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Philosophy at Sidney

Philosophy at Cambridge

The Cambridge Philosophy BA is a three year course, with examinations after each year. In their first year, Part IA, students take four compulsory papers – metaphysics, ethics, logic, and set texts – and get a grounding in some of the central questions and methods of Philosophy. In the second and third year there is increasing freedom to choose papers according to the student’s own interest. The options span from Metaphysics, Philosophy of Science, Political Philosophy, Ancient Philosophy, Aesthetics, Ethics, Wittgenstein, and more. There are also options to borrow papers from other subjects, including Experimental Psychology.

Since philosophy is not usually taught in schools, it is not always easy for students to tell whether they are suited to the subject and whether it is suited to them. Generally, if you enjoy marshalling arguments pro and con, or doing mathematics, or solving puzzles, or doing comprehension exercises (i.e. in English), or trying to define things, or arguing about rather abstract questions, then you might well find that philosophy is the right subject for you.

Philosophy at Sidney

Sidney philosophers are a small but close-knit and friendly community. We are looking for individuals who enjoy thinking about big questions and philosophical puzzles, are intellectually curious, think clearly, and have the ability to carefully evaluate and construct arguments. The College Fellow in Philosophy is Dr. Paulina Sliwa, who is also a University Lecturer in Philosophy.

While we don't presuppose any philosophical knowledge, it is a good idea to come to the interview with some idea of what philosophy is. For this, you might want to look at some introductory books. Here are some recommendations:

  • Simon Blackburn, Think.
  • Julia Annas, Plato: A Very Short Introduction.
  • Michael Sandel, Justice.
  • Jennifer Nagel, Knowledge: A Very Short Introduction.

For some classics, have a look at:

  • Descartes, Meditations.
  • Hume, Inquiry concerning Human Understanding.
  • Plato, Eutyphro, Meno and Phaedo.

There are also some excellent podcasts that can give you an idea of what doing philosophy is like: Philosophy Bites interviews philosophers on their research topics, including philosophers that you will likely be studying with in Cambridge. Watch out for interviews with Cambridge Philosophers Rae Langton, Huw Price, Tim Lewens, and Onora O’Neill. History of Philosophy without any Gaps gives a wide-ranging overview over the history of philosophy.

Hear from a student... 

    Your lectures and supervisions will mostly take place at the Sidgwick Site, which is where most arts and humanities faculties are located. You’ll have lectures (mostly) in the first two terms (Michaelmas and Lent) and they are really great, you will have the opportunity to be lectured with some world-famous experts from the first day of your studies. You’ll also have logic classes and discussion groups.

You'll have supervisions (hour-long, one-on-one sessions) with an expert in your papers. You will have four supervisions in each of your papers, meaning you'll have one supervision per week. You are typically expected to write an essay (1500-3000 words) for your supervision.

Iván Merker, Sidney Philosophy undergraduate


Director of Studies (DoS) and Fellow

Dr Paulina Sliwa 

All of our undergraduate students are allocated a Director of Studies and learn from specialists in particular areas of their subject. From time to time, individual teaching staff may be away on leave.

Typical Intake

1 - 3

Standard Entry Requirements

A*AA at A Level

41-42 points in the IB, with 776-777 at Higher Level

Please see the University website for standard entry requirements in other qualifications.

Please note that offers are set on an individual basis using all of the information available to us in context of the entire field of applicants.

No specific subjects are required at Sidney Sussex and studying Philosophy at A-Level does not confer an advantage.

Admissions Process

Written work

Two essays, which should be on relevant topics where possible. We will send out more specific information about what is required after the UCAS deadline.

Admissions Assessments

At-interview assessment. Read more about the admissions assessment on the University website.


Two interviews, both with a focus on Philosophy. Each interview will last up to 30 minutes.

In the interviews, we will discuss philosophical questions with you. But our aim is not to assess your knowledge of the subject – we won't assume that you have studied any particular area of philosophy. Rather, we want to find out how you think through problems and respond to objections.

Find out more

Faculty of Philosophy

University website Philosophy course page

Skype interviews may be considered for international applicants on a case-by-case basis in certain subjects. If you wish to enquire further, please contact the Admissions Office (