Philosophy, Religion and Ethics BA

2025-26 entry
Department of Philosophy

In this broad, interdisciplinary degree, you will study the momentous questions in philosophy, religion, and ethics that matter most to you. From the value of religious faith and practices to the ethics of climate change or euthanasia, you'll learn to develop and defend your own critical perspectives within the context of global events.

Key details

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    Course description

    Philosophy students in a seminar.

    Sex and science, god and mind, logic and the value of life itself – acquire the tools and the ability you need to consider the biggest questions humanity has ever asked.

    A degree in philosophy, religion and ethics will see you exploring topics ranging from the value of religious faith, to the ethics of climate change and euthanasia. Develop and defend your own critical perspectives within the context of global events.

    You'll study modules across all three subjects, each taught by expert researchers. As you can imagine, there’s plenty of course content to explore, and we 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 to focus on an area that excites you.

    As a graduate, you’ll come away with an understanding of radically different perspectives. You’ll be able to summarise, write and speak about complex ideas clearly and concisely. And you’ll be able to draw on your experience applying philosophical knowledge through critical analysis and/or community engagement.

    Why study this course?

    • Top 100 in the world for Philosophy QS World Rankings 2023 - learn from world-leading staff, teaching an exceptionally diverse range of modules.
    • World-leading institute for Bible research - the Sheffield Centre for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies is known around the world for its work on translations of religious texts and the influence of involuntary migration on religion.
    • Take on the big issues - work with the Centre for Engaged Philosophy, researching areas of fundamental political and social importance, from criminal justice and social inclusion to climate ethics.
    • Outside lectures - join our award-winning, student-led volunteering project Philosophy in the City and introduce school children to philosophical ideas they can apply to everyday life.

    Modules

    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

    This module introduces students to some core questions in ethics, political philosophy, and social philosophy. We ask questions such as: What is a good life for you? What is a morally good life? Does being virtuous matter? What kind of moral consideration do we owe to non-human animals and the environment? Turning to political philosophy, we consider how societies should be organised if they are to realise values such as freedom, equality, and community. How should we understand these values? And what role might the state play in promoting (or undermining) them? We also look at some questions in social philosophy. For example: What are social groups? And when and why are social norms oppressive?

    20 credits
    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.  Short writing exercises will help you hone specific writing skills. You will bring these skills together by writing a number of complete essays. The lectures in the course will be split between lectures on 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 and World

    This module is an introduction to a range of topics in epistemology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of mind. In the first half of the module we consider questions such as: How should we understand knowledge? What implications does cognitive and cultural diversity have for our understanding of knowledge? Should we privilege some points of view? Should we trust others? Can we wrong them if we don't? And what should we say about disagreement? In the second half of the module we ask questions such as: Is the mind a physical thing? Can a machine have a mind? Can you survive the destruction of your body? Do you have free will? And can a machine be responsible for its own actions?

    20 credits
    Reason and Argument

    This module teaches basic philosophical concepts and skills to do with argument.  The first part of the course deals with arguments in ordinary language.  It teaches techniques for recognizing, interpreting, analyzing, and assessing arguments of various kinds.  It also teaches important concepts related to arguments, such as truth, validity, explanation, entailment, consistency, and necessity.  The second part of the course is a basic introduction to formal logic.  It teaches how to translate ordinary-language arguments into formal languages, which enables you to rigorously prove validity, consistency, and so on.

    20 credits

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

    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
    Death

    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
    Ethics in Antiquity: East and West

    How should we live? What are the right values and principles by which we should guide our lives? What weight should we give to considerations of morality and justice? Are there fixed truths about these matters or are they just determined by choice or convention? Ethics is concerned with questions such as these. This course will engage with such questions by examining some important and influential texts from the ancient world, both Western and Eastern, including key writings by the Greek philosopher Plato and the Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi.   

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

    The Bible, Greek and Roman mythology, represent some of the central sources for European literary imaginations. In this module you will explore the range of literature indebted to biblical and classical literature, themes, and characters. Featuring a range of lecturers from across the School of English, the module will help you learn to think critically about biblical and classical themes such as divine destruction, love, gender, homecoming, colonialism, nostalgia, and empire, and read a variety of authors, from Amelia Lanyer and Shakespeare to Derek Walcott and Margaret Atwood. When we understand the ways in which biblical and classical writers shaped their narratives, and how creative authors revised, resisted or radicalised their themes, we have several important keys to unlock crucial facets of English literary tradition.

    20 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
    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 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
    Philosophy of Science - Why Trust Science?

