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BA Philosophy with Modern Languages

Why we're great

  • Great flexibility and choice: You can study up to four languages choosing between French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese from beginner or post-A level standard. Mandarin Chinese is available at beginner’s level.
  • We are world-renowned for our combination of Continental and Anglo-American philosophy.
  • Our study abroad opportunities include studying at a partner university, combining study and work experience, or taking up a British council assistantship.

Course options2017-18

UCAS code: V5R9
Duration: 4 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Language and Linguistics
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

Languages open doors to other cultures, other ways of thinking, and work opportunities. Similarly, philosophical reflection is a powerful tool for understanding and criticising both our own practices and those of different cultures. You will acquire language skills and develop analytical and problem-solving abilities, which are typical of philosophy, greatly broadening your perspective.

On this course, you have the flexibility to study a wide range of areas in philosophy while also gaining a practical language skill. At Essex, we cover a wide range of topics from the meaning of life to capitalism and its critics, and from ancient philosophy to current trends in European thought; and we have particular strengths in the areas of:

  • Ethics
  • Political philosophy
  • Philosophy of religion
  • European philosophy (including critical theory, phenomenology, and existentialism)

You also study up to two of French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin Chinese, completing at least one language to Mastery level. Each of these languages is widely used in the business world, and can take you to a level of near-fluency, and so many of our graduates go on to develop successful global careers with international firms looking for language specialists.

We also offer a month-long summer course with fees paid for by us if you start a language from scratch via the intensive route.

We are one of the largest and most prestigious language and linguistics departments in the world, a place where talented students become part of an academic community in which the majority of research is rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’, placing us firmly within the top 10 departments in the UK and ranked among the top 150 departments on the planet according to the QS World [University] Rankings [2016] for linguistics.

Meanwhile, our philosophy department is widely regarded as among the very best in the UK, having been recognised as a Top 10 UK universities for research excellence (REF 2014).

“The Department of Language and Linguistics is very friendly and well-organised; everyone is made to feel welcome and students are all offered advice or guidance if they need it, particularly in their first year. Being a student at Essex was one of the best and most important experiences of my life!”

Trevor Katsanis, BA Modern Languages, 2011

Study abroad

Your education extends beyond our University campus. On this course you spend the third of your four years abroad, experiencing, engaging with, and integrating into another culture.

Our course offers three possibilities for your year abroad. The first allows you to work as a language assistant, thereby acquiring valuable professional experience in an international context in addition to earning money.

Alternatively, you can study at one of the prestigious universities with which we have exchange links. You continue to study modules relevant to your course, learning your chosen languages within a country that speaks them, and you pay no tuition fees for your time overseas.

You may also undertake a period of study followed by a work placement abroad.

Whichever option you choose, 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.

Our expert staff

Our staff are internationally renowned. Their books dominate the reading lists at other universities. All our language teachers are native or bilingual speakers, we maintain excellent student-staff ratios, and we integrate language learning with linguistics wherever there is synergy.

Our modern languages lecturers come from around the world: France (Sandrine Perrin), Belgium (Dounia Bissar), Germany (Claudia Nehmzow, Emma Hopper), Italy, (Ignazia Posadinu, Daniela Carboni), Brazil (Beatriz de Paiva), Spain (Teresa Torres), Cuba (Lexa Olivera-Smith), China (Yujun Ding), and the UK (Jessie Mallinson).

Within our philosophy department, our open-minded and enthusiastic 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.

Specialist facilities

Your future

Companies and organisations in the UK and abroad are struggling to find university graduates who are fluent in at least one other language, apart from English.

Being an Essex modern languages graduate places you in a very advantageous position. You will be able to speak and write fluently, or to a very competent standard, in up to four languages. Language skills are in scarce supply and can be used in almost any job.

