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How to Get a Doctorate in Philosophy

Last Updated: January 30, 2024

This article was co-authored by Felipe Corredor . Felipe is a Senior College Admissions Consultant at American College Counselors with over seven years of experience. He specializes in helping clients from all around the world gain admission into America's top universities through private, one-on-one consulting. He helps guide clients through the entire college admissions process and perfect every aspect of their college applications. Felipe earned a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Chicago and recently received his MBA. This article has been viewed 60,436 times.

A doctorate is the highest degree you can earn in the field of philosophy. Earning a PhD in philosophy takes hard work and perseverance. The process of getting your PhD in philosophy varies depending on the university and program. However, almost all programs will require coursework, intense research, and a completed dissertation. Earning your doctorate in philosophy is difficult but with dedication and hard work, you can complete the requirements and get your PhD.

Applying to PhD Programs

Step 1 Select the PhD programs you would like to attend.

  • You should have at least an idea of your dissertation subject. Ideally, the PhD program you attend will have a strong background in your subfield. Look for the leading philosophers in your subfield and consider applying to their universities.
  • Most philosophy graduate programs are small which means there are many people applying for a few spots. You may want to apply to many different programs to increase your chance of acceptance.

Step 2 Take the GRE.

  • The GRE’s have a verbal, writing, and mathematics section. The first two are probably more important for a philosophy major, but a strong score in all sections will be necessary to be accepted into the competitive graduate programs.

Step 3 Prepare a writing sample.

  • If your undergraduate program required a thesis, consider submitting this as your sample. If a thesis was not required, consider writing one for the application. Your sample should be of the highest quality and thoroughly edited and proofread.

Completing the First Two Years of Graduate School

Step 1 Take a variety of classes during your first two years.

  • Most PhD programs will require 3-4 classes a semester for the first two years.
  • It is important to get the majority, if not all, of your coursework done during your first two years. The remainder of your PhD program should be focused on researching and writing your dissertation.

Step 2 Prepare a research proposal.

  • The research proposal should explain what your dissertation will add to the field of philosophy; what arguments your making, and the new theories you are proposing. It should be a relatively specific topic, and you should discuss it with your professors during your first two years of graduate school.
  • The research proposal should outline your plans for completing your dissertation. It should explain how your work will build on existing scholarship and outline each step of the dissertation writing process.
  • Most PhD programs will require that your proposal be accepted by the department before you progress to writing the dissertation.

Step 3 Complete your oral exam if necessary.

  • Many programs will award a master's degree after the successful completion of the coursework and exam.
  • Some programs will not give you a test but will still require formal approval before you advance to the dissertation-writing stage.

Writing Your Dissertation

Step 1 Select a dissertation advisor.

  • Talk to several faculty members, and try to envision working with them. Make sure you are comfortable working with the professor you ultimately choose, and that they will be available to advise you over the next several years.

Step 2 Review the existing scholarship relating to your topic.

  • You should also understand the history of research into your field, and how other scholars have contributed to it.
  • Your advisor can suggest books and authors to begin your research. Your dissertation should build on the research that has already been conducted.

Step 3 Research your dissertation.

  • You should travel to different archives, libraries, and philosophical institutions. Your research might also include interviews, surveys, and data analysis depending on your topic and subfield of philosophy.
  • Your dissertation should not simply be an overview of other people’s work; it should show your arguments and original research.
  • Your advisor will be crucial in the research process. Not only can they point you in the direction of sources, but they will help you analyze your research and what it means to your thesis.

Step 4 Begin writing your dissertation at least several months before the due date.

  • The exact length of your dissertation will vary depending on your university’s requirements and your subject. Typically, dissertations are between 70,000 and 100,000 words long. [6] X Research source
  • In addition to your main arguments, your dissertation needs to include a literature review, an explanation of your methods, a summary of your research, and an explanation as to how you arrived at your conclusions.

Step 5 Edit your dissertation.

  • In addition to your advisor, have other professors and philosophers review your work. The more people who edit your draft, the fewer changes you will have to make after your dissertation defense.

Completing Your Doctorate in Philosophy

Step 1 Defend your dissertation.

  • How the panel is selected varies by institution. In general, there is at least one member of your department present and one expert from outside your department. This expert should still be a philosophy expert; often they are philosophy professors from other schools.
  • Usually your advisor is present at the defense, but they are not a member of the panel.

Step 2 Make any changes that the panel suggests.

  • Generally, the changes that are required are minor. You should make them and then resubmit your dissertation. You will still be awarded your doctorate as planned. If major changes are required, you may have to take more time to implement them fully. This may delay your doctorate being awarded.

Step 3 Apply to graduate.

Expert Q&A

  • Because studying philosophy at an advanced level requires mastery of a specific type of writing and argumentation, it is important to study philosophy as an undergraduate. Doctoral programs will likely not accept students who do not have a broad background in the field; if you have majored in another subject, earning a master's in philosophy before applying to PhD programs might be best. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

how hard is it to get a phd in philosophy

  • One of the hardest things about earning a doctorate in philosophy is the financial burden that graduate school places on students. When applying to graduate programs, be sure to find departments that provide generous funding to their students, and consider the financial package when choosing your eventual place of study. Thanks Helpful 5 Not Helpful 1

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Get a PhD

  • ↑ https://theihs.org/blog/getting-a-phd-in-philosophy/
  • ↑ http://philosophy.columbia.edu/content/phd-program
  • ↑ https://libguides.uwf.edu/c.php?g=215199&p=1420520
  • ↑ https://www.findaphd.com/advice/doing/the-phd-journey.aspx

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As a PhD student in the Harvard philosophy program, you’ll have the opportunity to develop your ideas, knowledge, and abilities. You'll work with other doctoral students, our faculty, and visiting scholars, all in a stimulating and supportive environment. The program has strengths across a broad range of topics and areas, so you'll be able to pursue your interests wherever they may lead, especially in moral and political philosophy, aesthetics, epistemology, philosophy of logic, philosophy of language, the history of analytic philosophy, ancient philosophy, Immanuel Kant, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. In addition, students can pursue joint degrees with classics, Harvard Law School, and in Indian philosophy.

Incoming cohorts consist of five to eight students per year. You will have substantial access to our renowned faculty and all the resources that Harvard makes available. This relatively small size also gives students a sense of intellectual community.

The curriculum is structured to help you make your way towards a dissertation: graduate-level coursework, a second-year research paper, a prospectus to help you identify a dissertation topic, and then the dissertation itself. Past dissertations in the department have addressed a broad range of topics: Aristotle, Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau; contemporary moral and political philosophy; metaphysics; epistemology; and logic.

In addition to your research, you will also have the opportunity to develop your teaching skills in many different settings across the University.

You can find graduates of the PhD program in many universities. Some of our students have gone on to faculty positions at Yale University, Princeton University, Brown University, and Stanford University. Other graduates have gone on to diverse careers in, among others, the arts, the law, secondary education, and technology.

In addition to the standard PhD in philosophy, the department offers a PhD in classical philosophy in collaboration with the Department of the Classics and a coordinated JD/PhD program in conjunction with Harvard Law School.

Additional information on the graduate program is available from the Department of Philosophy and requirements for the degree are detailed in Policies .

Areas of Study

Philosophy | Classical Philosophy | Indian Philosophy 

For information please consult the Department webpage on the  graduate program overview .

Admissions Requirements

Please review admissions requirements and other information before applying. You can find degree program specific admissions requirements below and access additional guidance on applying from the Department of Philosophy .

Academic Background

Applicants to the program in Philosophy are required to have a solid undergraduate background in philosophy, indicating that they have a good grounding in the history of philosophy, as well as familiarity with contemporary work in ethics, epistemology and metaphysics, and logic.

Standardized Tests

GRE General: Optional

Writing Sample

A writing sample is required as part of the application and should be between 12 to 30 pages long. The sample must address a substantial philosophical problem, whether it is an evaluation or presentation of an argument, or a serious attempt to interpret a difficult text. The upload of the writing sample should be formatted for 8.5-inch x 11-inch paper, 1-inch margins, with double-spaced text in a common 12-point font, such as Times New Roman.

