MA Philosophy of Biological and Cognitive Sciences

Find a programme
Faculty Faculty of Arts
Awards available MA
Programme length One year full-time;
two years part-time
Location of programme Clifton campus
Part-time study available Yes
Open to international students Yes
Number of places Not fixed
Start date September 2017

Programme overview

The Department of Philosophy has outstanding research strength in the fields of philosophy of biology, philosophy of psychology and philosophy of cognitive sciences.

We are ranked by the Philosophical Gourmet Report as the strongest department in the UK for the philosophy of biology. The department is also home to a European Research Council project on Darwinism and the Theory of Rational Choice, which explores connections between biological and cognitive science research.

This MA builds on these outstanding research strengths. It is intended for graduates of philosophy, psychology and biology who wish to study philosophy of science with an emphasis on the biological and cognitive sciences. The programme focuses on philosophical issues arising from these scientific disciplines. The history of science is studied in terms of the philosophical debate about the nature of scientific method and knowledge.

You will be an active member of the department's flourishing research culture. All students are encouraged to participate in both the weekly departmental research seminar and in the weekly Philosophy and History of Science research seminar, which often features well-known scholars in the field, from Bristol and beyond. The department has strong links with both the School of Experimental Psychology and the School of Biological Sciences, with whom joint workshops and reading groups are organised.

Fees for 2017/18

Full-time fees


Part-time fees


Fees quoted are per annum and subject to annual increase.

Funding for 2017/18

For further information on funding within the Faculty of Arts, please see our funding pages for funding and studentship opportunities.

Further information on funding for prospective UK, EU and international postgraduate students.

Programme structure

The MA consists of taught components, examined by essay, and a dissertation. You will take six taught units, normally three in each semester.

Core units

  • Scientific Epistemology and Methodology
    Core topics in scientific epistemology and metaphysics. This unit is examined on the basis of an essay of 5,000-6,000 words.
  • Philosophical Writing and Research Seminar
    A mandatory, two-hour, weekly seminar developing ideas and bibliographical and writing skills necessary for philosophical research. The unit is assessed by seminar contributions and presentations.
  • Philosophy of Biology
    Topics studied include: altruism and cooperation; biological individuality; and genes and reductionism.
  • Philosophy of Psychology

Optional units can vary each year but may include:

  •  History of Science
  •  Philosophy and History of Mathematics
  •  Philosophy and History of Medicine
  •  Philosophy of Physics
  •  Individual, supervised research project


Satisfactory completion of semesters one and two will allow you to progress to writing a dissertation of up to 15,000 words on an approved topic of your choice. The dissertation is your chance to produce an extended piece of philosophical research that can act as preparation for a graduate research degree. You will have supervisory meetings with a member of staff who will also provide feedback on a draft of your work.

Entry requirements

Minimum entry requirement is an upper second-class honours degree in either a science subject, typically biological science or psychology, or philosophy (or a degree with a major philosophical component).

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

Application method Online application form
English language requirements Profile C
Further information about English language requirements
Admissions statement Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.


Students who have completed the MA in Philosophy of Biological and Cognitive Sciences have gone on to careers in teaching and science administration. A number of MA graduates pursue further studies in either philosophy or science.

How to apply
Application deadline:

1 August 2017

International students

Find out more about becoming a student at Bristol, and the support we offer to international students.

I chose Bristol because of its outstanding academic reputation. It's reassuring to be taught by people who truly love their subject - their passion becomes contagious.


REF 2014 results

  • 31% of research is world-leading (4 star)
  • 51% of research is internationally excellent (3 star)
  • 17% of research is recognised internationally (2 star)
  • 1% of research is recognised nationally (1 star)

Results are from the most recent UK-wide assessment of research quality, conducted by HEFCE. More about REF 2014 results.

Get in touch

Postgraduate Admissions Phone: +44 (0) 117 331 8443 Email:

Faculty of Arts
University of Bristol
3-5 Woodland Road


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