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BA Philosophy and Literature (4 Years Including Foundation Year)

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  • We equip you with the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed at Essex and beyond.
  • Our international students benefit from a single visa for all four years of study.
  • Small class sizes allow you to work closely with your teachers and classmates.

Course options2017-18

UCAS code: VQ52
Duration: 4 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: International Academy
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
This course is not available to UK applicants
Fee (International): £11,750

Subsequent years will be charged at the standard undergraduate degree fee for international students

Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

UCAS code: VQ52
Duration: 4 years
Start month: January
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: International Academy
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
This course is not available to UK applicants
Fee (International): £11,750

Subsequent years will be charged at the standard undergraduate degree fee for international students

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

Are you an EU or international student who wants to study philosophy and literature in the UK? Do you need to improve your English language and academic study skills?

On our four-year BA Philosophy and Literature (including foundation year), we work with you to improve your language skills, to develop your subject-specific knowledge, and to improve your academic skills. You receive a thorough grounding in these areas during your foundation year (known as Year Zero) to prepare you for a further three years of undergraduate study at Essex.

At Essex, our course enables you to study topics from both literature and philosophy, and to explore issues at the cross-sections of these two exciting disciplines. We provide a wide-ranging and flexible curriculum, embracing different traditions of philosophical thought, and English literature of several genres and periods. We also focus on the interrelations between the disciplines of philosophy and literature.

You study topics including:

  • Ethics
  • Philosophy of religion
  • European philosophy (including critical theory, phenomenology, and existentialism)
  • Modernist cityscapes in literature
  • Victorian literary realism

    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.

    We are ranked Top 20 in the UK for literature (Guardian University Guide 2015).

    Our expert staff

    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 Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies is committed to unlocking creative personal responses to literature. Our distinctive environment is possible because we are a community of award-winning novelists, poets and playwrights, as well as leading literature specialists.

    Specialist facilities

    By studying within our International Academy for your foundation year, you will have access to all of the facilities that the University of Essex has to offer, as well as those provided by our Academy to support you:

    • We provide computer labs for internet research; classrooms with access to PowerPoint facilities for student presentations; AV facilities for teaching and access to web-based learning materials
    • Our new Student Services Hub will support you and provide information for all your needs as a student
    • Our social space is stocked with magazines and newspapers, and provides an informal setting to meet with your lecturers, tutors and friends

    Our School of Philosophy and Art History and our Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies also offer excellent on-campus 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
    • A comprehensive student support system which will direct you to the best source of advice and support in the case of personal or academic difficulties
    • Meet fellow readers at the student-run Literature Society or at the department’s Myth Reading Group
    • Learn from leading writers and literature specialists at weekly research seminars
    • Our on-Campus, 200-seat Lakeside Theatre has been established as a major venue for good drama, staging both productions by professional touring companies and a wealth of new work written, produced and directed by our own staff and students

    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.

Please note that in your second year you choose two of these four modules: Early Modern Literature, Versions of Modernity, United States Literature Since 1850, Approaches to Text. You do not choose all four.

Year 0

How did Plato and Aristotle influence Western political thought? How do you study class or gender today? What impact does globalisation have? Examine the history of social and political theory, critically analysing current issues. Understand key topics in politics and sociology for further study of the social sciences and humanities.

Britain has experienced unprecedented changes in the last 100 years. What has brought about these changes and how have they affected the Britain of today? This course will outline political, economic, social and cultural change in the UK during the Twentieth Century and beyond and offer an insight into Britain’s place in the modern world.

Want to study Hamlet? And contemporary works by Angela Carter or Kazuo Ishiguru? Interested in World War One poetry? Study a range of drama, poetry and prose fiction. Describe, analyse and reflect on key texts from Shakespeare to the present day. Become familiar with the crucial terms for assessing literature.

Academic Skills covers the key areas that you will experience during your degree, preparing you for aspects of academic study at undergraduate level. The module enables you to develop and enhance your existing abilities by focusing on the core skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking in an academic context. It does this with both generic texts and also, crucially, those related to your subject area. Academic Skills provides strategies for successful communication and interaction through independent and collaborative learning offering opportunity to further enhance your research skills. The content is designed to ensure that you acquire a range of transferable employability and life skills.

What can we know? How should we live? Study two important areas of philosophy – epistemology and ethics. Examine the work of key thinkers and understand the major themes in Western philosophy. Analyse contemporary issues using philosophical arguments. Become confident in the expression of your own thoughts and ideas.

Year 1

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?

Which writers re-worked Homer’s Odyssey? Or borrowed ideas from Dante’s Inferno? Examine how key literary texts and genres have been used by successive generations of writers up until the present day. Shift from classical text to a more modern example, studying the long cultural traditions that exist.

Ask life’s big questions: What, if anything, is the meaning of our lives? How can we become wise? Can we make sense of human suffering? How should we think about our own deaths? You take up these questions, first, by examining a series of ancient narratives, including The Myth of Sisyphus and Eden and the Fall; and then through the study of key works of modern philosophers including Nietzsche, Weber and Freud.

