School of Philosophy and Art History

Research degrees

Man with tattooed hands looking through a book

Questioning conventional wisdom

As a postgraduate research student at Essex, you will be part of an active research community in which graduate students and academic staff work together in a friendly, creative and intellectually challenging environment.

Our research degree students regularly get involved in exhibition and research projects, as well as in the public programmes of the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) and Art Exchange gallery, both based at our Colchester Campus. Dialogue with other scholars and curators is further facilitated by our proximity to London, less than an hour away by train.

Our department is internationally recognised for our expertise in areas such as curating, critical theory, phenomenology, medical humanities and classical German philosophy. We are ranked 6th among art history departments in the UK for research excellence and 9th in the UK for the quality of our philosophy research (REF 2014).


Explore our research degrees
Why choose us?
  • Top 10 in the UK for research quality in both philosophy and art history (REF 2014)
  • Our doctoral students and academic staff regularly work together to form an active research community
  • Essex Autonomy Project highly commended at Times Higher Education Awards in Research Project of the Year category

So, what do we have to offer?

A range of areas for research supervision

A research degree allows you to conduct original research on a subject of your choice within the general fields of philosophy, art history or curating. We have a wide range of research strengths we can supervise and we accept PhD students in all areas that our academic staff are researching.

Alternative research degrees

In addition to PhD study, we offer a range of alternative research degrees.

  • MPhil Philosophy (two years full time / four years part time)
  • MA Philosophy by dissertation (one year full time / two years part time) *
  • MPhil Art History (two years full time / four years part time)
  • MA Art History by dissertation (one year full time / two years part time) *

Our MA by dissertation and MPhil degrees are assessed on the basis of a thesis.

  • 30,000 words maximum for the MA by dissertation.
  • 50,000 words maximum for the MPhil.

We normally require a good BA degree in philosophy or art history (or in a joint honours degree including philosophy or art history). You must demonstrate your capacity to conduct independent research and submit a detailed research proposal.

* Admission to an MA by dissertation is normally restricted to candidates whose circumstances make the taught MA unsuitable, and whose background is sufficient to indicate an ability to undertake a first research-only degree.

An exciting programme of events

Our doctoral students and academic staff regularly work together to form an active research community. We run an ongoing programme of events throughout the year that includes seminars, minicourses and conferences.

Professional development

We employ many of our research students as Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTA). These paid positions are valuable opportunities for professional development and give you experience of teaching and marking essays at undergraduate level, a significant advantage when it comes to applying for academic positions.

Our University's Proficio scheme helps to develop your skills and knowledge and increase your employability potential for careers in academia and industry by providing funding for specialist training across a range of areas, including researching and managing your PhD, presenting your work and getting published.

The ability to read philosophical texts in their original language is a real advantage for postgraduate research. At Essex, we offer a dedicated German-language course for philosophy graduate students taught by Nick Walker, who has translated Adorno, Hegel and other German philosophers into English. Our University’s Languages for All scheme also allows you to study a language alongside your course at no extra cost.