required to consider you for entry. Find out more about Standard, Minimum and Gateway entry requirements using academic entry explained and see which entry requirements you need to look at using the entry requirements indicator.
Standard entry grades: AAAB
Minimum entry grades: AABB
Gateway entry grades: BBBB
Standard entry grades: AAB
Minimum entry grades: ABB
Standard entry grades: 36 (HL 6,6,5)
Minimum entry grades: 36 (HL 6,5,5)
We accept a wide range of qualifications for entry on to our programmes, please see our entry requirements for more information.
For degrees combining more than one subject, the subject with the higher entry requirements determines the grades you need. You will also need to meet any further subject specific entrance requirements as outlined on their pages.
If English is not your first language you will need an overall IELTS score of 7.0, with a minimum score of 6.5 in each component (Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking), or an equivalent English Language qualification.
St Andrews students must meet with their Adviser of Studies at the beginning of Semester 1 in September to complete advising – a compulsory part of the matriculation process. After module choices have been decided, a timetable will be allocated indicating the dates and times of classes.
The University of St Andrews as a whole was voted top in the UK for student academic experience in The National Student Survey 2019 as 95% of St Andrews final year students gave the University top marks for the quality of the learning and teaching experience.
The University has secured a TEF Gold Award for the quality of teaching and the undergraduate experience.
The MA (Hons) in Philosophy is a four-year course run by the Department of Philosophy. During your degree, you will be trained in precise and effective reading, as well as clear thinking and writing required for philosophical study.
In the first two years, as a sub-honours student, you will study some of the great books in philosophy and be introduced to the fundamental questions discussed by philosophers from ancient Greece to the present day, exploring both theoretical and practical questions. This will lay the foundations required for an Honours degree.
Alongside Philosophy, in the first year of your studies, you will be required to study at least one additional subject, sometimes two. In the second year you will usually carry on at least one of these subjects. Find out more about how academic years are organised.
During your final two years, as an Honours student, you will focus your studies on your particular philosophical interests and will be able to choose from a wide variety of advanced options, including:
epistemology (the study of knowledge)
ethical and political theory
philosophies of logic, mind and language
philosophies of film, creativity, law, economics and religion
texts in the history of philosophy.
Final-year students may also choose to write a dissertation on a philosophical topic chosen in consultation with teaching staff. Students can work on the dissertation for either one semester or the whole year.
The University of St Andrews operates on a flexible modular degree system by which degrees are obtained through the accumulation of credits. More information on the structure of the modules system can be found on the flexible degree structure webpage.
Graduates in Philosophy from St Andrews can expect to have acquired a highly developed sense of independent critical thinking and judgement and to be able to communicate ideas and arguments clearly and effectively.
Students must take the following compulsory first-year module alongside other Philosophy modules:
Reasoning: introduces the essential concepts and techniques of critical reasoning, formal propositional logic, and basic predicate logic.
Students interested in Philosophy can also choose from a number of other philosophical modules which cover topics including metaphysics, the philosophy of mind, ethics, history of philosophy, and political philosophy. Find a full list of first-year Philosophy modules in the module catalogue.
Students must take at least two Philosophy modules in their second year. The following second-year modules are available for students to choose from:
Intermediate Logic: aims to further develop students’ understanding of formal logic by the study of a broad array of systems of logic.
Foundations of Western Philosophy: aims to introduce students to the foundational philosophical thought of Ancient Greece, from the pre-Socratics to the Hellenistic period.
Meaning and Knowing: aims to provide a comprehensive foundation in both epistemology (the theory of knowledge) and the philosophy of language.
Moral and Aesthetic Value: aims to provide an introduction to the philosophy of value, exploring what it is to make aesthetic or moral judgements or statements, and the status of these.
If you decide to take Philosophy in your third and fourth years, you choose from a wide variety of advanced options, including modules in applied ethics, logic, and the history of philosophy.
Philosophy Honours modules which have been offered in previous years include:
Animals, Minds and Language
Conceptual Engineering and its Role in Philosophy
Contemporary Moral Theory
Contemporary Philosophy of Language
Continental European Philosophy from Descartes to Leibniz
Core Works in Continental Philosophy
Kant’s Critical Philosophy
Philosophy and Literature
Philosophy and Public Affairs: Global Justice
Philosophy, Feminism and Gender
Philosophy of Perception
Responsibility, Praise and Blame
The Philosophy of Human Rights
Work, Entitlement, and Welfare.
In fourth year, students may also undertake a 7,500-word dissertation on a topic of their choice. This independent project enables you to develop key research skills which are desired by both prospective employers and by graduate schools offering postgraduate degrees.
The compulsory modules listed here must be taken in order to graduate in this subject. However, most students at St Andrews take additional modules, either in their primary subject or from other subjects they are interested in. For Honours-level, students choose from a range of Honours modules, some of which are listed above. A full list of all modules available for the current academic year can be found in the module catalogue.