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

Discover the relations between philosophy and literature. You study Iris Murdoch’s account of life as a ‘pilgrimage’ from appearance to reality, which she claims is the concern of great art, and Martha Nussbaum’s rejection of this in her discussion of Greek tragedy. You then explore Richard Rorty’s account of Nineteen Eighty Four as demonstrating that no ‘truth’ is written into the human condition, before finally looking at Stanley Cavell’s comparison of philosophical scepticism and Shakespearean tragedy.

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.

What is modernity? How did it change our perception of the world? What impact did it have on literary culture? Study major pieces of poetry, drama and fiction from the 1790s to the 1970s that engage with challenges and inventions of modern life, negotiating transitions between old and new.

What are the major US texts since 1850? And what problems are connected to them? Study a varied spectrum of US literature, looking at issues such as the relationship between American writing and history, American “difference” and differences within American society, nationalism and regionalism, and conflicts of race and gender.

How can texts be read and interpreted using the thinking of Marx? What about Freud or de Saussure? Or Derrida and Said? Study literature, theatre, and film using these key thinkers. Analyse their approaches both historically and institutionally, and understand the importance of theoretical and methodological material to your studies.

How useful is the term “early modern”? What about “medieval” or “Renaissance”? Study literature from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries. Glimpse cultural structures and behaviour that prefigures our own, as well as an exciting “otherness” of the many worlds represented in the variety of texts chosen.

Many of Freud`s ideas have become integral to the ways in which we think about ourselves and about our mental life. At the same, Freud`s claims about the nature and functioning of the human mind raise many intriguing and unresolved philosophical questions. You study Freud’s method of interpreting the unconscious meaning of dreams, conceptions of gender and sexuality, and the nature of the unconscious, before considering philosophers who have criticised Freud, including Sartre, Wittgenstein, Ricoeur, and Habermas.

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.

This module offers you the opportunity to build up a portfolio of experiences, skills, and knowledge that will help prepare you for the graduate job you’re looking for. You learn about future career possibilities, gain an insight into what graduate employers are looking for, and access a range of opportunities for valuable work experience on and off campus.

Final year

Great literature – the stuff that dreams are made of? This workshop-based module investigates experimental film, art, literature, and poetry. Drawing inspiration from your own dreams, as well as dream theories and literary dream works, you are encouraged to experiment with character and voice, developing your own distinct identity as a writer.

How has the American identity and purpose changed since World War Two? And how is this reflected in literature? Gain answers to these questions via a range of American texts. Analyse these works using a variety of critical approaches, considering social, political and cultural contexts since the Second World War.

What are the important theories about Wordsworth’s poetry? And Coleridge? How do you analyse the imagination of Shelley? Or Keats? Explore key aspects of Romantic writing, deepening your knowledge of this vibrant and diverse literature. Study works of poetry, fiction and essays, building understanding of relevant critical approaches and theories.

How did literature respond to scientific and technological developments during the Victorian period? What about urbanisation and the growth of industrial cities? What impact did the British Empire expansion have? Explore a range of poetry and prose to understand how writing evolved during sixty-four years of unprecedented vitality and change.

What are the cultural capitals of modernism? How are modernist arts shaped by the metropolitan life experience? Examine literature, film, art and music, studying aesthetic practices and cultural contexts of modernism. Read and discuss cities with vibrant artistic and political activities: New York, Paris, London, Dublin, Vienna, Berlin and Petersburg.

This module introduces students to key debates in modern social and political thought. We focus on seminal texts by authors such as Hobbes, Spinoza, and Rousseau, whose contributions have radically transformed our understanding of social and political life. We explore the roots of modern notions like the state and society, and scrutinise the nature of freedom, power and democracy. Finally, we consider whether these authors’ accounts of social misdevelopments can still guide critiques of contemporary society.

Devote yourself to a close study of Nietzsche`s 1887 On the Genealogy of Morality. You explore Nietzsche’s early reflections on the parallels between modern and ancient Athenian decadence, and also address many of the most significant themes in Nietzsche`s later work, including the opposition between master and slave moralities, ressentiment, and nihilism.

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.

Develop your research and written skills through writing a dissertation on a philosophical topic studied in either your second year or the autumn term of your final year.


  • Your teaching mainly takes the form of lectures and classes, the latter involving about 20 students
  • Innovative ways of engaging with texts include editing 16th century sonnets and archival research
  • We believe that discussion is the lifeblood of philosophy, and we try to keep our classes as small as we can for this purpose
  • Any language classes involve language laboratory sessions
  • Our classes are run in small groups, so you receive a lot of individual attention


  • Your assessed coursework will generally consist of essays, reports, in-class tests, individual or group oral presentations, and small scale research projects

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UK entry requirements

This course is not available to UK applicants.

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 5.5 overall.

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.

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) 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.

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