Philosophy MA (Hons)
2017 entry

The MA (Hons) in Philosophy will familiarise you with the views put forward by the principal figures of the philosophical tradition. It will also provide you with the means of rationally and independently assessing arguments. Studying Philosophy is about acquiring skills of criticism and analysis, of clear thinking and principled debate.

During your studies, you will explore some of the oldest and most complex questions asked by human beings from Greek antiquity to the present day. For example: what differentiates truth from falsehood, and reality from appearance? Are we really free in our decisions and actions, or is freedom an illusion? Are moral values objective, and if so in what sense? What justifies some in exercising power over others?

Applications for 2017 entry for this course have now closed, see which courses are available for the upcoming academic year.

UCAS code


Course type

Master of Arts (single Honours degree)

Course duration

Four years full time

Entry requirements

SQA Highers AABB
GCE A-Levels AAB
IB points 35

For degrees combining more than one subject, the subject with the higher entry requirements determines the grades you need. You will also need to meet any further subject specific entrance requirements as outlined on their pages.

Find out more about international entry requirements.

Applications for 2017 entry for this course have now closed, see which courses are available for the upcoming academic year.

Do I need to have studied this subject before?

No previous knowledge of this subject is required.

Faculty entry requirements

You must also meet the Faculty of Arts minimum qualifications. These vary depending on which qualifications you hold.  

Other qualifications

Passes in other examinations at equivalent levels and subjects may be accepted by the Dean of the Faculty.

Find out more about Faculty of Arts entry requirements.

Course information

The MA (Hons) in Philosophy is a four-year course run by the Department of Philosophy. During your degree, you will be trained in precise and effective reading, as well as clear thinking and writing required for philosophical study.

In the first two years, as a sub-honours student, you will study some of the great books in philosophy, and be introduced to the fundamental questions discussed by philosophers from ancient Greece to the present day, exploring both theoretical and practical questions. This will lay the foundations required for an Honours degree.

During your final two years, as an Honours student, you will focus your studies on your particular philosophical interests, and will be able to choose from a wide variety of advanced options, including:

  • epistemology (the study of knowledge)
  • metaphysics
  • formal logic
  • philosophies of logic, mind and language
  • ethical and political theory
  • aesthetics
  • philosophies of film, creativity, law and religion
  • texts in the history of philosophy.

Final year students may also choose to write a dissertation on a philosophical topic chosen in consultation with teaching staff. Students can work on the dissertation for either one semester or the whole year.

Graduates in Philosophy from St Andrews can expect to have acquired a highly developed sense of independent critical thinking and judgement, and be able to communicate ideas and arguments clearly and effectively.

Find out more about studying Philosophy at St Andrews.


In the first two years of your degree, as a sub-honours student, you will take Philosophy modules alongside modules in at least one other subject.

Typically, you will take one Philosophy module per semester during your first two years (though you may take more), and two modules per semester during your third and fourth year. Find out more about the modular Scottish degree system.

Students must take the following compulsory first year module alongside other Philosophy modules:

  • Reasoning: introduces the essential concepts and techniques of critical reasoning, formal propositional logic, and basic predicate logic. Among the central questions are these: what distinguishes an argument from a mere rhetorical ploy? What makes an argument a good one? How can we formally prove that a conclusion follows from some premises? In addressing these questions, the module will also cover topics such as argumentative fallacies, ambiguity, argument forms and analyses, induction versus deduction, counterexamples, truthtables, truth-trees (tableaux), natural deduction, and quantification.

Students will take at least two second-year modules from the following options: 

  • Intermediate Logic: aims to further develop students’ understanding of formal logic by the study of a broad array of systems of logic.
  • Foundations of Western Philosophy: provides an introduction to central figures, texts and ideas of the period of Ancient Philosophy. Classical Greek philosophy – specifically the works of Plato and Aristotle – will always be at the core of the module.
  • Meaning and Knowing: aims to provide a comprehensive foundation in both epistemology (the theory of knowledge) and the philosophy of language.
  • Moral and Aesthetic Value: examines moral values, aesthetic values, and the relationship between them.

If you decide to take Philosophy in your third and fourth years, you choose from a wide variety of advanced options, including modules in applied ethics, logic, and the history of philosophy.

Philosophy Honours modules which have been offered in previous years include:

  • Paradoxes
  • Political Philosophy
  • Continental European Philosophy from Descartes to Leibniz
  • Philosophy of Perception
  • Effective Altruism
  • Advanced Logic
  • Animals, Minds and Language
  • Metaphysics
  • Conceptual Engineering and its Role in Philosophy
  • Reasons for Action and Belief.

In fourth year, students may also undertake a 7,500-word dissertation on a topic of their choice. This independent project enables you to develop key research skills which are desired by both prospective employers and by graduate schools offering postgraduate degrees.

The modules listed here are the compulsory modules that students must take in order to graduate in this subject. However, most students at St Andrews take additional modules, either in their primary subject or from other subjects they are interested in. A full list of all modules currently available can be found in the module catalogue.