Applicants seeking admission to the coordinated JD/PhD program must apply to and be separately admitted to Harvard Law School and the Department of Philosophy.

Theses & Dissertations

Theses & Dissertations for Philosophy

See list of Philosophy faculty


Questions about the program.

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What You Need to Know Before Getting a PhD in Philosophy

What You Need to Know Before Getting a PhD in Philosophy

Is a getting PhD in Philosophy an attainable career option in today’s world?

Whether you are interested in influencing academia or becoming a scholar at a think tank, obtaining a doctorate degree in philosophy can be a rewarding and realistic step in your career—if you are willing to work hard.

Even getting into a graduate program can be competitive. Dr. Bill Glod notes that there could be over 200 applicants for every five spots at some of the top schools. But with the proper planning, you can be successful despite the competitive field.

In the podcast below, Dr. Glod walks you how to get into a good PhD program—and what to expect once you enroll—so that you can succeed in this field.

A few things you should think about before getting a PhD in Philosophy:

  • Whether a PhD in Philosophy is really right for you, and how to prepare for a career in Philosophy as an undergraduate.
  • Different types of programs in Philosophy.
  • Different methodologies you’ll encounter within the field.
  • How to approach the application process if you are sympathetic to classical liberal ideas.
  • How many programs you should apply to, and what you should be looking for in a program.
  • What classes to take once you enroll.


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The APA Guide to Graduate Programs in Philosophy

To browse all programs, leave the fields below blank and click the green search button. 

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PhilJobs: Jobs for Philosophers—the most complete listing of philosophy jobs

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The  Guide to Graduate Programs in Philosophy , published biennially until the early 2000s, was relaunched in 2012 as an annual online resource. The guide compiles data on both doctoral and master’s degree programs in philosophy at institutions throughout the US and Canada, offering prospective students, job candidates, and other members of the profession a rich resource on post-graduate education and employment in philosophy. 

All data in the guide are self-reported by representatives of the institutions. Any changes or corrections should be sent directly to them.

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Department of Philosophy, The University of Chicago

PhD Program Overview

Academic mission.

The PhD Program in Philosophy offers an intensive course of study in preparation for a career as a scholar and teacher of philosophy. The program in particular consists of four major components. (1) Completing coursework in the three main areas of contemporary philosophy and in the history of philosophy. (2) Participating in a paper revision workshop, in which students significantly revise an essay originally written for a seminar in consultation with faculty and other students. (3) Defining an intellectual project and writing the PhD dissertation under the direction of a faculty committee. (4) Teaching as assistants in faculty-taught lecture courses and then as lecturers in stand-alone tutorials and small courses. In addition to these major components, students and faculty also participate in a variety of workshops and reading groups in which students present their own work for criticism by their peers and faculty. Throughout the PhD program, students and faculty join together in a continuous, rich philosophical dialogue. And faculty also support that dialogue and students’ intellectual work through advising, mentoring, ongoing academic evaluations, and canny career advice.

Note: The PhD Program in Philosophy is the only graduate program to which the Department of Philosophy admits students; those students interested in a masters degree can apply directly to the Masters of Arts Program in the Humanities ( MAPH ). This is a standalone program in the Division of Humanities within which students can take a number of graduate courses in philosophy. Elsewhere on this site we have a more thorough explanation of how our faculty interests serve our MAPH students.

Culture of the PhD Program

The PhD Program in Philosophy is intellectually inclusive, capacious in its research and teaching interests, and unusual in the extent and depth of the collective engagement with both the analytic and continental traditions. All programs now promote their interdisciplinarity, but we’ve been enjoying our wide range of philosophical interests for decades here at Chicago—thanks in part to the thorough integration of the interdisciplinary Council of Advanced Studies workshops into the PhD program and also to departmental colloquia, in which departmental and visiting faculty speak (and are challenged) on various philosophical issues. The department hums with free-flowing philosophical discussions among students and faculty occurring in seminars, workshops, colloquia, the hallways of Stuart Hall, and the Friday afternoon coffee hours in our Anscombe Library.

Socially, the department also tries to make sure that every student’s voice is heard in the running and shaping of the department and its PhD program. There are always two elected graduate student representatives who help keep channels of communication open and flowing in both directions between the departmental faculty and graduate student body, and faculty meet with students regularly about issues of concern. The department also has a faculty diversity liaison; a Diversity, Inclusivity, Climate, and Equity (DICE) Committee composed of departmental faculty and graduate students; and a graduate student outreach coordinator. We all work to ensure that the PhD program, courses, and the departmental culture feel welcome to students from all backgrounds. Here is  more information on DICE .

The Women in Philosophy (WIP) group organizes bi-quarterly social gatherings for graduate women in the department. Gatherings typically consist of dinners or brunches hosted at the home of one of our members. While the primary purpose of these gatherings has typically been that of socializing, they are also a space in which people should feel free to raise and discuss any issues pertaining to life in the department. These social events build solidarity and community for the women in our department, and in general there is a high level of cooperation and collaboration between graduate women in the department. Here is  more information on WIP .

The University of Chicago is situated in the heart of the South Side of Chicago, one of the country’s most culturally and intellectually rich cities . Life in Chicago is itself also inclusive: it’s a diverse, vibrant city with many social possibilities and livable—and strikingly affordable!—neighborhoods for students.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House (on the University of Chicago campus)

The Graduate Program in Philosophy

Eitan Fischer

Graduate Degree

Stanford's graduate program in Philosophy is by any measure among the world's best. We attract  excellent students , we provide them ample access to  leading scholars  for instruction and advice, and we turn out accomplished philosophers ready to compete for the best jobs in a very tight job market. We offer both MA and PhD degrees.

Doctoral Program

Masters Program

Our  graduate students  are part of a vigorous philosophical community.

Our tradition is to treat and regard our graduate students as much like colleagues as like students. Faculty and graduate students participate in workshops, in reading groups, in colloquium discussions and in nearly all department life on an equal basis. The Department covers the cost of graduate student participation in lunches and dinners with visiting speakers. Our graduate students participate in the running of the department. Two graduate students serve as representatives at department meetings, a graduate student serves on the Graduate Studies Committee, and graduate students also serve on faculty hiring committees. Graduate students are essential to our efforts to recruit new graduate students each year.

Graduate students have a lively society of their own, the Hume Society that is responsible for a range of both intellectual and social events.

Graduate students take a mixture of courses and seminars both in our department in other departments. They also regularly take directed reading courses or independent study courses when special needs are not met by scheduled courses or when students are working directly on their dissertations.

Our  calendar  is packed with a range of philosophical events. We have a regular  Colloquia series  with visiting speakers on Friday afternoons. Our Colloquia are followed by receptions for the speakers hosted by the graduate students followed by dinner with the speaker. In addition to the regular colloquia series, every year we host the  Immanuel Kant Lectures . Our graduate students, along with other local graduate students,  organize the  Berkeley/Stanford/Davis Conference  where every year graduate students have the opportunity to present papers to an even larger philosophical community.

Many more informal reading and research groups,  including the Social Ethics and Normative Theory Workshop, the Global Justice and Political Theory Workshop, and the  Logical Methods in the Humanities Workshop , existing within the department and the university and are able to invite speakers from all across the world.

The affiliated  Center for Ethics in Society  hosts many different events including the annual lectures such as   Tanner Lectures in Human Values , the   Wesson Lectures on democratic theory and practice , and the  Arrow Lecture Series on Ethics and Leadership , in addition to a vast range of other  conferences, lectures and workshops  on ethics and political philosophy.

The  Center for the Explanation of Consciousness  (CEC) is a research initiative at  Center for Study of Language and Information  which is devoted to studying materialistic explanations of consciousness. The CEC hosts talks and symposia from a variety of viewpoints exploring the nature of conscious experience. They also sponsor reading groups during the term, led by faculty and graduate students.

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The online application is usually available starting in early September. But there's no strategic advantage to applying early; we review all our applications at the same time. Just make sure all your materials get to us by January 7 if you are applying for the PhD program.

