MA in Philosophy by Research

Entry requirements: First or second class honours degree or relevant experience 
Full or Part-time: Full-time
School: School of Humanities Back to course finder

A one-year, London-based MA programme of twelve evening seminars and individual research led by Professor Sir Roger Scruton. Offering examples of contemporary thinking and including lectures by internationally acclaimed philosophers, the purpose of this programme to give an overall survey of Philosophy and topics that are central to the interaction of philosophy and life.

Each seminar takes place at The Reform Club, Pall Mall, central London and is followed by a dinner during which participants can engage in discussion with the speaker. The topics to be considered include consciousness, emotion, justice, art, God, love and the environment.

Examination will be by a research dissertation on an approved philosophical topic chosen by the student, of around 25,000 words. Guidance and personal supervision will be provided.

The Course Director

Sir Roger ScrutonThe course is led by the renowned philosopher, Professor Sir Roger Scruton, FBA, FRSL.

Professor Scruton is a Fellow of the Humanities Research Institute and Course Director of the MA in Philosophy.  He is a writer, philosopher and public commentator, specialising in aesthetics with particular attention to music and architecture.

He engages in contemporary political and cultural debates from the standpoint of a conservative thinker and is well known as a powerful polemicist.  He has written widely in the press on political and cultural issues.

He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a fellow of the British Academy.

Professor Scruton is the author of over forty books, including The Ring of Truth (2016), Fools Frauds and Firebrands (2015), The Soul of the World (2014), Notes from Underground (2014), How to Be a Conservative (2014), Our Church (2012),  How to Think Seriously about the Planet: The Case for an Environmental Conservatism (2012), Beauty (2009),The Aesthetics of Music (1997), The Philosopher on Dover Beach (1990), Sexual Desire (1986), The Meaning of Conservatism (1980) and Art and Imagination (1974).

2016-17 Seminars

The series of seminars takes place between October 2016 and June 2017.  Please note that all seminars take place on Thursday evenings, beginning at 18:30. They will be held at the Reform Club, 104 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5EW (see: information for visitors and directions).

Autumn Term

Thursday 6 October 2016: Sir Roger Scruton. General Introduction: What is philosophy?
This introductory seminar surveys the similarities and differences between analytical philosophy, phenomenology, existentialism, and other schools.

Thursday 27 October 2016: Sir Roger Scruton. Reason and freedom, mind and brain.
How do we understand recent advances in neuroscience, and where does the concept of mind fit into the science of human behaviour? This vital topic is at the centre of many contemporary discussions, and is one that leads to familiar confusions that have immediate impact on our lives.

Thursday 24 November 2016: Sir Roger Scruton. Persons and the human world.
What distinguishes humanity from the rest of nature? How do we understand one another and how do we build from that understanding the shared world that includes us? We will consider some striking suggestions from Wittgenstein, Lévinas, and Kant. Roger Scruton’s book, The Face of God is relevant here.

Wednesday 7 December 2016: Sir Roger Scruton. Ethics.
What are the grounds of moral judgment, and how should we understand the conflict between deontological and consequential ways of reasoning?
What is the ground of moral judgment in a world from which the gods have departed? Among the works considered is Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals.

Thursday 15 December 2016: Sir Roger Scruton. Sex.
What exactly is sexual desire and why is it the subject of moral anxiety? What does philosophy have to say about the agenda-driven approach to our sexual behaviour? Sex is the feature of the human condition which seems most closely to unite us to the other animals, but which, properly understood, divides us from them completely. Roger Scruton has written a large book on the intentionality of sexual experience (Sexual Desire, 1986), but the gist of it can be obtained from his answer to Plato’s Symposium, called Phryne’s Symposium, and contained in Xanthippic Dialogues. We will read these two symposia, and compare their visions.

Winter Term

Thursday 12 January 2017: Sir Roger Scruton. Art, culture and faking it.
This is one of the areas in which philosophy is much needed, and yet seemingly chased from the discussion by attention-seeking frauds. Or is that a prejudiced and subjective remark? Discuss. Roger Scruton’s short book on Beauty is relevant here, as is his film Why Beauty Matters, for BBC 2, which can be found in pirated form on YouTube. See also ‘The Great Swindle’ Aeon Magazine, 17 December 2012.

Thursday 9 February 2017: Professor Jane Heal, FBA, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge, on the bequest of modern logic.
The work of Frege and Russell changed not only logic as it was previously understood, but also both mathematics and philosophy. It also laid the foundations for analytical philosophy. It is important to grasp some of the leading ideas put forward in Frege’s work, and Jane Heal, Professor of Philosophy in Cambridge, will conduct the seminar. We will read Frege’s essay ‘On Sense and Reference’.

Thursday 9 March 2017: Raymond Tallis, Emeritus Professor of Geriatric Medicine, University of Manchester, on Evolution and ‘Darwinitis’.
With or without God, we have to face up to the evolved nature of the human condition. Ray Tallis, neurosurgeon, poet, philosopher and public commentator will introduce his sceptical approach to the contemporary use of evolutionary theory and neuroscience.

Thursday 30 March 2017: Professor Simon Blackburn, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge, on God.
How to maintain a proper measure of humanity and sophistication in the face of the slanging matches around this theme? This is an opportunity to discuss the place of the sacred in the experience of modern people. Can we dispense with that idea, or some equivalent, and if so how do we make sense of the world?

