Philosophy PhD (On-Campus or by Distance Learning)

We offer promising candidates the opportunity to study in a department that is strongly committed to delivering the highest quality of philosophical research. You can study in traditional PhD format, or through our PhD by Papers option.

Our expert supervision spans across a wide range of areas, including: Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science; Philosophy of Language; Philosophy of Logic; Philosophy of Mathematics; Moral Philosophy (theoretical and practical); Metaphysics and Epistemology; and Philosophy of Religion.

Sarah-Louise Johnson

Sarah-Louise Johnson

“I cannot recommend postgraduate study at the University of Birmingham highly enough. Birmingham is a great city to live in, and the philosophy department is a highly stimulating environment in which to learn, research, and develop academic skills.”

The PhD is the most advanced research degree. It leads to a thesis of up to 80,000 words under the expert guidance of a supervisory committee. 

PhD by Papers

As an alternative to the standard dissertation, we now also offer you the choice of writing a thesis which consists of three or four self-standing academic articles on different aspects of a single topic. Birmingham is one of the first philosophy departments in the UK to offer you this option of a “PhD by Papers”. 

Rather than writing a single book-like thesis examining a single topic, you may instead write a thesis comprising three or four separate (though thematically unified) papers, in the style of philosophy journal articles. Although this style of PhD thesis is very popular at top US departments, and offers many advantages for students, it is rare in the UK. The advantages of this option include:

  • Ideas don’t always come in book-shaped packages. Our PhD by Papers format recognises that, allowing you greater scope to follow your interests.
  • If you would like to become an academic philosopher, you will need to publish in philosophical journals, preferably before finishing your PhD. Our PhD by Papers means your work towards publishable papers is always work towards the PhD thesis, improving your academic job prospects along the way.

The PhD by Papers format is an option for all Birmingham Philosophy PhD students, not a separate course of study. So if you are interested in this, simply apply as normal for the Philosophy PhD programme.

Additional information on both formats

You will be assigned a lead supervisor from our full-time staff and one or more co-supervisors drawn from our entire staff.

You can study PhD programmes in Philosophy on campus or by distance learning. Please note that if you are studying with us by distance learning, there is a compulsory annual visit to campus (every two years for part-time PhD students) - see our distance learning webpage which includes frequently asked questions about distance learning to find out more.

All PhD candidates are provided with regular meetings with the members of their supervisory committee. The principal role of these meetings is to guide candidates through the process of conceiving, researching and writing their dissertations. In addition, the departmental Director of Research Students will function as an academic advisor, providing general academic assistance and guidance. 

You are also encouraged to attend our weekly Postgraduate Research Seminar and the regular meetings of the Department's Philosophy Society, and Staff Work-in-Progress Seminar. We also encourage you to apply for funds to attend and participate in graduate conferences.

If you are interested in our postgraduate research programmes in Philosophy, please have a look at our research areas and contact the departmental Director of Research Admissions, Dr Maja Spener  for advice on formulating your research proposal.

At Birmingham you also have the option of studying languages, free of charge. Almost no other UK University offers you the opportunity to learn the intense graduate academic language skills which you may need to pursue your research.

Why study this course

  • Times Higher Education ranked the Department of Philosophy second in the country for its performance in the latest Research Excellence Framework exercise, with 49% of our research judged to be ‘world-leading’.
  • The Department includes the Centre for the Study of Global Ethics, which was founded in 2001, and was the first of its kind in the UK. The Centre was set up to address the practical and theoretical issues raised by globalisation. Global Ethics has natural affinities with Political Science and International Relations, as well as the Institute of Applied Social Studies.
  • The Department is home to an expanding, energetic and friendly community of philosophers. Our staff produce world-leading research in all core areas of contemporary philosophy and a number of speciality areas.
  • Birmingham is one of the first philosophy departments in the UK to offer you the “PhD by Papers” style of completion.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2018/19 are as follows:

  • UK/EU: £4,270 full-time; £2,135 part-time*
  • International: £16,320 full-time

* For UK/EU postgraduate research students the University fee level is set at Research Council rates and as such is subject to change. The final fee will be announced by Research Councils UK in spring 2018.

The above fees quoted are for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

Fee status

Eligibility for UK/EU or international fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students.

We can also confirm that EU students who are already studying at the University of Birmingham or who have an offer to start their studies in the 2018-19 academic year will continue to be charged the UK fee rate applicable at the time, provided this continues to be permitted by UK law. The UK Government has also confirmed that students from the EU applying to courses starting in the 2018-19 academic year will not see any changes to their loan eligibility or fee status. This guarantee will apply for the full duration of the course, even if the course finishes after the UK has left the EU.

Paying your fees

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuition fees and funding.

Funding opportunities

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate funding database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

Entry requirements

If you are applying for a PhD then you will usually need to hold a good Masters qualification in Philosophy or in a relevant subject. Any academic and professional qualifications or relevant professional experience you may have are normally taken into account, and in some cases, form an integral part of the entrance requirements.

If you are applying for distance learning research programmes, you will also be required to demonstrate that you have the time, commitment, facilities and experience to study by distance learning.

If your qualifications are non-standard or different from the entry requirements stated here, please contact the admissions tutor.