The application is accessible online. The deadline for PhD admissions is January 7 (or the first business day after that), and the application must be submitted online . There is an application fee . (Some students in special circumstances are eligible for a fee waiver .)

One part of your application is the online form. In addition to the form, you will also submit several kinds of supporting material. 

You will be asked to provide:

A 1-2 page statement of academic purpose, describing past and present work as it relates to your intended field of study, and anything unusual we should know when evaluating your application.

The application will also prompt you to submit an optional personal history statement. The personal history statement is truly optional. If you do feel that there is information relevant to your application, a brief paragraph will normally suffice. It will not be held against you if you choose not to include a personal history statement.

A CV or resume

A writing sample

This should be an example of polished, substantive philosophical writing. It should display your philosophical abilities at their strongest, and will need to manifest analytical skills on a par with students already in our program. It may be the most important part of your application. A reasonable length for this is 20-25 double-spaced pages. Some applicants submit more than one writing sample; this is alright if, for example, they display very different aspects of your philosophical capacities (for example, a paper in philosophical logic and one in ancient philosophy). If they don't, we'll most likely only look at one of the papers submitted. Short 10-page papers of the sort written for a class or a tutorial rarely show us enough of a candidate's ability to be successful, and sending several of these is no better. Applications to our PhD program are intensely competitive. You're best off taking extra time to select your best philosophical work and develop it into a mature, interesting piece of writing.

Sometimes students send us sections of longer pieces of writing; this is ok in principle but what you submit should be self-contained and should be enough on its own for us to reliably evaluate you.

To enable anonymous review, author's name and other identifying information should not be included in the writing sample.


You are strongly encouraged to scan and submit these electronically when you submit your application (with English translations, if needed). Unofficial transcripts are acceptable but if you are admitted, you will have to submit final and official paper copies of your transcripts later.

If your school is in the US, and your GPA is not shown on the transcript, you'll need to calculate it and supply it in the application.

Here are further instructions and FAQs about transcripts.

We ask that you include all of these documents as part of your online application. 

The GRE general test is optional for the upcoming 2023-2024 cycle only. We will consider GRE test scores if they are submitted.

Either the TOEFL or the IELTS is required of all applicants who are not native English speakers or who do not have a bachelor's or master's degree from an institution where the language of instruction is English.

Finally, you'll need to ask several faculty who know you well to submit letters of recommendation to us. We ask for three letters; you can provide up to five if there are special reasons for doing so. Here are further details about letters.

In accordance with GSAS policy, we do not accept letters of recommendation from credentials services, such as Interfolio. Please have your references upload their letters directly to the online application. Additionally, we do not accept any other documents through Interfolio and other services. The statement of academic purpose should be included in your online application and not sent through them. Transcripts and translations should be uploaded to your online application, as well.

Weaker GREs or grades do not decisively exclude a candidate. Coming from a lesser-known school is not much of a handicap, if other parts of the application are strong. Letters from philosophers (or faculty in affiliated departments) are much more useful to us than any other sort of letter. Finally, the writing sample is what you have most control over.

As a matter of policy, we cannot go into further details about what makes an application successful, or how to improve your application.

In order to enroll in the Graduate School of Arts & Science (GSAS), you must have received a bachelor's degree or its equivalent from a college or university of acceptable standing. (In some countries, the equivalent degree is there called a "masters" degree.) It is not formally required that your bachelor's degree have been in philosophy. However, your application won't be successful unless we can see you have a comparable level of preparation.

There is no requirement to have done (what in the US we call) a master's degree—in some places, these are called "MPhil" or "BPhil" or "MLitt" degrees—before applying to our PhD program. You can apply directly to the PhD, and many of our applicants do. However many others, especially those with thinner undergraduate backgrounds in philosophy, have done some master's work.

If you think your background and preparation in philosophy aren't strong enough yet to get you into a competitive PhD program, doing a masters degree can help strengthen your application for the PhD. Not because we're impressed you've done the extra degree, but because it puts you in a position to give us a stronger writing sample, and gives more faculty the opportunity to see you doing advanced work, and write more useful letters of recommendation.

Some students without much formal training in philosophy have been extraordinarily talented at it and have been able to demonstrate this to admissions committees: for example, by writing papers of publishable quality. However, the overwhelming majority of untrained students aren't yet ready to enter competitive PhD programs.

Not at all. We often encourage our own students to do just this. It often gives people better lives, and makes them more ready for grad school when they get to it. At the same time, though, when you do apply we'll want to see that you've actively and recently been doing work of the sort our grad students do. If you've been outside of academia for a while, you'll need to find other ways to do that.

No, I'm sorry, we can't make specific such judgments until we formally review your application. And even if we could, we can't give feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of individual applications.

For these and other international student questions, view the FAQs for international student applicants .

The TOEFL or IELTS test is required of all applicants who are not native English speakers. The TOEFL/IELTS requirement is waived if you will have completed a bachelor or master's degree at an institution where the language of instruction is English. You don't need to do anything to inform the grad school that you're eligible for this waiver; they can determine that from your regular application materials.

For further details, review the GSAS Application Instructions  and the GSAS Testing Requirements FAQs .

The graduate school requires official test scores, sent to them directly from the GRE, TOEFL, or IELTS programs. Have them sent to New York University—GSAS, code 2596. The TOEFL requires you to list a department code; you should select the code that is most appropriate for your field of study. You may also use code 99. However, do not use code 00—we will not receive your test scores if you report 00 as the TOEFL department code. Also, do not leave the field blank. If you do, it will become code 00 and we will not receive your test scores. For IELTS scores, they must be sent directly to New York University, Graduate School of Arts and Science, New York ,NY. No code is needed for IELTS.

Often there are constraints on when you'll be able to take the GRE and TOEFL tests. You should schedule them early in the fall. Every year, some students end up scheduling them too late and then email us frantically asking what exceptions we can make for them. There's little we can do. If your test scores won't reach us until (shortly) after the application deadline, then self-report the scores on your application, or email them to us as soon as they are available. However, we may have already set your application aside as incomplete; and we make no promises to go back and reconsider it. Also, the grad school must receive your official test scores by the time we make our final decisions, or we won't be permitted to make you an offer.

We see all of your scores.

Please don't do this. It turns out to be a huge amount of work for us and for the grad school. These are things that DON'T justify sending us any update or new material:

  • you accidentally sent us the statement of academic purpose that was addressed to Columbia
  • your paper which was under consideration for ... has now been accepted, and you want to update your CV
  • you have a newer draft of your writing sample, or you accidentally sent one that left out a few changes

If you have some more compelling reason to update your application, then you can email [email protected] .

GES gets applications to us, and we begin reviewing them, in mid-January. We make no promises whatsoever to include materials submitted late in our review.

Please review your Application Status Page which has a checklist of the various parts of the application and whether we have received them or not.

Philosophy gets over 300 PhD applications each year, and are typically permitted to make fewer than 10 first-round offers, plus a small number of second-round offers, aiming to get an entering class of 4-8 students. This means we accept around 3% or fewer of our applicants. For comparison, Yale Law School's acceptance rate is around 7%, and Harvard Law School's acceptance rate is around 11%.

We aim to make all our admissions decisions by the end of the second full week of March.  Our admissions decision must be finalized with the Graduate School before applicants are informed whether their application was successful, a process which may take up to another week after the decisions have been made.  Graduate School policy does not permit us to answer individual queries about decisions.

If you're worried that an announcement hasn't reached you, the best thing you can do is make sure you update us with changes to your email address. Do so by writing  [email protected] .

There are websites where applicants say what schools they've heard decisions from. Sometimes there are phony reports of NYU decisions on these sites. I don't know why. We will attempt to get our real decisions to you as soon as we can. Decisions are not available by phone.

As stated above, we get many excellent applications and can only extend offers to a small handful of them. Many strong applications are unsuccessful. As a matter of policy, we are not permitted to discuss details regarding individual decisions.

No. The application and all materials submitted to the Graduate School become the property of NYU and will not be returned under any circumstances.

Only your GRE scores (retained for five years) and TOEFL/IELTS scores (retained for two years). Review the FAQ for Re-applying for Admission .

