Philosophy students in a seminar.

Philosophy, Religion and Ethics BA

Department of Philosophy

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    You are viewing this course for 2023-24 entry.

    Key details

    Course description

    This degree will deepen your understanding of philosophy, religion and ethics, and the questions they raise. You'll learn to develop and defend your own critical perspectives within the context of global events, exploring topics ranging from the value of religious faith and practices to the ethics of climate change or euthanasia.

    You'll study modules from philosophy, religion and ethics, and you'll be taught by researchers who are experts in their fields, including history, biblical studies and gender studies. There are plenty of modules to choose from and we will advise you on the best way to structure your options.

    In year three, you'll have the opportunity to write a dissertation, working closely with a member of academic staff.

    We have a lively academic community. For example our Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies is a world-leading institute for multidisciplinary research on the Bible.

    Our Centre for Engaged Philosophy pursues research into questions of fundamental political and social importance, from criminal justice and social inclusion to climate ethics, all topics that are covered in our teaching.

    There's always something exciting going on, whether it's put on by staff or students. You can pursue collaborative research projects, attend guest lectures, work with the public, or present your own academic work outside of the classroom.

    An academic delivers a philosophy lecture.


    Our programme is designed so that you take modules in philosophy, religion and ethics. You have the flexibility to choose from a range of modules in each subject area so you can explore your interests.

    Many of the modules which are available are interdisciplinary, exhibiting a strong focus on more than one of the three areas.

    A selection of modules are available each year - some examples are below. There may be changes before you start your course. From May of the year of entry, formal programme regulations will be available in our Programme Regulations Finder.

    Title: Philosophy, Religion and Ethics BA course structure 2023-24
    UCAS code: VV56
    Years: 2023
    First year

    You must take 120 credits in total during your first year including the following three core modules (60 credits):

    Ethics and Society (20 credits)
    Examine questions about value - the good and the bad, the right and the wrong – and consider some of the ways in which philosophical theorising about value may shape society itself.

      Writing Philosophy

      Philosophical writing is a skill that you, the student, must hone early on in order to succeed in your degree. It is also a transferable skill that will serve you in your post-academic career. Philosophical writing combines the general virtues of clarity, organisation, focus and style found in other academic writing with particular philosophical virtues, namely, the ability to expose the implicit assumptions of analysed texts and to make explicit the logical structure of one's own and other people's arguments. A precondition of philosophical writing is a unique form of textual analysis that pays particular attention to its argumentative structure. In this module you will learn and practice philosophical writing. You will learn how to read in preparation for philosophical writing, learn how to plan an essay, learn how to rework your drafts and learn how to use feedback constructively. You will write five drafts and five essays and will have one on on tutorial on each essay you write. The lectures in the course will be split between lectures of the art of writing and lectures on philosophical topics in the domain of fact and value. Essay topics will be based on the topical lectures and their associated readings

      20 credits
      Religion in Britain

      This module provides an introduction to the critical study of religion, engaging with definitions, key concepts and different methods used in studying Religion in our society. We will examine theories, social trends, and sociological research, as well as debates in the society and the media, in order to better understand religious diversity in Britain today. We will study religious rituals and traditions, as well as atheism, humanism, spirituality, and mindfulness. We will examine key themes in the contemporary sociology of religion, such as secularism, fundamentalism, and pluralism, and consider empirical research on global religious trends, and British religiosity.
      The students will also have an opportunity to do some fieldwork, as one of the assignments is a mini-ethnography project, as students choose a religious community and visit them to observe lived religion first-hand. This module provides an excellent foundation for further study of religion and social sciences, as well as general understanding of issues behind media headlines, and critical awareness of social change affecting our society.

      20 credits

      You will then choose at least 20 credits from:

      Mind & World (20 credits)
      Learn about some of the major concerns of epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) and of metaphysics (the philosophical examination of the nature of reality).

      Reason and Argument (20 credits)
      An introduction to the core ideas and instruments that are commonly used throughout the subject to analyse, assess, and construct arguments; tools that will be extremely useful in the course of your degree and indeed well beyond the study of Philosophy itself.