Philosophy sub-honours modules are primarily delivered through formal lectures (40 to 220 students) complimented by small group tutorials (fewer than 10 students whenever possible). Tutorials allow students to discuss their ideas, questions and problems with a tutor and with fellow students.
At Honours level, students attend smaller lectures (10 to 50 students) along with seminars (10 students), where you may often be asked to present and discuss your own work.
When not attending lectures and tutorials you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. Typically, this will involve:
working on individual and group projects
undertaking research in the library
preparing coursework assignments and presentations
preparing for examinations.
You will be taught by an experienced teaching team with expertise and knowledge of Philosophy. Postgraduate research students who have undertaken teacher training may also contribute to the teaching of laboratory classes and seminars under the supervision of the module leader.
You can find contact information for all Philosophy staff on the Department of Philosophy website.
In addition to your studies in the Department of Philosophy, optional academic support is available through practical study skills courses and workshops hosted within the University.
The University’s student services team can help students with additional needs resulting from disabilities, long-term medical conditions or learning disabilities. More information can be found on the students with disabilities web page.
Almost all the sub-honours modules in Philosophy are assessed by a balanced combination of coursework and written examinations. At Honours level, most modules are assessed entirely by coursework, while some include written examinations.
Coursework includes essays, research projects, logic exercises and in-class presentations.
Written examinations are held at the end of each semester during a dedicated exam diet with revision time provided beforehand.
The Department aims to provide feedback on every assessment within three weeks to help you improve on future assessments.
Undergraduates at the University of St Andrews must achieve at least 7.0 on the St Andrews 20-point grade scale to pass a module. To gain access to Honours-level modules, students must achieve the relevant requisites as specified in the policy on entry to Honoursand in the relevant programme requirements. Please note that some Schools offer qualified entry to Honours, and this will be clearly specified in the programme requirements. To find out the classification equivalent of points, please visit the common reporting scale web page.
Visit St Andrews
If you are interested in studying at St Andrews, join us at a visiting day to explore the town, find out about our courses and meet current students.
Training in the sort of precise and effective reading, and clear thinking and writing, required for all philosophical study, makes a good preparation for many careers. The critical thinking developed by the study of philosophy is highly valued by many employers.
Recent Philosophy graduates have entered careers in:
non-profit organisations (including Oxfam and Charityworks)
retail area management
government organisations (including the NHS)
Some graduates have also decided to pursue academic careers, either in philosophy or in other fields.
Many Philosophy graduates go on to study in other areas, for example, law conversion courses, and teacher training.
A significant number have gone on to pursue academic careers by enrolling in Masters, and then Doctoral programmes around the world.
The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students as well as a programme of events to assist students to build their employability skills.
Philosophy students may participate in the University-wide St Andrews Abroad programme. You may also have the opportunity to participate in the School Abroad exchange programme. For information about study abroad options, please see the Study Abroad site.
From the outset, the University of St Andrews offers an array of events and opportunities which result in a truly unique student experience. Students participate in a range of traditions, notably, the red academic gown and the academic family, where older students adopt first year students as ‘children’ and help guide them in a system of mentoring. These traditions and the choice of over 150 sports clubs and student societies to choose from ensures a community feel amongst students from first year onwards.
Students of Philosophy may be interested in joining the Philosophy Society which hosts talks from distinguished guest speakers covering a wide range of areas in philosophy. The society also organises a number of social events including pub quizzes, holiday parties and movie evenings, and it publishes its own undergraduate philosophy journal, Aporia.
The Department of Philosophy is located in Edgecliffe, a Scottish Baronial house situated on a small cliff with views across St Andrews Bay. Edgecliffe is home to a departmental library with over 5,000 volumes. Most Philosophy seminars and tutorials will take place here, with larger lectures taking place in nearby buildings.
The town of St Andrews itself has lots to offer. As University buildings are located throughout the town, walking around you encounter ancient and modern buildings and areas of greenery and seaside which provide a rich, beautiful backdrop to learning. If you want a change of scenery, St Andrews' position near surrounding towns and cities such as Anstruther, Dundee and Edinburgh make it ideal for getting to know more about Scotland.
"My diverse background (I was born in Korea and have lived in China) has always made me question my identity and this led to being interested in metaphysics. The size of the Department makes for a friendly and focused environment, and our lecturers and tutors are always ready to help students.”
Youngju (Seoul, South Korea)
Department of Philosophy University of St Andrews Edgecliffe The Scores St Andrews KY16 9AL
As a research intensive institution, the University ensures that its teaching references the research interests of its staff, which may change from time to time. As a result, programmes are regularly reviewed with the aim of enhancing students' learning experience. Our approach to course revision is described online (PDF, 72 KB).