If you are applying for the dual-degree JD/PhD program, you need to apply separately to both NYU Philosophy and NYU Law School. Each program's decisions are made independently, on the basis of their usual standards, and they do not share application materials. The cooperative nature of the program consists in your being able to use certain coursework to satisfy some requirements simultaneously. (Here are more details .) If you're accepted to both programs, we'll gladly discuss this all further, and put you in touch with some other students who have pursued this dual-degree program. As stated above, LSAT scores cannot be substituted for the graduate school's GRE requirement.

Admission to a dual-degree program is contingent on acceptance by both programs. If one does not accept you, the other may at its discretion consider you for admission to that individual program.

Apart from dual-degree programs, GSAS policy permits students to apply for only a single program and degree in a given year. Review the policy around multiple applications .

Exceptions: Students who apply to the Philosophy PhD program and are unsuccessful can ask to be considered for the MA programs in  Bioethics , or the interdisciplinary Center for Experimental Humanities . To arrange this, let Graduate Enrollment Services (GES, they are GSAS's admissions office) know as soon as possible after getting the PhD decision. They will instruct you how to proceed.

You are allowed to apply simultaneously to multiple programs at NYU if they are in different schools, such as GSAS and Steinhardt.

Students tend to take from 5 to 7 years.

All our PhD offers come with the same standard financial aid package. No separate application is required. We will discuss the details with you when we extend an offer.

If you've won an external fellowship, be sure to let us know; this will affect the details of your financial aid.

Typically our students are able to support themselves in modest shared housing on the fellowships we offer. They don't need to take out educational loans. Opportunities for teaching are available and compensation is in addition to the fellowship offer. The terms of the fellowship (as well as student visas for international students) severely constrain your eligibility for other employment.

The university has a subsidized student housing program for first-year PhD students. Details about this will be supplied in your offer letter.

Most US graduate programs, including NYU, have signed the Council of Graduate Schools Resolution.

This promises that admitted students with financial aid offers aren't required to accept the offer before April 15 (or a later date if specified in your offer letter). However, if you're able to make a decision earlier, you are encouraged to do so. This helps students on our waiting list, and helps us better create the incoming class. But it is your privilege to take until the deadline, if you need to.

If you do accept an offer before April 15, you are allowed to cancel the acceptance at any time until April 15.

After April 15, you cannot accept an offer from another school (school #2), without first obtaining a written release from the school you originally accepted (school #1). And school #2 cannot offer you financial aid except conditional on your supplying that written release from school #1.

You can notify us by email of your decision to accept or decline our offer, but you must also follow the instructions in your offer letter, and (if you're accepting) submit a tuition deposit. The details will be spelled out in your offer letter.

In some circumstances this is possible. You have to petition for it, and your reasons for deferring should be academic.

Here are the departmental rules .

We are willing to consider applications from students seeking to transfer from other PhD programs. However, we make offers only to the most exceptional of these; our expectations are much higher than for beginning students.

Our PhD students can get some course credit for graduate-level work done previously (whether in a degree program or not). Generally this will be for up to two courses, and will be subject to approval by the Director of Graduate Studies. Please wait until we've made our admissions offers before asking us to pronounce about your individual circumstances.

Even if you don't get course credit for work done previously, you are welcome to use that work as a seed for work you'd submit here, either for a seminar or for an independent study you arrange with a member of our faculty.

Other local philosophy departments: sure! Sometimes, someone at NYU will have to nominally oversee your participation in the outside course, and approve the grade. But in practice, this doesn't make much difference.

Other departments at NYU: sure, if it's relevant to your philosophical studies. (Otherwise, your fellowship doesn't pay the tuition, and we wouldn't count it towards your degree.) In recent years, our students have attended courses in the Law School, and the linguistics, psychology, math, and physics departments. There are also some programs for language study, in NY or abroad; though this also has to be relevant to your studies, and in practice our students don't have to satisfy a separate language requirement.

One of the requirements of our PhD program is that 9 out of the 11 required courses be taken in the NYU Philosophy department (courses cross-listed in other departments count for these purposes). It's common to audit courses at other departments, even when one doesn't take them for credit.

Our PhD students do coursework for two years and only decide on their dissertation topic during their third year. A dissertation committee is formed at that time. We assign supervisors during your first years in the program, but this is just someone who talks to you about program requirements, problems you're having, and so on. There's no reason for it to be someone who's directly related to your research interests.

There is no general language requirement for the Ph.D. Language proficiency may be required for specialized research in particular areas (e.g., ancient philosophy) or topics (e.g., Kant).

See our placement record .

See our course listings .

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DPhil in Philosophy

  • Entry requirements
  • Funding and Costs

College preference

  • How to Apply

About the course

The Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) in Philosophy is a three- to four-year full-time research programme whereby you undertake a doctoral level research project under the guidance of your supervisor(s). This course is not available in part-time mode of study and is not offered via distance learning.

The primary aim of the faculty’s DPhil in Philosophy is to prepare you for an academic career in philosophy. Each year, the Faculty of Philosophy welcomes students from a range of courses who have already completed substantial graduate work in philosophy. Typically, students who are successfully admitted to the DPhil course have already completed study that is equivalent or nearly equivalent to that required for Oxford’s BPhil in Philosophy course. The faculty’s Graduate Studies Committee recommends progression from Oxford's BPhil in Philosophy to the DPhil course, considering the BPhil offers the opportunity to study a wide range of philosophical topics over two years as well as to focus on a narrower field of research interest (unlike most one-year masters in a specialised subject, as offered elsewhere).

Students may also progress from the faculty's specialised MSt programmes - the MSt in Philosophy of Physics , the MSt in Ancient Philosophy and the MSt in Practical Ethics .

As part of your doctoral research you will produce a substantial 75,000-word thesis. Students proceeding to the DPhil programme via the BPhil will normally write a DPhil thesis which is an expansion of their BPhil thesis and may be able to incorporate the full contents of their 30,000-word BPhil thesis into the 75,000-word DPhil thesis. However, this is not a formal requirement; sometimes the BPhil thesis topic is not suitable for expansion into a DPhil thesis, or you may wish to write your DPhil thesis on a different topic.

You are not required to attend any taught graduate classes as part of your DPhil degree, but you are encouraged to participate in lectures, classes, seminars and other educational opportunities offered throughout the university as relevant to your topic of study. The course has no fieldwork, industrial placement or year abroad element, but you may decide to attend conferences, workshops or research training elsewhere.

You may attend any graduate or undergraduate classes, seminars and lectures in and outside of the Faculty of Philosophy which are of interest to you, provided that those classes, seminars and lectures are open to you.

Each term, many graduate classes and research seminars are organised by faculty members in which graduate students are full and important participants.

Graduates are encouraged to organise their own seminars and reading groups, and they also run two societies: one invites distinguished speakers from the UK and around the world, while the other gives graduates the opportunity to present papers to a graduate audience.

Each year there is an Oxford Graduate Philosophy Conference, in which most graduate philosophy students participate in some way.

The Masters of Letters (MLitt) in Philosophy is awarded on the basis of a thesis of maximum 50,000 words. In practice, applicants are admitted for the MLitt only in exceptional cases, and few students submit a thesis for the MLitt. The MLitt is more often an exit award for DPhil students who fail or withdraw from the DPhil degree but meet the requirements for the MLitt.

Course Outcomes

As a DPhil student, you will research, summarise, present and defend an argument with some of the best scholars in their subject, under the direction of (an) experienced researcher(s), and will extend your skills and experiences.

During the DPhil you will learn new or hone existing intellectual, practical and transferable skills, as follows:

  • analyse and clarify an abstract question, grasp and critically compare different approaches to answering it, and develop an approach of your own
  • put complex arguments together for and against a position and take them apart
  • interpret difficult historical texts produced within a historical context
  • construct extensive pieces of writing that provide a clear overview of a subject and a sustained independent argument about it, presented in a lucid, objective and scholarly manner
  • demonstrate excellent oral presentation
  • have effective time organisation (since you must produce extensive pieces of written work at regular intervals and to tight deadlines)
  • sustain intensive work to a deadline over an extended period
  • make effective use of libraries, information technology and other sources of information


The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Faculty of Philosophy and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Faculty of Philosophy.

