Education: A-Z of Degrees - Philosophy ; Our Weekly Series Designed to Help You Pick the Right Course. This Week: Philosophy
Keymer, Tasmin, The Independent (London, England)
What do you come out with? BA
Why do it? To find out "What It Is All About", and because you want to do something different, quirky, or because a teacher knew it would be just your bag.
What's it about? Philosophy asks the big questions of why we are here (if we are here) and what underlies human thought. It is abstract, a study of ideas that has been going on for thousands of years. No right and wrong answers, but a chance to make your argument. Much philosophy is linked to another subject, so you may study, for instance, the history of philosophy, moral philosophy, political philosophy, aesthetics or ethics. Philosophy of the mind debates the arguments for and against the existence of God, the relationship of mind to body, and the immortality of the soul. Applied ethics at Hull University looks at current moral problems in medical ethics, and business ethics - GM crops, for instance. Aristotle, Russell, Descartes and Nietzsche are names which will soon trip off your tongue.
How long is a degree? Three years; four in Scotland. Joint degrees with classics, maths, physics or modern languages at Oxford University can also take four years.
What are the students like? Philosophy students ask unusual questions. They are passionate about debating, thinking, and, above all, talking.
How is it packaged? At Cambridge, Birkbeck and Hull universities, you can do a first degree in just philosophy, but at Bradford University it is part of the BA in interdisciplinary human studies. At the Open University, you study humanities and then opt for philosophy. At Oxford, it is part of PPE (philosophy, politics and economics) or PPP (philosophy, psychology, physiology). Assessment is by examination only at Birkbeck, Cambridge and Oxford. At the Open University, Bradford and Hull, where the degree is modular, assessment is by a combination of exams, long essays and a dissertation.
How cool is it? Dead cool, particularly at Oxford.
What A-levels do you need? No specific subjects, unless, of course, you are combining philosophy with another subject.
What grades? Oxford AAB, Bradford BCC/CCC, and Hull BCC. At Cambridge, you must meet college conditions. The Open and Birkbeck specialise in non-standard entry.
Will it keep you off the dole? Yes, if that's what you want. Employers do value the key transferable skills of clear thinking, analysis, and the ability to marshall and express an argument. …