      You can then choose up to 40 credits of optional Philosophy, Religion or Ethics modules. Here is a typical list of options:

      Foundations in Literary Study: Biblical and Classical Sources in English Literature

      This module provides foundational knowledge about the treatment of Biblical and Classical sources in English Literature. It is an important unit for the study of literature and the Humanities, preparing students for work at higher levels. Typically a Biblical or Classical source and a literary text will be discussed together, to expose a range of meanings and to prepare participants for their own research about both the Bible and Classical material as literature and the treatment of Bible and Classical material in Literature. It will also prepare students for independent research. It is recommended that all students of English take this module.

      20 credits
      An Introduction to Islam

      The module will provide students with an introduction and overview of the religion of Islam. It will outline the formative life of the prophet Mohammed in his social, religious and cultural context as well as the early history of the Islamic faith and its central pillars of faith. It will sketch some of the major historical events and periods of Islam up to the present day and will introduce and explore the Koran and Hadith. Attention will also be paid to the history of Christian-Muslim relations and to the form and influence of Islamic art and architecture.

      10 credits
      Philosophy of Religion

      This course will pose and try to answer philosophical questions about religion. These include questions about the nature of religion. For instance does being religious necessarily involve believing in the existence of a God or Gods? And is religious faith compatible with adherence to the scientific method? Other questions that the course will cover include questions about the theistic notion of God. Does the idea of an all-powerful being make sense? Is an all-knowing God compatible with human freedom? And is an all-powerful, all-knowing and perfectly good creator of the universe compatible with the existence of evil? Further questions concern God and morality. Is it true that if there is no God, then there is no right and wrong? The course will examine philosophical arguments for the existence of God, and question whether these arguments are sound.

      10 credits
      History of Philosophical Ideas

      The history of philosophy is made up of a series of debates between competing philosophical traditions and schools: for example, idealists argue with realists, rationalists with empiricists. And at different times, distinctive philosophical movements have dominated the discussion, such as pragmatism, existentialism, phenomenology, analytic philosophy, and critical theory. This module will introduce you to some of these central movements and traditions in the history of philosophy from Plato onwards, and the key philosophical concepts and issues that they have brought in to western thought.

      10 credits
      History of Ethics

      How should we live? What is the right thing to do? This module offers a critical introduction to the history of western ethical thought, examining some of the key ideas of Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, Wollstonecraft, Douglass, Bentham, Mill, Taylor Mill, Nietzsche, Rawls and Gilligan. It provides a textual introduction to some of the main types of ethical theory: the ethics of flourishing and virtue; rights-based approaches; utilitarianism; contractualism. We explore the close interconnections between ethics and other branches of philosophy (e.g. metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics), as well as the connections between ethics and other disciplines (e.g. psychology; anthropology).

      10 credits

      This module is mainly about death itself . What is death? What happens to us when we die? Could there be an afterlife? Would it be a good thing if there were? What is it about death that we dislike so much, or that makes it bad? Is it rational, or even possible to fear death? What is the right attitude towards our own death? Do we have moral duties towards the dead? The course will clarify these questions and attempt to answer them. Readings will be taken from both historical and contemporary sources.

      10 credits
      LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans* and Queer) Studies

      This module introduces students to study of genders and sexualities, and LGBTQ scholarship, both historical and contemporary. It examines genders and sexualities in society, culture, media, and their academic study, as well as contemporary issues of inequality affecting sexual minorities in different global contexts. The module is team taught by experts in different departments at the University of Sheffield, who will introduce students to a wide range of theoretical and methodological perspectives, such as philosophy, history, social sciences, psychology, evolutionary biology, education, cultural studies, and critical study of religion. The module is assessed by a coursework portfolio, where students answer a number of short questions on different topics in the syllabus.

