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Political Philosophy (MA)

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Course overview

 Open for 2016 entry, Royal Holloway's MA in Political Philosophy offers advanced training in key issues and thinkers in contemporary political thought, from both Anglo-American and Continental perspectives. Our political philosophers have research and teaching interests in applied analytical political theory (with issues including immigration, citizenship and the politics of recognition), post-Nietzschean theories of identity and post-identity politics, democratic theory and pragmatist philosophy. 

Key facts

Key facts about the course
Qualification Master of Arts
Duration 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time
Department and Faculty Politics and International Relations, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Partner institution(s) N/A
Course director Professor Nathan Widder
Contact for more information

n.e.widder@royalholloway.ac.uk / +44 (0) 1784-443198

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:

Normally a minimum of a 2:1 UK honours degree or overseas equivalent. However applications will be considered on a case by case basis.

We will consider students from non-traditional backgrounds on the basis of the submission of a substantial essay on philosophy, or demonstrable research experience, and an interview.

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

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|.


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.


Why choose this course?

  • the programme allows you to specialise in political philosophy while addressing questions from both analytic and European perspectives

  • the course brings together staff and students working in contemporary Continental philosophy, normative political theory, and American pragmatism

  • we offer some studentships and bursaries in support of students taking the MA

  • the course offers a wide range of options both within political philosophy and outside of it

  • the programme has close connections to the Department of Politics and International Relations which hosts a vibrant international community of postgraduate students working on a wide range of issues in politics, political theory, and international relations.

Department research and industry highlights

  • Members of the teaching staff have a wide range of expertise, having published major works in a number of areas and on a number of figures, including Adorno; Aesthetics and Subjectivity; Altruism; Hegel; Deleuze; French and Continental Philosophy; Greek and Roman Aesthetics; the Holocaust and the Postmodern; Music, Philosophy, and Modernity; Richard Rorty; Romanticism to Critical Theory; Scepticism; Schelling; Time and Politics.

    Current projects include:

  • examining at the possibilities offered by aesthetics, and music in particular, for developing a non-cognitive model of thinking

  • investigating the coherence of the notion of tacit knowledge, and its implications for knowledge more generally

  • tracing the development of modern French thought to its origins in German Idealism

  • imagination in ancient aesthetics

  • a pragmatist theory of deliberative democracy

  • arguments in defence of associative duties

  • psychoanalytic and post-Nietzschean conceptions of agency and selfhood.

Course content and structure

Programme structure

Advanced Topics in Philosophy (40 credits)

Two Courses from Among: Contemporary Anglo-American Political Theory (20 credits); Contemporary Continental Political Thought (20 credits); and Political Concepts (20 credits).

40 credits of option courses from available options

Dissertation (60 credits)

Core course units:

Advanced Topics in Philosophy (40 credits)

The aim of this course is to allow students to engage with cutting edge research from across the range of philosophical sub-fields. The course also allows students to develop their understanding of the nature of philosophy and the diversity of philosophical methods, as well to further improve their abilities at written and oral communication of philosophical ideas and arguments. The course will be taught by a number of philosophers who teach on the wider MA programmes, and will be divided into four parts, each presenting a five week introduction to a topic researched by the academic. It will allow students enrolled on the different MA Philosophy streams to compare approaches, and see their own specialism within a wider philosophical context. The module will be taught via a two hour weekly seminar.

Anglo-American Political Theory (20 credits)

You will be given an advanced grounding in the central ideas and concepts in contemporary Anglo-American political theory, enabling you to engage in its ongoing debates, to gain knowledge of some of the key authors, books and articles, and to acquire a sense of the state of the discipline as a whole. Attention will be paid to some of the main paradigms through which such debate is structured (e.g. individualism v. community, and democracy v. justice), as well as the practical implications of more abstract ideas.

Contemporary Continental Political Thought (20 credits)

The course addresses key questions and arguments concerning the relationship between identity, power, meaning and knowledge, through examination of key figures in contemporary Continental political thought and philosophy. Specific content varies from year to year, but may include key texts from Nietzsche, Heidegger, Adorno, Sartre, Lacan, Irigaray, Foucault, Ranciere, and Deleuze & Guattari.

Political Concepts (20 credits)

The course aims to give an advanced grounding in the central ideas and concepts in applied political theory, enabling students to engage in its ongoing debates, to gain knowledge of some of the key authors, books and articles, and to acquire a sense of the state of the discipline as a whole. Seminars will be based on short pieces of key reading thus fostering skills of interpretive analysis and focussing discussion.

Dissertation on Political Philosophy (60 credits)


Elective course units:

Adorno and Critical Theory (20 credits)

Continental Aesthetics (20 credits)

The European Philosophical Trajectory: from Kant to the Present (20 credits)

Human Rights (20 credits)

Identity, Power and Radical Political Theory (20 credits)

Issues in Normative Epistemology (20 credits)

Legacies of Wittgenstein (20 credits)

Neo-Platonism (40 credits)

Twentieth Century French Thought (20 credits)


On completion of the course graduates will have: 

  • a knowledge of the broad range of approaches in contemporary political philosophy from Anglo-American and Continental traditions
  • detailed understanding of philosophers and texts in key traditions in political thought
  • an ability to read complex philosophical texts with an appreciation of the role of style and context in their composition

  • an understanding of the broader philosophical landscape, and the place of political philosophy within it.


Assessment is carried out by a variety of methods including coursework and a dissertation.

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. 


Related courses

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