Moray House School of Education and Sport

MSc Education: Philosophy of Education pathway

This pathway explores a range of philosophical issues in education practice, policy and research from a variety of different international contexts, traditions and perspectives.

It builds upon a long Scottish tradition at Edinburgh, going back over three hundred years, where education students studied philosophy and/or philosophy of education courses. 

Do you find the word ‘philosophy’ difficult to associate with? This pathway will remind you how philosophy is part of your everyday life. […] The high-quality compulsory courses, while providing students with different perspectives on topics in education, cleverly intertwine with each other. […] My positive reflection of this programme is due to not only how carefully organised the topics, materials, and delivery of courses are, but, perhaps more importantly, to how academic staff promote the students’ learning through their approachability, open-mindedness, and curiosity. […] I am certain that my encounter with the activity of philosophising was life-altering, and the one-year practice of it through this programme has left me with an asset of the mind that can no longer remain idle.

Rie (student 2021-22)

Students with or without previous training in philosophy are encouraged to apply, as well as teachers and educational researchers who want to learn about the philosophy of education. 

Key issues covered in this pathway include: 

  • What is 'education'? How is it different from ‘learning’, ‘training’, or ‘schooling’?
  • What are the aims of education? What is the purpose of educational institutions in society?
  • What is 'knowledge' and how is it acquired? What should be taught in schools and universities?
  • What is the relationship between education, justice and equality?
  • What is the nature of ‘teaching’? Is it an art, a science, a technology?
  • How is education defined within different Anglo-American, continental European, Asian, Scottish and South American traditions of inquiry?
  • How can the moral and ethical dimensions of teaching and learning be understood?

During your studies, you will work closely with academics who are well-established in the international philosophy of education community.

You will be able to participate in the Philosophy of Education Research Group at Moray House and seminars at the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain (Edinburgh Branch). Seminars are held regularly throughout the academic year.

Philosophy of Education Research Group

Pathway structure

You will take a number of compulsory courses and option courses and complete a dissertation in order to complete this MSc programme. 

You will receive a broad introduction into core traditions of philosophical thought (Continental and Analytic Philosophy, Philosophy of Science, Moral Philosophy, American Pragmatism, Confucianism) and their bearings on educational theory, practice, and policy. You may chose from a wide range of option courses for further specialisation in others fields of educational research.

Compulsory courses

You will take the following compulsory courses:

Option courses

In addition, you complete two option courses, selected from a broad range on offer in the School. Option courses are subject to change each year but in the past have included:

Course Descriptions (2024-25)

As a former secondary school teacher, I found the Philosophy of Education pathway to be a hugely enriching experience. It encouraged me to think critically about my own practice as well as the broader and deeper questions about education more generally. The range of courses exposed me to ideas and debates beyond those I had encountered in the classroom, and provided an excellent basis for my further PhD studies. The lecturers and tutors are extremely knowledgeable and well-informed, whilst also exuding a genuine passion for the subject matter. I cannot recommend this pathway highly enough!

Amy (graduate 2020-21, currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy of Education at Moray House)


Over the course of studies in semesters one and two, our staff will support you to gradually become more independent in your studies. This helps prepare you for your dissertation project. On successful completion of the core and option courses, you will complete a dissertation project which is a piece of independent, original research of 12,000 words.

Once you reach the dissertation stage, you will have a series of small group and one-to-one meetings with your allocated supervisor, who will work closely with you during the dissertation project. One of the benefits of being in a large department is that there is a wide range of staff skills to draw upon so dissertation supervisors are more likely to be specialists in your chosen area of research.

You will be supported to write a dissertation with a philosophy of education focus, in an area of interest to you. You will have the option of doing a dissertation that is entirely theoretical or one that involves collecting data that is then analysed through a philosophical lens.

Examples of recent dissertation topics in this pathway area include:

  • A philosophical analysis of teacher authority
  • What potential does physical education have to contribute to the ethical development of children?
  • A study on students’ perceptions of meaning in life
  • Re-thinking dissensus, conflicts and controversy
  • An analysis of the evolutionary foundation of John Dewey’s concept of Growth and its implications for education

Pathway-specific career opportunities

Graduates leave the programme with a range of skills including philosophy of education research skills, the capacity to think critically and analytically about the nature and purposes of education policy, practice and research, as well as an in-depth understanding of the epistemological perspectives that underpin particular research methods. 

The pathway is great preparation for further doctoral study in the philosophy of education and other fields. Graduates of the pathway have moved on to academic careers in the philosophy of education and educational research more broadly, as well as school leadership and teaching.

Career opportunities

Contact us

For further information about this pathway, please contact the Pathway Co-ordinator.

Pathway Co-ordinator: Dr Aline Nardo

Apply now

Find detailed entry requirements, fees and costs, and apply for this pathway via the Degree Finder.  

Apply now