      10 credits
      Philosophy of Sex

      Sex is one of the most basic human motivators, of fundamental importance in many people's lives, and a topic of enormous moral, religious, and political contention. No surprise, then, that it turns out to be of great philosophical interest. We will discuss moral issues related to sex' asking when we might be right to judge a particular sex act to be morally problematic; and what political significance (if any) sex has. We will also discuss metaphysical issues, such as the surprisingly difficult questions of what exactly sex is and what a sexual orientation is. Throughout our study, we will draw both on philosophical sources and on up-to-date contemporary information.

      10 credits

      You may also take up to 20 credits from a list of guided modules, which includes a range of modules from across the University.

      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. We are no longer offering unrestricted module choice. If your course included unrestricted modules, your department will provide a list of modules from their own and other subject areas that you can choose from.

      Learning and assessment


      We pride ourselves on the diversity of our modules and the high quality of our teaching. Modules in philosophy focus on central philosophical issues and thinkers, and are taught through lectures, discussion seminars and online learning, as well as individual essay tutorials in the third year. You'll take part in presentations, debates and fieldwork and be given extensive feedback on your work.

      We invest to create the right environment for you. That means outstanding facilities, study spaces and support, including 24/7 online access to our online library service.

      Study spaces and computers are available to offer you choice and flexibility for your study. Our five library sites give you access to over 1.3 million books and periodicals. You can access your library account and our rich digital collections from anywhere on or off campus. Other library services include study skills training to improve your grades, and tailored advice from experts in your subject.

      Learning support facilities and library opening hours

      Our staff are among the best in the world at what they do. They're active researchers so your lectures and seminars are informed, relevant and exciting. We'll teach you how to think carefully, analytically and creatively.


      Assessment is normally through a combination of coursework essays and exams, with long essay options available instead of exams. We also help you to develop your career skills through different types of assessment.

      For some modules you will create portfolios, design academic posters or Philosophical websites, do ethnography, or more creative 'unessay' projects, like photography, or creative art.

      Some of our assessment encourages personal reflection which contributes to both academic and personal development. Diverse forms of assessment are great for upskilling yourself ready for any career, but it will also make your learning experience much more varied and fun.

      Programme specification

      This tells you the aims and learning outcomes of this course and how these will be achieved and assessed.

      Find programme specification for this course

      Entry requirements

      With Access Sheffield, you could qualify for additional consideration or an alternative offer - find out if you're eligible

      Standard offer

      The A Level entry requirements for this course are:

      A Levels + additional qualifications BBB + B in a relevant EPQ

      International Baccalaureate 33

      BTEC Extended Diploma DDD in a relevant subject

      BTEC Diploma DD in a relevant subject + B at A Level

      Scottish Highers AAABB

      Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels B + AB

      Access to HE Diploma Award of Access to HE Diploma in either Law, Business Management, Humanities or Social Sciences, with 45 credits at Level 3, including 30 at Distinction and 15 at Merit

      Access Sheffield offer

      The A Level entry requirements for this course are:

      A Levels + additional qualifications BBB + B in a relevant EPQ

      International Baccalaureate 32

      BTEC Extended Diploma DDM in a relevant subject

      BTEC Diploma DD in a relevant subject + B at A Level

      Scottish Highers AABBB

      Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels B + BB

      Access to HE Diploma Award of Access to HE Diploma in either Law, Business Management, Humanities or Social Sciences, with 45 credits at Level 3, including 24 at Distinction and 21 at Merit

      English language requirements

      You must demonstrate that your English is good enough for you to successfully complete your course. For this course we require: GCSE English Language at grade 4/C; IELTS grade of 6.0 with a minimum of 5.5 in each component; or an alternative acceptable English language qualification

      Equivalent English language qualifications

      Visa and immigration requirements

      Other qualifications | UK and EU/international

      Pathway programme for international students

      If you're an international student who does not meet the entry requirements for this course, you have the opportunity to apply for an International Foundation Year in Business, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Sheffield International College. This course is designed to develop your English language and academic skills. Upon successful completion, you can progress to degree level study at the University of Sheffield.

      If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.

