Politics and Philosophy BA

2025-26 entry
Department of Politics and International Relations
Department of Philosophy

This degree gives you the chance to really think deeper about some of the big debates going on in the world right now. You'll discuss questions of ethics, justice, legitimacy and human rights, and use your knowledge of philosophical and political theory to underpin your arguments. You'll learn about the thoughts of major figures such as Plato, Kant and Hegel, and analyse how these theories can be applied to current political issues.

Key details

Explore this course:

    Course description

    Photo of Dr Burak Tansel giving a seminar

    Examine ideas about human nature and the theory behind global politics – applying a unique skillset to take on the existential challenges facing humanity.

    Are we doing enough to address climate change? Is violence or torture ever justified? Should animals have the same rights as humans?

    With a true 50/50 balance of modules from each department, you’ll have the chance to cover international relations, public policy, philosophy of education, feminism – as well as western political thought, and everyone from Plato to the French existentialists.

    This is a course with a global perspective. Our staff come from and research countries around the world, meaning they bring their own experiences and specialisms into the modules they teach. And you also have the option to gain your own experience, extending your studies with a year abroad during your degree.

    Throughout your course, you’ll gain a whole host of transferable skills and knowledge that apply to a range of different careers – from local, national, and international government, to the charitable sector and the media.

    Why study this course?

    • Top 100 in the world for philosophy QS 2023 and top ten for international relations - according to QS 2023 and The Guardian University Guide 2024, respectively.
    • Become a new kind of problem solver - big problems need expansive thinkers. Blending the ideas that shape our existence with political theory gives you the skills to tackle the challenges of tomorrow.
    • 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.
    • Be part of an academic community - pursue your own research interests while learning from expert researchers, attend guest lectures, work with the public, or present your own academic work outside of the classroom.

    Dual and combined honours degrees

    Modules

    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: Politics and Philosophy BA course structure
    UCAS code: LV25
    Years: 2024
    First year

    You will take the following core modules:

    Political Analysis 1: An Introduction to Research and Scholarship

    This module introduces students to the study of politics as an academic discipline. More specifically, it involves discovering different ways to research the dynamics of the political worlds around us. Students will simultaneously develop a range of independent study skills whilst acquiring the foundational knowledge and skills needed to build, test and evaluate rigorous accounts of political problems. Students will learn through a combination of lectures, seminars, and independent study, and they will be assessed based on one reflective portfolio and an exam.

    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

    Plus at least one other core Philosophy module from this list:

    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
    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

    Optional modules:

    British Politics

    This module will introduce students to key concepts and debates in British politics through an examination of post-1976 British political history. Each lecture will take as its starting-point one day in recent British history and will describe what happened on that day and what happened as a result of that day. Each of the seminars will then follow that discussion: paying particular attention to concepts and ideas within the study of politics which can help us make sense of those events.

    20 credits
    Introduction to Comparative Politics

    This module examines the utility of the comparative approach to politics with a particular focus on democracies, dictatorships, and semi-democratic regimes. The key features of each regime type are considered and these are used to explain the nature of the comparative method, its strengths and weaknesses. This course also applies a comparative lens to processes such as democratisation, modernisation, and mobilisation. This course will draw on a wide range of examples from democratic, authoritarian, and semi-democratic countries.

    20 credits
    Introduction to Global Political Economy

    This module provides an introduction to global political economy (GPE). It covers key mainstream and critical theories and considers critically what GPE is. Following this, the main focus will be on sketching the outlines of the global economy (past and present) by considering particular commodities. This provides a novel way to introduce the student to the major processes of global trade, finance and production. It also considers the political economy of race, class and gender as core theoretical themes that interweave the empirical examination of the global political economy, from roughly 1500 through to the 21st century.

    20 credits
    Introduction to Western Political Thought

    This module provides students with an introduction to political theory as a distinctive way of thinking about politics, via engaging with some of the most influential and renowned thinkers and texts from the history of Western political thought. In doing so it will also confront some of the most enduring conceptual and normative political questions: what is the state and why do we need it?Why should we obey the law? Can violence ever be justified? What are the limits, if any, of political power? What legitimates political rule? Why does society treat men and women differently, and what would it be for society to treat them equally? Is it justifiable for politicians to act immorally?

    Through the study of this selection of seminal texts, you will not only gain an appreciation of some of the historically most influential and important philosophical responses to enduring political questions, but will also be challenged to evaluate those responses, and thereby start doing political theory for yourself. At the same time, you will develop an understanding of the various key political concepts that you will encounter and can apply to the analysis of contemporary issues throughout your degree.

    20 credits
    Planet Politics

    From the atmosphere to Antarctic ice sheets, the Earth has been fundamentally transformed by human activity: we now inhabit a ‘human planet’. At the same time, from mining and agriculture to modern patterns of resource consumption, humankind has become dependent on the very activities that have caused these transformations. 

    Far from being automatic or inevitable, these transformations are deeply political on multiple levels – in their causes, in their consequences, and in the many arguments and differences over how to respond to them. 

    This module will introduce students to some of this ‘Planet Politics’. It will consider questions such as: 

    Are we on the verge of a planetary ecological crisis? 

    Is capitalism the problem, or the solution? 

    Are there just too many people? 

    Is meaningful international environmental cooperation possible? 

    What are the vested interests obstructing change? What forms of social resistance are appropriate? 

