MA Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science

Start date
September
Duration
1 year full-time; 2 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Taught
Fees

Annual tuition fee for 2020/21:
UK/EU: £9,250 full-time
International: £19,170 full-time
More detail.

What is it to have a mind? Are mental properties reducible to neural properties? Could a computer ever truly think? Can we know what it is like to be a bat?

On this programme you will explore issues in philosophy of mind and the cognitive sciences, such as the nature of intentionality, physicalism, rationality and interpretation, computation, perception, and consciousness.

You will be taught by one the UK’s largest and most vibrant communities of philosophers of mind and cognition, who pursue original research on a wide range of topics giving you expert supervision for your dissertation.

You will also have the option to pursue modules in the Departments of Psychology or Computer Science. This programme is aimed at graduates with a background in philosophy, psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, computer science, or mathematics. It can also be used as a route into PhD research.

By studying philosophy you can develop many skills that are useful in both academic and non-academic settings:

  • Critical thinking skills: Good philosophers can analyse problems and assess opinions from different viewpoints. Philosophers do not take anything for granted. This is highly useful for problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Communication skills: Good philosophers can present and explain abstract concepts and complex arguments in an accessible manner. They are also good at persuading others by presenting logical and coherent arguments.
  • Writing skills: Good philosophers can communicate effectively in writing. They can write clearly and concisely without compromising rigour.
  • Research skills: Good philosophers can identify problems and collect necessary information to resolve them in a timely manner.
 

College of Arts and Law postgraduate scholarships available

The College of Arts and Law is offering a range of scholarships for our postgraduate taught and research programmes to ensure that the very best talent is nurtured and supported.

Learn more about our scholarships

The lectures were uniformly engaging, thought provoking and regularly stretching – exactly what I wanted. The support offered by the University ensures that everyone has the opportunity to do the best that they can and get the most out of the course.

James

Why Study this Course?

  • Taught by experts – you will study alongside some of the finest minds in Philosophy. Times Higher Education ranked the Department of Philosophy second in the country for its performance in the latest Research Excellence Framework exercise.
  • Friendly and relaxed atmosphere – Staff within the Department of Philosophy are very approachable and happy to offer additional advice on academic performance.
  • Small classes – teaching on the masters-level modules involve mainly small-group seminars allowing you to really get to grips with the learning material. Experience of engagement with staff at an equal level
  • Be a part of an active postgraduate community – you will join a lively and stimulating Department where you can contribute to on-going research activities, including research seminars and events such as our weekly speaker series and various workshops, reading groups and conferences throughout the year.
  • Access to a wide range of services – as a postgraduate student you will have access to services such as the Academic Writing Advisory Service and the Bank of Assessed Work which will aid your transition from undergraduate to postgraduate level, or back into academia after a time away. 

The postgraduate experience

The College of Arts and Law offers excellent support to its postgraduates, from libraries and research spaces, to careers support and funding opportunities. Learn more about your postgraduate experience.

Modules

You will study three core modules plus three optional modules before completing your 15,000 word dissertation.

Core modules

You will study three core modules: 

Research Skills and Methods

This module provides an introduction to the methods of contemporary philosophy. Topics addressed typically include: critical thinking in philosophy, reading in philosophy, research skills, dissertation planning, and presenting philosophical arguments in written work. You will also participate in online sessions focused on generic research skills.
Assessment: Two 2,000-word essays

Philosophy of Mind

This module covers a range of advanced topics in philosophy of mind. In any given year of delivery several of the following topics will be addressed in detail: theories of consciousness, dualism, behaviourism, functionalism, anomalous monism, the representational theory of mind, externalism vs. internalism, mental causation, interpretationism, representationalism, perception, non-conceptual content, personal identity, self-knowledge.
Assessment: One or two written assignments totalling 4,000 words

Plus one of:   

Philosophy of Cognitive Science

This module covers key topics in the Philosophy of Cognitive Science. These will include foundational topics such as the Computational Theory of Mind and modularity, issues that have been central in the formation and development of cognitive science since the 1950s. We shall also address some more specialised and contemporary topics, which may include, for example, the scientific study of consciousness and perception, disorders or impairments of cognition, animal minds, and the issue as to what brain imaging techniques such as fMRI can tell us about the mind.
Assessment: One or two written assignments totalling 4,000 words

Philosophy and Mental Health

This module provides an overview of contemporary debates in philosophy psychiatry and Mental Health. In each seminar a new issue will be investigated, but there will be three interrelated threads throughout the module. One is about the nature of psychiatry. The second is about the sense in which psychiatric disorders are disorders of the self. The third is about how we should respond to people with psychiatric disorders, considered from a wide range of perspectives, including interpersonal, clinical, ethical, legal and public health policy. These themes will be addressed by reference to different aspects of psychiatry (classification, diagnosis, aetiology, research, treatment, etc.) and different psychiatric disorders (addiction, anorexia, dementia, dissociation, schizophrenia, personality disorders, psychopathy, etc.) and different disciplinary frameworks. The module will also have a practical element involving structured, outcome-focussed deliberation about difficult cases highlighting these threads and their interrelations.
Assessment: One or two written assignments totalling 4,000 words 

Optional modules

You will also choose three optional modules. Options typically available in Philosophy include:

  • Bioethics
  • Epistemology
  • Ethics and Global Ethics
  • God, Freedom and the Meaning of Life
  • Human Rights
  • Metaphysics
  • Philosophy and Mental Health (if not taken as core)
  • Philosophy of Cognitive Science (if not taken as core)
  • Philosophy of Health and Happiness
  • Philosophy of Language
  • Topics in Global Justice

For more information, see our Philosophy postgraduate modules.