    Science plays an important role in modern society. We trust science on a day to day basis as we navigate our worlds. What is about science that makes it so trustworthy? Why is science a good guide for understanding the world? The aim of this half-module is to introduce some of the philosophical issues that arise in science and through reflecting on science. Most of the questions considered concern the epistemology of scientific knowledge and methodology: what are scientific theories, what counts as evidence for these theories, what is the relationship between observation and theory, is there a scientific method, what distinguishes science from other ways of understanding the world, and how does the social structure of science help or hinder science in studying the world. This module aims to introduce these questions as philosophical issues in their own right and within in the context of the history of the philosophy of science.

    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
    Truth, Reality and Virtual Reality

    This module examines the idea that there is an objective reality to which the things we say and believe are answerable, which makes some claims true and others false. The emphasis is not so much on the question of whether and how we know things, but on metaphysical questions concerning truth and reality. 'What is Truth?' is one of these questions. Different attempts to define truth - including the Correspondence Theory of truth and the Pragmatic Theory of truth will be examined. Another question the course will tackle is the question of whether relativism about reality can be successfully refuted. And the module will address arguments relating to virtual reality, including arguments to the conclusion that what we think of as the real world is in fact a simulation, and arguments that call into question the supposed difference between reality and virtual reality. There are political and moral questions that hinge on answers to our metaphysical questions. The aim of the module is to introduce theories, concepts and frameworks that will be helpful to attempts to grapple with the metaphysical questions and further questions that hinge on them.

    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.

    Learning and assessment

    Learning

    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

    Assessment is normally through a combination of coursework essays and exams. On some of your third year modules, you will have the opportunity to write a longer essay instead of sitting an exam. 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:
    ABB

    A Levels + a fourth Level 3 qualification
    BBB + B in a relevant EPQ
    International Baccalaureate
    33
    BTEC Extended Diploma
    DDD in a relevant subject
    BTEC Diploma
    DD + B at A Level
    Scottish Highers
    AAABB
    Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels
    B + AB at A Level
    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:
    BBB

    A Levels + a fourth Level 3 qualification
    BBB + B in a relevant EPQ
    International Baccalaureate
    32
    BTEC Extended Diploma
    DDM in a relevant subject
    BTEC Diploma
    DD + B at A Level
    Scottish Highers
    AABBB
    Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels
    B + BB at A Level
    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 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component; or an alternative acceptable English language qualification

    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.

    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.

    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

    University rankings

      Number one in the Russell Group
    National Student Survey 2023 (based on aggregate responses)

      University of the Year and best for Student Life 
    Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2024

      92 per cent of our research is rated as world-leading or internationally excellent
    Research Excellence Framework 2021

      Top 50 in the most international universities rankings
    Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2023

      Number one Students' Union in the UK
    Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2024, 2023, 2022, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017

      Number one for teaching quality, Students' Union and clubs/societies
    StudentCrowd 2023 University Awards

      A top 20 university targeted by employers
    The Graduate Market in 2023, High Fliers report

    Fees and funding

    Fees

    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.

    Placement and study abroad

    Placements

    You may have the opportunity to add an optional placement year as part of your course, converting the three year course to a four-year Degree with Placement Year. 

    A placement year will help you to:

    • gain an insight into possible careers
    • develop a range of transferable skills
    • build a professional network
    • get a feel for what you do and don’t like doing
    • add valuable work experience to your CV
    • gain experience of applying for jobs and interview practice
    • apply elements of academic learning in the workplace

    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. You can also take part in the award-winning Philosophy in the City group, which introduces school children to philosophical ideas they can apply to everyday life. All of these experiences will help you build a compelling CV.

    Study abroad

    Spending time abroad during your degree is a great way to explore different cultures, gain a new perspective and experience a life-changing opportunity that you will never forget.

    You can apply to extend this course with a year abroad, usually studying abroad between the second and third year at Sheffield. Or you can apply to replace a year of your time at Sheffield with a period abroad without adding an additional year to your course. 

    We have over 250 University partners worldwide. Popular destinations for our students include Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong. 

    Find out more on the Global Opportunities website.

    Visit

    University open days

    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

    Subject tasters

    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

    Offer holder days

    If you've received an offer to study with us, we'll invite you to one of our offer holder days, which take place between February and April. These open 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

    Make sure you've done everything you need to do before you apply.

    How to apply When you're ready to apply, see the UCAS website:
    www.ucas.com

    Not ready to apply yet? You can also register your interest in this course.

    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.

    Our student protection plan

    Terms and Conditions upon Acceptance of an Offer

    2025-2026

    Make sure you've done everything you need to do before you apply.

    How to apply When you're ready to apply, see the UCAS website:
    www.ucas.com

    Not ready to apply yet? You can also register your interest in this course.

    In this broad, interdisciplinary degree, you will study the momentous questions in philosophy, religion, and ethics that matter most to you. From the value of religious faith and practices to the ethics of climate change or euthanasia, you'll learn to develop and defend your own critical perspectives within the context of global events.