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The Cognitive Studies MA programme gives you the opportunity to explore cognitive science, a cutting edge research field in which philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, computer science, and anthropology come together to discover how the mind works. Our MA programme is highly interdisciplinary and flexible, allowing you to freely pursue your intellectual interests by taking modules from the following departments:

Structure of the course

The MA in Cognitive Studies consists of 180 credits, and can be undertaken full-time (1 year) or part-time (2 years). The programme consists of the following components:

Requirements Value
Attend the Cognitive Studies Seminar and write a essay (4000-6000 words) on a seminar
30 credits
Attend additional modules adding up to 60 credits. 60 credits
Write a PhD proposal (6000-8000 words), consisting of an outline of the projected thesis,
accompanied by an annotated bibliography or literature search
OR take additional modules adding up to 30 credits.
30 credits
Write a Dissertation of 9000-12,000 words. 60 credits
Total: 180


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.


Sheffield is an exceptional place to study Cognitive Science. There are more than 20 cognitive scientists working at the University of Sheffield (find out more about their research interests). You will then have the opportunity to attend many research seminars organized by the departments affiliated to the MA program. You will also be able to benefit from the research projects and events organised by the Hang Seng Centre for Cognitive Studies. The HumLab, an interdisciplinary facility for the study of Language, Music, and Cognition is open to you. 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 Cognitive Studies 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.



The MA in Cognitive Studies consists of 180 credits, and can be undertaken full-time (1 year) or part-time (2 years). Part-Time MA students are fully integrated into the programme and the flexibility of this option allows students to fit study around their other activities and responsibilities.

The teaching component of the programme will commence late September and is based on semesters (Autumn/Spring), with students taking modules for 60 credits in each semester. Semester dates.

Over the summer you will complete your dissertation (60 credits). Part-time students will commence this aspect of the programme in the summer of their second year.


Requirements Value
Attend the Cognitive Studies Seminar and write a essay (4000-6000 words) on a seminar
30 credits
Attend additional modules adding up to 60 credits. (Modules choices detailed below). 60 credits
Write a PhD proposal (6000-8000 words), consisting of an outline of the projected thesis,
accompanied by an annotated bibliography or literature search
OR take additional modules adding up to 30 credits.
30 credits
Write a Dissertation of 9000-12,000 words. 60 credits
Total: 180

Module choice

Our MA students come from a range of backgrounds and can take different routes through the Masters. The Cognitive Studies Seminar, taken by all students on the programme, offers an introduction to the main theories and methods of cognitive science. You will have the opportunity to discuss your other module choices with the course director and to design an individual study programme tailored to your particular interests. Theoretical and experimental module options are available: you will be free to choose any MA module you like from philosophy, psychology, linguistics, human communication science, and archaeology. Students who plan to continue to a PhD are encouraged to take the PhD Proposal component.

The list of MA modules varies slightly from year to year due to staff changes and so on. Here is a sample of some representative modules for the year 2017-18.




Linguistics and Communication

Computer Science

The following links will guide you to the full list of modules for each department:


Applying for the MA in Cognitive Studies

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, including philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, medicine, theology, linguistics, geography, and social sciences. 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 cognitive science (from philosophy of mind to cognitive neuroscience, from syntax to experimental psychology, etc.). 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



There are more than 20 members of staff working in Cognitive Science at the University of Sheffield; covering a huge amount of topics and areas. Here is a partial list, indicating their main research interests. You can read more about them by clicking on their names.

Events and Activities

Recent Events and Activities


Bias in Context 3
25-26 January 2017

Empirical Approaches to Philosophical Aesthetics
26 January 2017

Philosophy Meets Cognitive Science - A Conference in Honour of Stephen Stich
Friday 7 October 2016

Mind Network Meeting
Friday 21 October 2016 


Religious Experience at the Intersection of Body and Cognition
Interdisciplinary Cluster Group, 28-29 April 2017

Affect: Pleasure, Pain, and Emotions
International Workshop, Friday 5 and Saturday 6 June 2015

Cognitive Science in Sheffield
Inter-Departmental Workshop, Friday 13 November 2015


Michael Devitt (Philosophy, CUNY) "The Reference of Proper Names: Testing Usage and Intuitions", 5th May 2017

Luca Barlassina (Philosophy, Sheffield) "More of this command! Less of this command!’ 31st March 2017

Brian Epstein (Philosophy, Tufts) "Two ways of making the social world" 22nd March 2017

Luca Barlassina (Philosophy, Sheffield) discussed the function of pleasant and unpleasant experiences in our lives as part of the Festival of Arts and Humanities 2016.

