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BA Philosophy and Law

Why we're great

  • We are world-renowned for our combination of Continental and Anglo-American philosophy.
  • We are Top 10 in the UK for student satisfaction - our students love studying with us.
  • We provide a critical perspective on political, economic and technological developments.

Course options2017-18

UCAS code: MVC5
Duration: 3 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Philosophy and Art History (School of)
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £13,350
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

UCAS code: VM51
Duration: 4 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Philosophy and Art History (School of)
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £13,350
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 873666

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About the course

Moral, political and legal philosophy have implications for law, and philosophers can learn from lawyers too in various ways. Our course offers plenty of opportunity to study, not only what the law is, but also what the law ought to be.

You study topics including:

  • Ethics
  • Political philosophy
  • European philosophy (including critical theory, phenomenology, and existentialism)
  • Medicine and the law
  • Cybercrime

Our School of Philosophy and Art History is widely regarded as among the very best in the UK, having been recognised as one of the Top 10 UK universities for research excellence (REF 2014), and being placed in the Top 10 in The Guardian University Guide in 2010, 2011, and 2013.

At Essex we specialise in commercial law, public law, and human rights law. We are Top 20 in the UK for research excellence (REF 2014), and we are ranked among the top 200 departments on the planet according to the QS World [University] Rankings [2016] for law.

Study abroad

Your education extends beyond our University campus. We support you extending your education through providing the option of an additional year at no extra cost. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year studying abroad, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.

Studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. We have exchange partners in the following areas:

  • The United States
  • Europe
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Latin America
  • The Middle East
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan

Our expert staff

Our courses are taught by world-class academics, and over three quarters of our philosophy research is rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ (REF 2014), which puts us fifth in the UK for research outputs.

Our open-minded and enthusiastic philosophy staff have an exceptionally broad range of research interests, so whatever questions in philosophy catch hold of your imagination, there is certain to be someone you can approach to find out more.

Our internationally diverse community of staff and students gives us a breadth of cross-cultural perspectives and insights into law and justice around the world.

Our community, combined with opportunities to study abroad during your time with us, ensures you graduate with a genuine worldview and a network of international contacts.

Specialist facilities

  • An exciting programme of research seminars, reading groups and mini-courses that help you expand your philosophical knowledge beyond what you learn on your course
  • Access a variety of philosophy and law textbooks and journals in the Albert Sloman Library
  • Volunteer at the Essex Law Clinic where you can work alongside practicing solicitors to offer legal advice to clients
  • Work on key human rights projects at our Human Rights Clinic
  • Join our Model United Nations society, which can improve your skills of argumentation, oral presentation and research

Your future

Many employers want graduates with critical thinking skills who can think logically and creatively about practical problems.

Our students are in demand from a wide range of employers in a host of occupations, including law, PR, project management, journalism and the media, teaching, librarianship, the Civil Service, banking, the police and fashion design.

Our recent graduates have gone on to work for a wide range of high-profile companies.

Philosophy develops your transferable skills, providing you with:

  • The ability to understand all sides of a dispute objectively and without forming a premature opinion
  • The ability to work in a team, taking a collaborative approach to problems
  • The ability to interpret dense text and to communicate effectively
  • Analytical and problem-solving skills

We also work with the university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

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Example structure

Studying at Essex is about discovering yourself, so your course combines compulsory and optional modules to make sure you gain key knowledge in the discipline, while having as much freedom as possible to explore your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are just a selection of those available. The opportunity to take optional modules will depend on the number of core modules within any year of the course. In many instances, the flexibility to take optional modules increases as you progress through the course.

Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current first-year students, including details of all optional modules.

Year 1

Understand fundamental features of the English legal system? Can you explain the meaning in a legal case? Do you cite legal/academic sources correctly? Examine the structure and role of legal institutions and professionals. Develop key skills for legal study, including group work, presenting information orally and researching legal materials.

What are the key features of property law? And what is the framework within which a property lawyer operates? Study the fundamental principles of the law of property in England and Wales. Satisfy the property law requirements of professional bodies if you wish to practise law in England and Wales.

This module introduces the fundamentals of the UK constitution and the foundations of judicial review. The module explores: the nature of the constitution; the structure of governmental power; the sources of constitutional rules; and the fundamental principles underpinning the UK constitution. The module considers the functions of the three branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial) and how they are accountable. The module examines the framework for protection of human rights in the UK and introduces the grounds of judicial review.

Begin your study of philosophy with an exploration of scepticism and matters of life and death. Do we truly know anything? Might, for all we know, our brains be under the control of evil scientists? Is torture ever justified? How demanding is morality and how much of our lives should it cover?

Certain ideas shape the way we see ourselves and the world around us—ideas like democracy, free speech, individualism, free markets, and humans rights. These ideas took their definitive modern form during a politically and intellectually revolutionary stretch of history known as the Enlightenment (1650-1800). This interdisciplinary module examines this period and thus serves as an essential prerequisite for students who want to understand the intellectual currents that run through the world they live in. Graduating students often rank it among the most useful modules they’ve taken.

Are you ready for graduate employment? Like to improve your core skills? Wish you had some relevant work or volunteering experience? Attend workshops, events and activities at the University and elsewhere to build your knowledge, abilities and experience. Polish your CV, while developing your employability, citizenship and life skills.

Year 2

How effective is criminal law? How do you break down a criminal law statute to its component parts? And how do you then interpret it? Understand criminal law in England and Wales. Read and critically analyse judicial decisions. Assess and answer factual problems, raising issues of criminal liability.