How to apply

Before you make your application

Please refer to our six step process on applying for PhD, MA by Research and MRes opportunities for Arts subject areas.

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Please note: Postgraduate research can start at any time during the year, but it is important to allow time for us to review your application and communicate a decision. If you wish to start in September, we would recommend that you aim to submit your application and supporting documents by the end of June.

Additional guidance for applicants to the PhD Distance Learning study mode.

Making your application


When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

Our expert supervision spans across a wide range of areas, including: Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science; Philosophy of Language; Philosophy of Logic; Philosophy of Mathematics; Moral Philosophy (theoretical and practical); Metaphysics and Epistemology; and Philosophy of Religion.

Members of academic staff in the department, and their area of research expertise are listed below:

Professor Lisa Bortolotti 

  • Philosophy of psychology
  • Philosophy of psychiatry
  • Empirically informed philosophy of mind
  • Biomedical ethics

Dr Darragh Byrne

  • Reference
  • Consciousness (especially semantic and epistemic issues)
  • First-person knowledge
  • A priori knowledge
  • Objectivity, realism and anti-realism
  • Rule-following and the normativity of meaning

Dr Will Davies

  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Philosophy of Psychology and Cognitive Science
  • Philosophy of Psychiatry
  • Epistemology

Dr Nikk Effingham

  • Analytic metaphysics (including areas that crossover into philosophy of mind and philosophy of science)
  • Certain areas of philosophy of religion

Dr Salvatore Florio

  • Philosophy of Logic
  • Philosophy of Language
  • Philosophy of Mathematics
  • Philosophical Logic
  • Mathematical Logic

Dr Nicholas Jones

  • Metaphysics
  • Philosophy of language

Dr Iain Law

  • Metaethics
  • Applied ethics
  • Philosophy of medicine
  • Ethical theories

Dr Herjeet Marway

  • Global Ethics
  • Moral and Political Philosophy

Professor Yujin Nagasawa

  • Philosophy of religion
  • Philosophy of mind
  • Applied philosophy (medical ethics, meaning of life, death)

Dr Jonathan Parry

  • Ethics
  • Global Ethics
  • Political Philosophy

Dr Wouter Peeters

  • Global Ethics
  • Political Philosophy

Dr Merten Reglitz 

  • Political Philosophy
  • Ethics
  • Global Ethics

Dr Alex Silk

  • Philosophy of language
  • Normative ethics
  • Metaethics
  • Formal semantics and pragmatics

Dr Maja Spener

  • Philosophy of mind
  • Philosophy of psychology and cognitive science
  • Epistemology

Professor Scott Sturgeon

  • Epistemology
  • Metaphysics
  • Philosophy of science
  • Philosophy of mind

Dr Jussi Suikkanen

  • Metaethics
  • Ethical theories
  • Happiness and wellbeing
  • Population ethics and ethics of global warming
  • Practical reason, reasons, rationality, and value
  • Certain topics in political philosophy such as distributive justice

Dr Ema Sullivan-Bissett

  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Philosophy of Psychology
  • Philosophy of Psychiatry

Professor Heather Widdows

  • Bioethics and public health
  • Global ethics, global justice, and duties beyond borders
  • Iris Murdoch
  • Moral theory, particularly virtue ethics
  • Neo-colonialism and multiculturalism
  • Women's rights and reproductive rights
  • Ethics of war, terrorism and torture
  • The application of moral theory to policy and practice

Dr Jeremy Williams

  • Moral and political philosophy
  • Applied ethics (especially abortion and ethics of war)

Dr Alastair Wilson

  • Metaphysics
  • Epistemology
  • Philosophy of physics
  • Philosophy of science

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University.

The University's Careers Network provides advice and information specifically for postgraduates that will help you to develop an effective career and skills development strategy, and to make the most of your time with us at the University. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated careers and employability team to deliver tailored programmes of careers events and local support.

You will have opportunities to: meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs; attend employer presentations and skills workshops; receive individual guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique; and access to comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.

You will also be able to access our full range of careers support for up to two years after graduation.

Postgraduate employability: Philosophy

Birmingham's Philosophy postgraduates develop a range of skills that are highly desirable in the job market, including: articulacy; precise analytical thought; clarity; rigour in formulating complex problems; and the ability to analyse and construct sound arguments.

Due to the transferable nature of their skills, Philosophy postgraduates traditionally enter a wide range of employment areas, from teaching and lecturing to publishing. Employers that graduates have gone on to work for include: BBC; Friends of the Earth; Birmingham Children?s Hospital; Highways England; and University of Birmingham.

Birmingham has been transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Get involved

In addition to the student groups hosted by the Guild of Students, each school runs its own social activities, research fora, seminars and groups for postgraduates.


Coming to Birmingham to study might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

Support in your studies

We offer an Academic Writing Advisory Service, which aims to help your transition to postgraduate research. The service offers guidance on organising your ideas and structuring an argument, referencing and avoiding plagiarism, being clear and coherent and editing your work for academic style and linguistic accuracy. Individual support is provided by a professional academic writing advisor via tutorials or email, as well as through the provision of online materials.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and cultures, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work. Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.