Coming to Oxford...
. ..as an undergraduate to do the Masters degree in Physics and Philosophy
The Physics and Philosophy degree is an undergraduate 4-year Masters degree, which combines teaching in physics and philosophy with a dedicated course in philosophy of physics for each year of the course. In physics the emphasis is on theoretical physics (although there is a small experimental component); in philosophy it is on contemporary analytic philosophy (metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of science), although some background in the early modern period is also incorporated.
The fourth year is distinguished from other years, and from teaching in other undergraduate schools in philosophy at Oxford (with the exception of Mathematics and Philosophy, its sister school), in that fewer subjects are studied but in greater depth. You also have have much more flexibility: you can concentrate exclusively on physics, or exclusively on philosophy - or continue to work in both disciplines. Your choice of subjects is almost entirely free (the only constraint is that they be at Masters level, and that you do not take the same subjects in philosophy that you took in your third year).
It will also be possible for you to spend the fourth year at Princeton University, as part of the Oxford-Princeton Partnership. It is arranged as an exchange programme: participation depends on finding a Princeton undergraduate, either in Physics or in Philosophy (Princeton has no joint degrees), who wishes to come to Oxford. Once a partner is found, there are no extra tuition costs and accommodation and medical insurance will be arranged automatically. Oxford University will also arrange a grant of £3,000 to assist you with relocation to Princeton; once at Princeton, you will be treated exactly like Princeton students in their final year. (Colleges that actively support the Physics and Philosophy Exchange Programme are listed in the Prospectus.)
Some wonder about career opportunities. Many coming out of the degree course go on to careers in computing, finance, the civil service, and media. The course will also perfectly equip you for a career in research, whether in physics - it is accredited as a physics degree by the Institute of Physics - or in philosophy. No degree in philosophy at Oxford allows you to take a greater number of philosophy subjects. From its beginnings in the '60s the course was designed to bridge the "two cultures", humanities and the sciences: graduate from this degree course and you will be both numerate and literate, skilled equally in mathematical and technical reasoning, and in analytical verbal argument and writing. You will be knowledgable in physics and mathematics, but you will be at home in the humanities. You will find that virtually any door will be open to you.
Anyone formally qualified to come to Oxford to read physics is formally qualified to come to read physics and philosophy as well: no special background in phlosophy is required.
For admissions procedures and further background:
Note: Some of the links which follow are likely to be disrupted in late September, when pages are regularly updated
- Admissions Procedures
- Physics and Philosophy Handbook
On choosing your college:
Your choice of college matters: it should not directly effect your chances of acceptance - in recent years much effort has gone into ensuring it does not - but it is likely to effect the kind of experience you will have at Oxford. Some colleges regularly admit physics and philosophy students, whilst others rarely do. Those in the former category include Balliol, Brasenose, Exeter, Oriel, New, Sommerville, St Edmund's Hall, St. Hilda's, Trinity, and University. You might also like to check the specializations of philosophy tutors in your college of choice - or choose your college in the light of them.
Visit the place, either in person or virtually, before making your application. If you are interested in the Oxford-Princeton exchange, check the prospectus for listings of colleges who actively support it.