Rob Rupert (Philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder) "Cognition and the Personal Level: Cognitive Neuroscience, Human Action, and Flat Psychology", 8th July 2016.

Stuart P. Wilson (Cognitive Neuroscience, Sheffield) "How self-organisation can guide evolution", 7 June 2016.

Ian Phillips (Philosophy, Oxford) "Naive realism and the science of illusion", 8 March 2016.

Holly Branigan (PPLS, Edinburgh) "Say as I say: How adults’ language influences children’s syntax in dialogue (and beyond)", 6 November 2015.

Neil Lawrence (Neuroscience and Computer Science, Sheffield) "What kind of AI have we created?", Friday 23 October 2015.

Aparna Nadig (School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University) "Mechanisms of language learning in children with autism spectrum disorders" 16 October 2015

Tom Cochrane (Philosophy, Sheffield) "Valent representations", Friday 9 October 2015.

Philosophy of Cognitive Science Weekly Reading Group

  • Autumn 2016: Discussing Elements of Moral Cognition : Rawls' Linguistic Analogy and the Cognitive Science of Moral and Legal Judgment, Cambridge University Press, 2013
  • Spring 2016: Discussing Jesse Prinz Gut Reactions: A Perceptual Theory of Emotion, Oxford University Press, 2004
  • Autumn 2015: Discussing Shaun Nichols Sentimental Rules: On the Natural Foundations of Moral Judgment, Oxford University Press, 2004
  • Spring 2015: Discussing Susan Carey The Origins of Concepts, Oxford University Press, 2009
Our students say

What our students say

Photo of Penelope OrrPenelope Orr, MA Cognitive Studies 2015

"Having completed an MA in Cognitive Studies at the University of Sheffield, in 2015, I would happily recommend both the MA course and the philosophy department to anyone who is serious about philosophy."

"The Cognitive Studies MA is both challenging and rewarding. It offers you an opportunity to explore several different approaches to understanding the mind: I was able to build on my philosophical background, whilst taking modules from other disciplines, such as psychology and anthropology. As far as I am aware, not many other institutions offer this flexibility and diversity within a taught MA."

Photo of Renuka RaghavanRenuka Raghavan, MA Cognitive Studies 2016

"As an international student, I indulged in quite a bit of analysis before choosing a taught masters programme in Cognitive Studies. I finally chose Sheffield because the course seemed to be very flexible, appeared to encourage students to proactively direct their learning and most importantly, seemed to support an interdisciplinary approach."

"During my one year at Sheffield, I found this judgement to be justified. Moreover, I found myself in an inclusive environment, in the company of friendly people and kind and encouraging professors, who were always willing to go the extra mile to help us students out. The academic atmosphere in the University is diverse, and competitive without being cut-throat. The staff (both in the Philosophy Department, and in the Psychology and language departments) are highly experienced, enthusiastic and broad-minded. The lectures, seminars and conferences succeed in addressing the heterogeneity - in interest and ability - in the student population."

"The Cognitive Studies MA is excellent for any motivated student, for there is both the pressure to be academically productive and the space to reassess ones' academic goals and redirect oneself accordingly (and should the latter be the case, there is plenty of input available)."


Contact Us

The current Director of Studies for Autumn 2017-18 is Dr. Luca Barlassina and for Spring 2018 is Dr. Paul Faulkner.  If you are interested in our MA in Cognitive Studies, we strongly advise you to contact Luca in Autumn who will be happy to answer any questions you have:

or Paul in Spring:

You can also contact our MA Secretary, Joanne Renshaw

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

Or you can ask a student:

Photograph of Alexandre DuvalHi, I am Alexandre. I am from Quebec (a French-speaking province of Canada). I am a PhD student, and I work in philosophy of psychology and cognitive science. I'm happy to answer any questions you have about postgraduate life and studying cognitive science in Sheffield.