Testimonies from Previous Students
Keith Allen - PhD 2005
I chose to come to UCL primarily because of the strength of the department. As one of the leading centres in the philosophy of perception, it was an obvious choice. Intellectually, my time at UCL was as stimulating and challenging as I had hoped it would be. But it was also just immensely enjoyable. The department is down-to-earth, friendly, and very sociable. The five years that I spent there were altogether an incredibly rewarding experience.
I started on the two-year MPhil Stud. This was excellent preparation for my further research. Not only did it allow me to develop a thesis that formed the foundation of my PhD, but it enabled me to both broaden and deepen my range of philosophical interests - which even after a straight undergraduate degree in philosophy was an invaluable opportunity.
Regular meetings with my supervisors meant that I received frequent feedback on my work. Their assiduous comments and questions helped direct and focus my research, and constantly pushed me to clarify and develop my ideas.
Complementing this individual academic contact, the philosophy department runs an varied programme of seminars for research students. In addition to a designated seminar for new students, a seminar for all UCL research students - which doubles as an excuse for a regular social engagement - members of staff often run seminars discussing their own research, giving you first-hand access to the philosophical coal-face!
As if this wasn't enough, you have access to the large range of philosophical events that occur across London . The Institute of Philosophy organizes numerous conferences and lectures, including termly graduate conferences for all London students. There are also meetings of the Aristotelian Society, the Royal Institute of Philosophy lecture series, and seminars and events in the other London colleges.
And of course, if you should ever need a break from philosophy(!), everything else that London has to offer is at your disposal.
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Emma Borg - PhD 1998
I was a graduate student at UCL from 1993 to 1998 and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. The high-calibre of the department and the outstanding programme of visiting speakers which London could offer made UCL a natural choice for graduate work. Furthermore, once there, I found the department extremely friendly and supportive, with a real sense that staff encouraged and valued their graduate community. There was a good degree of access, both to primary supervisors and to other staff and there was a wide range of graduate courses, including graduate seminars, reading groups and other research seminars. These meetings, which were generally very well attended by both staff and graduates, were often lively and stimulating. Indeed, there was a genuine sense of intellectual engagement between staff and graduates which certainly helped to prepare me for professional life.
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MM - MA 2006
Prior to taking the philosophy MA at UCL I had exclusively studied at law faculties, at Oxford and Cambridge . As an undergraduate, while taking a law degree, I developed interests in jurisprudence, the study of the philosophy of law, and I took this a little further at graduate level. Increasingly, though, I became interested in (and confused and troubled by!) philosophical problems not relating to law - problems in philosophical logic, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, metaphysics and epistemology. I wasn't quite sure, however, either precisely which subjects in philosophy I wanted to pursue, or how far I wanted to take further study in a philosophy program. Having shopped around a little I chose to apply for the philosophy MA at UCL. It seemed a good option: a one year commitment at a top-rated philosophy department (not to mention the MA's inter-collegiate nature, giving access to philosophers throughout London ), and a chance to try out a fairly wide range of subjects. The year went well and I was able to work closely in tutorials with a number of the UCL philosophers. I'm now a little clearer, having dabbled in a number of subjects in the course of the MA, as to which areas I now want to focus on. I'm starting the MPhil Stud at UCL this coming year, and looking forward to it immensely.
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Catriona McKinnon - PhD 1999
My time as a graduate student - at Master's and PhD level - was exciting and unforgettable. I learned things that still benefit me today and I made friends for life. The ethos of the Department encouraged working hard and playing hard, which I think is a pretty good approach to doing philosophy in a city as intellectually and socially vibrant as London . As well as the rigour and strenuousness of the conversations I had, and observed, in formal and informal contexts (the Marlborough Arms was the pub of choice in my day), what I remember most was the sense of humour that faculty and students brought to doing philosophy. I wasn't confident as a graduate student, and the Department's focus on ideas not egos ensured that I wasn't thereby disadvantaged. I can honestly say that if I was starting over again as a graduate student I'd choose UCL Philosophy.
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Thomas Smith - PhD 2007
For me, UCL was a place that you looked forward to going to each day. You looked forward to the seminars, the supervisions, the reading groups and the evenings in the pub, because they were fun, because the people were interesting and unpretentious, and because you learned something from them. London is a terrific place to philosophise: there are so many excellent people working or visiting there at any time, and so much going on, formally and informally, that even if one never read a single thing, one would have a sense of immunity from ignorance of the latest ideas. And UCL in particular is a terrific place to be a graduate student. It is a well run department - something you do not notice until you experience a badly run one - and skilled at finding good reasons to bring its graduate body together. It is impossible to feel unnoticed or unstimulated, and (for those who want to go down this path) easy to feel that one is being sharpened into a philosopher of the future. For all that, I never any sense at UCL that there is a particular way to do philosophy, or a particular kind of philosopher that one is expected to become. UCL has a proud history of deploring exclusivity: perhaps something of that attitude remains in the way philosophy is practised there.
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Ann Whittle - PhD 2005
I began my MPhil in UCL in 1998 and at the first meeting I was given two pieces of advice: first, to attend as many seminars, conferences etc. as possible; second, not to allow myself to become too narrowly specialised. I have found both of these to be invaluable and I doubt that there is a better place than UCL in which to put them into practice. The philosophical scene in London leaves you spoilt for choice. There is an enormous amount going on for the graduate students of all the London colleges. But, in addition to this, UCL's philosophy department succeeds in fostering a special sense of community and comradeship both among its graduates and in their relations to members of staff. I can't praise my supervisors highly enough. Despite incisive (usually decisive) criticism of my work, they were always encouraging and supportive. Not only did the department steer me through my MPhil and PhD but, at the end of my five years of study, I was given every encouragement and assistance in finding a job in philosophy.
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Hong Yu Wong - MPhil Stud. 2006
I enjoyed doing the MPhil at UCL. The program is unique in training its students rigorously but with a personal touch. The entering class is small, and this allows for one to receive adequate attention from faculty members and interact with all of one's peers. I found the compulsory practical criticism class (for first years) especially useful for honing my skills in reading closely and critically. The tutorial system allows for great flexibility in pursuing one's interests in depth and also acquiring a broad education in philosophy. Studying philosophy at UCL combines the advantages of being in an intimate college atmosphere and being in a large research environment, since there are several other excellent philosophy departments in London and a thriving philosophy scene.