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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.


You will have a supervisor for your research to discuss your essays, your dissertation and PhD proposal if appropriate. Your module lecturers also help and support you through your course.


There are more than 25 members of staff working in Political Theory and Normative Ethics across 7 departments of the University of Sheffield. Find out more about their research interests. You will have the opportunity to attend many research seminars organized by the departments affiliated to the MA programme. Moreover, the philosophy department has a very active graduate community and every year there are at least 10-12 reading groups on a wide variety of topics, in which graduate students participate along with staff. You can also attend the graduate seminar in philosophy, where you will have the opportunity to engage with other students’ work.


Scholarships are available. For information on these 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.

PhD Study

If you wish to continue to the PhD at Sheffield, you can apply for a place during your Masters course. You will normally need a Distinction in your Masters. You can apply for PhD funding to support further study.


The Political Theory MA 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 either at Sheffield or at other top-ranked institutions.


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.


In 2015 we listed a new Work Placement 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.


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).

Taught Philosophy modules

Taught Politics modules

For the taught modules 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:

POL6611 Feminist and Decolonizing Approaches to IR: Bodies, Coloniality, Knowledge POL6760 Political Economy of Global Environmental Change
POL6614 Terrorism and Political Violence PHI6369 Collective Action
PHI6009 Global Justice PHI6364 Philosophy of Law
PHI6373 Political Obligation PHI6590 Feminism

Applying for the MA in Political Theory

You are welcome to contact the department to discuss your application, but for formal consideration, you must complete the University's MA application form

Entry Requirements

We welcome students with any background. In the course of the years, we have had students coming from a wide range of disciplines. To apply, you will ordinarily need a good undergraduate degree: a first or a 2.1 from a UK university or an equivalent grade from overseas. Admissions decisions are based mainly on:

  • what your referees say about you
  • your writing sample
  • your record of academic achievement

The application

Your application must consist of:

  1. The completed application form.
  2. Reference letters from two referees, who should each send their references to the Department directly (by email or post). Your referees should be people able to address the issue of your academic abilities and performance. Ideally they should be professional academics with experience of teaching you and knowledge of your work. Other things being equal, the more they know about you the better.
  3. A writing sample in English of 3,000 - 6,000 words. You could send one longish essay or two short ones - though a single one is better. This can be on any topic, on any discipline that is relevant to political theory. If you are a final-year undergraduate, we recommend you simply use a recent coursework essay that obtained a good mark. If you have never studied cognitive science before, you might find it easier to produce such a sample if we set you a topic and suggest some reading. We will be happy to do this on request.
  4. Academic transcripts of your academic performance at undergraduate and (for PhD applicants) Masters level.
  5. Documentation of English language qualifications if you are not a native speaker.


You can apply at any time; however, there will be deadlines for the applications you will want to make to the various sources of funding available.

Information on fees and funding.


The Philosophy Department in Sheffield welcomes international students. Many of our graduate students and many of our staff are from other European countries, Asia and America.

There is lots of information for international students on our international Philosophy applicants page, our EU Philosophy applicants page and our University wide EU and international students webpages.

Welcome to Sheffield message to international students


Political Philosophers & Political Theorists at the University of Sheffield

There are staff doing research in Political Theory & Normative Ethics across many different departments of the University, including Law, Politics, Germanic Studies, Urban Studies & Planning, and Philosophy. There are several intersecting research projects between these members of faculty, from reading groups and research seminars through to co-authored research papers and joint supervision of interdisciplinary PhD studentships.




Urban Studies & Planning

Germanic Studies

Our students say

What Our Students Say

Jack Waites, MA Political Theory

Photo of Jack Waites"I decided to study for my MA in Sheffield after having such a positive experience studying for my BA here. The department has an unusually wide range of research expertise which allows for students to engage with all areas of philosophical inquiry, creating a stimulating, open, and exciting environment for postgraduate students. From metametaphysics to feminist phenomenology, the department has expertise and support for all interests and ambitions!"

"Along with their research expertise both staff and students are incredibly supportive, creating an ideal research environment for a postgraduate to develop their ideas. I fondly remember times where I have gone to see a supervisor with the intention of briefly discussing an idea expecting the conversation to last five minutes, only to leave two hours later with an idea for a PhD proposal!"

"In particular, the department provides excellent support to students looking to secure funding, and thanks to this I was able to receive a scholarship for my MA. I cannot recommend the department enough to anyone considering postgraduate study, rest assured Sheffield will bring the best out of those wishing to take their philosophical studies to the next level."


Contact us

The current Director of Studies is Dr. Ashley Taylor.

If you would like further information, please email us:

Email : j.renshaw@sheffield.ac.uk

Telephone: 0114 222 0587

Or write to:
Joanne Renshaw, MA Secretary
Department of Philosophy
University of Sheffield
45 Victoria Street
S3 7QB, UK.

You can also ask a student:

goetzeHi, I'm Trystan. I'm from Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada. I'm a third-year PhD student working on the ethical and epistemic responsibilities we have with regards to the ethical and social concepts we use. I'm happy to answer any questions you have about postgraduate life at Sheffield and the Department of Philosophy.