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UK Online Philosophy Degrees by Distance Learning

Introduction to UK Online Philosophy Degrees

This page provides a guide to selecting an undergraduate distance learning or online philosophy BA Degree, Diploma or Certificate at recognised universities in the UK.

I'm currently researching postgraduate opportunities and will add links to these soon. You can follow updates on free philosophy podcasts, videos and articles on my Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube pages.

Elsewhere on the site there are resources for the online philosopher; and details of my method of online philosophy teaching.

If you are seeking an online tutor for your philosophy studies then I would be happy to receive your enquiry: Online Philosophy Degree Enquiry


Best Universities with Undergraduate Online and Distance Learning Philosophy Courses

So what are the top universities for a distance learning or online philosophy qualification?

There are only four to choose from: Lampeter, London (Birkbeck College), Open University and Oxford. The next section provides a table comparing their programmes.

To compare the philosophy departments themselves I recommend browsing the internationally recognised Philosophical Gourmet Report. This is the only reputable site that includes Birkbeck College (a specialist adult-education college) in its international comparison.

You'll see that Birkbeck gets included amongst the world's top philosophy programmes, but that the Open University and Lampeter don't feature. Combining this information with the details of philosophy programmes in the next section suggests the following: if you're seeking a philosophy degree or diploma by distance learning then London's External Programme is the best: it will give you an internationally-esteemed philosophy qualification.

If you're seeking a philosophy certificate then, again, London's Introduction to Philosophy Course is a good choice, for you can transfer the credit towards your diploma.

If you're simply looking to study a particular topic, without necessarily progressing to a qualification, then all four programmes offer interesting distance learning philosophy courses.

For more information of the difference between BA degrees, diplomas and certificates, go below to the section Undergraduate Online Philosophy Qualifications.


Table Comparing Undergraduate Online Philosophy Degrees, Diplomas and Certificates

If your aim is to study for an online undergraduate philosophy degree by distance learning, then the choices are the University of London or the University of Lampeter. Oxford and the Open universities offer some very interesting distance learning courses, but not an entire degree.

I have direct experience of London: I studied there for my BA degree as a mature student, and am now a recognised tutor for their External System Philosophy Programme. At London you can study first for a Diploma, and then transfer your credits to the full honours degree. Lampeter offers a Certificate in philosophy, and a choice of two philosophy BA degrees.

I have been a tutor on the University of Oxford's online philosophy courses and can recommend them too. Even if you are registered as an online student elsewhere they can provide valuable consolidation; and there is also the benefit of an online community of fellow students.

Awarding Institution CATS Diploma / Certificate BA Degree Number of Courses Tutor Assigned Individual Tuition Cost per course () Start Dates
University of Lampeter N Y Y 30+ Y Y 269 (EU) 4 per year
University of London Y Y Y 24 N N 146 Jan-Oct
Open University 60 each N N 3 Y Y 610 2 per year
University of Oxford 10 each N N 7 Y N 150 (UK) 3 per year

University of London Distance Learning Philosophy Courses (2012/13)

The University of London, via its External System, offers a complete single honours undergraduate philosophy degree by distance learning; and provides a rich choice of 24 courses.

To obtain a diploma you need to complete four courses, whilst a degree requires ten. It's possible, indeed advisable, to study first for the diploma, and then to transfer the four course credits towards your degree.

The University itself does not offer online teaching. It supplies self-study materials, and you must make your own private teaching arrangements.

More on tuition for University of London online philosophy degrees...(different website)

I am an experienced online philosophy tutor, and would be happy to receive your enquiry: Online Philosophy Degree Enquiry

Mandatory Courses Optional Courses
Certificate in Philosophy
(1 course)

Introduction to Philosophy


Diploma in Philosophy
(4 courses)

Introduction to Philosophy

Three from:
Logic, Epistemology, Ethics I, Greek Philosophy I, Modern Philosophy I
BA degree Philosophy
(10 courses)

Logic, Epistemology, Ethics I, Greek Philosophy I, Modern Philosophy I

Three from:
Metaphysics, Methodology, Greek Philosophy II, Ethics II, Modern Philosophy II

Two from a further 14 courses including:
Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Language, Aesthetics, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Religion

University of Lampeter Online Philosophy Courses (2012/13)

The University of Lampeter used to offer the broadest range of undergraduate distance learning philosophy courses: an entry-level Certificate in Social Philosophy; a BA in Philosophy and a BA in Applied Philosophy.