Spring Term

Wednesday 3 May 2017: Professor Sebastian Gardner, University College London, on existentialism and its legacy.
What remains now of the great movement of ideas that was launched by Heidegger and Sartre, and why are their writings still relevant to the existential and ethical problems that confront us today? Sebastian Gardner, Professor of Philosophy at UCL, and leading authority on Sartre, will introduce the topic.

Thursday 18 May 2017: Professor Anthony O’Hear, Director of the Royal Institute of Philosophy and a Professor at the University of Buckingham, on justice.
What is the relation between the justice that is pursued through the courts and the ‘social justice’ promised by so many politicians? Again an area where philosophical clarity is desperately needed. An introduction to Rawls and his critics, and an attempt to confront the pitfalls of a social doctrine that breaks free from the concepts of right, duty and desert.

Thursday 8 June 2017: Professor Robert Grant, Senior Research Fellow, University of Glasgow, on democracy, law and the state.
What does philosophy have to say about the critical problems now confronting us, and how do we reason towards a solution? An opportunity to look at the legacy of Heidegger and also to explore some of the fallacies and paradoxes of collective choice.

All students are invited to attend the guest seminars and dinners that follow.

2017-18 seminar programme

The provisional seminar schedule for 2017-18 is as follows (please note the dates may be subject to slight change), all taking place at the Reform Club (104 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5EW (see: information for visitors and directions):

  • 5 October 2017
  • 26 October
  • 23 November
  • 7 December
  • 14 or 21 December
  • 11 January 2018
  • 1 February
  • 1 March
  • 5 April
  • 3 May
  • 17 or 24 May
  • 7 June

Each guest speaker seminar begins at 18:30 and is followed by a dinner (also at the Reform Club), at 20:00, with the guest speaker. The cost of all post-seminar dinners is included in the tuition fees.

The speakers and topics covered are likely to be similar to those included in the 2016-17 programme, as per the details above.

For further details contact:
Humanities Research Admissions on +44 (0)1280 827514

Entry requirements

The minimum entry level required for this course is as follows:

  • a first or second-class honours degree from a recognised university or,
  • a recognised professional qualification with relevant work experience

Mature students

Age is no barrier to learning and we welcome all applications from suitably qualified students. Due to their flexibility, our London-based MAs by research attract a wide variety of applicants from a range of backgrounds, including people in full-time employment and retirees. Our current students range in age from 21 to 75.

International students

We are happy to consider all international applications and if you are an international student, you may find it useful to visit our international pages for details of entry requirements from your home country.

The University is a UKVI Tier 4 Sponsor.

English levels

If English is not your first language, please check our postgraduate English language requirements. If your English levels don’t meet our minimum requirements, you may be interested in applying for our Pre-sessional English Language Foundation Programmes.

Selection process

Candidates apply online, sending in their supporting documents, and will be assessed on this basis by the Programme Director.  The Programme Director or Admissions Assistant will be happy to answer any enquiries.

Maria Floyd

Admissions and Marketing Officer, London Programmes

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Terms and conditions for prospective students

When you are offered a place at the University you will be notified of the terms and conditions between the University and students on our courses of study. When you accept an offer of a place on the course at the University a legal contract is formed between you and the University on the basis of the terms and conditions outlined in your offer letter. Your offer letter and the terms and conditions contain important information which you should read carefully before accepting any offer. Read the admissions terms and conditions > >

The seminar schedule for 2017-18 is as follows, all taking place at the Reform Club (104 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5EW (see: information for visitors and directions):

  • 5 October 2017
  • 26 October
  • 23 November
  • 7 December
  • 14 December
  • 11 January 2018
  • 1 February
  • 1 March
  • 5 April
  • 3 May
  • 17 May
  • 7 June

Each guest speaker seminar begins at 18:30 and is followed by a dinner (also at the Reform Club), at 20:00, with the guest speaker. The cost of all post-seminar dinners is included in the tuition fees.

The speakers and topics covered are likely to be similar to those included in the 2016-17 programme, as per the details above.

The University’s Course Directors, students’ supervisors, and the Research Officer and Tutor for Graduate Students are available to discuss students’ post-graduation plans and how they may utilise most effectively the skills acquired during their studies.

The tuition fees quoted are for the degree (e.g. if you start a degree at Buckingham in January 2017, you will pay the same termly fee for the duration of your degree – you will not be affected by the price increase in September 2017). Fees are normally paid in termly instalments.

Please click here for Associate Student fees (or here for international Associate Student fees).

Postgraduate loan scheme

A new system of postgraduate loans for Masters degrees in the UK was introduced in August 2016 with support from the UK Government. The loan will provide up to £10,000 (£10,280 for new applicants in 2017) for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas. The loans can be used for tuition fees, living expenses or both.  Find out more >>


Details of scholarships can be found on our main Bursaries and Scholarships page. You should make an application to study at the University and receive an offer letter confirming our acceptance of your application before applying for a scholarship.

You may also find it useful to visit our External Funding page.

Due to the mode of study on this course you will not normally need a room in University accommodation during your degree.

However, if you require short-term accommodation in Buckingham we would be happy to provide a list of local bed and breakfast or hotel accommodation. Alternatively, please contact our Accommodation Office for advice.