Teaching format

Philosophy sub-honours modules are primarily delivered through formal lectures (40 to 220 students) complemented by small group tutorials (7 to 9 students). Tutorials allow students to discuss their ideas, questions and problems with a tutor and with fellow students.

At Honours level, students attend smaller lectures (10 to 50 students) along with seminars (10 students), where you may often be asked to present and discuss your own work.


Almost all the sub-honours modules in Philosophy are assessed by a balanced combination of coursework and written examinations. At Honours level, some modules are assessed entirely by coursework, while others include written examinations.

Coursework includes essays, research projects, logic exercises and in-class presentations.

Written examinations are held at the end of each semester during a dedicated exam diet with revision time provided beforehand.

The School provides feedback on every assessment, with a view to improving your performance in future.


Tuition fees for 2017 entry

Scotland and EU £1,820
Rest of the UK £9,250
Overseas £20,570

For overseas students, tuition fees will be fixed at this level for the duration of your programme.

More information on tuition fees can be found on the undergraduate fees and funding page.

Accommodation fees

Find out about accommodation fees for University accommodation in 2017.

Funding and scholarships

The University of St Andrews offers a number of scholarships and support packages to undergraduate students each year.

Faculty of Arts scholarships

The Dr Lawrence M Wodehouse Scholarship provides financial assistance for students studying in the Faculty of Arts who are academically gifted but would otherwise struggle with the cost of studying at St Andrews.

Find out more about undergraduate scholarships.

Joint Honours Degrees

You can take Philosophy as part of a joint Honours degree alongside one of the following subjects:

  • Ancient History
  • Arabic
  • Art History
  • Biblical Studies
  • Biology
  • Classical Studies
  • Classics
  • Comparative Literature
  • Computer Science
  • Economics
  • English
  • Film Studies
  • French
  • Geography
  • German
  • Greek
  • International Relations
  • Italian
  • Latin
  • Management
  • Mathematics (MA)
  • Mathematics (BSc)
  • Mediaeval History
  • Modern History
  • Persian
  • Psychology
  • Physics
  • Russian
  • Scottish History
  • Social Anthropology
  • Spanish
  • Statistics (MA)
  • Statistics (BSc)
  • Theological Studies

Your future


A degree in Philosophy will provide you with many transferable skills, making you highly employable in a wide variety of careers. A graduate in Philosophy will have the following skills:

  • the ability to analyse problems in a multi dimensional way
  • the ability to think creatively, self critically and independently
  • self-motivation
  • the ability to work autonomously
  • time and priority management skills
  • a flexible mind adaptable to managing change. 

Popular career areas for Philosophy students include:

  • academia
  • law
  • civil service
  • management consultancy
  • teaching.

Recent destinations for Philosophy graduates include:

  • local government
  • television production
  • wine advising
  • United Nations Commission for Refugees
  • National Health Service
  • Co-operative Bank
  • insurance
  • Crown Prosecution Service
  • publishing
  • teaching English in Japan.

The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students as well as a programme of events to assist students to build their employability skills. 

Study abroad

The University is delighted to offer undergraduates a number of exciting opportunities to apply to spend a semester or year abroad as part of a St Andrews degree programme. St Andrews is partnered with large and small institutions, ancient and young, across the globe. What unites all of our programmes is the quality of the academic provision, ensuring that participation in a St Andrews Study abroad programme opens the door to a new and valuable academic experience at another world-class institution. Study Abroad for credit is permitted on existing University-approved programmes only.

Student life

From the outset, the University of St Andrews offers an array of events and opportunities which result in a truly unique student experience. Students participate in a range of traditions, notably, the red academic gown and the academic family, where older students adopt first year students as ‘children’ and help guide them in a system of mentoring. These traditions and the choice of over 150 sports clubs and student societies to choose from ensures a community feel amongst students from first year onwards.

Students of Philosophy may be interested in joining the Philosophy Society which hosts talks from distinguished guest speakers covering a wide range of areas in philosophy. The society also organises a number of social events including pub quizzes, holiday parties and movie evenings, and it publishes its own undergraduate philosophy journal, Aporia.

The Department of Philosophy is located in Edgecliffe, a Scottish Baronial house situated on a small cliff with view across St Andrews Bay. Edgecliffe is home to a departmental library with over 5,000 volumes. Most Philosophy seminars and tutorials will take place here, with larger lectures taking place in nearby buildings.

The town of St Andrews itself has lots to offer. As the campus is located around town, walking around you encounter ancient and modern buildings and areas of greenery and seaside which provide a rich, beautiful backdrop to learning. If you want a change of scenery, St Andrews' position near surrounding towns and cities such as Anstruther, Dundee and Edinburgh make it ideal for getting to know more about Scotland. Find out more about student life at the University of St Andrews.


School of Philosophy
University of St Andrews
The Scores
St Andrews
KY16 9AL

Phone: +44 (0)1334 46 2486

Department of Philosophy website