You should have regular one-to-one tuition sessions with your supervisor(s). These will normally happen twice per term but in some terms, especially at the start of the degree and during the final stages of the thesis, the number of sessions may be increased.

You will normally be assigned one supervisor to start with but towards the end of your course, after you have been awarded confirmation of status, it is usual for you to receive a second, additional supervisor, to offer another view on your work as well as to provide another reference for you if required.

You will initially be enrolled as a Probationary Research Student (PRS), unless you have previously completed the BPhil course at Oxford (see below). Normally in the third term after enrolment onto the DPhil as a PRS student, you are required to complete a transfer of status from PRS to full DPhil student status. Two appointed examiners will interview you on:

  • your thesis outline, which explains the intended line of argument or contribution to the subject;
  • a piece of written work in the area and philosophical style of the proposed thesis which is typically, though not necessarily, a draft chapter of the thesis.

If you progressed from the MSt in Philosophy of Physics course, you are required to write a 20,000-word thesis during your year as a PRS, as your MSt does not have a thesis element.

Normally at the end of the second year after you enrolled, you will be required to apply for confirmation of your DPhil student status. This application will involve an interview by one or two appointed examiners on:

  • your thesis outline, comprising both a reasoned statement of the nature of, and some detail on, the proposed thesis together with a provisional table of contents; and
  • a piece of written work intended as a part of the thesis, in final or near-final draft.

If you progress from the BPhil, you will normally enter the DPhil without being required to pass a year as a PRS and as a result you will normally apply for confirmation of DPhil status in the third term after enrolment onto the DPhil and, according to the Examination Regulations at time of publication, you will only have six terms (instead of the usual nine terms) of fee liability  for your DPhil.

The doctoral work culminates in a 75,000-word thesis that is defended orally in front of two appointed examiners ( viva voce ).

Graduate destinations

The DPhil in Philosophy's primary aim is to prepare students for an academic career in philosophy. Most DPhil graduates do indeed secure academic posts, as witnessed by the faculty's placement record .

The faculty provides a  placement scheme to help students seeking jobs within philosophy. Users of the placement scheme may ask their referees to send reference letters directly to the faculty where they will be held on file and sent out to universities or other academic institutions at the student’s request. The placement scheme is normally available to alumni until they have secured a tenured post.

The faculty's Placement Officer helps job applicants with the preparation of their CVs, provides advice about the presentation of material in an application dossier, and arranges practice interviews. The Placement Officer also holds a yearly introductory placement seminar, compulsory to those wishing to make use of the placement scheme. Also, students are invited to give talks based on material they propose to use in their writing samples or job talks, with an opportunity for comment and discussion. 

The faculty also runs an email mailing list for members of the placement scheme, which will be used to pass on job tips and news of vacancies.

The faculty runs a teaching scheme, lecturing scheme and a Graduate Teaching Register with the aim of providing teaching experience for those DPhil students who intend to pursue an academic career. In the case of the teaching scheme and Graduate Teaching Register, you will do a certain amount of teaching and marking under the guidance of a college fellow. If you are accepted into the lecturing scheme, you will be allowed to give an undergraduate lecture course of your own choice and design, consisting of four one-hour lectures.

Changes to this course and your supervision

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic, epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2024-25

Proven and potential academic excellence.

The requirements described below are specific to this course and apply only in the year of entry that is shown. You can use our interactive tool to help you  evaluate whether your application is likely to be competitive .

Please be aware that any studentships that are linked to this course may have different or additional requirements and you should read any studentship information carefully before applying. 

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:

  • the BPhil in Philosophy from the University of Oxford with a distinction or near-distinction grade, or an equivalent national or international qualification;  and
  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in philosophy or a closely-related degree which involved substantial engagement with philosophy.

However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.6 out of 4.0. However, most successful applicants have a GPA of 3.7 or above.

If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.

GRE General Test scores

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

You are not required to have any publications but these may be an advantage.

Further guidance

Applicants who achieve a distinction in the BPhil in Philosophy , the MSt in Philosophy of Physics , the MSt in Ancient Philosophy or the MSt in Practical Ethics are eligible for progression to the DPhil, provided that the faculty's Graduate Studies Committee is satisfied that their proposed thesis topic and outline indicate that they can be adequately supervised by members of the Philosophy Faculty. Students who pass the BPhil in Philosophy, the MSt in Philosophy of Physics, the MSt in Ancient Philosophy or the MSt in Practical Ethics without a distinction may be admitted to the DPhil at the Committee’s discretion.

All applications are assessed by the faculty's Graduate Studies Committee at the same time, after the application deadline has passed, and offers are made on a strictly comparative basis.

Applicants should not apply with more than one distinct research proposal.

English language proficiency

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's  higher level . If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.

*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) † Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides  further information about the English language test requirement .

Declaring extenuating circumstances

If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.

You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The  How to apply  section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application. The  How to apply  section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview

Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements described under that heading.

References  and  supporting documents  submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process. Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our ' After you apply ' pages provide  more information about how applications are assessed . 

Shortlisting and selection

Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:

  • socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of  the University’s pilot selection procedure  and for  scholarships aimed at under-represented groups ;
  • country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
  • protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.

Processing your data for shortlisting and selection

Information about  processing special category data for the purposes of positive action  and  using your data to assess your eligibility for funding , can be found in our Postgraduate Applicant Privacy Policy.

Admissions panels and assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

Other factors governing whether places can be offered

The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the  About  section of this page;
  • the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
  • minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.

Offer conditions for successful applications

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our ' After you apply ' pages provide more information about offers and conditions . 

In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:

Financial Declaration

If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a  Financial Declaration  in order to meet your financial condition of admission.

Disclosure of criminal convictions

In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any  relevant, unspent criminal convictions  before you can take up a place at Oxford.

Oxford is one of the world’s great centres for philosophy, and is widely recognised to be amongst the best. In the most recent Philosophical Gourmet Report (2021-22) Oxford University’s Faculty of Philosophy was once again ranked top in the list of Philosophy Faculties in the United Kingdom and still ranked second in the overall ranking of philosophy faculties in the English speaking world. More than 150 professional philosophers work in the University and its colleges, between them covering a vast range of subjects within philosophy, and many are international leaders in their fields. 

Many philosophy subjects at Oxford are ranked highly in the most recent Philosophical Gourmet Report’s breakdown of programmes by speciality (2020-21) , including metaphysics, epistemology, philosophical logic, philosophy of language, applied ethics, metaethics and moral psychology, normative ethics, political philosophy, philosophy of law, philosophy of art, philosophy of physics, decision & rational choice, & game theory, ancient philosophy, 18th century early modern philosophy and 20th century continental philosophy.

The Philosophy Centre in the Radcliffe Humanities building on Woodstock Road acts as a focal point for the faculty’s activities and contains, as well as lecturing and teaching space, a graduate study room and a graduate common room. A wireless network runs throughout the Philosophy Centre.

The Philosophy Centre also contains the department's library, with over 25,000 volumes, a collection of approximately 80 periodicals, online access to many philosophical databases, and librarians trained in the specific bibliographic needs of philosophers. Many college libraries also have extensive holdings in philosophy.

The faculty runs a teaching scheme, lecturing scheme and a Graduate Teaching Register with the aim of providing teaching experience for those DPhil students who intend to pursue an academic career. In the case of the teaching scheme and Graduate Teaching Register, you will do a certain amount of teaching and marking under the guidance of a college fellow. If you are accepted into the lecturing scheme, you will be allowed to give an undergraduate lecture course of your own choice and design, consisting of four one-hour lectures. 

Over 150 Oxford academics are employed by or associated with the Faculty of Philosophy, making it one of the largest philosophy departments worldwide. 

The Faculty of Philosophy is widely recognised to be amongst the best philosophy departments in the world, ranked first in the UK and second in the English-speaking world by the most recent  Philosophical Gourmet Report  (2021-22). 