Our graduates have become teachers, translators, administrators and journalists. Their valued language skills have enabled them to work in diverse fields including banking, entertainment, media, education and tourism, as well as for a host of UK and international companies. In particular, a degree in modern languages lends itself to a career in education, translation, interpretation, trade, PR, communications, immigration or diplomacy.

For example, one of our recent graduates is now a newspaper editor in Spain, while another teaches modern languages in Southampton.

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.

The language module that you will study will depend upon your level when you arrive in the department. We are happy to accept students with no previous knowledge of the language (except for French where an A level is required if you wish to major in this language). Please refer to the progression pathway table to find out which modules are suitable for your linguistic profile.

In your first, second and fourth year you can choose optional modules from other subject areas if you wish.

Our courses allow you to study up to two, three or four modern languages. The below example structure shows a student studying French and Spanish.

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?

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.

What are your skills? And how do they fit in with your career plans? Build your employability skills through this non-credit bearing but obligatory module. Attend workshops and events, engage in activities to raise your employability and build your knowledge of the graduate job market.

Want to learn Spanish from scratch? And spend four weeks abroad during the summer? Build your language abilities, so you can read short stories or novels in Spanish, as well as articulate your ideas verbally or in writing. Undertake a research project, in Spanish, on a topic of your choosing.

Year 2

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.

Since the Enlightenment, religious belief in the Western World has been under new pressures to justify itself in terms compatible with the worldview of modern science. You explore the work of philosophers who have sought to show that we can and need to make a place for religion in modern cultural and social life, through the work of Hegel, Rosenzweig, Habermas, and Levinas.

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.

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.

Want to build your confidence when both speaking and writing in Spanish? Develop your language abilities, expanding your vocabulary and improving your listening and oral skills. Expand your understanding of Spanish and Latin American culture and history through the use of texts, films and conversations with native speakers.

Are you ready to study abroad? How will it improve your French? Prepare for your period abroad by examining how your language skills will develop, alongside topics related to French gastronomy, music, and suburban life. Study literature, with a focus on creative writing and participate in assessed filmed role-plays.

What are your skills? And how do they fit in with your career plans? Build your employability skills through this non-credit bearing but obligatory module. Attend workshops and events, engage in activities to raise your employability and build your knowledge of the graduate job market.

Final year

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?

Discover ancient Greek philosophy, focussing on Plato and Aristotle. In their writings, philosophy is understood not as an academic discipline, but as the fulfilment of a distinctively human possibility for inquiry. They saw philosophy as a way of life. You explore their accounts of ethics, politics, metaphysics and theory of knowledge, as well as the pre-Socratic philosophies of Parmenides and Heraclitus.

`Analytic Philosophy` is a (sometimes controversial) term that is commonly used to describe the dominant philosophical tradition in the English-speaking world for much of the 20th century. This module introduces you to some of the founding figures of the analytic tradition (Russell, Wittgenstein, Frege), and some of the most important representatives from its subsequent development (Quine, Putnam, Davidson). Explore topics at the heart of these debates including the private language argument, possible worlds, personal identity, and the limits of thought.

Want Final Honours level competence in French? Wish to deal quickly and precisely with any written or spoken document? Refine your knowledge of French grammar and vocabulary to near-native level comprehension. Undertake collaborative research into topical issues, and consolidate your understanding of French culture.

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.

What are your skills? And how do they fit in with your career plans? Build your employability skills through this non-credit bearing but obligatory module. Attend workshops and events, engage in activities to raise your employability and build your knowledge of the graduate job market.

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 and seminar sessions or discussion classes
  • State-of-the-art technologies and materials create an ideal learning environment
  • Activities designed to develop your practical language skills, such as role-play and class presentations
  • Cultural and social themes are explored through film, music, the internet, theatre and literature
  • We believe that discussion is the lifeblood of philosophy, and we try to keep our classes as small as we can for this purpose


  • Languages assessed through role-plays and translations
  • Written examinations are also taken for the majority of modules at the end of each academic year
  • 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

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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.

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