    What is ‘environmental justice’? 

    Examining both key environmental and resource issues and the main approaches to studying them, the module asks some of the biggest questions about life: how should we live, and what should we do?

    20 credits
    The World's Wicked Problems

    This module will introduce students to key international relations concepts and discussions. Students will be able to understand, analyse and reflect on some of  the most pressing issues in the international arena including: 

    migration

    climate change

    poverty and global inequalities

    sexual violence 

    armed conflict 

    This introductory module will equip students with the tools to continue engaging with more in-depth theoretical and empirical international relations discussions as they progress through their studies.

    20 credits
    Thinking Politically: Key Concepts

    This module introduces students to a range of core concepts that inform the study politics and international relations. More specifically, it involves discovering how concepts such as power, democracy, and legitimacy shape our understanding of the political world around us. Students will learn to problematise and evaluate events, information, and academic literature using these concepts, and in turn they will learn to use these concepts in political debate. The module will help students to develop their intellectual acumen as budding politics scholars by honing their ability to interpret and apply new knowledge, and think critically about the world around them.

    20 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
    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 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
    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
    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

    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

    Lectures take place in one of the large lecture theatres on campus. These sessions are led by the module leaders, and are designed to provide you with core ideas, concepts, key reading and debates.

    You’ll be equipped with all of the information you need for that week so that you can contextualise your readings and apply your learning in your seminars. 

    Seminars are smaller group sessions in which you discuss and debate the content that you learned in your lectures. You’ll prepare for seminars by reading materials, so that you can actively engage with other students and bring your own perspective and research into lively discussions.

    In some seminars, you may have the opportunity to do more practical based learning such as creating websites, videos, posters, podcasts and blogs, so that you can demonstrate how you can creatively communicate your research to different audiences, both independently and in groups. 

    We have great connections with policymakers and practitioners from various sectors, and we often invite these external speakers into seminars to share their own experiences or insight on topics that you will be learning about in your modules.

    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

    Assessment

    We understand that everyone has different strengths when it comes to assessment. We also use diverse assessment methods so that not only does everyone have a chance to thrive, but also hone key skills and gain practical experience to prepare you for your future in the workplace. 

    Assessments include:

    • Exams/quizzes
    • Dissertation
    • Short and long form essays
    • Podcasts
    • Editorial style writing
    • Book reviews
    • Policy reports
    • Presentations and group work

    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:
    AAB

    A Levels + a fourth Level 3 qualification
    ABB + B in the EPQ; ABB + B in Core Maths
    International Baccalaureate
    34
    BTEC Extended Diploma
    DDD in a relevant subject
    BTEC Diploma
    DD + A at A Level
    Scottish Highers
    AAAAB
    Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels
    B + AA 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 36 at Distinction and 9 at Merit
    Other requirements
    • GCSE Maths grade 4/C

    Access Sheffield offer

    The A Level entry requirements for this course are:
    ABB

    A Levels + a fourth Level 3 qualification
    ABB + B in the EPQ; ABB + B in Core Maths
    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
    Other requirements
    • GCSE Maths grade 4/C

    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

    The great thing about studying politics and philosophy as a dual degree is that you will gain a whole host of transferable skills and knowledge that apply to a range of different careers.

    Alumni have gone on to work in professional, political and administrative organisations across the world, in local, national, and international government, the charitable sector, education, the media, research and the private sector.

    We recognise how important employability is to our students, so we ensure that there are plenty of opportunities to add valuable work experience to your CV. This could be from projects that you work on as part of your course, such as drafting policy reports, or one of the many work experience options you can undertake with support from the faculty employability hub.

    Department of Politics and International Relations

    94 per cent of our research in the Department of Politics and International Relations is rated in the highest two categories

    Research Excellence Framework 2021

    Top 10 in the UK for international relations

    Guardian University Guide 2024

    Top 20 in the UK for politics

    Guardian University Guide 2024

    Video featuring students from the Department of Politics and International Relations speaking about their experiences studying at University.

    We're proud to be one of the UK’s top departments for research and teaching in politics and international relations. Our academics are recognised internationally for their research expertise and for informing changes to national and international policy.

    The Department of Politics and International Relations is based next to the Wave, the new home for the faculty of Social Sciences. The Wave features state-of-the-art collaborative lecture theatres, study spaces and seminar rooms.

    Teaching may take place in the Wave, but may also be timetabled to take place within other departments or central teaching space. Many of the University buildings are close together so it’s easy to walk between them and it’s a great way to get to know the city.

    Department of Politics and International Relations

    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

    Student profiles

    Image of Andreea, politics student ambassador, sat at a desk with a notepad and a cup of tea

    I felt like I wanted a challenge

    Andreea Huidan BA Politics and Philosophy

    "My tutorials in both Politics and Philosophy have always felt like a great platform to try out ideas and debate controversial texts or take a critical approach in analysing the latest political news."

    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.

    Placements and study abroad

     Placement

    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 between the second and third year. We have over 250 University partners worldwide. Popular destinations 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.

    This degree gives you the chance to really think deeper about some of the big debates going on in the world right now. You'll discuss questions of ethics, justice, legitimacy and human rights, and use your knowledge of philosophical and political theory to underpin your arguments. You'll learn about the thoughts of major figures such as Plato, Kant and Hegel, and analyse how these theories can be applied to current political issues.