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Master in Arts Mind, Brain and Learning

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  • Entry requirements
    This programme will appeal to students from a wide range of backgrounds and nationalities. Applicants are welcome from anyone with a good undergraduate honours degree (or equivalent) in philosophy, psychology, education, linguistics, biology, anthropology or a related discipline. Applications are especially encouraged from professionals working in education, social work and healthcare who would value a deep understanding of theoretical issues relating to their professional concerns
  • Academic Title
    Master in Arts Mind, Brain and Learning
  • Course description

    Over the last decade fundamental questions about human nature, the workings of the mind and the brain, and the role and limits of learning have risen to prominence within the academic community. What has become clear is that these questions do not belong to any one academic discipline and that our best hope of answering them involves adopting an interdisciplinary approach. The MA in Mind, Brain and Learning is based upon a recognition of this fact and is taught by an expert team of philosophers, psychologists, cognitive neuroscientists and educationalists based at the Westminster Institute of Education. Drawing upon contemporary developments in philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, education, and evolutionary biology, questions such as the following will be examined:

        * What can knowledge of the workings of the brain tell us about the workings of the mind?
        * What role does learning play in the acquisition of language and concepts?
        * To what extent are mind and language products of evolution?
        * Should we expect a mature science of the mind to vindicate common-sense psychology?
        * What is the relationship between consciousness and cognition?
        * What role do social factors play in learning and cognition?
        * What can the study of subjective experience tell us about the process of learning?

    You will study at the Oxford Brookes University's Westminster Institute of Education, which is based in beautiful landscaped grounds at the Harcourt Hill Campus overlooking Oxford's magnificent skyline. The Westminster Institute of Education has an international reputation for teacher education and the interdisciplinary study of human development and learning.

    The programme will appeal to students with an undergraduate background in any of a wide range of subjects including philosophy, psychology, education, linguistics, computer science, anthropology and biology. It will enable them to develop their understanding of a range of cutting edge issues concerning mind, brain and learning within a genuinely interdisciplinary context.

    The programme constitutes an ideal preparation for students who plan to study for a higher level research degree such as a PhD. The programme will also appeal to professionals working in education, social work and healthcare who would value a deep understanding of the theoretical issues relating to their professional concerns.

    Oxford is a particularly good place to pursue one’s postgraduate studies. Students enjoy access to our own excellent library facilities as well as those of the Bodleian Library. Oxford is also home to the country’s largest bookstore. There is thus no shortage of materials that students can readily access. Oxford is also located in the so-called academic ‘Golden Triangle’ (Oxford, Cambridge and London). Students can thus access conferences and academic in all three locations with a minimum of effort.

    Students on the MA Mind Brain & Learning come from a variety of backgrounds, both professional and personal. This year we have students from England, but also Norway, Iceland and Thailand, lending the experience a real international flavour. We have students coming from the work sector, as well as recent graduates with different educational backgrounds. Some are educationalists, while others are psychologists, philosophers and computer scientists.

    Course content

    The course is offered as a master's degree (MA).

    The modules (all compulsory) are as follows:

        * Philosophy of Cognitive Science investigates philosophical issues raised by cognitive science, the interdisciplinary study of mind and cognition.
        * Key Contemporary Thinkers in the Philosophy of Mind examines the work of three of the most important contemporary philosophers of mind, namely Jerry Fodor, Daniel Dennett and John Searle.
        * Evolution and the Mind provides an introduction to the theory of evolution and examines its relevance to the study of mind, brain and learning.
        * Neuroscience investigates the principles of brain functioning and the relevance of the study of the brain to our understanding of the workings of the mind.
        * Culture and Cognition focuses upon the role that cultural and social factors play in cognition and learning and addresses the question of how rational humans are in their attempts to understand the world.
        * Learning and the Self addresses the issue of subjective experience and individual learning from the standpoint of the experiencing person.
        * MA Dissertation is an individual research study of up to 15,000 words addressing an important research issue relating to the interdisciplinary study of mind, brain and learning.

    Teaching, learning and assessment


    The teaching on the Mind Brain & Learning programme is particularly strong. All modules are taught by leading researchers in their fields who bring their expertise into the class room. The programme is also unique in that it is genuinely interdisciplinary. The aim of the team is to work towards an empirically informed and philosophically sophisticated overall view of the mind, brain and human nature. The programme is taught by philosophers, psychologists, educationalists and brain scientists, calling on a range of disciplines including cognitive science, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, psychology, and linguistics.

    Learning methods include lectures, directed reading, seminars, and project work.

    Teaching is organised on a module-credit basis. You will take six taught modules, each involving approximately 24 hours of staff contact, normally delivered through a two-hour teaching block over a 12-week period. In addition, you will write a research dissertation for which you will be provided with specialist one-to-one supervision.


    Each programme module is assessed individually on the quality of written work in the form of essays or a dissertation.


    All members of staff are research active in their respective disciplines, and their research is incorporated into the content of the modules. Our research is distinguished by the fact that the team works across traditional academic boundaries, allowing a comprehensive overview of the mind and brain to emerge in the course of the programme. See staff profiles for details.

    Career Prospects
    Students come to the MA from diverse employment and academic backgrounds - teachers, counsellors, psychologists, philosophers, scientific researchers, practitioners of meditation. One student commented on her own professional development as a teacher:

    "The modules complement each other so that I feel I'm on a path of progression in my knowledge. The lecturers have been generous with time and help and flexible in terms of encouraging us to pursue our individual interests. The lectures have been fascinating and the reading has really changed my understanding of the mind and the brain. I've already used some of my new learning in training sessions for other teachers at work, with very positive feedback."

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