Postgraduate Research Course

PhD Philosophy

PhD Philosophy


The details
January 2022
4 years
Colchester Campus

For our PhD in Philosophy, we offer supervision in a wide range of fields including: continental philosophy, history of philosophy, social and political philosophy, and medical humanities. We have an established international reputation and a strong tradition of postgraduate education, particularly in the specialist area of continental philosophy and - more recently - in the middle-ground between continental and analytic philosophy. Moral and political philosophy is another notable area of research concentration. We are also very active in the emerging field of medical humanities.

Duration: typically 3 years

We also offer an MPhil and Masters by dissertation.

Please note that part-time research study is also available.

Why we're great.
  • We are renowned for our combination of Continental and Anglo-American philosophy.
  • We are ranked Top 20 in the UK for research excellence (REF 2014, mainstream universities, THE 2014)
  • The School is also home to both the Essex Autonomy Project and the Ethics of Powerlessness, major interdisciplinary projects funded by the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council), which aim to investigate the role of autonomous judgement and conditions of powerlessness in many aspects of human life.
THE Awards 2018 - Winner University of the Year

Our expert staff

PGR students are allocated a supervisor whose role is to guide the student through the different stages of the research degree. In some cases, students may have joint supervision by two members of staff.

Initially, supervisors help with the development of the research topic and plan. Students have regular one-to-one meetings to discuss progress on research.

Specialist facilities

By studying in the School of Philosophy and Art History, you will have access to a range of outstanding facilities to aid your learning and research.

We have a large well-equipped room for use by our research students. There are desks and computers, a sprinter/fax machine and some comfortable seating, so our students use this room for meetings and reading groups, as well as private study. There are two additional rooms with desks and chairs for the use of research students, including one which overlooks a quiet courtyard.

Your future

Many of our graduates have progressed successfully to further research and an academic career. Philosophers with a PhD from Essex now teach at many UK universities, including Warwick, Oxford, Sussex, Reading, Bolton, Manchester Metropolitan, and Keele, and also at numerous institutions abroad (such as University College Dublin, the University of Malta, and Grand Valley State University, USA). Our other Philosophy graduates have gone into careers in law, the media, local administration, HM Revenue and Customs, and top jobs in the Civil Service.

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

You will need a good honours degree and a Masters degree, or equivalent, in a related subject. A well-developed research proposal is also essential.

You will normally be required to attend an interview/Skype interview for acceptance, and acceptance is subject to research expertise in the department.

International & EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

Sorry, the entry requirements for the country that you have selected are not available here. Please select your country page where you'll find this information.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, we require IELTS 7.0 overall, or equivalent, with a minimum score of 5.5 in all other components.


Course structure

A research degree doesn't have a taught structure, giving you the chance to investigate your chosen topic in real depth and reach a profound understanding. In communicating that understanding, through a thesis or other means, you have a rare opportunity to generate knowledge. A research degree allows you to develop new high-level skills, enhance your professional development and build new networks. It can open doors to many careers.

Teaching and learning disclaimer

Following the impact of the pandemic, we made changes to our teaching and assessment to ensure our current students could continue with their studies uninterrupted and safely. These changes included courses being taught through blended delivery, normally including some face-to-face teaching, online provision, or a combination of both across the year.

The teaching and assessment methods listed show what is currently planned for 2021 entry; changes may be necessary if, by the beginning of this course, we need to adapt the way we’re delivering them due to the external environment, and to allow you to continue to receive the best education possible safely and seamlessly.


Within the School of Philosophy and Art History, students invest time mainly working on their thesis with the help of the PGR Supervisor

Twice a year, students have a supervisory panel meeting, which provides a formal opportunity to discuss progress with both the student’s supervisor and another member of the faculty. The purpose of the Supervisory Panels is to form an overview of the student's work and to monitor progress, taking into account both academic and personal issues.

During their first Supervisory Panel in January, new PGR students are required to submit material in a specific form: a 5,000-word Critical Literature Review (i.e. an evaluative account of a selection from the most relevant scholarly literature in their area of research), and a 2,000-word detailed Project Outline. The Project Outline should locate the student’s research in the field described in the Critical Literature Review. In the case of PhD students, this material – coupled with a substantial piece of research toward the PhD (10,000 words) will form the basis of the Confirmation Panel’s assessment of the student's progress in June, and, subsequently, of the Progress Committee's recommendation to the Graduate School concerning the continuation of the student's studies after the first year. At subsequent Supervisory Panels students are expected to submit draft chapters of their thesis totaling no more than 10,000 words in length.

PhD students are also required to present their work to the Departmental Research Colloquium at least once in the student’s PGR career. The Colloquium allows three research students to present their current work (a 30 minute presentation followed by 30 minutes of questions). Both staff and students are in attendance and the format is informal. The Colloquium allows research students to improve their confidence, and to gain experience of defending their ideas in discussion.

We also encourage our PGR students to attend training courses whenever their research requires acquiring new skills and to take part in our many research seminars, reading groups and mini-courses.


You can enter into completion if, by the end of your third year, you have a complete draft of all thesis chapters (excluding introduction and conclusions) and these are of good quality.

Examiners look for evidence of training in the appropriate methods, for knowledge of relevant literature concerning the topic in question, and for general competence in background related to the topic. In the case of a PhD thesis, in particular, examiners look for evidence of originality. A doctoral thesis must show evidence of being a significant contribution to knowledge and of the capacity of the candidate to pursue further research without supervision.

The maximum length for a PhD thesis, whether by research or as part of the Integrated PhD, is 80,000 words; for the MPhil it is 50,000 words; and for the MA by Dissertation it is 30,000 words.

Fees and funding

Home/UK fee


International fee


EU students commencing their course in the 2021-22 academic year will be liable for the International fee.

Fees will increase for each academic year of study.

What's next

Open Days

We hold open days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, graduate employability, student support and more
  • talk to our Fees and Funding team about scholarship opportunities
  • meet our students and staff

If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

2021 Open Days (Colchester Campus)

  • Saturday, November 13, 2021


You can apply for this postgraduate course online. Before you apply, please check our information about necessary documents that we’ll ask you to provide as part of your application.

We encourage you to make a preliminary enquiry directly to a potential supervisor or the Graduate Administrator within your chosen Department or School. We encourage the consideration of a brief research proposal prior to the submission of a full application.

We aim to respond to applications within four weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.

For information on our deadline to apply for this course, please see our ‘how to apply’ information.

Colchester Campus

Visit Colchester Campus

Home to 15,000 students from more than 130 countries, our Colchester Campus is the largest of our three sites, making us one of the most internationally diverse campuses on the planet - we like to think of ourselves as the world in one place.

The Campus is set within 200 acres of beautiful parkland, located two miles from the historic town centre of Colchester – England's oldest recorded town. Our Colchester Campus is also easily reached from London and Stansted Airport in under one hour.


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.


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Find out more

The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its programme specification 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, but are not limited to: strikes, other industrial action, staff illness, severe weather, fire, civil commotion, riot, invasion, terrorist attack or threat of terrorist attack (whether declared or not), natural disaster, restrictions imposed by government or public authorities, epidemic or pandemic disease, failure of public utilities or transport systems or the 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 students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications.

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