The faculty offers a wide range of graduate classes, seminars and supervisions, providing you with high-quality tuition in philosophy. This includes its flagship course, the  BPhil in Philosophy , which we believe provides the perfect graduate level training for further studies to doctoral level and is usually studied as the first two years of a four- to five-year doctoral program.

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The University expects to be able to offer over 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2024-25. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships , if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. 

For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.

Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:

Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.

Further information about funding opportunities  for this course can be found on the faculty's website.

Annual fees for entry in 2024-25

Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

Information about course fees

Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges .

Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.

Continuation charges

Following the period of fee liability , you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.

Where can I find further information about fees?

The Fees and Funding  section of this website provides further information about course fees , including information about fee status and eligibility  and your length of fee liability .

Additional information

The Philosophy Graduate Studies Committee has a research and travel fund for graduate students to which students may apply for assistance with, for example, the costs of attending conferences or workshops. BPhil and MSt students may only apply for funding if they are presenting a paper. Probationary Research Students and DPhil students are entitled to apply for funding to attend a workshop, conference, etc, whether or not they are presenting a paper.

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) and living costs. However, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Living costs

In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2024-25 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,345 and £1,955 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. The current economic climate and high national rate of inflation make it very hard to estimate potential changes to the cost of living over the next few years. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2024-25, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of around 5% each year – although this rate may vary depending on the national economic situation. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.

Students enrolled on this course will belong to both a department/faculty and a college. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 43 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as societies and permanent private halls (PPHs). 

If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. Before deciding, we suggest that you read our brief  introduction to the college system at Oxford  and our  advice about expressing a college preference . For some courses, the department may have provided some additional advice below to help you decide.

The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Philosophy:

  • Balliol College
  • Blackfriars
  • Brasenose College
  • Campion Hall
  • Christ Church
  • Corpus Christi College
  • Exeter College
  • Harris Manchester College
  • Hertford College
  • Jesus College
  • Keble College
  • Kellogg College
  • Lady Margaret Hall
  • Linacre College
  • Lincoln College
  • Magdalen College
  • Mansfield College
  • Merton College
  • New College
  • Oriel College
  • Pembroke College
  • The Queen's College
  • Regent's Park College
  • Reuben College
  • St Anne's College
  • St Catherine's College
  • St Cross College
  • St Edmund Hall
  • St Hilda's College
  • St Hugh's College
  • St John's College
  • St Peter's College
  • Somerville College
  • Trinity College
  • University College
  • Wadham College
  • Wolfson College
  • Worcester College
  • Wycliffe Hall

Before you apply

Our  guide to getting started  provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. You can use our interactive tool to help you  evaluate whether your application is likely to be competitive .

If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance . Check the deadlines on this page and the  information about deadlines and when to apply  in our Application Guide.

Application fee waivers

An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:

  • applicants from low-income countries;
  • refugees and displaced persons; 
  • UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and 
  • applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.

You are encouraged to  check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver  before you apply.

Readmission for current Oxford graduate taught students

If you're currently studying for an Oxford graduate taught course and apply to this course with no break in your studies, you may be eligible to apply to this course as a readmission applicant. The application fee will be waived for an eligible application of this type. Check whether you're eligible to apply for readmission .

Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?

Before you apply, you should identify an academic member of staff who is willing to supervise you and has the resources to support your proposed research project. There is no need to contact prospective supervisors directly; details of academic staff, including their research interests and contact details, can be found on the department's website.

Please note that it can never be guaranteed that your proposed supervisor will be assigned to you, even if you receive prior informal approval from that supervisor.

Completing your application

You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents .

For this course, the application form will include questions that collect information that would usually be included in a CV/résumé. You should not upload a separate document. If a separate CV/résumé is uploaded, it will be removed from your application .

If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.

Proposed field and title of research project

Under the 'Field and title of research project' please enter your proposed field or area of research if this is known. If the department has advertised a specific research project that you would like to be considered for, please enter the project title here instead.

You should not use this field to type out a full research proposal. You will be able to upload your research supporting materials separately if they are required (as described below).

Proposed supervisor

If known, under 'Proposed supervisor name' enter the name of the academic(s) who you would like to supervise your research. Otherwise, leave this field blank.

Referees Three overall, academic preferred

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

Three academic references are usually required. However, if you have been out of education for a long time, or if you have substantial relevant working experience, then a maximum of one professional reference may replace an academic reference, provided that it speaks to your ability to undertake philosophy studies at graduate level.

Your references should support outstanding academic achievement, great intellectual ability, strong motivation, and independence of thought.

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

Personal statement and research proposal: Statement of a maximum of 500 words and a proposal of a maximum of 2,000 words

Your statement of purpose/personal statement and research proposal should be submitted as a single, combined document with clear subheadings. Please ensure that the word counts for each section are clearly visible in the document.

Personal statement

You should also submit a personal statement explaining your motivation for applying for graduate study at Oxford. Your statement should focus on philosophy, rather than personal, extra-curricular achievements and interests. In your statement, you may wish to consider the following questions:

  • why are you applying to this particular programme of study?
  • what relevant academic and/or research experience do you have?
  • which areas of study within the subject interest you?
  • why would you be an excellent candidate for this course?
  • how does this course fit in with your future career plans?

Your personal statement should be written in English and be a maximum of 500 words.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

Your personal statement will be assessed for evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study.

Research proposal

Your research proposal should comprise a detailed outline of your proposed research, covering areas such as the background to the research, methodology, expected results and the contribution to the field of learning. You may wish to make reference to your academic achievements, interests and aspirations and the relevance of the course to your future career development plans.

Your research proposal should be written in English and be a maximum of 2,000 words. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

Your research proposal will be assessed for:

  • coherence 
  • originality 
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course (normally three years and a maximum of four years)
  • commitment to the subject
  • knowledge of research techniques
  • capacity for sustained and intense work
  • reasoning ability
  • ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace.

It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project, but you should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at the time of your application.

Written work: One essay of 4,000 to a maximum of 5,000 words

You should submit an academic essay on a subject related to your proposed research topic. 

The essay should be typed or word-processed in English and must be clearly marked with your name and the date of composition. The word count does not need to include the end bibliography. Footnotes and in-text referencing are included.

This will be assessed for:

  • clarity and accuracy of thought and writing
  • intellectual independence
  • willingness and ability to reach conclusions by reasoned argument rather than assertion
  • a critical and attentive reading of any texts discussed
  • understanding of important philosophical ideas and theories
  • if required by the topic of the work, appropriate technical skills.

Start or continue your application

You can start or return to an application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, please  refer to the requirements above  and  consult our Application Guide for advice . You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application Guide   Apply


Closed to applications for entry in 2024-25

Register to be notified via email when the next application cycle opens (for entry in 2025-26)

12:00 midday UK time on:

Friday 5 January 2024 Latest deadline for most Oxford scholarships Final application deadline for entry in 2024-25

*Three-year average (applications for entry in 2021-22 to 2023-24)

Further information and enquiries

This course is offered by the Faculty of Philosophy

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Course-related enquiries

Advice about contacting the department can be found in the How to apply section of this page

✉ [email protected] ☎ +44 (0)1865 276930

Application-process enquiries

See the application guide

Other courses to consider

You may also wish to consider applying to other courses that are similar or related to this course:

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The Department of Philosophy typically receives over 400 applications each year. We ordinarily matriculate an entering class of five to six doctoral students. Although the number of qualified applicants exceeds the number of offers the department can make, we invite all who would like to study Philosophy at Harvard to apply.

Note regarding GRE scores:   The Philosophy Department does not require applicants to submit GRE scores. Submission of scores is permitted, and, when submitted, GRE scores are taken into account in the admissions process. But those who do not submit such scores will not be penalized.

Note regarding application fee waivers : Applicants can determine eligibility for a fee waiver by completing a series of questions in the Application Fee section of the application. Once these questions have been completed, the application system will provide an immediate response regarding fee waiver eligibility. Please consult the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences admissions pages for further information or email them at [email protected] .

Note regarding JD/PhD program:  Students seeking admission to the joint JD/PhD program must apply to and be separately admitted to both the Law School and the Department of Philosophy in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.

