Research Master of Philosophy (Leuven)

Master of Arts

The Research Master of Philosophy programme is primarily research-oriented and functions as a first step towards the doctoral programme. It focuses firmly on the development of high-level independent research. The programme allows you to concentrate on a particular field of study, supplemented by courses, seminars, and the oral defense of a research-based thesis.

The Research Master of Philosophy is a two-year Master’s programme of 120 ECTS Credits, accessible to students holding a bachelor's degree in philosophy with excellent results. Students holding a master's degree in philosophy with excellent results can apply for the research master’s one-year track of 60 credits (abridged programme). 






What is the Research Master of Philosophy all about?

The Institute of Philosophy offers a comprehensive range of BA, MA, Research Master and PhD degrees, all taught in English. Viewed collectively, our undergraduate and post-graduate degrees aim to familiarise students with the history of philosophy as well as with contemporary movements in analytic and continental philosophy so that they are able to engage with the fundamental areas of philosophical research. The Institute of Philosophy is proud to offer its students a broad philosophical education and a wide range of courses and seminars, as well as personalised study support and guidance.

The Research Master programme is primarily research-oriented and functions as a first step towards the doctoral programme. It focuses firmly on the development of high-level independent research. Your study programme is tailored to this goal. It allows you to concentrate on a particular field of study, supplemented by courses, seminars, and the oral defense of a research-based thesis.

This is a programme and can be followed on a full-time or part-time basis.





The research master programme offers a diversity of research topics and areas, in line with the research centres of the HIW; this diversity allows a student to focus on practically any key area/domain/period/figure in philosophy, while still promoting the comprehensiveness of the philosophical education students receive at the HIW.

Upon registration you select one out of the following eight majors:

  • Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy
  • Metaphysics and Modern Philosophy
  • Aesthetics and Philosophy of Culture
  • Phenomenology
  • Continental Philosophy
  • Political Philosophy
  • Ethics
  • Analytic Philosophy

The Major reflects your area of specialization and it includes both course work (specialised research seminars and courses) and individual research (Research Paper in the 1st stage of the 2-year programme, Research Master’s Thesis in the 2nd stage of the programme).

The Research Master’s Thesis has the format of a research article and should demonstrate your ability to conduct original research and eventually pursue doctoral studies. You are encouraged to present your thesis research to the international audience of fellow students, permanent teaching staff and young researchers associated with the institute at the yearly Graduate Student Conference. For any help with the writing process or preparing a presentation, you can turn to the HIW Writing Lab

The Common Seminar equips you with skills and knowledge necessary for an academic career: formulating a good research proposal (for doctoral studies or financial aid); composing a CV or a grant application; academic publishing; giving a clear, well delivered presentation an international conference…

Students can use the Open Research Seminar as a platform for supervised reading groups of their own devising. Students can also join existing reading groups in the doctoral programme through this course and in this way become closely involved with research done in their research centre or the Institute of Philosophy more generally.


For more information on the research at the Institute of Philosophy please see


Philosophy has been taught at KU Leuven since its founding in 1425. Throughout the centuries, the university has remained an important and influential centre of philosophical thought, with a strong commitment to the international dimension of education. In more recent times, the Institute of Philosophy, established in 1889, has continued this august tradition and is now an internationally recognised centre of philosophical research and education.

The Institute of Philosophy is international in every sense of the word.

  • It offers a complete programme of philosophical studies in English, in addition to a complete programme in Dutch.
  • It has its roots in the eminent tradition of European continental philosophy. In recent years, however, it has embraced other philosophical traditions ranging from Anglo-American thought to non-Western philosophy. The Institute is truly committed tophilosophical pluralism.
  • Members of its teaching staff come from, among others, the USA, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Ireland.
  • It attracts visiting scholars and students from all over the world. Some 70 different nationalities are represented.
  • It has Erasmus+ exchange agreements with more than 40 European universities, including universities in Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, Paris, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Madrid, Siena and Istanbul. Master students who did the BA Philosophy at KU Leuven have the opportunity to study at a foreign partner university for one semester, in either the first or the second semester. 
  • With 5 research centres, some 30 full-time staff and more than 150 adjunct faculty members, post-docs and doctoral students, it isamong the largest research groups in philosophy on the continent.
  • It hosts several international conferences every year with widely varying themes and involving a mix of well-established and up-and-coming philosophers from near and far.
  • It has one of the finest philosophical libraries in the world. The library contains more than 90,000 volumes and maintains subscriptions to more than 300 journals. It is user-friendly, with open stacks, a liberal lending policy, extensive electronic resources and an online catalogue.
  • In 2016 the Institute of Philosophy was ranked 26th in the world among philosophy programmes (QS World University Rankings).

