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Durham University


V500 Philosophy BA Undergraduate 2022


Please note: 2020-21 courses may be affected by Covid-19 and are therefore subject to change due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19. Summaries of course-specific changes resulting from the impact of Covid-19 will be provided to applicants during August 2020.

For the latest information on our plans for teaching in academic year 2020/21 in light of Covid-19, please see

UCAS code V500
Degree BA
Mode of study Full Time
Duration 3 years
Location Durham City
Typical Offers A Level
International Baccalaureate
Please also check Requirements and Admissions.
Alternative qualifications
Contextual Offers You may be eligible for an offer which is one or two grades lower than our standard entry requirements. Find out more.
More information Still have questions?
Department(s) Website

Course Summary


The study of philosophy at Durham does not follow one particular school. The Department is unique in the UK in its wide-ranging expertise in anglo-american analytical philosophy and continental philosophy. Each of these has its own distinctive set of issues and approaches to resolving them. We also have special expertise in the philosophy of science, and social science, and the history of science and medicine. So at Durham, you will follow one of the widest-ranging philosophy degrees in the country.

Philosophy is a new subject for many students, so in your first year, you follow a range of introductory courses, introducing the fundamental philosophical subject areas.

Year 1

In their first year, you will take the Philosophy core modules of Ethics and Values, Knowledge and Reality, Philosophical Traditions, and Reading Philosophy. Reading Philosophy is a text-based course which examines in depth classic works by writers such as Plato, Hume, and Sartre.

You will also take two further modules, which can be chosen from Science, Medicine and Society, European Philosophy, or an 'elective' module being offered by another department within the University.

Years 2 and 3

In the second and third years, you will have a choice of a wide range of topics.

In previous years these have included:

  • Moral Theory
  • Modern Philosophy I and II
  • History of Science and Medicine
  • Issues in Contemporary Ethics
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Political Philosophy
  • Metaphysics
  • Language, Logic and Reality
  • Twentieth Century European Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Science
  • The Philosophy of Economics and Politics: Theory, Methods and Values
  • Applied Ethics
  • Philosophical Issues in Contemporary Science
  • History and Philosophy of Psychiatry
  • Biomedical Ethics Past and Present
  • Philosophy of Mind. 

You will also have the opportunity to study a subject in depth, by writing a substantial dissertation on a topic of your choice, in your third year.

As well as choosing modules from within the Philosophy Department in your second and third years, you can also opt to choose 'elective' modules offered by other departments within the University.

Placement Year

You may be able to take a work placement. Find out more.

Course Learning and Teaching

Students taking the BA (Hons) in Philosophy will receive an average of eight timetabled contact hours per week over the course of the degree.

Philosophical development is principally a matter of acquiring a range of reasoning skills, rather than familiarising oneself with a body of knowledge. Hence, from the outset, the course places a strong emphasis on dialogical interaction. Lectures involve plenty of opportunities for questions and extended discussion, and tutorials consist mostly of structured, critical dialogue in the context of a friendly, supportive environment.

Timetabled contact is only a part of the learning process, and its aim is to provide you with the knowledge and skills required to navigate the relevant literature yourself and to pursue independent learning. Lectures and accompanying documents contextualise material and introduce you to topics, positions and debates. At least four hours of additional study per week are recommended for each lecture, which includes reading and the completion of assignments. You are therefore expected to spend around 75% of your study time on independent research. Having done your reading, you return to lecture topics in small group tutorials. These help you to refine your understanding of material, and to develop the reasoning skills needed to formulate, present, defend and criticise philosophical positions.

In the first year of study, there are nine hours of contact time per week, consisting of weekly lectures and fortnightly tutorials. All our students are welcomed as full members of the Department’s intellectual community from the moment of their arrival, and attend an induction lecture during the first week of the course.

In the second and third years, as you further develop the critical skills required for independent learning, lecture-based modules are complemented by seminar-based modules. Weekly ninety-minute seminars place more emphasis on student participation, in the form of group exercises and short presentations. Modules also become more specifically focused, and you are offered a wider range of topics to choose from, especially in the third year. These build upon lower level modules in a coherent, progressive fashion. For example, you have the option of pursuing a distinctive ‘history and philosophy of science and medicine’ strand, which runs throughout our curriculum.

Other evolving areas of study include aesthetics, philosophy of mind and psychology, theoretical and applied ethics, logic and metaphysics, history of philosophy, ‘continental’ philosophy, and non-western philosophy. Therefore, you will have the opportunity to steer your studies in a range of different directions, many of which are interdisciplinary. You will do so under the guidance of internationally recognised experts in the relevant fields, who are in a position to familiarise you with cutting-edge research.