Note regarding non-discrimination:  Harvard does not discriminate against applicants or students on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry or any other protected classification.

Student Qualifications

Background in Philosophy:  The Department requires that applicants have the equivalent of a solid undergraduate background in philosophy, so that they have a good grounding in the history of philosophy, as well as familiarity with contemporary work in ethics, epistemology and metaphysics, and logic.

Scholarly Potential:  The Admissions Committee looks for evidence of outstanding potential in the field of philosophy as shown in the applicant's academic record, letters of recommendation, and Statement of Purpose on the application form.

Questions?  Please contact the  Director of Graduate Admissions .

For more information on deadlines and application procedures, please click here:

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  • PhD in Philosophy

The PhD in Philosophy prepares students for a position pursuing research and teaching philosophy. All applicants should have completed the equivalent of an undergraduate major in philosophy with a strong grade point average. Students with minors in philosophy are also encouraged to apply. Part-time applications for the PhD are strongly discouraged.

Learning Outcomes

Students completing our PhD program are expected to:

  • Acquire the conceptual ability, and the speaking and writing skills, needed for intensive examination of questions concerning what is true, what is good, and what is beautiful.
  • Gain significant knowledge of the canonical works of both Antiquity and Modernity, as well as the basic issues and texts of contemporary philosophy.
  • Learn to develop strong arguments that can be defended in a professional forum.
  • Upon graduation, have made an original contribution to the field.
  • Learn how to cope with the demands of the profession while retaining the enthusiasm for the study of philosophy that animated them at the outset of their careers.
  • Display curiosity about, and interest and engagement in, the world in which they live.

Course Requirements

PhD candidates must take a minimum of 16 graduate-accredited semester courses (64 credits), plus a required Dissertation Workshop. Course requirements are as follows:

  • At least 12 (48 credits) must be in philosophy, including at least four at the 800 or 900 level. Coursework must also coincide with a specific distribution of courses; please see Philosophy Department Regulae for details.
  • Registration for the Dissertation Workshop (GRS PH 990) each semester beginning in the fourth year and ending either at the end of the sixth year or upon successful defense of dissertation, whichever comes first. PH 990 does not count toward the 16 required graduate courses.
  • Logic Proficiency: The candidate must demonstrate competence in logic by passing a designated logic course with a B+ or higher, or by passing a logic examination administered by the department.

No more than three directed studies may be taken toward course requirements.

Language Requirement

All students pursuing a PhD in Philosophy are required to demonstrate graduate-level reading proficiency in French, German, Greek, or Latin by the end of the third year of graduate study. If the student’s native language is French or German, the requirement may be waived at the discretion of the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). Any language other than English may fulfill the requirement if (a) it is needed for dissertation work and (b) approval is granted by the DGS. Language proficiency can be demonstrated through either a language examination, by achieving a B+ or higher in an approved intermediate course (normally a translation course) administered by another department and approved by the DGS, successful completion of a noncredit graduate-level foreign language reading course offered by Boston University, or the equivalent of two years of undergraduate study of the language at Boston University. Language courses offered at the graduate level will be given graduate credit. Two such courses may count toward the coursework requirement of 16 courses.

Students must possess a good reading knowledge of any language that is important for their dissertation work. A dissertation proposal will not be approved until the relevant mastery has been demonstrated to the satisfaction of the dissertation director. The director will have the discretion of accepting a B+ or higher in a relevant language course as evidence of competence; or adequate performance on a translation examination; or any reasonable means of determining competence.

Qualifying Research

a. By the end of the third year at the latest, students should have finished their distribution requirements and secured the agreement of a faculty member to supervise their prospectus. The faculty member may also end up supervising the dissertation but that need not be the case. By the end of the third year at the latest, students must also produce a document detailing specific research goals, including a timeline, for producing “qualifying research.” Student and advisor should produce this document together and have it approved by the DGS. The plan can be revised with the approval of the advisor and student. The plan can include a Directed Study for credit to facilitate the research goals. This “qualifying research” could take one or more of the following forms: a draft of the prospectus, a literature review, a draft of a dissertation chapter, or some other document or documents that student and advisor mutually agree upon.

b. By the end of the first semester of the fourth year at the latest, the student will have produced said “qualifying research,” to the satisfaction of the advisor. Confirmation of the advisor’s approval should be submitted by the advisor to the DGS.

c. By August 31 of the summer after the fourth year at the latest, the dissertation prospectus should be officially defended and the paperwork submitted to GRS. If the prospectus is not defended by August 31 of the summer after the fourth year, the student does not receive the fifth-year dissertation fellowship and instead receives a teaching fellowship.

d. Every semester after the distribution requirements are completed, the student will write a progress report, which will be reviewed by the advisor and, if approved, will be submitted by the advisor to the DGS.

In sum, there are three deadlines the student must meet. The first is securing an advisor and creating a timeline for the completion of specific research goals; the second is producing satisfactory “qualifying research;” and the third is the prospectus defense. The dates stated above are all “outside” deadlines. It is strongly suggested that students complete these goals before the deadlines.

Dissertation and Final Oral Examination

Candidates shall demonstrate their abilities for independent study in a dissertation representing original research or creative scholarship. A prospectus for the dissertation must be completed and approved by the readers, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the Department Chair/Program Director. Candidates must undergo a final oral examination in which they defend their dissertation as a valuable contribution to knowledge in their field and demonstrate a mastery of their field of specialization in relation to their dissertation. All portions of the dissertation and final oral examination must be completed as outlined in the GRS General Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree.

Get more details and a copy of the department’s guidelines from our department site.

Students admitted into the doctoral program may also obtain the MA by satisfying the requirements indicated for the terminal MA . Students who are candidates for the MA are required to submit a thesis similar to the one required for the terminal MA. The MA thesis for the PhD student need not be orally defended.

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Undergraduate Program

Philosophy studies many of humanity’s fundamental questions, to reflect on these questions and answer them in a systematic, explicit, and rigorous way—relying on careful argumentation, and drawing from outside fields as diverse as economics, literature, religion, law, mathematics, the physical sciences, and psychology. While most of the tradition of philosophy is Western, the department seeks to connect with non-Western traditions like Islam and Buddhism.

The graduate program in philosophy at Harvard offers students the opportunity to work and to develop their ideas in a stimulating and supportive community of fellow doctoral students, faculty members, and visiting scholars. Among the special strengths of the department are moral and political philosophy, aesthetics, epistemology, philosophy of logic, philosophy of language, the history of analytic philosophy, ancient philosophy, Kant, and Wittgenstein.

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University protests

April 25, 2024 - US university protests

By Elise Hammond, Chandelis Duster, Kathleen Magramo, Elizabeth Wolfe, Aya Elamroussi, Lauren Mascarenhas and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Our live coverage of the pro-Palestinian protests on US campuses has moved here .

Progress in negotiations between Columbia protesters and administrators, university says

From CNN’s Paradise Afshar

Negotiations between Columbia University administrators and pro-Palestinian protesters who've been occupying a campus lawn with a sprawling encampment "have shown progress and are continuing as planned," the school said in a statement late Thursday.

"For several days, a small group of faculty, administrators, and University Senators have been in dialogue with student organizers to discuss the basis for dismantling the encampment, dispersing, and following University policies going forward," the university said.

"We have our demands; they have theirs."

The university also denied rumors that the NYPD had been called to campus, calling them "false."

Some context: Columbia announced late Tuesday that it had given protesters a midnight deadline to agree to dismantle their encampment. But the university then said early Wednesday that it had extended the talks for another 48 hours . If no agreement is reached, the school has said it will consider "alternative options," which many protesters have interpreted to mean calling in police to clear the site.

Protests continue at campuses across the US as more arrests are announced. Here’s the latest

A wave of pro-Palestinian campus protests is rippling across the US, with hundreds of people arrested at universities throughout the country this week.

At New York's Columbia University,  the epicenter of the demonstrations,  protesting students said they won’t disperse until the school agrees to cut ties with Israeli academic institutions and disinvest its funds from entities connected to Israel, among other demands. Protesters at other campuses have similar demands .