Application deadline

  • 1 March 2017 (for non-EEA citizens) 
  • 1 June 2017 (for EEA citizens) 

For the application procedure and the specific application requirements of the Institute of Philosophy, please see

Tuition fee

The Institute of Philosophy offers a high quality education at a very affordable fee. The exact tuition fee for the 2017-2018 academic year will be determined in the spring of 2017. Please consult the website for the most recent information:




Is this the right programme for me?

The Research Master of Philosophy aims at deepening the student's knowledge, by focusing on a research area in which the student wishes to prepare a PhD. Applicants for the Research Master of Philosophy should have already acquired a broad and relatively deep knowledge of the history of philosophy and of the most important research domains in philosophy. They should be able to demonstrate a high level of academic achievement in previous studies and they should have proven research abilities.






Career perspectives

Most of our graduates aspire to an academic career and go on to obtain PhDs in Philosophy, either at the Institute of Philosophy or at universities abroad, even at such prestigious universities as Oxford, Yale, Princeton and New York University (NYU). After completing their PhD they eventually work as professors or researchers, and our placement records are very good.

Other graduates go on to careers in many different sectors, including: business, civil service, politics, education, publishing, media, the socio-cultural sector, journalism, academia and elsewhere. Many employers seek candidates who are not only well grounded in a specific field, but also able to handle the diverse challenges arising in a fast-paced workplace. Graduates in philosophy are well positioned to think clearly and respond effectively in the workplace.

Institute of Philosophy
Kardinaal Mercierplein 2
3000 Leuven, Belgium
tel. + 32 16 32 63 02
fax + 32 16 32 63 52

Visit the faculty's web page.


Study Advice Service
Naamsestraat 80 box 5415
3000 LEUVEN, Belgium

To contact us, please complete the contact form on our website .

At the end of the Research Master of Philosophy, the student should:

1. Specialised philosophical knowledge in context

­  Have a profound knowledge of the recent, "state of the art" research work in her/his chosen field of research
­  Be able to engage at the highest level with the key texts in her/his chosen subdomain
­  Have genuine insight into the ongoing research of other philosophical domains
­  Be able to situate her/his own research within a much larger philosophical framework and be able to explain its significance within this framework

2. Research skills

­  Be able to formulate independently a well-defined and original research question
­  Be able to independently develop a well-defined research approach appropriate to the topic of study
­  Be able to independently conduct the research necessary for adequately addressing the research question through close reading of primary sources (preferably in the original language) and critical use of a wide range of secondary sources

3. Philosophical skills

­  On the basis of independent research in the student's philosophical subdomain be able to develop a personal philosophical standpoint and defend it in debate

4. Writing skills

­  Be able to clearly present the results of the student's research in written form in both shorter papers and a master's thesis, all displaying signs of professional philosophical standards

5. Presentation skills

­  Be able to clearly present and defend orally the results of the student's research

6. Intellectual maturity

­  Possess sufficient intellectual maturity to proceed to doctoral studies
­  Be able to take initiative and use creativity in the pursue of high level research
­  Be able to efficiently organise her/his research work

7. Professional skills

­  Be able to present a paper at a professional philosophical meeting, be able to write an article that meets professional standards, be able to compose a grant application in a professional manner, be able to write an application to PhD programmes, be familiar with the publication process
­  Be able to communicate effectively both in research and more general professional contexts