The MA in Political Theory is designed for students with an interest in contemporary political philosophy: topics such as rights, global justice, war, democracy, as well as key figures in the history of political ideas including Plato, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Marx and Rawls. The course is taught jointly by the Departments of Philosophy and Politics, both leading departments in the UK with international reputations for teaching and research.

The most recent national research assessment exercise (REF 2014) ranked the Philosophy Department's publications as second in the country, and ranked the Politics Department third overall among Politics and International Studies departments in the country.

The MA in Political Theory has established itself as a successful and popular postgraduate programme, attracting a diverse group of accomplished students from the UK and abroad, many of whom go on to study for a PhD in political philosophy either at Sheffield or at other top-ranked institutions.

There are more than 25 members of staff working in Political Theory and Normative Ethics across 7 departments of the University of Sheffield. You can read more about all of their research interests by checking out the links here.

Structure of the course

This programme is designed for graduates who already have some knowledge of philosophy and politics, and wish either to deepen their understanding of selected issues or to transfer to this area from a related subject. The modules offered will give students the foundation for doing high-quality research at PhD level, should they wish to pursue it.

Students will have the opportunity to develop a clearly focused dissertation plan, and to acquire the necessary knowledge, understanding, and skills to write the dissertation.

The degree takes one year full-time or two years part-time.

Last year we listed a new module enabling students to gain work experience in the third sector, and to undertake an applied research project by working together with a third sector organization. You can read more about it here.


Autumn: The discussion-based Political Theory Research Seminar, and one further taught module.

Spring: Two further taught modules.

Summer: A dissertation of 10-14,000 words on a topic of your choosing (negotiated with the supervisor).


Year 1 Autumn: The discussion-based Political Theory Research Seminar, or one taught module.

Year 1 Spring: One further taught module.

Year 2 Autumn: One taught module, or if not completed in Year 1 the Political Theory Research Seminar.

Year 2 Spring: One further taught module.

Year 2 Summer: A dissertation of 10-14,000 words on a topic of your choosing (negotiated with your supervisor).

For the taught modules (Philosophy here and Politics here), students will write either one essay of 4-6000 words or two essays of 2-3000 words each, on topics related to those covered in the module. They may replace one of the three taught modules with a PhD proposal of 6-8000 words, consisting of an outline of the projected thesis and an annotated bibliography. (The PhD proposal module may be taken in either semester.)

All students may attend the Graduate Research Seminar in Spring, which meets weekly to discuss the ongoing work of PhD and MA students.

In summary: All students, both full-time and part-time, take the Political Theory Research Seminar and write a dissertation. All students will take at least two taught modules, a range of options for which are offered in both the Philosophy and Politics departments. In addition, students take either a further taught module or write a PhD proposal.

Recommended module package

Students may choose whichever modules they like from Philosophy and Politics. But for core training in Political Philosophy, we recommend the following modules in particular:

POL6180 Human Rights                    POL6011 Global Justice

POL6230 The Ethics of Warfare         PHI6369 Collective Action

PHI6009 Global Justice                     PHI6364 Philosophy of Law

PHI6373 Political Obligation              PHI6590 Feminism


Some funding is available, both fees only (covering tuition) and fees plus maintenance (providing additional support for living expenses). For details see our funding page. Costs of living in Sheffield are relatively low: The culturally vibrant yet low-key city, conveniently located on the edge of the Peak District just two hours by train from London, has among the most affordable rents of any urban area in the UK.