The campus encampments spreading across the nation have brought together students from a variety of backgrounds — including Palestinians, Arabs, Jews and Muslims — to decry Israel's bombardment of Gaza .

Here are the latest developments:

Columbia University : The faculty senate is expected to vote on a resolution admonishing the school’s president, Minouche Shafik, on Friday over several of her decisions, according to The New York Times. Shafik has faced criticism for authorizing police to shut down student protests on campus.

Brown University: The university identified about 130 students who it alleges violated a school conduct code that forbids encampments on campus. Students found responsible will be disciplined depending on their behavior and other factors, including any prior conduct violations, the university said.

Emory University : 28 people were arrested , including 20 Emory community members, during a protest at the school, Vice President for Public Safety Cheryl Elliott said. Troopers deployed pepper balls “to control the unruly crowd” during the protest, Georgie State Patrol said. A group of Democratic Georgia state lawmakers condemned the “ excessive force used by Georgia State Patrol” during arrests at Emory.

Emerson College: More than 100 people were arrested and four police officers injured during an encampment clearing at the Boston liberal arts college, according to the Boston Police Department. President Jay Bernhardt said he recognized and respected "the civic activism and passion that sparked the protest" after dozens of arrests.

Indiana University : At least 33 people were detained on campus Thursday following encampment protests.

George Washington University : DC Metropolitan Police were asked to assist in relocating an “unauthorized protest encampment” on campus, university president Ellen M. Granberg said. The decision came "after multiple instructions made by GWPD to relocate to an alternative demonstration site on campus went unheeded by encampment participants," she said.

University of Southern California : The university canceled its main commencement ceremony  next month, citing "new safety measures in place.” Nearly  100 people have been arrested  on the campus.

University of California, Los Angeles : A "demonstration with encampments" formed at UCLA on Thursday.

Northeastern University: An encampment formed at Northeastern University in Boston, where dozens of protesters were seen forming a human chain around several tents. 

Other campuses: Since last Thursday, several campuses have been protest sites, including the  Massachusetts Institute of Technology , University of Texas at Austin, University of Michigan,  University of New Mexico , University of California, Berkeley, Yale University , and Harvard University.

Protesters at the University of Texas at Austin asked to disperse at 10 p.m.

Protesters at the University of Texas at Austin were asked to leave the campus's South Mall at 10 p.m. local time, university spokesperson Brian Davis told CNN.

No arrests have been made as of 10 p.m., Davis said.

"There is no curfew on campus. Leadership asked that students clear the South Mall at 10 p.m."

Just last night, more than 30 demonstrators were arrested after UT Austin police issued a dispersal at the school.

Protesters at Ohio State University arrested after refusing to disperse, university says

From CNN’s Joe Sutton and Jamiel Lynch

Protestors wave Palestinian flags and call for Ohio State University to divest investment in businesses linked to Israel at a demonstration outside the Ohio Union on April 25.

Demonstrators at Ohio State University were arrested on Thursday night after refusing to disperse, according to university spokesperson Benjamin Johnson.

Johnson did not know how many arrests were made.

“Well established university rules prohibit camping and overnight events. Demonstrators exercised their first amendment rights for several hours and were then instructed to disperse. Individuals who refused to leave after multiple warnings were arrested and charged with criminal trespass,” he said.

Columbia University senate is redrafting resolution to admonish school's president, New York Times reports

From CNN's Rob Frehse

Columbia University’s faculty senate is expected to vote Friday on a resolution admonishing embattled school president Minouche Shafik over several of her recent decisions, including calling in police to clear a student encampment last week, the New York Times reports .

The resolution would allow the school senate to avoid a censure vote during a critical time for the school, the Times reports, citing several unnamed senators who attended a closed-door meeting Wednesday. Some feared a censure vote would be perceived as giving in to Republican lawmakers, according to the paper.

A Columbia University spokesperson confirmed Shafik’s closed-door meeting with the senate on Wednesday but would not comment on the resolution to CNN.

 “The President met with the Senate plenary in a closed-door session for close to an hour, giving remarks and taking questions. She reiterated the shared goal of restoring calm to campus so everyone can pursue their educational activities.” 

Some context: Shafik has faced immense criticism from some students, faculty and Democratic lawmakers for her decision to authorize police to break up pro-Palestinian student protests last week— a move that resulted in more than 100 arrests .

Other students, Jewish advocacy groups and Republican lawmakers are slamming Shafik for not cracking down on protests — which they say have included antisemitic rhetoric — both on campus and outside its gates.

Several Republicans, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, have called for Shafik to resign.

CNN’s Maria Sole Campinoti contributed to this report.

What to know about the protests erupting on college campuses across the US

From CNN's Jordan Valinsky

Colleges across the country have erupted with pro-Palestinian protests, and school administrators are trying — and largely failing — to defuse the situation.

Several schools have called the police on protesters, leading to the arrests of hundreds across US campuses.

The recent surge in protests have inflamed tensions among students, forcing leadership to decide when free speech on campus crosses a line. The atmosphere was so charged that officials at Columbia – the epicenter of the protests that began last week – announced students can attend classes virtually starting Monday.

Passover, a major Jewish holiday, began this week, heightening fears among a number of Jewish students who have reported hearing antisemitic comments at some of the protests. The anxiety comes as reports of  antisemitic acts have surged  across America since October 7.

When did the protests start?

The situation  escalated last week  at Columbia University, where encampments were organized by  Columbia University Apartheid Divest , a student-led coalition of more than 100 organizations, including Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, to protest what they describe as the university’s “continued financial investment in corporations that profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide, and military occupation of Palestine,” according to its news release.

What are they asking for?

Columbia protesters say they won’t disperse until the school commits to a “complete divestment” of its funds from entities connected to Israel.

Other protesters are similarly calling on their campuses to divest from companies that sell weapons, construction equipment, technology services and other items to Israel.

Where else are protests happening?

Since last Thursday, a slew of campuses have had protests and encampments, as well as arrests. That includes the  Massachusetts Institute of Technology , University of Texas at Austin, University of Michigan, University of New Mexico and University of California, Berkeley.

Police   arrested nearly 100 protesters at the University of Southern California Wednesday after a dispersal order.

At Emerson College, more than 100 people were arrested Wednesday during a pro-Palestinian protest, according to the Boston Police Department.

Yale University police  arrested at least 45 protesters Monday  on suspicion of criminal trespassing, though dozens remained Tuesday.

Harvard University officials suspended a pro-Palestinian student organization for allegedly violating school policies.

Read more  here .

Brown University says about 130 students violated school policy banning encampments

From CNN’s Isabel Rosales and Devon Sayers

Brown University has identified about 130 students who it alleges violated a school conduct code that forbids encampments on campus, a university spokesperson said.

The university's Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards has notified the students, who were identified through ID checks, spokesperson Brian Clark said in a release.

An encampment of about 90 people had formed on the school's Providence, Rhode Island campus Wednesday morning, according to Brown.

"Encampment on Brown University’s historic and residential greens is a violation of University policy, and participants in the encampment have been verbally informed of this fact and that they will face conduct proceedings,” the school's release said.

Students found responsible will be disciplined depending on their behavior and other factors, including any prior conduct violations, the university said, noting students could face probation or separation from the school.

“The University continues to ask individuals in or in immediate proximity to the encampment to present their Brown IDs for two reasons: to verify association with Brown for safety and security reasons, and to appropriately address potential violations of policy."

Protesters at Emory University briefly clash with police

From CNN's Elizabeth Wolfe

A confrontation between Emory University protesters and police resulted in officers being pressed up against a building on campus.

Protesters briefly clashed with police at Emory University in Georgia on Thursday, the university told CNN.

A confrontation between protesters and police outside the school's Candler School of Theology prompted an "increased law enforcement presence" on campus, according to the university.

"A group of about 100 people left the Quad and marched to the Candler School of Theology, where some protesters pinned police officers against building doors and attempted to access the building," the university said.

"The crowd ultimately returned to the Quad before dispersing."

Video from CNN affiliate WSB shows some protesters using large posters to push into a line of police officers whose backs are against the doors of the building. As officers push back against the posters, one demonstrator chucks their sign at the row of officers.

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