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

Core modules:

  • Cognitive Studies Seminar (30 credits)
  • Dissertation (60 credits)

Other modules:

  • Additional modules adding up to 90 credits
  • Students planning to continue to a PhD can do a PhD proposal (6-8,000 words) as one of their modules, consisting of an outline of the projected thesis and an annotated bibliography or literature search.

Teaching and Assessment

You will learn through lectures, seminars and tutorials. You’ll write a long essay (4,000-6,000 words) or two short essays (2,000-3,000 words) for each Philosophy module and a dissertation (9,000-12,000 words). If you’re going on to a PhD you may choose to write a PhD proposal of 6,000-8,000 words. Assessment for modules from departments other than Philosophy will vary and you should check the individual module information.


You will have a supervisor for your research to discuss your essays, your dissertation and PhD proposal if appropriate. If you take the Guided Reading module you will have a fortnightly supervision. 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 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.

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.

Disabled applicants

We welcome disabled students. We're committed to responding effectively and appropriately to individual support needs. We take all practicable steps to ensure that disabled students can participate in their studies without disadvantage, and can make full use of the University's academic and support services. Information for disabled applicants

Our campus and how we use it

While some of our teaching takes place in the department, most of it is timetabled to take place in purpose-built teaching spaces across the campus (see our campus map). The campus has many amenities, and is located at the heart of the city, giving you easy access to shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.

Tuition Fees and Funding

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.



The Cognitive Studies MA 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.

Course Duration
  • 1 year full-time
  • 2 year part-time
Semesters The teaching component of the programme will commence late September and is based on semesters (Autumn/Spring) with students taking two modules 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.
Award This programme is offered as a MA (180 credits), or a Diploma (120 credits).
  • For each Philosophy module you will write either one essay of 4-6,000 words or two essays of 2-3000 words each, on topics related to the subjects covered in the modules. Essay topics should be chosen in consultation with the module leader. The essays should be thought of as mini research-papers, whose content can be related more or less loosely to the material covered in the course. Students should meet with the module leader or other appropriate member of staff to discuss the topic and to discuss a draft of the essay. Assessment for modules from other departments will vary and you should check the individual module information.
  • Students planning to continue to a PhD can do a PhD proposal (6-8,000 words), instead of an essay, consisting of an outline of the projected thesis and an annotated bibliography.
  • A dissertation of 9-12,000 words.


Our MA students come from a range of backgrounds and can take different routes through the course.

You will take the following core modules:

  • Cognitive Studies Seminar
  • Dissertation

The Cognitive Studies Seminar, taken by all students on the programme, offers an introduction to the main theories and methods of cognitive science.

Optional modules

You will choose additional modules adding up to 90 credits.

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, Archaeology, Computer Science, Music and the School of Languages and Cultures (subject to individual departmental restrictions on capacity etc). Students who plan to continue to a PhD are encouraged to take the PhD Proposal module.

The list of MA modules available varies slightly from year to year. Below is a sample of some representative modules for the year 2019-20.

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.




Linguistics and Communication

Computer Science


School of Languages and Cultures

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


Applying for the Cognitive Studies MA

Entry Requirements

To apply, you will need a first-class or a 2.1 honours degree from a UK university or an equivalent grade from overseas.

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.

Admissions decisions are based mainly on:

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

English language requirements

Overall IELTS grade of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component, or equivalent.

Entry requirements for international students

How to apply

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

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 to 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. Academic transcripts of your academic performance at undergraduate and (for PhD applicants) Masters level.
  4. Documentation of English language qualifications if you are not a native speaker.

Apply now


You can apply at any time however there will be deadlines for any applications for funding you may be making.


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 and 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

Conferences and Workshops

Emotional Bonds Series
March - July 2019

Bias in Context 3
25-26 January 2017

Empirical Approaches to Philosophical Aesthetics
26 January 2017

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

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

Mind Network Meeting
Friday 21 October 2016 

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

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


Ellen Clarke (University of Leeds) "On biological individuality", 10 May 2019

Peter Graham (University of California Riverside) "Are the Norms of Assertion Social Norms?", 8 February 2019

Samir Okasha (University of Bristol) "Inter-temporal choice and the metaphysics of time", 2 November 2018

Fabio Del Prete (CNRS Toulouse) "Gender in Conditionals", 9 November 2017

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

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

Brian Epstein (Philosophy, Tufts) "Two ways of making the social world" 22 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 2017: Decision-making and decision theory
  • 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, Cognitive Studies MA 2015

"Having completed a Cognitive Studies MA 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, Cognitive Studies MA 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."

Photo of Andrea BlomqvistAndrea Blomqvist, Cognitive Studies MA 2017

"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)."

"Having completed an undergraduate degree in Philosophy, I chose the Cognitive Studies MA programme because I wanted to take a more interdisciplinary, empirically-informed perspective on the philosophy of mind. I found the wide range of modules offered in a variety of departments appealing, and this was not paralleled by any other university in the UK."

"During the MA, I found that not only did I benefit from the interdisciplinary focus of the modules, but I also benefited greatly from being surrounded by students from different academic backgrounds - ranging from Psychology and Philosophy to Neuroscience and even Music. This often made for interesting discussions in seminars and was especially valuable in the Cognitive Studies Seminar."

"Despite the freedom of module choice that this programme offers, it still provides a focused route and prepares you well for a PhD. I started the year not feeling that I had the skills or grit necessary to undertake a PhD, and it turned out that this MA was the perfect stepping stone. I developed as an independent researcher, learned how to focus my research questions and improve my writing style, and several members of the department advised me on my PhD proposal and funding applications. Whether you’re planning on going on to a PhD or not, I’d wholeheartedly recommend the Cognitive Studies programme for all the above reasons, but also because you’d be joining such a friendly and supportive philosophy department."


Contact Us

The current Director of Studies is Dr. Luca Barlassina

If you would like further information, please contact us:

Or you can ask a student:

Photo of Viktoria KononovaMy name is Viktoria, and I am from the North-West of Russia. Before coming to Sheffield to pursue a Master's in cognitive science, I studied clinical psychology for 5 years. My PhD thesis focuses on interoception, or perception of the physiological state of the body. I have broad interests in philosophy of psychology, philosophy of mind and feminism.