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The Political Theory MA is designed for students with an interest in contemporary political philosophy and its historical underpinnings: topics such as global justice, the environment, feminism, capitalism, equality, democracy and international political theory. 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.

Structure of the course

The course takes one year (or two years part time), and consists of the following components:

Core modules:

  • Political Philosophy Research Seminar
  • Dissertation

Other modules:

At least one Politics module and two other Philosophy or eligible Politics modules

Teaching and Assessment

You’ll learn through lectures, seminars and tutorials. You’ll write a long essay for each module and a dissertation.

If you’re planning to apply for a PhD you may choose to write a PhD proposal.


You will have a supervisor for your research to discuss your essays, your dissertation and PhD proposal if appropriate. Your module lecturers will also help and support you through your course.


There are more than 20 members of staff working in Political Theory and Normative Ethics across at least 5 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 a range of 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 usually 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.

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 may be available. For information on these see our funding page. Costs of living in Sheffield are relatively low. This 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.


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.

Course Duration
  • 1 year full-time
  • 2 years part-time
Semesters The teaching component of the programme will commence late September and is based on semesters (Autumn/Spring), with full-time students taking two modules in each semester. Semester dates. Over the summer you will complete your dissertation (60 credits). Part-time students will complete 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 taught 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 those covered in the module. 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 another 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. (The PhD proposal module may be taken in either semester.)
  • A dissertation of 9-12,000 words.


You will take the following core modules:

  • Political Philosophy Research Seminar
  • Dissertation

You must also choose three optional modules, consisting of at least one eligible Politics module and two other Philosophy or eligible Politics modules.

The list of optional 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.

Optional Taught Philosophy Modules

See complete list of Philosophy modules available in 2019-20.

Optional Taught Politics Modules

  • POL6005 Contemporary Global Security
  • POL6602 Political Economy of Global Environmental Change
  • POL6605 Democratic Governance in the 21st Century: Problems, Innovations and Solutions
  • POL6606 International Political Sociology of Civil Wars
  • POL6612 The Political Economy of Poverty and Inequality
  • POL6613 Wellbeing in Politics and Policy
  • POL6560 Politics and Governance of the European Union
  • POL6608 Policy Making in the Real World
  • POL6611 Feminist and Decolonizing Approaches to International Relations: Bodies, Coloniality, Knowledge
  • POL6614 Terrorism and Political Violence
  • POL6615 Capitalism and Crisis
  • POL6616 Development and the State
  • POL6619 Freedom

Contact the Department of Politics for more information about Politics modules.

Work placement

The Work Placement module enables students to gain work experience in the third sector, and to undertake an applied research project by working together with a third sector organization.

All students may attend the Graduate Research Seminar, which meets weekly to discuss the ongoing work of PhD and MA students.


Applying for the Political Theory 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.

A degree in Philosophy, Politics or a related subject is preferred, though we will consider applicants from a wide range of disciplines, particularly if they can demonstrate other experience relevant to the programme.

Admissions decisions are based mainly on:

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

English language requirements

Overall IELTS grade of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 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 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.

Apply now


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.


The Philosophy Department in Sheffield welcomes international students and has an International Students' Society. 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 third sector. 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, Political Theory MA

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 Director of Studies in Autumn is Dr. Megan Blomfield and in Spring is Chris Marshall.

If you would like further information, please contact us: