PhD in Philosophy

The department offers the Doctorate in Philosophy, requiring both coursework and the submission of a written thesis. Admission into the Ph.D. programme requires a good Master’s degree or equivalent in a relevant discipline. The maximum period of candidature is 60 months.


Ph.D. candidates are required to read and pass a minimum of 6 coursework modules (4 MCs each), with a maximum of 2 Independent Study Modules. At least 50% of the total MC requirements must be at level 6000. Up to 25% of the total MC requirements may be at level 4000, subject to the approval of the department. The remaining MCs must be at level 5000 or above. The coursework requirement includes the compulsory Graduate Research Seminar that will be assessed on a “satisfactory” / “unsatisfactory” basis. Gaining a satisfactory pass in the Graduate Research Seminar is a condition for continuing in the graduate programme, and all graduate students are required to enroll in the module in the first year of their studies. Credits for relevant coursework taken in another NUS programme or elsewhere may be transferred subject to department approval.

The first part of the Graduate Research Seminar (conducted in the first semester of the academic year) would be conducted like a regular graduate module, emphasis would be placed on developing the students' writing abilities and verbal philosophical skills. There will also be weekly writing assignments for the purpose of developing time management skills in the students. The topic of the GRS, which will vary from year to year, will be tailored to the interests of the students. The second part of the GRS (conducted in the second semester of the academic year) will be for Graduate Student Presentations.

Independent Study Modules are, by default, to be taken in conjunction with an undergraduate honors module offered in the same semester under the supervision of the instructor of that module. The graduate student taking the ISM will be required to fulfill the classroom requirements of the honors module and any additional requirements congruent with this being a graduate level module (to be clearly specified in the ISM contract in agreement with the supervisor). All ISMs will be approved on a case-by-case basis.


Graduate students are strongly encouraged to consult their supervisor at least once per semester and produce regular written work. The supervisor and graduate student should agree, as early as possible, on a timeline for completing the necessary coursework, producing required written work, and preparing for other requirements. It is also recommended that students should keep a log of their research activities and supervisions; this should include a record of goals and timelines, completed coursework, presentations at seminars, meetings with supervisors, and attendance at conferences and workshops.

Continuation and Graduation Requirements

For continuation of Ph.D. candidature, the CAP should not fall below 3.00 (C+) for 2 consecutive semesters or 3.50 (B-) for 3 consecutive semesters. Termination of candidature would result if a student fails to maintain the minimum CAP as stipulated.

The following criteria must be met for graduation for a Ph.D. candidate:

  1. Minimum CAP of 3.50 (B-)
  2. Must not fail more than 2 modules
  3. Where applicable, obtain satisfactory grades (at least grade C) in the graduate English modules conducted by the CELC at advanced level
  4. Pass the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination
  5. Pass the Ph.D. Thesis
  6. Pass the Oral Examination

The Ph.D Qualifying Examination

All Ph.D. candidates must satisfy the following conditions before being allowed to take the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination:

  1. Where applicable, candidates must pass English courses at least at intermediate level and obtain satisfactory grade of at least C
  2. Candidates must complete a min of 5 modules, at least 2 of which are at level 6000 and obtain min CAP of 3.5.

The Ph.D. Qualifying Examination itself consists of 2 segments: (a) Comprehensive Exams, and (b) Oral Defence of the Ph.D. Thesis Proposal. The Comprehensive Exams consists of (i) a 3-hour long, open book, written exam, in an area outside of the candidate's main thesis research to be chosen by the candidate in consultation with the supervisor, and (ii) an oral exam in the area within the candidate's main thesis research. The Ph.D. Thesis Proposal should be 30 to 50 pages long. Note that candidates are not allowed to proceed to the Oral Defence of the Thesis Proposal before first passing both parts of the Comprehensive Exams.

The research areas recognized by the department for the purpose of the Comprehensive Exams (with prescribed reading lists) are: Aesthetics, Chinese Philosophy, Continental Philosophy, Epistemology, Ethics, History of Philosophy, Indian Philosophy, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Science, and Political Philosophy.

Ph.D. candidates are required to take their PhD Qualifying Examination (QE) within 24 months from the start of their PhD candidature. The candidate is allowed a second attempt should he or she fail in the first try. The second attempt may be taken no later than six months after the first, failed attempt. The candidate is considered to have failed the QE should he or she not pass any of the components stated above. Normally a candidate who fails his or her Ph.D. QE will be recommended to the Board of Graduate Studies to have the candidature terminated. However, where appropriate, the Department may recommend that the student downgrade his or her candidature to a Masters degree on a case-by-case basis.

The top-up award of $500 per month when the student passed the QE (for research scholars) will end at the earliest of the following dates:

  • After two years of award;
  • At the end of the fourth year of the student's candidature; or
  • Expiry of Research Scholarship (excluding extensions).

The Ph.D Thesis and Oral Examination

The maximum length for the Ph.D. thesis is 80,000 words. A Ph.D. thesis will be examined by three examiners (with at least one external examiner). Ph.D. candidates are required to pass an oral defence after the thesis has been examined. (Candidates are to bring a copy of the thesis for the oral examination). The Registrar's Office will inform the candidate of the timing of the oral defence. The Oral Panel will consist of some of the members of the examination panel. If, however, major revisions are recommended by the examiner(s), the candidate may be asked to revise and resubmit the thesis for further examination before the oral examination is scheduled. After the oral examination, the candidate will be informed by the Oral Panel on the further amendments to be made to the thesis and the person(s) to advise the candidate on the amendments, if applicable.

Award of Degree

The candidate will be considered for award of degree by the Board of Graduate Studies:

  • if all minor/major revisions are incorporated in the thesis to the satisfaction of the supervisor(s) and the Oral Panel member (if applicable); and
  • after the uploaded electronic thesis has been verified by the Department's Graduate Administrator.

After the degree has been awarded by the Board of Graduate Studies, the Chancellor’s approval will be sought for the degree to be conferred in writing. The approximate timeframe for approval by Board of Graduate Studies and Chancellor is about two months after your uploaded thesis has been verified.