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Postgraduate Philosophy student in a lecture
MA Philosophy
A specialist degree which examines a range of areas of analytical philosophy.

MA Philosophy / Course details

Year of entry: 2018

Course description

  • Do you want research-led teaching by experts in a wide range of areas of analytical philosophy?
  • Would you like dedicated support in dissertation planning, research and presentation skills, including help preparing for PhD research?
  • Are you interested in small seminar-style classes with an emphasis on staff/student interaction?

Philosophy at Manchester offers an intellectually stimulating and supportive postgraduate environment. You'll be taught and supervised by members of staff who are all actively involved in research.

The MA Philosophy course combines the in-depth study of specialised areas of analytical philosophy, extensive research training to provide the skills necessary to complete a Master's dissertation, and a dissertation supervised by a member of staff with expertise in the area you wish to study in more depth.  

The course is ideal both for those wishing to go on to do a PhD in Philosophy, and for those students who want instead to improve their employability through the development of rigorous critical, analytical and research skills. It provides a deeper knowledge of a wide variety of areas of philosophy than is possible at undergraduate level, and equips students with the ability to plan, organise and work autonomously on a substantial individual project. This project will take the form either of a dissertation of 9000- 12000 words, or of a longer dissertation of up to 20,000 words.

In addition to conferences, workshops and reading groups, we host two regular research seminars, one organized by staff and another by postgraduates (with both groups participating in both) with papers presented by visiting speakers, staff and postgraduate students. We offer bursaries for conference trips, and outstanding student support and resources:  the University Library is one of only five National Research Libraries, and one of the best-resourced in the UK 

Papers, monographs and edited collections by our academic staff are regularly published in international journals and by prominent academic publishers. We also host a wide variety of conferences at which you can hear cutting-edge philosophical arguments from leaders in the field, ranging from small workshops to large international conferences.

Course Director: Dr David Liggins. Please contact David if you have any questions about the course by emailing him at


The course aims to equip students with a strong background in analytical philosophy with exemplary research and analytical skills of a standard to equip them to pursue doctoral study, or to pursue careers in areas that require exemplary skills in argumentation, analysis and research. It aims to do this by providing a deeper understanding of a variety of areas of philosophy through very personalised teaching delivery, with small-group `research seminar'-style classes and a focus on the individual development of research skills.

Special features

The 15 credit course units are specialized 'Research Paper' units, taught by members of staff on their own area of research.  The 30 credit course unit provides the grounding required to prepare students for writing a dissertation and provides the opportunity to develop a doctoral research proposal.  There are two options when it comes to dissertation length. There is an option to complete a more substantial dissertation than is possible with many other Masters courses (90 credits, 17,500-20,000 words). Alternatively, students may complete a shorter, 60 credit dissertation of 9 000 - 12 000 words, and complete an extra two 15 credit modules.

Teaching and learning

All our Master's modules are taught through small-group seminars. The seminars usually involve some general context-setting and guidance from the course convenor, but are often largely focussed on student-led discussion of set texts that you will have studied in advance in preparation for the discussion. This fosters a proactive and collaborative approach to engaging with the topic and to developing your own views and arguments. All modules apart from Research Skills run for one semester.

The Research Skills module runs through both semesters. Its purpose is (i) to develop students' research, writing and presentation skills and (ii) to guide them through the planning of their dissertation, from selecting a topic and a supervisor and identifying and reviewing key literature through to thinking about what makes for the best philosophical writing. Through taking this module, students will have made substantial progress on planning their dissertation well before the start of the summer vacation. They should also have the foundational skills and knowledge required for further graduate work in philosophy, if desired.

All students are allocated an appropriate supervisor for their dissertations; in practice, you can almost always choose your own dissertation supervisor. You will work throughout the academic year on your dissertation in consultation with your supervisor - focussing on the assessed elements of the Research Skills module during the teaching year, and then, over the summer (and into the autumn for part-time students), on writing.

Important note on part-time study

Part-time students complete the full-time programme over two years.  There are NO evening or weekend course units available on the part-time programme.  

You must first check the schedule of the modules to ensure that you are able to attend the seminars for the modules you enrol in.  

Updated timetable information will be available from mid-August and you will have the opportunity to discuss your module choices during induction week with your Course Director

Coursework and assessment

All modules apart from Research Skills are assessed through one 4000-word essay, submitted towards the end of the semester. Students are encouraged to discuss their plans for their essay with the course convenor in some detail outside of class time. Research Skills is assessed through a combination of a 20-minute presentation, a 1500-word research proposal and bibliography (submitted in early January to aid application for PhD scholarships, which often have deadlines in early spring), and a 3000-word critical literature review.

The 90 credit dissertation is between 17,500 and 20,000 words, while the 60 credit dissertation is between 9,000 and  12,000 words. By the end of the second semester, you will have already conducted the majority of the research for the dissertation and formulated a clear overall plan as part of the Research Skills module, so that the summer can be devoted to writing.

Course unit details

Full-time students take Research Skills (30 credits, all year) plus either four or six (depending on dissertation length) additional course units (15 credits each, two/three per semester), and submit the dissertation (60/90 credits) at the end of August. Part-time students take three (four if doing a 60 credit dissertation) 15-credit course units in their first year, and the Research Skills unit and the remaining 15-credit course unit (two units if doing the 60 credit dissertation) in their second year, submitting the dissertation at the end of November.

Course unit list

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
MA Philosophy Research Skills PHIL60010 30 Mandatory
Ethics PHIL60051 15 Optional
Metaphysics PHIL60061 15 Optional
Philosophy of Mind PHIL60072 15 Optional
Philosophy of Language PHIL60081 15 Optional
Thinking About Values in Aesthetics PHIL60282 15 Optional
History of Analytic Philosophy PHIL60512 15 Optional
MA Philosophy Dissertation PHIL70170 90 Optional
Politics, Economics and Environment POEC61002 15 Optional

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability Advisory and Support Service. Email: