Based in the Department of Politics & International Relations, Royal Holloway’s MA in Political Philosophy is well placed for 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.
At Royal Holloway we have a unique approach to the subject that looks beyond the narrow confines of the Anglo-American analytic or European tradition of philosophy to connect philosophy to other disciplines across the arts, humanities and social sciences. The result has been the creation of a truly interdisciplinary and collaborative programme that brings together academic staff from departments across the university – including scholars of drama and theatre, literature and political philosophy. Not only dedicated teachers of the subject, our philosophy staff are also experts and published authorities in their field.
This distinctive approach means that whichever area of philosophy you choose to study at postgraduate level, you will be able to place it in a wider context, with the support of experts across the disciplines. Our departmental specialisms include a wide range of philosophical topics such as ancient and Hellenistic philosophy, 19th and 20th-century European philosophy and contemporary analytic philosophy and American pragmatism.
We host a variety of additional activities throughout the course, including a visiting speaker series organised with our active student-run Philosophy Society, a number of workshops and conferences, and a reading group that meets weekly in central London.
The aim of this module is to allow students to engage with research from across the range of philosophical sub-fields. The module 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 module 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 aims to give an advanced grounding in the central ideas and concepts in contemporary Anglo-American political theory, enabling you to engage in its ongoing debates, and to acquire a sense of the state of the discipline as a whole. Attention will be paid to some of the main ideas and concepts of contemporary political theory, including political obligation, punishment, egalitarianism, meritocracy, human rights, and global justice. Throughout, we will explore how different thinkers have offered different theoretical articulations of these ideas, as well as their practical implications. The module aims to enable you to offer critiques and commentary of various positions in contemporary political theory, and to develop your own ideas.
The module will introduce students to key questions and arguments concerning the relationship between identity, power, meaning and knowledge, and how these impact on political thought and practice, through examination of key figures in contemporary Continental political thought. The specific content will be decided in discussion with the students taking the module, but in past years thinkers have included Marx, Nietzsche, Lenin, Heidegger, Adorno, Sartre, Arendt, Schmitt, Lacan, Žižek, Deleuze and Guattari (their individual and collaborative works), Foucault, and Rancière.
- MA Philosophy Dissertaton
There are a number of optional course modules available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course modules that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new modules may be offered or existing modules may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.
This module will explore canonical thinkers and texts in the European (particularly German) tradition of philosophy, exploring the differences of interpretation which arise from various approaches to texts in the history of philosophy.
The aim of this module is to give students an understanding of the key moments in the development of the Twentieth century French philosophical tradition. The focus will be on showing how the French tradition develops an alternative approach to philosophical problems on the basis of the perceived failure of classical analytical approaches. The module will also allow students to engage with a number of theorists, studying key texts in depth, and will further develop their ability to express, question, and justify theoretical theories, both dialogically, and in writing.
This module covers various issues in the philosophy of psychiatry. Addressing these issues requires the application of insights from a range of philosophical fields, including philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, philosophy of medicine, practical ethics, and metaphysics. Studying philosophy of psychiatry can be a great way to think about some difficult, highly theoretical philosophical issues including free will, mental causation, and explanation, all of which find natural application in the field of psychiatry. Philosophy of Psychiatry is also one of the few areas of philosophy that routinely combines both ‘analytic’ and ‘continental’ philosophical perspectives.
In the late twentieth century, Anglophone and Francophone philosophy witnessed parallel trends in ethics, both drawing on aspects of ancient philosophy, focused on self-cultivation. The idea that ethics ought to be about the cultivation of a certain character rather than individual moral acts is now a well-established theme in both traditions. In the Anglophone context, ‘virtue ethics’ turned to Aristotle for inspiration, while in France Foucault’s ‘care of the self’ drew on Hellenistic and Greco-Roman practices. This module will examine both of these traditions, exploring common ground and differences, as well as criticisms that have been levelled against both. Throughout the module special attention will be paid to the motivations and outcomes in the different versions of self-cultivation that have been proposed.
