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MSt in Practical Ethics

About the course

The MSt in Practical Ethics offers high quality training in practical ethics through flexible, part-time learning. 

This course is run jointly by the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics (a research centre in the Faculty of Philosophy in the Humanities Division), and the Department for Continuing Education, and draws on the internationally recognised research and expertise of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, the Ethox Centre and the Faculty of Philosophy. 

The course is highly interdisciplinary in character but the primary focus is ethical and philosophical. Students will learn how to apply rigorous philosophical analysis to real-life ethical problems and will be provided with a grounding in key ethical concepts and methods, as well as in major debates in practical ethics. Students will also have the opportunity for in-depth research on a topic of their choice.

The course is relevant to students from a wide range of professional backgrounds, including philosophy and bioethics, medicine and health, the technology sector, and the legal and public policy sectors. 

The University of Oxford was ranked as the top university for the study of ethics by the Centre for World University Rankings in 2017, and has consistently ranked as the top university in applied ethics and normative ethics by the Philosophical Gourmet Report, including its most recent report (2021-22).

In this course, students undertake six taught modules and a dissertation. There is one compulsory module and a choice of five out of eight option modules.

Compulsory module:

  • Ethical Concepts and Methods

Option modules:

  • Artificial Intelligence Ethics
  • Climate, Environment and Animals
  • Data Ethics
  • Ethics of the Beginning and End of Life
  • Neuroethics
  • Philosophy, Psychiatry and Mental Health
  • Research Ethics and Empirical Ethics
  • Well-Being, Disability and Enhancement

The compulsory module runs yearly and five of the eight option modules should run each year. Each module will be taught over an intensive residential teaching week (~25 contact hours) in Oxford to include lectures, seminars, and discussion groups. Modules are normally provided in clusters, offering students options around the number of visits to Oxford each year. Online materials are available including essential readings, texts and online lectures, alongside forums where students can communicate and continue discussion when away from Oxford.

It is also expected that students undertake significant independent study in order to complete the assessments at the level expected. This will vary from student to student and over the life of the course according to the modules taken, but is expected to be around 16 hours of independent study per week for periods equivalent to the length of term (three sets of eight weeks) throughout the year, although the course will not stick rigidly to the term structure.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Faculty of Philosophy and/or the Department for Continuing Education and this role will usually be performed by the Course Director.

It is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. In exceptional circumstances, a supervisor may occasionally be found outside the Faculty of Philosophy when appropriate.

Assessment

Assessment for each module is based on one essay per module. Students will also complete a dissertation on a topic chosen in consultation with a supervisor and the Course Director. The dissertation should not normally exceed 15,000 words.

Graduate destinations

Specific career paths include posts relating to public policy development, to clinical ethics and research ethics within hospitals and health care facilities, the development of ethical technology and software, the teaching of ethics in a professional context, as well as enhancing career development more broadly in a range of fields through deep engagement with relevant ethical issues.

The course will provide rigorous and formal training in methods and theories in practical ethics to provide students with the skills needed to apply for leading PhD courses.

Changes to this course and your supervision

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.

Other courses you may wish to consider

If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.

All graduate courses offered by the Faculty of Philosophy

Entry requirements for entry in 2023-24

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:

  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in any subject.

However, in the absence of an appropriate undergraduate degree, sufficient relevant professional experience and/or other educational attainment may be considered as evidence of suitability in some circumstances.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA normally sought is 3.6 out of 4.0.

If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.

GRE General Test scores

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Publications are not expected.

English language proficiency

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.57.0

TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'

(Institution code: 0490)

110Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24
C1 Advanced*191185
C2 Proficiency191185

*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.

Declaring extenuating circumstances

If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.

References

You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview

Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading. References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process.

An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed

Shortlisting and selection

Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:

  • socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
  • country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
  • protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.

Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

Processing your data for shortlisting and selection

Information about processing special category data for the purposes of positive action and using your data to assess your eligibility for funding, can be found in our Postgraduate Applicant Privacy Policy.