In the second year, you will continue to receive an average of nine hours of scheduled contact time per week. However, this reduces to six hours in the third year, when you write a dissertation, which is a cornerstone of the degree. To help prepare for it, there is a lecture in your second-year, explaining how to go about choosing a dissertation topic and supervisor. In addition, you receive detailed instructions via email. In your final year, having selected your topic, you are offered six hours of one-to-one dissertation supervision with an expert in your chosen research area. This teaching includes guidance on suitable reading, critical discussion of relevant sources, detailed advice on how to write a 12,000 word piece of research, and intensive critical engagement with your own philosophical position and argument. Through the process of researching and writing a dissertation, the critical skills that you begin to develop in your first year of study (skills that can be put to work in a wide range of careers) are developed to such an extent that you are able to pursue high-level, independent research.

In addition to offering scheduled contact hours, the Department has an open-door policy. You are welcome to call by staff members’ offices or make appointments via email whenever you like. You are also offered three annual workshops, on (1) essay writing, (2) examination technique and (3) choosing second- and third-year modules. All students are invited to attend Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures, Research Seminars, Undergraduate Philosophy Society talks and other department events.

Admissions Process

Subject requirements, level and grade

A level offer – AAA.

BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma/OCR Cambridge Technical Extended Diploma – DDD.

IB Diploma score – 37 with 666 in higher level subjects.


In addition to satisfying the University’s general entry requirements, please note:

  • We welcome applications from those with other qualifications equivalent to our standard entry requirements and from mature students with non-standard qualifications or who may have had a break in their study.
  • We consider each application holistically. Whilst academic achievement is important, it is not the only factor that we consider when assessing applications and applicants who have achieved, or are predicted to achieve, close to our typical offer, but who have not met it exactly, will be welcome to apply if they have a strong application in other key elements, for example can demonstrate merit and potential through their personal statement or their reference. 
  • An interview may form part of the entry requirements for mature students with non-standard qualifications.
  • We are pleased to consider applications for deferred entry.
  • If you are an international student who does not meet the requirements for direct entry to this degree, you may be eligible to take an International Foundation Year pathway programme at the Durham University International Study Centre.

Science A levels

Applicants taking Science A levels that include a practical component will be required to take and pass this as a condition of entry. This applies only to applicants sitting A levels with an English examination board.

English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply

Information relevant to your country

Fees and Funding

The tuition fees for2022/23 academic year have not yet been finalised, they will be displayed here once approved.

The tuition fees shown for home students are for one complete academic year of full time study and are set according to the academic year of entry. Fees for subsequent years of your course may rise in line with an inflationary uplift as determined by the government.

The tuition fees shown for overseas and EU students are for one complete academic year of full time study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and funding 

Career Opportunities


Of those students who graduated in 2018:

  • 82% are in paid employment or further study 6 months after graduation across all our programmes

Of those in employment:

  • 77% are in a professional or managerial job
  • Average salary of £24,000.

(Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey. The survey asks leavers from higher education what they are doing 15 months after graduation. Further information about the Graduate Outcomes survey can be found here

Open days and visits

Pre-application open day

Pre-application open days are the best way to discover all you need to know about Durham University. With representatives from all relevant academic and support service departments, and opportunities to explore college options, the open days provide our prospective undergraduates with the full experience of Durham University.

Please see the following page for further details and information on how to book a place:

Discover Durham Tours

Discover Durham tours offer a brief introduction to the University. The tour begins at one of our undergraduate colleges, where you will receive an introductory talk from a member of college staff, followed by a tour of the college by current students.

Overseas Visit Schedule

Department Information



Philosophy studies profound and important questions that arise in all areas of human life. At Durham University, we offer a distinctive, research-led Philosophy curriculum, incorporating considerable levels of variety and choice. Whatever you choose, you will be taught by internationally renowned experts in the field.

We are one of the UK’s top philosophy departments. The exceptionally high-quality education you receive here will equip you with critical
abilities that can be put to use in all sorts of ways and which are prized by employers.


  • World Top 100 in the QS World University Subject Rankings 2020.
  • 5th in The Guardian University Guide 2020.


For a current list of staff, please see the Philosophy Department web pages.


Durham is one of the larger Philosophy departments in the UK, with 20 permanent members of staff. We are known as a very friendly department where you will have a lot of contact with full-time academic staff. We have an excellent department library that complements the University and college libraries. There is an active Philosophical Society and a weekly research seminar which students are welcome to attend.