This module aims to introduce students to new conceptualizations of identity, difference, power, and politics that are associated most notably with what has been termed “Post-Marxist” or “New Left” politics and political philosophy. Its premise is that recent changes in both political theory and practice – some of which are associated with changes linked to globalization and the emergence of new social movements – are compelling a paradigm shift in the way politics is understood. It will focus on four concepts – identity, power, resistance, and otherness – that have become salient in contemporary political philosophy and international relations theory and on four theorists – Althusser, Gramsci, Laclau & Mouffe, and Foucault – whose thought on these issues has underpinned a great deal of “New Left” political theory and practice. It will also look at how these issues and theories have become prominent in the theory and politics around feminism and lesbian politics and at new problematics for thinking about political thought and practice, with particular focus on what has been called the “micropolitical” realm.
This module explores some of the key issues which arise in the moral evaluation of human rights, both in general and with respect to particular rights. You will consider the role of rights in political and moral discourse and develop an understanding of some of the key criticisms to which they’ve been subject. You will also look at the three major categories of rights which have attracted much debate: economic rights, minority rights, and group rights. Finally, you will gain an oversight of the three central rights in liberal societies, examining the ways in which they have been interpreted and defended in light of recent political debates.
Teaching & assessment
Assessment is carried out by a variety of methods including coursework and a dissertation.
UK Honours degree or equivalent.
Normally we require a UK 2:1 (Honours) or equivalent in relevant subjects but we will consider a high 2:2 or relevant experience. Candidates with professional qualifications in an associated area may be considered. Where a ‘high 2:2’ is considered, we would normally define this as reflecting a profile of 57% or above.
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.
International & EU requirements
English language requirements
All teaching at Royal Holloway is in English. You will therefore need to have good enough written and spoken English to cope with your studies right from the start.
The scores we require
- IELTS: 6.5 overall. Writing 7.0. No other subscore lower than 5.5.
- Pearson Test of English: 61 overall. Writing 69. No other subscore lower than 51.
- Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE III.
- Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) grade C.
For more information about country-specific entry requirements for your country please see here.
Your future career
Philosophy degrees are well-regarded by employers because they give you the capacity to think through issues and problems in a logical and consistent way and to develop critical and transferable skills which can be applied in almost any area of employment.
So, by choosing to study this intellectually demanding discipline you will develop a broad range of highly prized transferable skills, both practical and theoretical, such as:
- the ability to communicate views and present arguments clearly and coherently
- the ability to critically digest, analyse and summarise complex ideas
- time management and the discipline to meet deadlines
- organisation and research skills
- problem-solving skills and capability
An MA in Philosophy is ideal for preparing graduates not only for doctoral research in philosophy or related fields in the humanities and social sciences, but also for a wide range of careers in education, the arts, politics and public policy. With up to 90% of our most recent graduates now working or in further study, according to the Complete University Guide 2015, it’s true to say our graduates are highly employable. In recent years, PhD graduates have taken up academic positions at Oxford, Bristol and Roehampton Universities. Outside of academia, our graduates have embarked on teaching careers in the UK and overseas, undertaken archaeological and museum work and pursued careers in journalism, finance, politics and the arts.
Fees & funding
Home (UK) students tuition fee per year*: £9,600
EU and International students tuition fee per year**: £17,200
Other essential costs***: There are no single associated costs greater than £50 per item on this course
* and ** These tuition fees apply to students enrolled on a full-time basis. Students studying on the standard part-time course structure over two years are charged 50% of the full-time applicable fee for each study year.
All postgraduate fees are subject to inflationary increases. This means that the overall cost of studying the programme via part-time mode is slightly higher than studying it full-time in one year. Royal Holloway's policy is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information see tuition fees see our terms and conditions. Please note that for research programmes, we adopt the minimum fee level recommended by the UK Research Councils for the Home tuition fee. Each year, the fee level is adjusted in line with inflation (currently, the measure used is the Treasury GDP deflator). Fees displayed here are therefore subject to change and are usually confirmed in the spring of the year of entry. For more information on the Research Council Indicative Fee please see the RCUK website.
** For EU nationals starting a degree in 2021/22, the UK Government has recently confirmed that you will not be eligible to pay the same fees as UK students. This means you will be classified as an international student. At Royal Holloway, we wish to support those students affected by this change in status through this transition. For eligible EU students starting their course with us in September 2021, we will award an automatic fee reduction which brings your fee into line with the fee paid by UK students. This will apply for the duration of your course.
*** These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree programme at Royal Holloway. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing, have not been included.