What are the principles of contract formation? And what are the remedial consequences of breach of contract? Study key concepts in contract and tort, and how they are placed in the wider framework of the common law of obligations. Apply your knowledge to resolve legal problems in simulated cases.

How do moral and political theories contribute to understanding of the law? Examine general legal theories alongside concepts of morality and knowledge. Undertake an in-depth study on a major aspect of law, focusing on topics like contract, tort and crime, and theoretical issues that shape legal liability.

What is the nature and limit of human knowledge? What are the relations between faith and reason? What is the relation between the body and the mind? Study the philosophical texts of the modern era that helped lay the conceptual foundations for these questions and others. You explore the work of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley and Hume.

Can we say that our moral judgements are capable of being true or false? If they are, does their truth depend on certain moral facts? Can we describe these facts as natural? In this module you explore ethical theory, considering the challenges to morality which seem to make it impossible, or to undermine our commitment to it.

Got an idea for a project, job or not-for-profit enterprise that will enhance local well-being? We study the concept and practice of social entrepreneurship, using case studies of work that has helped local communities, people or the environment. From this, you develop your project proposal or business plan.

Final year

How should theory and theorists relate to real politics? What are the competing approaches in contemporary philosophy? In this module you study both the liberal, ideal theories of justice as shaped by John Rawls, but also compare them to alternative approaches. You also explore the notion of injustice through asking what, if anything, is wrong with inequality, applying this to cases such as exploitation, marketization, objectification and stereotyping.

How and why are women oppressed? What is a “woman”, and should we even use the term? Should we be aiming for freedom, or equality, or justice – and what do these terms mean? This module will look at some of the main strands in modern feminist theory, and explore the different ways in which they understand the nature, role and objectives of feminism.

Want to work as a team on real-life alleged miscarriages of justice? Under the supervision of academics, plus practicing solicitors, barrister and forensic scientists, investigate claims by alleged victims for wrongful convictions. Submit work to the Criminal Cases Review Commission so the case is referred to the Court of Appeal.

Discover the philosophical questions that are raised by everyday medical practice and recent developments in medical science. You consider topics including suicide, euthanasia, abortion, cloning, reproductive medicine, resource allocation, medical research, confidentiality, patient autonomy, and biopolitics.

What are judges for? Who are the judges? How should they be appointed? These are some of the questions you’ll answer. Drawing on comparative material from Australia, the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, Spain and New Zealand, you’ll also examine the operation of courts, and work of judges, from first instance through to final courts of appeal. You’ll also have the opportunity to visit the UK Supreme Court, and will have an in-class interview with a judge.

How do you apply law to the internet? What legal issues are raised? Study the history of communications legislation in the UK, plus essential case law. Examine competing philosophical perspectives on applying law to the internet. Understand the engineering approach to internet regulation. Analyse privacy and freedom of expression issues.

Year abroad

On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.


  • Teaching takes the form of lectures, seminar sessions and tutorials
  • Seminars allow your lecturer to explain new arguments and ideas, while giving sufficient time for questions and collective discussion and debate
  • We believe that discussion is the lifeblood of philosophy, and we try to keep our classes as small as we can for this purpose
  • Tutorials provide the opportunity to discuss the law, apply the law to factual problems, and develop legal arguments
  • Basic IT skills training is available and training in the use of LEXIS and WESTLAW (legal research tools) is also given
  • You are encouraged to take part in moots (mock trials), negotiation competitions and other practical exercises


  • Usually assessed by 2,000-3,000 word essays
  • Most modules weighted 50% coursework and 50% exams
  • In your second- and third-years of philosophy modules, you may write an optional essay if you wish, in order to improve your coursework mark
  • First year marks do not count towards your degree class
  • Final-year students may carry out an optional dissertation

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UK entry requirements

A-levels: BBB

IB: 30 points. We are also happy to consider a combination of separate IB Diploma Programmes at both Higher and Standard Level. Exact offer levels will vary depending on the range of subjects being taken at higher and standard level, and the course applied for. Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions Office for more information.

Entry requirements for students studying BTEC qualifications are dependent on units studied. Advice can be provided on an individual basis. The standard required is generally at Distinction level.

International and EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Email for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the high school qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

IELTS entry requirements

English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. (Different requirements apply for second year entry.)

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.

Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels required. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications.

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Visit us

Open days

Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex. In 2017 we have three undergraduate Open Days (in June, September and October). These events enable you to discover what our Colchester Campus has to offer. You have the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

Check out our Visit Us pages to find out more information about booking onto one of our events. And if the dates aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.


Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.


Applications for our full-time undergraduate courses should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications are online at: Full details on this process can be obtained from the UCAS website in the how to apply section.

Our UK students, and some of our EU and international students, who are still at school or college, can apply through their school. Your school will be able to check and then submit your completed application to UCAS. Our other international applicants (EU or worldwide) or independent applicants in the UK can also apply online through UCAS Apply.

The UCAS code for our University of Essex is ESSEX E70. The individual campus codes for our Loughton and Southend Campuses are ‘L’ and ‘S’ respectively.

Visit days and interviews

Resident in the UK? If your application is successful, we will invite you to attend one of our visit days. These run from January to April and give you the chance to explore the campus, meet our students and really get a feel for life as an Essex student.

Some of our courses also hold interviews and if you’re invited to one, this will take place during your visit day. Don’t panic, they’re nothing to worry about and it’s a great way for us to find out more about you and for you to find out more about the course. Some of our interviews are one-to-one with an academic, others are group activities, but we’ll send you all the information you need beforehand.

If you’re outside the UK and are planning a trip, feel free to email so we can help you plan a visit to the University.

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The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its course finder is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep prospective students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.