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Philosophy (MA by Research)

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Course overview

The MA (by Research) in Philosophy offers students the opportunity to conduct independent research on a topic of interest, culminating with a dissertation of up to 35,000 words. There are no required courses, but research is supported by an advanced seminar run by core Philosophy staff as well as one-to-one supervision, with additional seminars offered by Royal Holloway's Humanities and Arts Research Centre and the Institute of Philosophy at the School of Advanced Study in central London.

Key facts

Key facts about the course
Qualification Master of Arts by Research
Duration One year full-time or two years part time
Department and Faculty Politics and International Relations, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Partner institution(s) --
Course director  
Contact for more information  

Fees / funding

Please visit the Fees and funding pages for the latest information about tuition fees and the different sources of funding which may be available to you.

How to apply

Applications for entry to all our full-time postgraduate degrees can be made online.

Further information on making an application, including the documentation that you will need to submit with the application is available in the How to apply section of this site.

If you are interested in applying to Royal Holloway, why not arrange a visit to our campus to see for yourself what academic and student life is like here. More information on arranging visits is available on our Open days pages.


Entry requirements

Entry criteria:

A minimum of a 2:1 UK honours degree or overseas equivalent. The Department will also consider strong 2:2 degrees

Relevant professional qualifications and relevant experience in an associated area.

English language requirements:

IELTS 6.5 overall with 7.0 in writing and a minimum of 5.5 in all other subscores. For equivalencies see here|.

As this course is based largely on independent research to produce a major piece of writing it is essential that applicants have a sufficient prior experience of study in the field of philosophy. This need not necessarily come through an undergraduate degree in philosophy as opposed to certain other subjects. However, students who are unsure if their background is sufficient should discuss the matter with the course director.

Students from overseas should visit the International pages for information on the entry requirements from their country and further information on English language requirements. Royal Holloway offers a Pre-Master’s Diploma for International Students and English language pre-sessional courses, allowing students the opportunity to develop their study skills and English language before starting their postgraduate degree.


Additional requirements:

  • Interviews may be held in cases where the entry requirements are not formally fulfilled, and essays may also be requested.

Why choose this course?

  • Royal Holloway’s philosophy programme is genuinely interdisciplinary and cuts across barriers between Analytic and Continental philosophy that are common in most other programmes around the world.
  • Philosophy staff at Royal Holloway are world class researchers working in areas of ancient and Hellenistic philosophy, 19th and 20th century French and German philosophy, contemporary analytic philosophy and American pragmatism. The philosophy team also includes colleagues working in political theory, drama and theatre, and English literature.
  • We collaborate with and enjoy the support of the Institute of Philosophy in the School of Advanced Study at London University. The Institute offers a very wide range of seminars and lectures; last year these included a major conference organised by the philosophers teaching on the course, on Richard Rorty, at which Robert Brandom, Albrecht Wellmer and other internationally renowned philosophers working between the traditions gave papers.
  • We offer studentships and bursaries in support of students taking the MA.


Department research and industry highlights

Philosophy at Royal Holloway has research expertise in the following areas:

  • 19th Century German idealism and modern German philosophy, from Kant to Habermas
  • Contemporary French philosophy, particularly the work of Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari and Michel Foucault, but also key figures in the existentialist and phenomenological traditions.
  • Contemporary pragmatist philosophy, particularly Richard Rorty, as well as the history of pragmatism.
  • Ancient Greek and Hellenistic philosophy, particularly Stoicism.
  • Contemporary political theory, including mainstream liberal and post-Nietzschean strands of political thought, democratic theory and rights theory.
  • Philosophy and science fiction literature
  • Philosophy and contemporary theatre

Members of the philosophy team have produced over 30 major monographs and edited collections. Full details can be found on the depart's website.

Course content and structure

The programme starts with an induction period (week 1) and includes philosophy seminars and sessions with the individual supervisor to support the writing of the dissertation.

Research Training will consist of a number of sessions on philosophical issues relating to Philosophy research conducted by core Philosophy staff, which will generally be of two hours duration and will be held at Royal Holloway unless it is more convenient for all to hold them at Bedford Square. 

The nature of these sessions will vary, depending on the number of students registered on the Masters by Research and the topics of research. Matters concerning bibliographical and other basic matters to do with the formal aspects of producing a dissertation will be dealt with between the individual supervisor and the student. Students are encouraged to attend relevant sessions of HARC and to take advantage of the many seminars offered by the Institute of Philosophy at the School of Advanced Study. Students will also receive an introduction to the Library facilities.

Students also receive supervision from specialist supervisor(s) who they should expect to see once every two weeks, for a maximum of 1 hour, during the first two terms for full-time students, half this number of meetings for part-time students. Phone and e-mail contact may take the place of face to face supervision for students who have difficulties attending College. Written work should be produced regularly to be discussed with the supervisor. The School will monitor and take action regarding students who fail to have regular contact with their supervisor, whatever their mode of communication.

On completion of the course graduates will have:

  • Training in methodologies and techniques needed for research leading to an MPhil/PhD in the field
  • Critical understanding of essential concepts and theories that inform advanced study in philosophy as well as the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.
  • Comprehensive knowledge of a particular field of philosophy gained through independent research for a major project.
  • A variety of key transferrable skills that include the ability to conduct independent research, to evaluate primary and secondary sources of information, to assimilate and reflect upon a wide range of textual material, and to formulate and clearly communicate written arguments.

View the full course specification for Philosophy (MA by Research) in the Programme Specification Repository


The programme comprises two formative, non-assessed elements, and two summative elements.  

  •  A 5,000 word essay (10%) to be submitted in the first week of the second full term of research.
  • An annotated bibliography of major sources for the research, and a list of research resources at the end of the second term of the period of research. Students will receive written feedback.
  • A dissertation plan for formal approval at the end of the second term of research. This has to be approved before proceeding to the writing of the dissertation.
  • Dissertation (90%) (Maximum 35,000 words.)

Employability & career opportunities

Our graduates are highly employable and would be prepared for careers in a wide range of areas. This course also equips you with the subject knowledge and a solid foundation for continued PhD studies.


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