Admissions panels and assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

Other factors governing whether places can be offered

The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
  • the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
  • minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.

Offer conditions for successful applications

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our After you apply pages provide more information about offers and conditions

In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:

Financial Declaration

If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.

Disclosure of criminal convictions

In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.

Resources

Face-to-face teaching will usually be carried out in one of the colleges but potentially also in teaching rooms within the Department for Continuing Education. The department has extensive IT provision: all offices and dedicated student rooms are networked into the university system.

The department's Graduate School offers a dedicated study space equipped with wireless-access, printing facilities, interactive whiteboard, and data projection, to support independent individual and small-group study, enabling part-time students to make best use of their time in residence in Oxford.

During the teaching blocks in Oxford and other study visits, students will also have physical access to university buildings, facilities and support, including libraries, IT services, career and counselling services, and sport and recreation, though many of Oxford's facilities are now also readily available online. As members of a college, MSt students will also benefit from pastoral support and sporting and social facilities within their college and the University as a whole.

Books required for the taught course will be held on reserve in the department's library. In addition, all students will have access to the university’s libraries online.

Students will be members of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, which hosts a large international community of scholars in practical ethics, and will be invited to join the centre's events and other activities.

Students will also have access to Oxford University’s IT Services, which includes access to IT equipment (terminals, printers and scanners), the Help Centre, shop, training courses, and the personal computer maintenance service. IT Services also offers remote access services including dialup accounts, and use of the Virtual Private Network (VPN) service.

Funding

The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2023-24. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. 

For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.

Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:

Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.

Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the relevant department and faculty websites:

Costs

Modular course fees

The fees for this course are charged on a modular basis. You will pay an annual course fee and an additional fee for each module studied. A minimum of two annual course fees are payable for this course. If this course includes a dissertation, three module fees will be charged for the dissertation.

Fees for the 2023-24 academic year

Fee status

Annual Course Fee

Fee per module

Total estimated fees

Home£2,230£1,870Please see the department’s website for further details
Overseas£2,230£1,870

Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.

Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees and Funding section of this website, which includes detailed fee status information.

Additional information

This course has residential sessions in Oxford. You will need to meet your travel and accommodation costs in attending these sessions. Further, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Depending on your choice of topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Living costs

In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2023-24 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,290 and £1,840 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2023-24, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of 5% or more each year – although this rate may vary significantly depending on how the national economic situation develops. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.

If you are studying part-time your living costs may vary depending on your personal circumstances but you must still ensure that you will have sufficient funding to meet these costs for the duration of your course.

College preference

All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs). 

For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges. 

The following colleges accept students on the MSt in Practical Ethics:

Before you apply

Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. We recommend that you submit your application well in advance - two or three weeks earlier. 

Application fee waivers

An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:

  • applicants from low-income countries;
  • refugees and displaced persons; 
  • UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and 
  • applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.

You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.

Contacting the department

You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.

However, if you have an academic query, please address it to the Course Administrator in the first instance (via the contact details provided on this page), who will forward your email to an academic member of staff where required.

Completing your application

You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents. If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.

Referees:
Three overall, of which at least two should be academic

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

Your references will be assessed for:

  • your intellectual ability
  • your academic achievement
  • your motivation and interest in the course and subject area
  • your ability to work effectively both in a group and independently.

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

CV/résumé

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Personal statement:
A maximum of 1,000 words

Your statement should detail the relevance of your background, why you have an interest in practical ethics, and draft ideas for your dissertation. 

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • evidence of understanding of the proposed area of study
  • your ability to present a coherent case in proficient English
  • your commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • your preliminary knowledge of the subject area and research techniques
  • your capacity for sustained and intense work
  • reasoning ability
  • ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace.

Start or continue your application

You can start or return to an application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, please refer to the requirements above and consult our Application Guide for advice. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application Guide Apply

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