MA Philosophy of Physics

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New programme for 2017

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
Start date September 2017

Programme overview

The Department of Philosophy has exceptional research strength in philosophy of physics, and very strong links with the School of Physics. Our MA draws on these strengths. It is intended both for students who wish to specialise in philosophy of physics at a higher level, and for individuals with a background in physics or mathematics who wish to make a transition to philosophy and foundations of physics. The course consists of five taught units in philosophy, two taught master's units in physics, and a 15,000-word dissertation.

As a postgraduate student, you will be an active member of the department’s flourishing research culture. You will be encouraged to attend and participate in both the weekly departmental research seminar and in the Philosophy and History of Science seminars, which often feature well-known scholars in the field, from Bristol and beyond. There is also a weekly postgraduate seminar, where you may present your own work before your peers and learn to develop your argumentative strategies in a supportive environment.

Fees for 2017/18

Full-time fees


Part-time fees


Fees quoted are per annum and subject to annual increase.

Alumni scholarship

University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a ten per cent reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni scholarship.

Funding for 2017/18

For further information on funding, please see the Faculty of Arts 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 in philosophy and physics, as well as a dissertation.

Core units

  • Philosophical Writing and Research Methods (Philosophy, 20-credit unit)
    A mandatory, two-hour weekly seminar developing ideas, bibliographical and writing skills necessary for philosophical research. The unit is assessed by seminar contributions and presentations.
  • Scientific Methodology and Epistemology (Philosophy, 20-credit unit)
    This unit concerns core topics in scientific epistemology and metaphysics. The unit is examined on the basis of an essay of 5,000-6,000 words. As with all assessed essays, you may meet with a supervisor to discuss your work and to receive feedback on a draft essay.
  • Philosophy of Physics (Philosophy, 20-credit unit)
    This unit covers philosophical issues related to basic physical theories, focusing on conceptual issues in the foundations of quantum theory and special relativity. We will cover topics such as the relativity of simultaneity; geometry and the causal structure of relativity physics; the conceptual structure of quantum mechanics, the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen argument; the measurement problem and Schrödinger’s cat paradox of; locality and action-at-a-distance.
  • Advanced Philosophy of Physics (Philosophy, 20-credit unit)
    This unit will examine a selection of conceptual issues in the foundations of physical theory with particular focus on the physics of the mid-to-late 20th century. We cover topics such as: the arrow of time in thermal physics; the interpretation of quantum field theory; emergence and universality in condensed matter physics; fine tuning problems and inflationary cosmology; spontaneous symmetry breaking and the Higgs mechanism; and time in quantum gravity.
  • Foundations of Modern Physics (Physics, 10-credit unit)
    Emphasis is placed on students developing an appreciation of the foundations of different areas of physics, and the unit assessment involves students writing an essay whose detailed subject is partly decided by the student. The lectures are divided into Classical, Spacetime and Quantum Physics.
  • Relativistic Field Theory (Physics, 10-credit unit)
    This course will give an account of the modern approach to special relativity and Lagrangian field theory, and their role in the covariant description of the classical electromagnetic field, and the relativistic quantum Klein-Gordon and Dirac equations. Formative assessment is through problem sheets discussed in problems classes. Summative assessment is through a 2 hour written examination

Optional units (all Philosophy 20-credit units)

  • History of Science
  • Logic
  • Philosophy and History of Mathematics
  • Philosophy and History of Medicine
  • Philosophy of Biology
  • Philosophy of Psychology
  • An individual, supervised research project

Please be aware that optional units may vary from year to year.

Entry requirements

An upper second-class honours degree (or equivalent international qualifications) in physics, mathematics or a programme with a major component in physics or mathematics (for example natural sciences or joint honours physics/mathematics and philosophy).

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.


The MA in Philosophy of Physics is an ideal platform for further studies in Philosophy or Foundations of Physics. This course will also provide students with Maths and Physics backgrounds with an opportunity to develop verbal, written and argumentative skills that are highly valued by employers. 

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
Bristol BS8 1TB


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