About the course
Some of the most fundamental questions about political life, its principles and ideals, are philosophical in character. Our course brings these disciplines of philosophy and politics together, and provides a sound academic grounding in both. You are given plenty of opportunities to bring the resources of moral and political philosophy to bear on the issues of political life.
You study topics including:
- Political philosophy
- European philosophy (including critical theory, phenomenology, and existentialism)
- Concepts in political science: state, laws, wars and political parties
- Obligations, freedom, rights and equality
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.
Our Department of Government is one of the most prestigious in Europe, with an outstanding record of teaching, research and publication. We are rated top in the UK for research (REF 2014), and have consistently been the highest-rated politics department in the country since national assessments began.
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
- New Zealand
- Latin America
- The Middle East
- Hong Kong
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.
Some of the biggest names in politics work at Essex, giving you unparalleled access to some of the best minds. Our staff are advising the CIA on counter-terrorism, training politicians and civil servants in democratising countries, and commentating on political events in national and international media.
Our politics academic staff work on topics ranging from international conflict and violence to British elections, and from the obligations of the younger generation to why authoritarian leaders welcome natural disasters.
- Laboratories of networked computers featuring extensive software for political analysis
- The ESSEXLab provides opportunities for experimental lab research
- Student societies for politics, debating, and Model UN
- 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 politics textbooks and journals in the Albert Sloman Library
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.
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.
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?
What is “Politics”? How have people conceived of political analysis, the state, laws, wars and political parties, across cultures and over time? Gain an understanding of essential concepts in the study of politics and explore the economic, social and intellectual trends that have made democracy possible.
An often misused concept, “democracy” takes radically different forms in different democratic countries. You gain a real understanding of what is meant by “democracy” and investigate under what conditions and in what countries liberal democracy is most likely to occur.
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.
How should a society distribute resources and opportunities between individuals and groups? The principles of social justice we hold affect how we answer this question. You study different philosophical approaches to these principles and explore their implications for the current issue of climate justice.
Is torture ever morally justified? Should pornography be banned? Should prostitution be legalised? Take part in the intellectual search for the moral principles that should govern how we answer these questions and others in governing public policy.
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.
With the debt crisis, rising inequality and unemployment, ecological degradation, extreme poverty among 40% of the world`s population, and resource-driven wars, capitalism has once again come under intense critical scrutiny. Does it foster economic growth and protect individual freedom, as its proponents claim; or is it a destructive system out of control, as its detractors argue? Should the market be given even freer rein? Or should capitalism be reformed, restricted, or even abolished altogether?
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.
Does policy or luck better explain political outcomes? Game theory provides a tool for understanding a wide variety of political phenomena, from campaigns and elections, to ethnic conflicts, to wars and deterrents.
Given the rise of groups such as the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, the focus on violent non-state actors has become more and more important. You discover why non-state actors resort to violence and crime, what tactics and strategies they use, how they fund their existence, how they undermine the state and what can be done to counter the instability they cause.
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.
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.
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.
Why are some states prone to authoritarianism? What are the effects of stateless groups? How are economies run in states that are virtually non-existent? Study the interplay between human rights, state-building, economic and political development in some of the most conflict-prone and unstable areas of the world.
The relationship between the media and politics is a complex and important means by which the public are informed on and engaged by political activity. You consider the role of the media and democracy in the UK, and also explore how this functions elsewhere.
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 and seminar sessions or discussion classes
- 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
- Lab sessions allow you to improve your technical research skills
- Opportunities to gain work experience on placements and internships
- 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
- If you undertake a placement, you will prepare an assessed report on this experience
If you already have your results and want to apply for 2016 entry through Clearing, complete our Clearing application form
and we’ll get back in touch with you or give us a ring
to discuss your grades.
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.