      Department of Philosophy

      We pride ourselves on the diversity of our modules and the high quality of our teaching. Our staff are among the best in the world at what they do. They're active researchers so your lectures and seminars are informed, relevant and exciting. We'll teach you how to think carefully, analytically and creatively.

      Our staff and students use philosophy to engage with real world issues. You will be able to use what you learn to make a difference in the community, through projects like Philosophy in the City, an innovative and award-winning programme that enables students to teach philosophy in schools, homeless shelters and centres for the elderly.

      Our students run a thriving Philosophy Society and the only UK undergraduate philosophy journal. Our Centre for Engaged Philosophy pursues research into questions of fundamental political and social importance, from criminal justice and social inclusion to climate ethics, all topics that are covered in our teaching.

      Philosophy changes our perspective on the world, and equips and motivates us to make a difference.

      The Department of Philosophy is based at 45 Victoria Street at the heart of the University campus. We're close to the Diamond and the Information Commons, as well as Jessop West, which houses our fellow Arts & Humanities departments of History, English and Languages & Cultures.

      Department of Philosophy

      Why choose Sheffield?

      The University of Sheffield

        A top 100 university
      QS World University Rankings 2023

        92 per cent of our research is rated in the highest two categories
      Research Excellence Framework 2021

        No 1 Students' Union in the UK
      Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2022, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017

      Department of Philosophy

      1st in the Russell Group for Student Voice

      National Student Survey 2021

      3rd in the Russell Group for student satisfaction

      National Student Survey 2021

      Graduate careers

      Department of Philosophy

      Studying philosophy will develop your ability to analyse and state a case clearly, evaluate arguments and be precise in your thinking. These skills will put you in a strong position when it comes to finding employment or going on to further study.

      Our graduates work in teaching, law, social work, computing, the civil service, journalism, paid charity work, business, insurance and accountancy. Many also go on to study philosophy at postgraduate level.

      Valentine Kozin, BA Philosophy.

      "There is a very direct connection between the analytical approaches of philosophy and working with computer software."

      Valentine Kozin BA Philosophy

      Valentine is a technical artist for Rare, a video game production studio working with Microsoft.

      Placement and study abroad

      You can incorporate work experience and/or study abroad in your degree. With our third year Work Place Learning module, you can spend time with an organisation from the Sheffield voluntary or private sector gaining skills and experience relevant to philosophy in an applied setting. Through the University's Degree with Employment Experience scheme you can incorporate a placement year into your degree.

      You can study abroad for a semester or a full year as part of your three-year degree, Or you can study abroad for an additional year between your second-year in Sheffield and your final year of study, leading to a BA 'with international experience'.

      We have partnerships with many countries including Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, the United States, Spain, Italy and Germany.

      Fees and funding


      Additional costs

      The annual fee for your course includes a number of items in addition to your tuition. If an item or activity is classed as a compulsory element for your course, it will normally be included in your tuition fee. There are also other costs which you may need to consider.

      Examples of what’s included and excluded

      Funding your study

      Depending on your circumstances, you may qualify for a bursary, scholarship or loan to help fund your study and enhance your learning experience.

      Use our Student Funding Calculator to work out what you’re eligible for.

      Visit us

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      We host five open days each year, usually in June, July, September, October and November. You can talk to staff and students, tour the campus and see inside the accommodation.

      Open days: book your place

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      If you’re considering your post-16 options, our interactive subject tasters are for you. There are a wide range of subjects to choose from and you can attend sessions online or on campus.

      Upcoming taster sessions

      Applicant days

      If you've received an offer to study with us, we'll invite you to one of our applicant days, which take place between November and April. These applicant days have a strong department focus and give you the chance to really explore student life here, even if you've visited us before.

      Campus tours

      Our weekly guided tours show you what Sheffield has to offer - both on campus and beyond. You can extend your visit with tours of our city, accommodation or sport facilities.

      Campus tour: book your place

      Apply for this course

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      How to apply When you're ready to apply, see the UCAS website:

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      The awarding body for this course is the University of Sheffield.

      Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.

      Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

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