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The University of Southampton
PhilosophyPart of Humanities

Philosophy student specification

In the information below each of our admissions tutors has made some observations on the skills and qualities they see as important when they consider an application for BA Philosophy

Intellectual curiosity
Our Admissions Tutor will be looking for evidence that you have an enquiring mind and enjoy exploring characteristically philosophical questions, such as "If I close my eyes, is the world still there, and if it is, how do I know it is?", "Why should I be good?" or "Can we think about things for which we don't have words?". They will also be looking for signs that you are not willing to settle for glib or easy answers. A determination to press questions hard is a quality that will allow you both to benefit from your course and to contribute to the intellectual culture of philosophy at Southampton.

Intellectual independence
It is important that you should be willing to think for yourself and refuse simply to repeat the opinion of others, however authoritative those opinions may seem. This quality will help you to navigate your way through the philosophical texts you'll have to read and the classes you'll have to attend, while also equipping you to take responsibility for your own philosophical conclusions.

Critical intelligence
To study philosophy at university level you'll need to be critically very alert and always ready to probe, analyse and dissect philosophical positions and arguments in a tenacious but imaginative way. These qualities, equally important whether you're reading, writing or having a discussion, will enable you to engage with and contribute to the issues you'll encounter during your course.

At university level, this means an active willingness to read and think independently and a determination to augment your critical and analytical skills. If you're studying full time, you'll be expected during the term to spend about four hours in independent study for every hour in class (that is roughly the equivalent of a full working week), and you'll need to make sure that your other activities and commitments don't conflict with this.

Communication skills
At the most basic level, this means a good standard of written and spoken English, allowing you to express your ideas clearly and effectively. We also look for precision of expression, since the best philosophical work combines insight and imagination with incisiveness. Admissions tutors will look particularly at your personal statement on the UCAS form for evidence of writing ability and, during the course, your seminar and tutorial teachers will give you regular feedback on the quality of your written work. In most occupations - whether within or outside academic life - the ability to communicate successfully with others is a valuable asset. We particularly welcome applicants who can make effective contribution to class discussion; and we are increasingly encouraging our students to develop professional presentation skills by incorporating student presentations into our seminar teaching.

Study skills

At university, you'll be spending much of your time working on your own. This will mean that you need the ability to organise your own working day, the self discipline to keep to your own timetable, the ability to prioritise what may seem an alarmingly long list of reading commitments, and the planning capacity to meet a continuous series of deadlines. Admissions tutors will be looking for evidence of organisation and self motivation in your UCAS form; further guidance on study skills will be available when you reach university.

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