Postgraduate study

Philosophy PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Philosophy

We welcome research proposals of outstanding quality in any area of philosophy.

We are one of the world’s leading philosophy departments for research, boasting 40 academic researchers. Our research covers a wide range of philosophical topics and questions, with strengths in both contemporary philosophy and the history of philosophy.

Our areas of research and staff interests include:

  • Ancient Greek and Medieval Islamic Philosophy
  • Epistemology
  • Ethics
  • European Early Modern and Enlightenment Philosophy
  • Existentialism and Phenomenology
  • Logic and Language
  • Metaphysics and Ontology
  • Mind and Cognition
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Social and Political Philosophy

For more information of current staff interests please go to:

Philosophy is rated 4th in the UK by Times Higher Education for the quality and breadth of the research using the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021).

The department has close links with other subject areas within the University, such as psychology, linguistics, informatics, jurisprudence, politics and classics.

You will meet regularly with your supervisors, who will advise you on the steps to take towards producing your thesis. In their first year, students also participate in the proseminar, which provides an opportunity to learn about a wide range of philosophical topics and to meet different academic staff members.

All doctoral students are encouraged to participate in a bi-weekly postgraduate work-in-progress research seminar, and to take advantage of regular professional development and research training seminars offered within and outside the department.

Most PhD students will gain undergraduate teaching experience, for which you will be given training and mentoring.

Find out more about our community

The School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences is home to a large, supportive and active student community, hosting events and activities throughout the year which you can join. As a postgraduate student you will have access to a range of research resources, state of the art facilities, research seminars and reading groups.

Many of our PhD graduates choose to remain in academia as lecturers and researchers.

Post-doctoral opportunities

Recent graduates have successfully attained post-doctoral positions at:

  • University of Montreal
  • British Academy Postdoc at Sheffield University
  • University of Barcelona
  • Ruhr University Bochum
  • University of Trier
  • Kansai University
  • University of York
  • University of Helsinki
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology

As well as faculty positions at:

  • Nanyang Technological University
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Hokkaido's Center for Human Nature, Artificial Intelligence and Neuroscience
  • Anderson University
  • Fudan University
  • University of Glasgow

Find a research opportunity that matches your interests.

We strongly encourage you to get in touch with a potential supervisor, and to include their name in your application. When contacting a potential supervisor, please include a draft proposal and CV as this will provide the starting point for discussion. You can introduce yourself by explaining why their work interests you.

Writing your research proposal

Your research proposal will be used to consider whether supervision can be provided for the research that you propose, so it is important that your basic aims and area of investigation are clear.

We understand that it can be difficult to formulate research plans for a proposal well in advance of carrying out the work, but we encourage you to formulate your ideas clearly. You should expect to draft your proposal several times, and, ideally, seek comments on it from people able to discuss it with you (perhaps from your referees or former lecturers) before submitting your application.

Your proposal should be around 1000 words. This does not include any references or bibliography – you are encouraged to refer to relevant literature and may include a set of references as well as a proposal of the length described above.

Your proposal should include:

  • a title for the project
  • a discussion of the research questions or hypothesis that you intend to address, along with a justification for them: what makes the problem or questions interesting and important?
  • a brief explanation of the ideas or concepts that the research will investigate
  • a description of the research context in which you aim to work – you should refer explicitly to work which is similar to that which you are planning or which is influential on your ideas, and you should include the details of this work in a bibliography or list of references
  • an indication of feasibility: How will you go about answering the question in the timeframe of the PhD? What skills/knowledge do you need to acquire?

Given the limited scope of a PhD dissertation, you will not resolve a big, longstanding philosophical problem in your dissertation. Instead aim for a medium-sized contribution (i.e. greater scope than a single journal article, but no more than a short monograph) to a current debate in philosophy or philosophical scholarship.

If your application is successful, we expect that your research will develop. It is likely that your supervisor will suggest changes or developments to your research. Therefore, you will not be held to the ideas that you explain in your proposal during your research.

Prepare and submit your application details

To ensure full consideration of your application we ask that you submit your complete application including all supporting documentation.

You should include a sample of academic writing, such as an essay or article, written in the past two years. Ideally your work sample should be on a topic related to your proposed area of research.

You will be asked to add contact details for your referees. We will email them with information on how to upload their reference directly to your online application. Please allow plenty of time as we can only consider your application once we have received your full application, including your references.

Prepare a funding application

Our PhD positions do not come with automatic funding. The AHRC, specifically the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities (SGSAH), is a main source of funding for our PhD students.

All applicants in the first round (November deadline) are strongly encouraged to prepare an application to the SGSAH. This application is submitted to PPLS immediately after your application for a PhD position at PPLS. Do not wait to be offered a place to study first.

We select a number of proposals based on academic merit and funding potential to be considered by the SGSAH. If you do not complete the SGSAH application, you greatly diminish your chances of receiving funding for your PhD.

Shortlisted candidates will have the opportunity to work on their proposal further prior to final submission to SGSAH. SGSAH will consider and make final decision on funding award in late spring 2023.

These entry requirements are for the 2023/24 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2024/25 academic year will be published on 2 October 2023.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in philosophy.

Your application will also be considered if you have a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in another subject and a postgraduate masters level degree in philosophy.

Your academic achievements will be assessed by a panel of academics along with the research proposal submitted as part of your application.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 23 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 176 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 62 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about our language requirements:

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhDPhilosophy3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhDPhilosophy6 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Only applications received by the Round 1 deadline will be considered for University of Edinburgh based funding. You may be able to secure external funding outside of this deadline.

Featured funding

(Revised 25 January 2023 to clarify availability of funding opportunities).

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • PPLS Postgraduate Office
  • Dugald Stewart Building
  • 3 Charles Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AD
Programme start date Application deadline
11 September 2023 13 March 2023

Only applications received by the Round 1 deadline will be considered for University of Edinburgh based funding. You may be able to secure external funding outside of this deadline.

We operate a gathered field approach to PhD applications.

This means that all complete applications which satisfy our minimum entry requirements will be held until the nearest deadline. The admissions panel will meet to consider all applications received together after that date.

Applications are held for processing over two deadlines:

Round Application deadline Places awarded
1 14 November 27 January
2 13 March 15 May

(Revised 25 January 2023 to clarify availability of funding opportunities).

You must submit two references with your application.

Please read through the ‘Important application information’ section on this page before applying.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • PPLS Postgraduate Office
  • Dugald Stewart Building
  • 3 Charles Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AD