BPhil in Philosophy
The BPhil is an intellectually demanding postgraduate course, presupposing an undergraduate and/or graduate background in philosophy (or equivalent). It is not in general suitable as a conversion course for students changing to philosophy from another subject and it cannot be studied part-time or externally. It is regarded both as training for the DPhil and a basis for teaching a range of philosophical subjects and requires sustained and focused work over two years.
Candidates admitted for the BPhil will be taught through a combination of classes and one-to-one supervisions. Each candidate will be required to submit six assessed essays (of no more than 5,000 words each) across at least five subjects (with no more than two essays on any one subject), together with a thesis of up to 30,000 words.
The assessed essays must be chosen from three broad subject Groups: one essay must be on a subject from Group 1 (“Theoretical Philosophy”), one on a subject from Group 2 (“Practical Philosophy”), and two on a subject or subjects from Group 3 (“History of Philosophy”), of which at least one must be concerned with philosophy written before 1800. The precise list of subjects in the three groups will be published at the beginning of each year and will be tailored to the particular strengths of the Faculty members who will be teaching that year, but a typical list might be as follows:
Group 1: Metaphysics; Epistemology; Logic and Philosophy of Logic; Philosophy of Language; Philosophy of Mind; Philosophy of Religion; Philosophy of Probability and Decision Theory ; Philosophy of Science; Philosophy of Mathematics; Philosophy of Physics; Philosophy of Psychology and Cognitive Science.
Group 2: Normative and Applied Ethics; Meta-Ethics; Political Philosophy; Aesthetics.
Group 3: Ancient Philosophy; Medieval Philosophy; Early Modern Philosophy; History of Philosophy from 1800 to 1950.
There will be provision for candidates to apply to submit up to two essays on at most one subject not included in the list of approved subjects.
During their first four terms of study, students will be offered one-to-one supervision on two chosen subjects: two supervisions per term, four supervisions per subject in total. A 'Pro-seminar' is held in the first term of the first year and covers classic papers in theoretical philosophy and practical philosophy. In every term, there will also be a wide range of specialised graduate seminars on offer. Students are expected to attend two graduate classes per term (not including the Pro-seminar) during the first four terms of study.
Students will be assessed continuously over the first four terms of study, with two essays submitted at the beginning of the third, fourth and fifth term. The thesis is submitted at the end of the sixth (and final) term. Students will be allocated a thesis supervisor, and can expect to receive two one-to-one supervisions on their thesis in each of their final two terms of study.
To be awarded the BPhil degree, students must achieve (i) a passing mark in six essays, which collectively must meet the distribution requirement described above; and (ii) a passing mark in the thesis. The lowest passing mark for the essays and the thesis is 60. 70 or more signifies distinction level for essays and thesis. Details of arrangements for the resubmission of failed work will be set out in the Course Handbook.
Candidates who achieve an overall distinction on the BPhil in Philosophy are automatically eligible to progress to the DPhil, provided only that the Philosophy Graduate Studies Committee is satisfied that their proposed thesis topic and outline indicates that they can be adequately supervised by members of the Philosophy Faculty. Candidates who pass the BPhil without a distinction can be admitted to the DPhil at the Philosophy Graduate Studies Committee’s discretion. To achieve a distinction, students must obtain an average of 70 or above on the five highest marks for the essays, with no essay mark falling below 65 and a mark of 70 or above on the thesis.
Oxford is widely acknowledged to contain one of the leading groups, arguably the leading group, of ancient philosophers in the world; ancient philosophy at Oxford is ranked top in the Philosophical Gourmet Report’s breakdown of programmes by speciality.
Students interested in Ancient Philosophy in particular might wish to note the possibility of an ‘Ancient Philosophy track’ in the BPhil in Philosophy, Oxford's flagship (two-year) postgraduate philosophy course. This is not a separate degree, but a way of studying Ancient Philosophy within the existing BPhil structure. A student on such a track would write two of the six essays on Ancient Philosophy in Group 3 and the thesis would be written on some aspect of Ancient Philosophy. They would also tailor some of their chosen topics for Groups 1 or 2 appropriately to match their interest in issues arising from Ancient metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, etc.
Those applying for the Ancient Philosophy track should state their intention clearly when applying.
Philosophy of Physics Track in the BPhil
Students interested in Philosophy of Physics might also wish to note the possibility of a ‘Philosophy of Physics track’ in the BPhil in Philosophy, Oxford's flagship (two-year) postgraduate philosophy course. This is not a separate course, but a way of studying Philosophy of Physics within the existing BPhil structure. A student on such a track would study primarily philosophy of physics and philosophy of science in the first two terms, study more general philosophical topics in the third and fourth term, and write a 30,000-word thesis on philosophy of physics or philosophy of science in the final two terms. Applicants for the BPhil are normally expected to have studied philosophy at undergraduate level, but the Philosophy of Physics track is also suitable for students with a very strong physics background who wish to move into the philosophy of physics or science, as an alternative to the MSt in Philosophy of Physics.
Those applying for the Philosophy of Physics track should state their intention clearly when applying.
For all graduate courses in the Faculty of Philosophy, applications including all supporting material must be submitted by the closing date, for admission in the following October.
The application cycle for October 2015 entry is now CLOSED and no late applications will be accepted. The application cycle for October 2016 entry will open in September 2015. The deadline for all graduate courses in the Faculty of Philosophy for October 2016 entry is 12 noon UK time on Friday 8 January 2016, and no late applications will be accepted. An Open Day will be held on Wednesday 19 March 2016 for all applicants who are offered a place on any Faculty of Philosophy graduate course for entry in October 2016. Applicants are not normally interviewed and late applications will not be considered.
For an application to be considered, it needs to be complete with all required supporting documents and be submited online or received by the Graduate Admissions and Funding Office by the specified deadline.
The Graduate Admissions and Funding contact details are:
Graduate Admissions Office
Oxford OX1 2JD
Tel: +44 (0) 1865 270059
Fax: +44 (0) 1865 270049
International applicants should take into account the English Language Test Requirements for admissions to graduate courses at the University of Oxford, as well as the visa advice, available on the University’s International Student webpages.
For a detailed description of the entry requirements for each course, please click on the relevant course link below and then click on the tab ‘Entry Requirements’ which is located immediately underneath the course name:
Below are a number of links to documents which provide useful information about graduate studies in philosophy at Oxford.
Statement of Graduate Provision 2014-2015
If you have any further questions regarding graduate courses or admissions in Philosophy, please contact:
Academic Administrator for Graduate Studies
Faculty of Philosophy
Oxford, OX2 6GG
Tel: + 44 1865 276933
Fax: + 44 1865 276932