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MSt in Ancient Philosophy

Oxford is widely acknowledged to contain one of the leading groups, arguably the leading group, of ancient philosophers in the world; ancient philosophy at Oxford is ranked top in the Philosophical Gourmet Report’s breakdown of programmes by speciality. The Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Oxford aims to attract and select the best possible national and international scholars in the subject in two ways. Prospective students with sufficient philosophy background who have an interest in Ancient Philosophy may apply to specialise in Ancient Philosophy in the two-year BPhil in Philosophy, by taking the ‘Ancient Philosophy track’ in the BPhil. Those with a degree in Philosophy, Classics or a closely related discipline may alternatively apply for the one-year Master of Studies (MSt) in Ancient Philosophy.

The Master of Studies course offers a graduate education in ancient philosophy of the highest possible quality, providing a foundation on which students can go on to pursue doctoral work in the area. Students who pass the MSt in Ancient Philosophy will have the opportunity to apply to continue to the Faculty’s DPhil (doctoral) programme, via a year as a Probationary Research Student (PRS).

The Faculty intends to admit around 10 students for the course each year.

The course
Continuing to the DPhil
Oxford Funding Search
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Graduate Placement Scheme
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More about Ancient Philosophy at Oxford

The course

The course aims to allow students to specialise in at least two areas of ancient philosophy, and to write a thesis of 10,000-15,000 words. All students without adequate training in ancient Greek or Latin will be required to undergo specialist language training provided by the Faculty of Classics. Students who pass the MSt have the opportunity to apply to continue to the Faculty’s DPhil (doctoral) programme, via a year as a Probationary Research Student.

Subject A

The first subject must be chosen from the list of undergraduate subjects already offered in ancient philosophy:

130. Plato: Republic
131. Plato: Theaetetus/Sophist
132. Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics
133. Aristotle: Physics
134. Sextus Empiricus: Outlines of Pyrrhonism
135. Latin Philosophy

Tuition for this subject is normally provided in the form of one-to-one tutorials, usually in the first or second term. While the syllabi for these subjects are borrowed from the Faculty’s undergraduate courses, the teaching should be at Masters-level, and the subject is examined by one 5,000-word essay.

Subject B

The second subject consists of two classes, run during the first and/or second term. The ‘subject options’ covered by the first class are different from those covered by the second class. Details of the classes and the subject options to be covered are published in the Graduate Student Handbook before the beginning of the academic year. Students must attend both classes.

The second subject is assessed by two 5,000-word essays on topics relevant to the subject options covered in the dedicated classes. The topics must be chosen by the student and approved by the Course Coordinator, and must not overlap substantially with the choice of option for the first subject. Students may choose either to write both essays on topics covered in one class or to write one essay on a topic covered in one class and the other essay on a topic covered in the other class.

The reading lists for both subjects will include texts both in the original language and in translation; students’ readings should be guided by their supervisor(s) according to their level of Ancient Greek.

The thesis

Students are required to write a thesis (of 10,000-15,000 words) during the Easter vacation and their final term, to be submitted at the end of their final term. The thesis can be on a topic of the student’s choice, within ancient philosophy, but is subject to approval by the student’s supervisor and the Philosophy Graduate Studies Committee.

Continuing to the DPhil

The course will allow candidates the opportunity to continue to the Faculty’s DPhil programme, initially as a Probationary Research Student (PRS). Candidates who achieve a distinction on the MSt in Ancient Philosophy are automatically eligible to progress to the DPhil, provided only that the Philosophy Graduate Studies Committee is satisfied that their proposed thesis topic and outline indicates that they can be adequately supervised by members of the Philosophy Faculty. Candidates who pass the MSt without a distinction can progress to the DPhil at the Philosophy Graduate Studies Committee’s discretion. To achieve a distinction, candidates must achieve an average of 70 or above on the three essays, as well as a 70 or above on the thesis. During their PRS year students will be required to satisfy certain formal conditions, as specified in the Graduate Student Handbook, to progress to DPhil status. They will then be required to apply for confirmation of DPhil status (see the University's Examination Regulations for details). It is envisaged that a typical student might finish a doctoral thesis within three years of passing the MSt.

Ancient Philosophy Track in the BPhil

Oxford is widely acknowledged to contain one of the leading groups, arguably the leading group, of ancient philosophers in the world; ancient philosophy at Oxford is ranked top in the Philosophical Gourmet Report’s breakdown of programmes by speciality.

Students interested in Ancient Philosophy in particular might wish to note the possibility of an ‘Ancient Philosophy track’ in the BPhil in Philosophy, Oxford's flagship (two-year) postgraduate philosophy course. This is not a separate degree, but a way of studying Ancient Philosophy within the existing BPhil structure.

Students on such a track would write two of the six essays on Ancient Philosophy in Group 3 and the thesis would be written on some aspect of Ancient Philosophy. They would also tailor some of their chosen topics for Groups 1 or 2 appropriately to match their interest in issues arising from Ancient metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, etc. They may also apply to the Philosophy Graduate Studies Committee for a waiver from one essay’s worth of the BPhil distribution requirement.

Those applying for the Ancient Philosophy track should state their intention clearly when applying.


For all graduate courses in the Faculty of Philosophy, applications including all supporting material must be submitted by the closing date, for admission in the following October.

The application cycle for entry in October 2017 is now CLOSED.  The deadline for applications to all graduate courses in the Faculty of Philosophy for October 2017 was 12 noon UK time on Friday 6 January 2017, and no late applications will be accepted.  An Open Day will be held on Wednesday 15 March 2017 for all successful applicants who are offered a place on any Faculty of Philosophy graduate course for entry in October 2017. Applicants are not normally interviewed and late applications will not be considered.

The online application form and other application information are available from the Applying to Oxford website.

For an application to be considered, it needs to be complete with all required supporting documents and be submitted online or received by the Graduate Admissions and Funding Office by the specified deadline.

The Graduate Admissions and Funding contact details are:

Graduate Admissions Office
University Offices
Wellington Square
Oxford OX1 2JD
Tel: +44 (0) 1865 270059
Fax: +44 (0) 1865 270049

International applicants should take into account the English Language Test Requirements for admissions to graduate courses at the University of Oxford, as well as the visa advice, available on the University’s International Student webpages.

Entry Requirements

For a detailed description of the entry requirements for each course, please click on the relevant course link below:


If you have any further questions regarding graduate courses or admissions in Philosophy, please contact:

Academic Administrator for Graduate Studies
Faculty of Philosophy
Radcliffe Humanities
Woodstock Road
Oxford, OX2 6GG

Tel: + 44 1865 276933
Fax: + 44 1865 276932

For any questions related to how to apply for GAF to answer, please submit a question to Graduate Admissions and Funding (GAF) via  

More about Ancient Philosophy

Faculty Postholders with a research interest in Ancient Philosophy include Ursula Coope, Roger Crisp, Terence Irwin, Lindsay Judson, Karen NielsenMichail Peramatzis, and Cecilia Trifogli. Other members of the Faculty of Philosophy or a related Faculty who are active in research in Ancient Philosophy include Mark Edwards, Paolo FaitGail Fine, Anna Marmodoro, Dirk Obbink, Tobias Reinhardt, Richard Rutherford, Richard Sorabji, and Damien Storey.

The Ancient Philosophy community at Oxford meets weekly at the Thursday work-in-progress seminar, which invites guest speakers from inside and outside Oxford. More details can be found on the Workshop in Ancient Philosophy webpage.

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