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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.

Requirements Value
Political Theory Research Seminar 30 credits
Dissertation of 10-14,000 words on a topic of your choosing (negotiated with the supervisor). 60 credits
At least one Politics module 30 credits
Any two other Philosophy or eligible Politics modules (see below for module options). 60 credits
Total: 180 credits

Module choice

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.

Taught Philosophy Modules

See complete list of Philosophy modules you can choose from

Taught Politics Modules

Work placement

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.

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.


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 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 to philosophy@sheffield.ac.uk 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.


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 and 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

Global and Career Experience

Work Placement Module

This is a module where, instead of attending lectures or seminars, you'll volunteer with an organization from the voluntary sector in Sheffield. This will enable you to gain skills and experience relevant to political theory in an applied setting.

Find out more about the Work Placement Module

The following opportunities offered by the Faculty of Social Sciences are open to MA Political Theory students to help develop their careers and gain valuable global experience.

Postgraduate Advantage Scheme

This provides internship bursaries for postgraduate students to gain graduate-level work experience whilst studying. Through this scheme, our students have engaged with over one hundred community organisations, charities and small-medium enterprises, with internships taking place around the world, from Sheffield to South Africa.

Find out more about the Postgraduate Advantage Scheme

Global Learning Opportunities in the Social Sciences (GLOSS)

This exciting programme provides you with unique opportunities to understand your course in an international context, to actively engage with international policymakers, stakeholders and partners, and to become involved in the international research undertaken within the Faculty of Social Sciences.

Find out more about GLOSS

Global Leadership Initiative

This gives you the chance to attend major international summits taking place during the academic year. You will have the opportunity to gain first-hand experience of international policy debates at the highest level, to attend press conferences and produce outputs visible to an international audience, thereby enhancing your research skills and employability.

Find out more about the Global Leadership Initiative

Our students say

What Our Students Say

Michael Chilton, MA Political Theory

Photo of Michael Chilton"I chose Sheffield to do my MA in Political Theory because of the sheer range of modules and research opportunities available. It was even a bit daunting having the freedom to research whatever I was interested in however my supervisor was extremely helpful and easy to approach to work out what I wanted to do and what modules I would enjoy. For someone who wasn't sure about doing a PhD, the postgraduate approach to research and essay writing has helped me greatly in working out what I want to do next.

The department is also really friendly. Within the first few weeks I knew not only those on my particular MA but also other Philosophy MA and PhD students who are all happy to discuss ideas and help out with problems I had encountered. The lecturers themselves are also incredibly supportive and happy to chat about my studies and where I want to take my research.
Sheffield has definitely been the right choice for me, their research is groundbreaking and I always feel pushed to better my previous work because of this high standard while still having the support of the entire Department to help me do so."


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.