However, the University has indefinitely suspended its online philosophy courses; which is a great pity.


Open University Online Philosophy Courses (2012/13)

The Open University no longer offers a single honours, distance learning, undergraduate philosophy degree. However, the Philosophy Department currently offers three courses, each worth 60 CATS points. (It also contributes to four interdisciplinary courses.)

The courses typically run twice per year and are particularly suited to students seeking one-to-one philosophy teaching. There is also the chance to meet fellow students face-to-face in a residential school.

Course Undergraduate Level CATS points
Philosophy and the Human Situation 2 60
Thought and Experience: Themes in the Philosophy of Mind 3 60
Reading Political Philosophy: Machiavelli to Mill 3 60

University of Oxford Online Philosophy Courses (2012/13)

The University of Oxford does not offer a distance learning or online undergraduate philosophy degree. However, through its Department for Continuing Education, it currently offers seven online courses; each worth 10 CATS points at undergraduate level 1. Having been an online philosophy tutor for the department, I can thoroughly recommend them.

The courses typically run three times per year with cohorts of approximately 20 students. They are particularly suited to students seeking online philosophical discussion, moderated by a trained online tutor; though they do not provide one-to-one philosophy teaching. There is, though, the chance to meet fellow students face-to-face in a summer school.

Undergraduate level 1 courses (10 CATS points)
Philosophy Gym
Philosophy of Mind
Political Philosophy
Philosophy of Religion
Philosophy of Science

What are the Recognised UK Universities and Philosophy Courses?

The power to award degrees in the UK is regulated by law. In order to be able to award a recognised higher education degree in the UK, an organisation needs to be authorised to do so either by Royal Charter or Act of Parliament.

Before enrolling on any UK-based course I strongly recommend that you check that the institution and its degrees are recognised by visiting the following official government website: Recognised UK Universities and Degrees.

Having chosen your recognised online philosophy course, I also advise you not to part with any private teaching fees until you have official confirmation of your place.


Undergraduate Online Philosophy Qualifications: Philosophy Certificates, Diplomas and Degrees

What is the difference between a philosophy degree, diploma and certificate? In England, Wales and Northern Ireland these distinctions are defined by the framework for higher education qualifications (FHEQ), which is administered by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA).

The FHEQ defines three levels into which available undergraduate philosophy qualifications fall: Certificate of Higher Education (level 4), Higher National Diploma (level 5), Bachelor's Degree (level 6).

"The fundamental premise of the FHEQ is that qualifications should be awarded on the basis of achievement of outcomes and attainment rather than years of study. Qualification descriptors are key to this premise.

Holders of a Certificate of Higher Education will have a sound knowledge of the basic concepts of a subject, and will have learned how to take different approaches to solving problems.

Holders of qualifications at this level [5] will have developed a sound understanding of the principles in their field of study, and will have learned to apply those principles more widely. Through this, they will have learned to evaluate the appropriateness of different approaches to solving problems.

Holders of a bachelor's degree with honours will have developed an understanding of a complex body of knowledge, some of it at the current boundaries of an academic discipline."

For more information on where the online philosophy qualifications listed on this page fit into the FHEQ visit: QAA's framework for higher education qualifications.


What are CATS Points?

CATS stands for Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme. In principle, CATS is a system to enable students to study for a modular degree from more than one institution. For example, you might want to pick-and-mix a modular philosophy BA degree, selecting courses from different universities. CATS is intended to allow you to do this by accumulating credits at one university, and then transfering them to another; hence the name.

In practice, credits can only be transferred between member institutions of the same consortium. Three UK universities that offer credits for online undergraduate philosophy courses are all members of the same consortium.

The University of London (through its Birkbeck College), the Open University, and the University of Oxford (through its Department for Continuing Education), are all members of the South East England Consortium. However only the University of London offers a complete single honours distance learning degree in philosophy; so you would have to transfer credits from the Open University and/or the University of Oxford to the University of London. (The table below compares their main features.)

The University of Lampeter offers two modular credit-based philosophy BA degrees.