However, up to 40 credits can also be taken from outside the discipline, such as from the School of Psychology or the School of Computer Science.

Options typically available in Psychology include:

Autumn term

  • BICN-Fundamentals in Brain Imaging Methods 
  • Design and Analysis 1
  • Introduction to Computational Methods 
  • Introduction to Neuroscientific Methods
  • Matlab Programming

Spring term

  • Advanced Brain Imaging in Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Advanced Computational Methods 
  • Application of Electrophysiological Approaches in Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Design and Analysis 2
  • Mind, Brain, and Models  

Admission to Psychology modules is at the discretion of the relevant module lead, subject to students demonstrating that they have the relevant background and skills to complete the module.

Dissertation

In addition to your taught modules, you will conduct a piece of independent research with the support of a
supervisor, culminating in a 15,000-word dissertation.


Please note that the optional module information listed on the website for this programme is intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.

Fees

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2020/21 are as follows:

  • UK / EU: £9,250 full-time; £4,625 part-time
  • International: £19,170 full-time

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.


For EU students applying for the 2020/21 academic year

The UK Government has confirmed that EU students will continue to be eligible for 'home fee status' for entry in September 2020, and will continue to have access to financial support available via student loans for the duration of their course. For more information take a look at the gov.uk website.

Paying your fees

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

Scholarships and studentships

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.

How To Apply

Please review our Entry Requirements before making your application.

Application deadlines

The deadline for International students to apply is Wednesday 1 July 2020. The deadline for UK/EU students is Thursday 10 September 2020.

Before you make your application

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.

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 Standard Requirements

The programme allows for multi-disciplinary entry. You need an upper second-class Honours degree, or equivalent, preferably in Philosophy or another relevant subject (e.g. Psychology, Linguistics, Neuroscience, Computer Science, Mathematics), or a Joint Honours degree of which Philosophy or another relevant subject is a component.

If your undergraduate degree is in another subject, you are still very welcome to apply. We consider every application on its merits and we are happy to consider applicants with diverse academic backgrounds. Your level of academic achievement, letters of reference, and personal statement will all have strong influence on our decision. We may also require you to submit a writing sample. This should be around 3-4 pages long, and although it does not need to be a Philosophy essay, it should provide strong evidence of your potential for the type of discursive, analytical, writing that is required in Philosophy at postgraduate level.

We ask you to submit two academic references as part of your application, but if you have been out of academia for some time we will also accept a professional reference in addition to one academic reference.

International/EU students

Academic requirements: We accept a range of qualifications from different countries - use our handy guide below to see what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements: standard language requirements apply for this course - IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band.. If you are made an offer of a place to study and you do not meet the language requirement, you have the option to enrol on our English for Academic Purposes Presessional Course - if you successfully complete the course, you will be able to fulfil the language requirement without retaking a language qualification.

IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band is equivalent to:

  • TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 21 in Reading, 21 Listening, 22 Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): Academic 59 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced - minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 169 in any component

International Requirements


As well as the taught modules you take on this programme, you are encouraged to participate in our weekly Postgraduate Seminar and in the regular meetings of PhilSoc, so you'll be able to gain insight from a range of academics and peers from across the department. 

Course delivery

You will take six taught modules and write a 15,000-word dissertation. We have two 11-week teaching terms per year, the autumn term and spring term. Term dates can be found on our website. Modules run for one term, and each module involves a two-hour weekly seminar which you are required to attend.

In addition to the weekly seminars, you will have to allow adequate study time for each of your modules. Each module represents a total of 200 hours of study time, including preparatory reading, homework and assignment preparation, and attending seminars.

Studying full-time

You will spread your module work over the two teaching terms, ideally studying three modules in each term. However, this depends on your module choices and it is also possible to study two in one term and four in another. Most of the work for your dissertation takes place in the summer term. 

Studying part-time

If you do a part-time programme, you spread your modules over four teaching terms (autumn and spring of year one, and autumn and spring of year two). You will work on your dissertation in year two; again, most of this work takes place in the summer term.

Support with academic writing

As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA/MSc programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.

International students can access support for English Language development and skills through the Birmingham International Academy (BIA).

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for your future career, but this can also be enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University and the College of Arts and Law.

The University's Careers Network provides expert guidance and activities especially for postgraduates, which will help you achieve your career goals. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated  careers and employability team who offer tailored advice and a programme of College-specific careers events.

You will be encouraged to make the most of your postgraduate experience and will have the opportunity to:

  • Receive one-to-one careers advice, including guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique, whether you are looking for a career inside or outside of academia
  • Meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs and employer presentations
  • Attend an annual programme of careers fairs, skills workshops and conferences, including bespoke events for postgraduates in the College of Arts and Law
  • Take part in a range of activities to demonstrate your knowledge and skills to potential employers and enhance your CV

What’s more, you will be able to access our full range of careers support for up to 2 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, and the ability to analyse and construct sound arguments.

Due to the transferable nature of these skills, Philosophy postgraduates traditionally enter a wide range of employment areas, from teaching and lecturing to social work. Employers that graduates have gone on to work for include BBC, Friends of the Earth, Birmingham Children?s Hospital, Highways England, Ministry of Justice and University of Birmingham. Over the past 5 years, 82% of Arts and Law postgraduates were in work and/or further study 6 months after graduation (DLHE 2012 - 2017).